[Originally Published December 8, 2006]
Today marks the 32nd anniversary of the day Mark David Chapman shot and killed John Lennon outside of the Dakota in NYC. My house growing up was always filled with the sounds of The Beatles, and they were the first band with which I was totally infatuated. Lennon’s death was senseless, and we were robbed of many years of genius, while his family was robbed of a father and a husband.
[Stevie Wonder Tells His Audience About Lennon’s Death (Hat Tip Chris DiLeo)]
Back in 2005, I made my first trip to the annual gathering of Lennon fans in Central Park’s Strawberry Fields. Here’s an essay that I wrote when I returned home that cold evening seven years ago…
I don’t always take advantage of the great location where I live. Tonight I decided to brave the elements and pay my respects to John Lennon as well as trying to make some sense of what happened 25 years ago. All day I’ve been thinking about John, and more so about Yoko and Sean, and at such a horrible tragedy that they have had to deal with.
I got to the front of the Dakota at about 10 pm, and I was extremely surprised that 72nd Street wasn’t closed off. Easily I accessed the entranceway. It was so eerie, to see the exact spot where it all went down. It took my breath away and I felt really sad. The outside railing of the building had flowers, poems, and pictures attached in all different places. People wrote letters to John and left them at the bottom of the railing, it was quite a site.
After a while I made my way across the street to Strawberry Fields. As I crossed the street I realized a massive throng of people awaited on the other side. News Media was everywhere as well as the annoying hum of helicopters circling. The police was out in full force but were visably trying to be accommodating. It was my plan to walk to the Imagine memorial and realized it was barricaded off to control the flow of people. There was only one entrance and the line was imposing. It was cold, it was nearing 10:50 and I was going to turn back. At that point I turned around and took a look at the Dakota. Up on the Seventh Floor I saw two candles lit from John and Yoko’s apartment.
I kept on thinking about all the good John Lennon did and how the best way I could ever honor him was to contribute some good to make up for his loss. I was pondering good and evil. John was so good and Chapman was so evil. Chapman won, as John is dead. Does that mean evil won? There are so many good people, but the evil ones can make such a huge dent on humanity. It’s like the internet where the people who have no sense of community are so much louder than those who just want to get along. Sorry for the tangent back to the story at hand.
So I decided after 10 or 15 minutes that I want to be part of the vigil. It is a large group of people massed around the Imagine Mural and I was ready to wait on the line. I queued up around 10:30 and realized the line was actually moving quick. It took 15 minutes and I finally made it into Strawberry Fields. There were so many different types of people with all different sorts of intentions for the vigil. It was fairly chaotic and it was almost like “Beatlewars.” There were three or four masses of guitar players each playing different songs. It was tough for people to decide who to singalong with.
The vigil was both beautiful and horrifying. At 10:50 people started realizing it was time for the first moment of silence. It took a while to get everyone to shut up and even when the crowd was silent the hum of the helicopters hovering above was obnoxious. People would break the silence and yell some appropriate things (war is over if you want it, give peace a chance, we love you John) while some yelled inappropriate things (I buried Paul, Yoko sucks, Fuck Bush). But there was something special and healing being amongst that group of people. Besides a few jerks many people were there for the right reasons, and it was beautiful when the helicopters left and everyone quieted down for the second moment of silence at 11:15 to commemorate John’s death. Everyone held up the peace symbol and for a while the entire crowd was absolutely silent. Quite tearjerking.
I’m really glad I went, and I hope to go back to mark his birthday to more celebrate the magnificence of his career as opposed to the horrible way his life ended. As I walked out of the park I looked up and saw a figure blow out the candles in Yoko’s apartment. I wonder how Yoko handled today, I know how much today affected me so I can’t even fathom the emotions she felt.
I hope I take today’s experience with me in the future. John did so much for this world, I just want to give a little of that. Not everything is about me, and Lennon inspires me to do more for others.
RIP John RIP
We’ll always remember the greatness and genius of a true legend.
- Rolling Stone: Lost Lennon Interview Tapes