6/23 DA Office and Ground Zero

Aharon Soudry

1. Community Outreach Programme.  NY County District Attorney’s office

This court has a mandate to deal with civil matters such as small claims or landlord-tenants’ disputes… as opposed to Pat Gatling’s that is involved in criminal processes.  The Outreach Programme’s object is to inform the community at large about people’s rights.  It is done via faith leaders who disseminate the message to their flocks, schools, youth groups and anyone willing to take advantage of what it offers.  It is to prepare the vulnerable society members as to the dangers and pitfalls out there and how to avoid the conmen who for a handsome fee will for example promise the Green Card.  This Roundtable symposium is beneficial to both court and public.  The sharing of experiences and the learning from one/another is immensely helpful to prevent the criminals from preying on their victims.

The process of the Roundtable is illuminating and I would say that here too preventative medicine is more important than the cure of sickness.  It also makes the criminals realise that a little crime in their eyes could for the judicial system be a major one.  It is a great idea that the Roundtable analyses scenario cases that impact their gravity on the participants.

The task of the Roundtable is also to ensure we know there are addresses for referral in the event the DA’s office is unable to help.

What I found encouraging is not only the element of symbiosis between Court and Public, but that the Roundtable participants were eager to learn and impart of their knowledge.

2. Ground Zero

I prepared myself for the worse.  Walking towards it, however, made me forget it momentarily, till I saw an unusual and incongruous sight: a large empty space in central NY!

This is prime land, why is it empty?  I raised my head and saw a dozen cranes stretching upwards.  This is Ground Zero, my heart sunk and the anxiety came back.  I must leave politics aside.  The disaster hit everyone equally thus bringing everybody together to try and understand why this happened.  There is a logical guiding line behind the hall of remembrance layout: a video documents employers/employees’ happiness prior to 9/11.  They are ordinary people doing the best for themselves.  Through no fault of theirs nearly 4000 people died leaving behind shattered families and communities.  The Hall of the Missing is traumatic and paralysing.  It’s no longer numbers and statistics but real lives taken away.  The downstairs gallery is about visitor’s reaction leading us to the inescapable conclusion: a dialogue is of the essence.  We keep saying “we must learn from our experience” which is just a cliché.  Let’s begin to learn to learn.  The disaster galvanized people to act.  So proud to see the NY interfaith banner displayed and Sarah Sayeed’s reflections.

Gallery 5 is a testimonial room, the gallery of learning and hope.  It is about the past, present (learning) and future (application of lessons so painfully learnt).  I felt it finished with the element of triumph: we go on, we rebuild, you won’t defeat us, we’ll overcome your hatred and engage you in a dialogue.  Thus there will be hope for you too.  On the way out of the museum I looked again at the empty space and Wordsworth’s Westminster Bridge came to mind (apology for paraphrase): Earth has not anything to show more sad and sinister.  Dull would he be of soul who could pass by a sight so touching in its past glory and majesty and not shed a tear and meditate on who are we?  What are we?  Where did we all come from?  What’s our destiny?  It is in your hands and mine to make a better future and leave a descent world for our descendents.

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