This is my second time going to Kimlau Square for a holiday observance. The first time was in 2006 when I was wandering through Chinatown on Veterans Day and ran into the American Legion performing an observance. I was thoroughly touched by it and thought I’d do the same thing this Memorial Day.
Kimlau Square is another name for NYC’s Chatham Square. It’s located in the depths of Chinatown. I knew the observance was at 12:30pm, but was surprised when I got there and saw virtually no one. There were a few other people scattered around, but we’re only talking five or ten people. I wasn’t the only caucasian, but I was certainly one of the few.
A bit late, the Vets arrived. It was a minor parade. I hadn’t expected that. I just thought they gathered and celebrated and then went to lunch.
It was just the American Legion. I didn’t expect and didn’t get fancy stuff. Just a small marching band, a color guard, and a bunch of veterans. Good enough for this day. More than good enough.
There were a series of speakers. The one below was the main guy (I think he was the head of the American Legion outpost). There was also an Assemblywoman and a Supreme Court (of NY) judge. All Chinese Americans and all speaking in English. It was interesting in that. When I was standing around with other people waiting for the events, most of them were speaking Chinese. Once the veterans showed, everything was in English. I’m sure some spoke in Chinese amongst themselves, but I didn’t hear any. (And some were a bit chatty. Respectful, but they did do some schmoozing.)
Here are some of the dignitaries.
I don’t know how many vets were there. Maybe 70 to 90? Maybe.
The best moment came when the judge was speaking and he called out for a show of hands for those who served in the different wars. He called out WWII (a few), Korea (quite a few), Vietnam (a whole bunch), Persian Gulf 1 and 2 (some). When he called out “Korea”, an older vet near me whooped out “That’s mine!!!!” and started waving and kicked up his feet. I wish I had been quicker with my camera. It was a good moment.
I like this last picture. The arch has the text “In memory of the Americans of Chinese ancestry who lost their lives in defense of freedom and democracy.”
Lt. Benjamin R. Kimlau (class of Dewitt Clinton High School 1937) was a Navy pilot killed in WWII. I really have never thought of the square as Chatham Square. To me it is and always will be Kimlau Square, a place that I wandered past one day and stuck around for a very memorable Veterans Day and now for an equally memorable Memorial Day.