TMC’s Operation Enduring Service Continues in Brooklyn With Rose Garden Restoration
We are naturally social creatures. The bonds we create through interacting with others can have a lasting impact. So, it’s no wonder that social distancing and avoiding intimate interactions with our friends, family, and community members feels so unnatural. The Mission Continues (TMC) knows that our veterans need their surrounding community to thrive and they’re making up for lost time due to the pandemic.
As a Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF) grantee through our partnership with the NFL and our Healthy Lifestyles and Creating Community grant program, TMC is making sure its Operation Enduring Service campaign commemorates the 9/11 attacks and helps enhance community spaces that can be shared with generations to come. BWF joined TMC during a recent refurbishment project in South Los Angeles, and we’re fortunate that foundation members Emily Krause and Komal Kamdar had the opportunity to do so in Brooklyn.
The event was held at Sunset Park where all those that serve our nation were honored by rejuvenating the Memorial Rose Garden and Grove. The park sits atop one of the more elevated areas of Brooklyn and offers stunning views of lower Manhattan.
“You can see the World Trade Center from the park,” Kamdar said. “There was a constant reminder in the background as to why that garden was planted in the first place.”
The community garden was created in Brooklyn shortly after 9/11 but upkeep slowed a bit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Veterans seeking a way to continue service and community members showed up ready to give the garden the love it deserves.
TMC President Mary Beth Bruggeman’s remarks set the tone early, and they carried over throughout the day.
“Mary Beth said Operation Enduring Service is about recapturing how we felt as a nation on September 12, and the way we cared for our communities,” Krause said. “She also let us know she was going to put us to work, but that community projects like this are about so much more than landscaping and flowers.”
While the work in Brooklyn resulted in a reinvigorated public space, it was the camaraderie between veterans and residents working together that truly stood out to BWF’s Krause and Kamdar.
“There was a real sense of connectedness, something that is so hard to achieve on a Zoom call.”
“The energy felt so positive,” Krause explained. “Everyone was happy to see each other and just so welcoming and eager to come say hello. There was a real sense of connectedness, something that is so hard to achieve on a Zoom call.”
A particular interaction highlighted the importance of maintaining community spaces long after any particular individual has the capacity to do so. History’s worst moments always live on, making it critical that humanity’s better contributions do the same. One child, born many years after 9/11, showed how important future generations will be to maintaining a strong sense of community.
“It’s important that younger generations understand what happened on 9/11.”
“He explained his understanding of what 9/11 was, why this garden is here, and why he was working on it on a Saturday morning,” Kamdar said. “It’s important that younger generations understand what happened on 9/11.”
The boy was eager to connect with others through shared experiences, both those he had direct knowledge of like the garden cleanup, and those he can only learn about through stories from a previous generation. A child’s willingness to engage with someone new and stand alongside others in the community resembles the unlikely optimism in the air immediately after 9/11, when we said hello to complete strangers, when we saw something a little better in each other and ourselves. More than ever communities must come together, not only for worthwhile restoration projects, but for our stories to be shared and for our history to be understood way beyond our own days.
The garden’s restoration is likely to be an important component of the community’s fabric for years to come. But it also provided an immediate sense of optimism to at least one resident who lived nearby.
“At the end of the day, a member of the community who has lived on that block for over 20 years stopped by,” Krause said. “Her apartment directly faces the garden, and she often volunteers her time to weed it. She told us how beautiful the garden looked after all our hard work, and how excited she was to see it next spring in full bloom.”