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Neighbor to Neighbor: Spirit of Laurelton alive and well with local group

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As this column is being written, it is Feb. 3, artist Norman Rockwell’s birthday. He was born in New York City in 1894, and has been a favorite of our family — and many others — for as long as I can remember. We saved many of the covers of the Saturday Evening Post on which his works were featured. If ever the understanding and love of humanity was truly captured by an artist, that artist was Norman Rockwell. It would be interesting to know what he would have thought of humanity today.

Although I wanted desperately to assist at Ground Zero when I thought there might still be the possibility of helping with the rescue effort, after that time had passed, I felt it would be too overwhelming to go there.

I had worked at Broadway and Vesey Street (one block from the disaster) and often attended services at St. Paul’s Chapel, which is at the border of the ramp going to the present viewing platform No. 1. That area had always been full of life when I worked there. Business people rushing here and there, pushcart vendors selling everything imaginable from flowers to glass cutters, to books and much more. Horn and Hardart restaurant was nearby, and always drew a big crowd at lunch time. John Wanamaker’s Department Store drew crowds too.

Much of the things that were busy spots when I worked there disappeared even before my company’s move to Third Avenue. If I thought that area had been built up and busy then, I was flabbergasted when I paid my only visit to the World Trade Center. It was a city in itself and, I found, it was very easy for someone to get lost. I did. Now to think it is all gone — demolished by radicals and their hate who wounding and murdered thousands — it is unimaginable.

After the last meeting of The Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association, the Police Department invited us to pay our respects there. God surely must be on our side, because this very unusual weather has helped all those courageous and indefatigable workers overcome all odds and make progress that had been estimated to take years. They have the kind of spirit we all need at this time to keep trying to make things right.

After the recent loss of the name of my former group, Concerned Citizens of Laurelton, to others, I thought of continuing the work we have been doing without a new name. It is more beneficial to our community, however, to know that there are many groups working in many capacities to try to bring about imaginative, constructive changes. Choosing a new name was not a problem. To be sure, there were many possibilities, and we wanted something that was completely new and appropriate to the time.

So it is that there is now a new organization (a no membership fee organization) named Spirit of Laurelton for anyone who may have constructive ideas or information — or problems — that need to be properly directed for attention. We certainly can’t help with every frustrating problem, but we do give it our best try.

This is, in fact, almost the anniversary or one of our most disappointing efforts. It was Feb. 17, 1995, that I was invited to help the very distraught family of a beautiful, 21-year-old college student, Tracy Ann Pennant, who had disappeared.

We searched the Canarsie swamps, were challenged by a pack of wild dogs and were encouraged by the many sympathetic folks we met along the way, who took our fliers and promised to call the police if they heard any rumors in the area where she had last been seen. She was only 5 feet tall and 117 pounds. She had brown skin, short-cropped black hair and beautiful smile.

When we didn’t succeed in finding her I tried to convince myself that maybe she had taken a spontaneous trip back to Jamaica to celebrate the college honors that had been confirmed to her family the day after she disappeared. The extensive police search and other work done by them convinced me my hopes for her safe return would not be realized.

My hope is still that the person who does know what happened to her will some day confess and face the consequences. The Spirit of Laurelton seeks justice for all.

Reach columnist Barbara Morris by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 140.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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