Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pelham Cemetery , City Island

When I was about seven years old, my family and I went to visit my grandfather in Vermont one winter. I can't recall a lot of the details from the vacation, but there is something that happened during the trip that I remember to this day. Our green Buick station-wagon loaded down with kids, luggage and a dog, made its way through the depressed towns of upstate New York that straddle New England, until we reached Hoosick Falls. Just outside of town, a traffic jam had formed on a desolate stretch of abandoned farmhouses and shuttered Dairy-Queen type businesses. I don't know how long we sat in traffic, but we eventually crawled along and reached a bridge that spans the Hoosac River, where a cop directing traffic informed my father that two kids had fallen through the ice. The following day, the newspapers reported that the two young boys had drowned. There were photos of them on the front page. They were about my age. Thirty years later, I was spending a lot of time in City Island. I kept my boat there and had gotten to know many of the residents who inhabit this small island that is connected to the Bronx by a bridge and taxes. On a January night while I was flying to San Diego, four young men decided to row a small boat from City Island over to neighboring Hart Island, a potters field for the City of New York. Their boat took on water, and a 911 distress call was the last words heard from them. A day later, a guitar belonging to one of the teenagers was found in this cemetery. This made national news in a limited way. I remember reading a small story about it in the Los Angeles Times. My flight home approached LaGuardia Airport right above this small body of water that separates the two islands, and the two graveyards. As spring approached, a hovering helicopter was an indication that another body had been recovered. I did not know these young men, but I have heard many good things about them. They unfortunately made a stupid mistake, and it cost them their lives. Pelham Cemetery sits on the eastern shore of City Island, with Hart Island in the distance. A sort of morbid version of the Haves looking out at the Have-Nots. The Remembered looking out at The Forgotten. New York Times: Search Effort Fails To Find Four Teens Kingston Lounge: Hart Island (photos) The Hart Island Project Map

4 comments:

Larry said...

It's interesting the memories we retain from our childhood and those that seem to dissipate over time.

matthew houskeeper said...

Yeah, I think the second story about City Island has actually strengthened my memory of the first tragedy. These days, I always think of the two together.

Mark Kreider said...

Any kind of boating is a very serious business. All people on the water need to take a Power Boat Squadron or Coast Guard boating safety course and must use common sense. Once you know you are prepared the fun can begin. Sorry about the down tone, but too many preventable accidents happen every year and most of them are caused by plain stupidity.

Keep up the good work Matthew. You have a beautiful blog here.

matthew houskeeper said...

Thanks Mark