St. Vincent’s

by

09/11/2010

Neighborhood: West Village

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The other day I was walking down 11th Street in the West Village past the recently shut down St. Vincent’s Hospital building when something in the alcove on the corner of 7th Avenue caught my eye: a pile of stuffed animals laying in a heap: a teddy bear massacre.

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St. Vincent’s used to be a source of life, sustenance and healing in our neighborhood. It’s gone now. For 160 years it lived; established by well-intentioned nuns, god-fearing, mercy-seeking healers. According to the local gossip mill, it was bankrupted by a group of bandits on the inside.

Every day during the almost 15 years I’ve lived on 11th street, distant sirens marked the arrival of new patients coming north and south, up and down the avenues, from points east to west. This building drew patients into it like a gigantic, life generating magnet. Every day but one—but I’ll get to that later.

For months preceding the hospital’s final moment, stories circulated; pundits hypothesized; neighbors and poets railed and rallied; politicians pointed fingers. I was there when the news trucks, wheeled vultures, marked the final passing. I watched the St. Vincent’s sign come off the building. I talked to an old man with a black eye, walking with a cane. He was outraged. Was it the economy stupid or was it just stupid stupid? Neither of us knew.

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Then two days ago, on a rainy bleak weekday afternoon, squinting through a lazy drizzle with autumn coming on like a distant freight train, I couldn’t help noticing this dramatic scene outside the dead hospital’s door, with a “closed sign” papered to it.

I stood there and stared at the teddy bears, then took out my camera.

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I remember standing by this same alcove, during the mid-morning hours of 9/11/2001, less than an hour after the second tower fell. People from all over the neighborhood flocked here and waited in long lines to donate blood for the victims who never came up the avenue. We waited anxiously, expecting to see ambulances that never arrived, not a stretcher in sight.

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Beginning that day and for months to follow, this same alcove became the epicenter for the missing persons fliers that spread throughout the city, with pictures and words describing the details of loved ones lost but not forgotten, and always remembered.

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I still don’t know where those teddy bears came from. They look so sad, and it makes me even sadder seeing them there.

 

Josh Gilbert produced and directed a/k/a Tommy Chong, and is currently at work on a new documentary about a young autistic man named Jake, who aspires to become a professional filmmaker.

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§ 3 Responses to “St. Vincent’s”

  • Nancy Jones says:

    To me, of all the pundits, poets and politicians who’ve weighed
    in on St. Vincent’s demise, it’s Josh Gilbert who has finally nailed it.
    His striking observation of a stuffed animal massacre outside the shattered
    remains of our downtown hospital speaks to the sentimental detritus
    we insist on plastering over memories of our country’s tragedies.

  • Iris Vogel says:

    Amazing post. Thanks for info.

  • Charlie says:

    That poor Pikachu……

§ Leave a Reply

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