News / USA

NYC Mandela Memorial Service Attendees Express Sorrow, Awe

More than 2,000 people lined up in the bitter cold outside New York's Riverside Church for the opportunity to pay their respects to Nelson Mandela, Dec. 11, 2013. (Adam Phillips/VOA)
More than 2,000 people lined up in the bitter cold outside New York's Riverside Church for the opportunity to pay their respects to Nelson Mandela, Dec. 11, 2013. (Adam Phillips/VOA)
Adam Phillips
Like uncounted millions of others around the world, many New Yorkers felt profound respect and admiration for Nelson Mandela, the anti-Apartheid activist and political prisoner who became the first black president of South Africa.  At his death last week at the age of 95, Mr. Mandela had become a potent symbol of racial struggle and the possibility of reconciliation between foes.  Prior to a memorial service for Mr. Mandela in New York’s historic Riverside Church, attendees were asked by VOA about “their Mandela” and what his legacy will be.            

An upbeat, yet somber crowd of 2,000 or more mourners slowly filed into Riverside Church in Manhatten late Wednesday, relieved to be out of the bitter cold and eager to pay homage to the late Nelson Mandela, who had been hosted and celebrated inside this very church in 2005.

A large photo of Nelson Mandela was displayed near the main altar at the Riverside Church in New York during the late leader's memorial service, Dec. 11, 2013. (Adam Phillips/VOA)A large photo of Nelson Mandela was displayed near the main altar at the Riverside Church in New York during the late leader's memorial service, Dec. 11, 2013. (Adam Phillips/VOA)
x
A large photo of Nelson Mandela was displayed near the main altar at the Riverside Church in New York during the late leader's memorial service, Dec. 11, 2013. (Adam Phillips/VOA)
A large photo of Nelson Mandela was displayed near the main altar at the Riverside Church in New York during the late leader's memorial service, Dec. 11, 2013. (Adam Phillips/VOA)
Adam Fraser was only two years old at the time, but he has been often told of Mr. Mandela’s 27 years as a political prisoner on Robben Island, off Cape Town.

"And yet his spirit wasn’t broken when he came out in 1990," Fraser said. "He was willing to stand for what he believed in, even if that meant life in prison which he could have gotten."

For Martina Bouey, a Bostonian who travelled here to attend this service,  Mr. Mandela represented the victory of love over fear and fury.

"He embodied that to me. Being able to suffer such oppression and anger and hatred coming toward him, and then to still be able to mend fences and still be able to reach out even to his jailer and to make policy and to say ‘at the end of the day we are all human beings and we have to figure this out together," Bouey said.

Bouey also conveyed to VOA what she hoped to come away with emotionally from the service.

"It’s an opportunity to pay my respects and to be able to express gratitude and thankfulness for his life and for what he did for the whole world - even though he may not have known he was doing it for the whole world when he was doing it," she said.

As a post-Apartheid citizen, David, a young South African working temporarily in New York, knows that Mr. Mandela is considered “the Father of His Country.” Yet he has a more intimate connection with the man dating back to a party he attended when he was 10 years old.     

“I was sitting someplace off center with my brother and he was just walking around and he came down and sat next to us and just started talking. But he had this magical way of just focusing in on you and making you feel like you were the center of the universe while you were in his presence. He was a fantastic guy," David said. 

For Stephanie Urdang, a white South African who remembers the harshest days of Apartheid and who now lives in New York, it isn’t Mr. Mandela’s embrace of others, but the world’s embrace of Mr. Mandela, that seems most remarkable.

“What’s struck me in the last few days, just watching the media and watching the memorial in South Africa is he is a universal figure" Urdang said. "He is everybody’s. And that’s what’s so amazing, everybody in the world sees him as their moral compass, I think."

Nelson Mandela will lie in state in Pretoria, the South African capital, until Saturday, when he will be moved to his birthplace, Qunu, for a funeral service and burial on Sunday.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: ombati jeremiah from: kenya
December 12, 2013 8:42 AM
Indeed its loyal and sounds beautiful that even in the USA paid their tribute to the fallen great eminent father,thanks to our brothers and in newyolk,you av shown globally that mandela was aluminary to be emulated fare thee well(tata)father

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More