Today is Memorial Day in the United States. While the day has come to symbolize the start of the summer season, its true meaning - which was first established in New York - endures.
New York Gives Birth to Memorial Day
The town of Waterloo, NY is officially credited with creating what is now called Memorial Day to honor those Union soldiers who died during the Civil War. In 1866, Waterloo (a town that can be reached in an hour from Ithaca, Rochester, and Syracuse) set aside a day in early May for observances related to the fallen soldiers of the Civil War.
The Grand Army of the Republic (an organization comprised of Union veterans of the Civil War) was led by a friend of the founders of the Waterloo observances. That friend, General John A. Logan, chose May 30th for the 1868 observances because it was not the date of a Civil War battle. The May 30th date remained in place until 100 years later when Congress voted to move a number of holidays to Mondays to create three-day weekends. Memorial Day has been observed on the final Monday in May since 1971.
New York City Activities
Like the rest of the United States, New York City celebrates Memorial Day with a mixture of observances honoring those brave souls who gave their lives in service to our country and summer kick-off events.
Today, from 11am to noon, a traditional Memorial Day service will take place aboard the Intrepid, here in Manhattan, with a wreath laying and a flyover. The Intrepid is a floating museum located at 46th Street to the west of the West Side Highway in the Hudson River.
Click here for a listing of family-oriented events throughout New York City.
Memorial Day is set aside for us to remind ourselves of the tremendous debt we owe to those who have protected this country and who have died while undertaking that responsibility. It is a debt we can never repay. The best we can do is to remember the sacrifices that have provided us the opportunity to enjoy the privileges of liberty, hope, and opportunity in the greatest country of the world. If we forget those sacrifices most days, today gives us a chance to make up for lost time.