I used to tell this neat little lie when I was a kid.
See, my birthday is November 12th. Veteran’s Day is the day before. Schools are closed, as are banks, government offices, etc. When I first joined a union, it was floating holiday, but I think we gave it up for the day after Thanksgiving or some other day that was more convenient to be off. I grew up with a dad that always told us trivial historical facts, dates, names, places, etc, stuff that never really got you anywhere except when you knew that November 11th was Veteran’s day before the rest of the kids in your class did. I of course told my whole class one year that the school was closed so my parents could get ready for my birthday.
I don’t know if it worked ever, but it made me feel cool.
Today’s Veteran’s day, and yes, I know what tomorrow is, I rather not be reminded. I have too many bad birthdays to enjoy them any more.
Today I had off, not because of a union contract, rather because I am one of the millions of newly unemployed Americans. So after I went on another fruitless interview this morning, I decided to head to the New York Veteran’s Day Parade. Today was a special Veteran’s Day in New York. The USS Intrepid, a World War II aircraft carrier that served as a museum was rededicated by the President Of The United States. Afterward, the parade would stroll down Fifth Ave. I was too late for the ceremony, and knew I couldn’t get close enough anyway, so I set off for the parade.
I got there shortly after the start of it, and found a nice spot across from the main viewing stand. The crowds were deep, and it was mostly a crowd that stopped by on their lunch break. They were enthusiastic, and cheered as the parade came by. I moved around and shot as I had with countless parades. I tried my best to capture the jubilation and excitement on faces, in movements. I found myself at an intersection, where a member of the NYPD control pedestrian traffic. I looked around, then slipped behind him into the parade route, on the other side of the barricades. I didn’t turn my back to see if he noticed, but I did hold up my camera, as if to show I had it, and to try to show I belonged there.
Once inside the parade itself, I went “butt-ass-wild” taking shot after shot of participants as well as viewers. I was lost in the moment, caught up in the excitement of it all.
Then I saw Smitty.
I don’t even know if that was his real name, but I noticed it was sown on his jacket. He stood against the railing, American flag tucked unto his buttons. His eyes were red, and he chocked back the tears as he watched everyone stream by. I turned to see what he was looking at, and all I could see was the parade. I looked back at Smitty and I realized maybe what he was seeing, was not only the parade, but what wasn’t at the parade. Those who weren’t there today. Maybe those who didn’t have time to come and cheer. Maybe those who were off, and would rather be loafing on the couch then battle the fall wind and head into Manhattan. Maybe he was seeing the men and women who never made it home to be in a parade like this. I’ll never know. I raised my camera and took Smitty’s picture. I reached out and shook his hand. “Thank you.” I said. He nodded and I moved on, capturing what was there, and never forgetting what wasn’t.
I took a lot of shots… too many to put them all here. Enjoy this slideshow of all my 2008 NYC Veteran’s Day Parade images