Fans Mark Anniversary of Lennon’s Murder
NEW YORK – Some met John Lennon in person, others knew him from the television, still others never knew him at all. On Thursday, they gathered by the hundreds in Central Park’s Strawberry Fields to remember the pacifist rock star murdered 25 years ago by a deranged Beatles fan.
Generations from across the world, if not quite the universe, united to celebrate Lennon’s life and his message of peace √≥ playing his music, singing his songs, imagining what might have been if the ex-Beatle had survived the Dec. 8, 1980, shooting outside his Manhattan apartment building.
Yoko Ono was among those at Strawberry Fields, walking through a horde of hundreds of Lennon fans before stopping at a flower-covered mosaic paying tribute to Lennon with its one-word message: “IMAGINE.”
“His message is still the same: peace and love and live the best you can,” said Martha Wagner, who came into Manhattan from Dover, N.J., with a scrapbook full of newspaper clippings about Lennon. She remembered hearing news of the slaying on television: “My heart stopped. I screamed.”
Kim Polson, 50, of Manhattan, recalled seeing Lennon in an Upper West Side coffee shop four months before the shooting. She was late for work that day, hanging around and listening to Lennon’s conversation.
“I’ll be late for work again today,” said Polson, one of the early arrivals at Strawberry Fields on the anniversary √≥ a bitterly cold day. “John Lennon made me late again.”
The scene was much the same in Lennon’s hometown of Liverpool, England, where scores of fans from around the world remembered him with white balloons, flowers and prayers. The balloons, carrying written tributes to Lennon, were released into the sky.
“I just wrote ‘Merry Christmas John’ on my balloon,” said James Andrews, a 9-year-old from Bournemouth, England. “I love the Beatles, and especially John Lennon.”
A short service was also held beside a statue of Lennon on Liverpool’s Mathew Street, where the Beatles played early in their career at the Cavern Club.
Lennon’s songwriting partner, Paul McCartney, told the British Broadcasting Corp. that Lennon was “one of the great men of the 20th century … I will always feel some kind of link with John.”
In New York, locals and tourists stood side-by-side near the Lennon-inspired Central Park mosaic. One man played Beatles’ music on an acoustic guitar, as visitors piled off tour buses to stop at Strawberry Fields. They brought flowers, candles and bittersweet memories.
“He entered people’s hearts, and made us softer toward each other,” said Cummings Dass, 65, who came to Manhattan from Trinidad for the anniversary. “When he died, a part of the music died with him.”
If Lennon were alive, he would have turned 65 in October.
Across the street at the Dakota, the apartment house where Lennon was killed, fans walked respectfully past police and security guards. Traditionally, Ono lights a candle in her apartment window in the evening as a show of solidarity with the crowd gathered in the park.
Lennon, who had turned 40 just two months before, was returning with Ono from a recording studio when he was gunned down at about 10:50 p.m. √≥ the time that a moment of silence was planned in Central Park.
A second moment of silence was planned for 11:15 p.m., the approximate time of Lennon’s death. City officials planned to close the park at 1 a.m., as they have for several years over the objection of fans who want an all-night vigil.
Lennon’s killer, Mark David Chapman, comes up for parole next year. His bids for freedom have already been rejected three times.
For 16-year-old Sarah Koflan, of Bernardston, Mass., her Thursday trip to Central Park was as close as she would ever get to Lennon. Although born nearly a decade after his death, the teen still considers Lennon a role model.
“John Lennon is my hero,” she said. “He’s the coolest guy. … Just being here today, with everyone who loves him, is awesome. It’s a beautiful feeling.”
Fans Mark Anniversary of Lennon’s Murder