Article and Photos By Kelly Leonard
Chappaqua, NY, July 11–Four weeks after the Town of New Castle community gathered at its gazebo to mourn the loss of 49 souls gunned down in the Orlando Pulse nightclub terrorist attack, the community gathered again in shock from another week of violence in the U.S. This time we saw the lives of civilians and uniformed police officers taken during the past seven days, including the largest loss of police personnel in a single day in the U.S. since 9/11.
“A Community Gathering in a Time of Grief and Sadness” was held by the Town of New Castle for the community to express its appreciation for the brave individuals who dedicate their lives to law enforcement and to sustaining peace and security on its streets.
In addition to scores of community members, dozens of police and fire personnel came from across Westchester County to honor and remember the fallen including members of the Chappaqua, Millwood, Mount Kisco, Mount Pleasant, and Westchester County Police departments among others. All wore dress uniforms with their badges covered with black bands.
The Emerald Society Bag Pipes Band opened the ceremony followed by a presentation of the Town of New Castle Police Department Color Guard. Chappaqua Central School Board Vice President Victoria Tipp led the Pledge of Allegiance. Speakers included New Castle Town Supervisor Rob Greenstein, Westchester County Legislator Michael B. Kaplowitz, New Castle Chief of Police Charles Ferry, Police Officer Chad Glance, President of the New Castle Police Benevolent Association, Rev. Dr. Martha R. Jacobs, Senior Minister of the First Congregational Church of Chappaqua, Rabbi Jonathan Jaffe of Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester, and Khusro Elley of the Upper Westchester Muslim Society.
The names of the five fallen Dallas Police and DART officers–Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa–were read aloud.
The resonating themes of the formal remarks were loss, mourning, honor in service, disparity in justice, and gun violence. While the phrase, “we are not divided, we are united” was said by more than one speaker, at times the remarks underscored the raw emotion felt in the aftermath of last Thursday’s ambush in Dallas.
Town Supervisor Robert Greenstein expressed his outrage about all the lives lost. “Americans of all races and all backgrounds are outraged by police misconduct. It’s unacceptable. When one of us is victimized we all suffer. There’s no division there,” he said. And then added: “Americans of all races and all backgrounds are also outraged when police officers sworn to uphold the law are at risk. Police officers who are protecting those who want to exercise their right to free speech, even if that speech is directed at other police officers, should not be at risk of being murdered. Senseless, heartless, murder.
Greenstein continued: “Whether the event stems from terrorism, hate crimes or any other motive is irrelevant. Gun violence as a tool of hatred targeting race, gender, sexual preference, profession or for any other reason cannot be tolerated. We must say no to gun violence. Lives cannot be lost in vain.”
Chief Ferry spoke of how police departments have more militarized weaponry now in reaction to “the militarization of criminals” and expressed how he is tired of hearing his officers and officers around the country being called racists while they risk their lives to protect their communities. He noted, “Five officers were slaughtered simply for the fact they were police officers.”
During his remarks, Khusro Elley of the Upper Westchester Muslim Society said, “We mourn the unfortunate and unnecessary deaths” of the past week and “we are outraged by the killing of African American men and women.” One of the more striking remarks of the evening was when Elley stated, “I would rather be Muslim than Black in America.”
Rabbi Jaffe of Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester offered that gathering was an opportunity for the community to “join together in our feelings of mutual support.” He also quoted from Auschwitz survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
“I truly pray,” said Rev. Dr. Jacobs of the First Congregational Church of Chappaqua, “I am not standing here in another month for another vigil for another senseless act of violence.”
In closing the ceremony, the Emerald Society Bag Pipes Band played “Amazing Grace” as members of the Chappaqua Fire Department lit and released sky lanterns in memory of the lives lost in the Dallas ambush. The playing and singing of “God Bless America” brought the solemn gathering to a close while many lingered to watch the sky lanterns disappear into the evening sky.
Kelly Leonard is the Founder and Principal Consultant of KLO Associates, LLC, a digital marketing boutique specializing in custom content strategy and influencer engagement for authors, publishers, local businesses and nonprofits. Previously she held senior management positions at Time Warner Book Group and Hachette Book Group.