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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Funerals and Memorials"

Joe Biden, Emissary of Grief

His entire political career has been marked by personal loss. His allies say that makes him uniquely capable of leading a nation grappling with death.

June 11, 2020

An overstuffed binder sat in Joe Biden’s Senate office, holding the raw materials of his grief.

It was a master collection, aides recalled, with remarks, notes and drafts of eulogies Mr. Biden had given through 2008 — for childhood friends, prominent senators, his own father. The table of contents was long enough to use every letter of the alphabet. It included a section of favored passages, often deployed in his remembrances, labeled “Quotable Quotes: Death.”

“Death is part of this life,” one such axiom read, “and not of the next.”

And it has been, in many ways, the defining part of Mr. Biden’s.

The compilation, never before detailed publicly, is the sort of trove that few but Mr. Biden could amass, or even think to — a meticulous testament to the mixture of mourning and resilience that has shaped virtually every aspect of his personal and political history.

Mr. Biden has been linked to matters of death and recovery since the minute he was sworn in as a United States senator, from the hospital where his two toddler sons were recovering after the 1972 car crash that killed his first wife, Neilia, and their daughter, Naomi. One of those sons, Beau, died of cancer at 46, five years ago last month.

But the scope of the personal losses Mr. Biden has endured, and his fluency in discussing death — a subject many elected leaders hope to avoid — go beyond what is commonly understood.

A Times review of nearly 60 eulogies Mr. Biden has delivered, as well as interviews with more than two dozen friends, former staff members and relatives of those he has eulogized, offer an intimate window into how he sought to comfort those joining him in mourning, and how he would seek to lead a nation grappling with death and devastation.

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As the country confronts the wrenching, overlapping crises of this moment — a national uproar over lethal police violence, a coronavirus death toll in the United States that has surpassed 110,000 — Mr. Biden is plainly staking his presidential bid on his capacity to heal. On Monday, he met with the family of George Floyd, a black man whose death at the hands of the police sparked wide-scale protests over racism and police brutality. Mr. Biden also recorded a video for Mr. Floyd’s Tuesday funeral service.

“Jill and I know the deep hole in your hearts when you bury a piece of your soul deep in this earth,” Mr. Biden said in the message. “Unlike most, you must grieve in public. And it’s a burden. A burden that is now your purpose.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group 00bideneulogies-philly-articleLarge Joe Biden, Emissary of Grief United States Politics and Government Speeches and Statements Presidential Election of 2020 Grief (Emotion) Funerals and Memorials Empathy Deaths (Fatalities) Biden, Joseph R Jr
Credit…Mark Makela for The New York Times

Throughout the first months of the coronavirus pandemic, as he campaigned from his home in Wilmington, Del., he was often overshadowed by President Trump and his bully pulpit. But even then, Mr. Biden’s most memorable appearances tended to center on grief.

He marked 100,000 virus deaths with a video that resembled an Oval Office address to the nation, empathizing with grieving families and sharing advice about coping. His first public appearance after two months of virtual campaigning came on Memorial Day, when he wore a black mask to pay respects to the war dead.

And in March, he nearly gave out his phone number on national television, urging anyone struggling with grief to get in touch. “Not that I’m an expert,” he said. “But just, having been there.”

In this age of staggering national loss, his admirers say, it is Mr. Biden’s experience as a kind of emissary of bereavement — a man who has been there and can speak with credibility about what comes next — that illustrates his most powerful contrast with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Biden perhaps never sounds more forceful than when accusing the president of having no “empathy.”

“This country right now is in a lot of pain and really scared for a lot of different reasons,” said Meghan McCain, a daughter of the Republican senator John S. McCain, whom Mr. Biden eulogized in 2018 and whom Mr. Trump delighted in savaging before and after his death. “It’s hard not to juxtapose someone who seems to get pleasure out of other people’s pain and another person whose instinct and visceral reaction is to try and make it stop.”

Taken together, the eulogies also supply a portrait of Mr. Biden in his purest form: espousing a throwback value set premised on his own ideas of “dignity,” “style” and “nobility,” three favored nouns across the decades; revering the clubhouse norms of a bygone Washington; fixating on what it means to be “a good man” (“the highest praise you can give”), an Irishman (“I don’t think there’s any point in being Irish,” he said, borrowing from Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “if you don’t know that the world is going to break your heart eventually”) — and what it means to be a Biden.

“We loved him because his instincts were good, because he was a man of honor, because he was a Biden,” Mr. Biden wrote in his 2002 eulogy for his father. “A dreamer burdened with reality, a sensitive spirit layered in stoicism.”

This self-definition, accurate as any friend could conjure, may be missing only one beat: a person who would say all this about himself in public.

The eloquent, sometimes lyrical Mr. Biden who animated these pages over the years was rarely glimpsed on the major stages of the 2020 primary race, where he often meandered and misstepped. His gift for compassion more often served him in the hours Mr. Biden, now 77, spent with voters afterward.

The Biden of the rope line — by turns exuberant and empathetic, a backslapping, gregarious senator at heart — is very much recognizable in his eulogies. He holds eye contact with widowed spouses and children. He sands the rough edges in the biographies of the deceased. He shouts out former colleagues inclusively, the references landing now as heady signals of time’s march, with Mr. Biden’s position at the microphone a rare constant through the years.

“Lindsey, this one’s hard,” he said at Mr. McCain’s memorial, addressing Senator Lindsey Graham, a longtime friend who has more recently become a Trump ally pushing to investigate the Biden family.

“Fritz, he was one complex guy,” Mr. Biden said to Senator Fritz Hollings in 2003, setting off on his most controversial eulogy, for Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who was for decades an avowed segregationist.

Sixteen years later, Mr. Biden returned to the state for another service. It was time to eulogize Mr. Hollings.

Credit…Pool photo by Tim Dominick

“Another funeral,” Jill Biden wrote last April in the subject line of an email to her supervisor at Northern Virginia Community College. Mr. Hollings had died that weekend and Dr. Biden, an English professor, was hoping for a day off.

“Joe is the eulogist,” she said. “Is it a problem if I go on Tuesday, April 16?”

It was a familiar request, and one quickly granted. Dr. Biden had raised similar questions in recent months as her husband was tapped to offer remarks for Mr. McCain and John D. Dingell Jr., the longtime Michigan congressman.

Through the scores of eulogies he has delivered, Mr. Biden has developed a grim expertise that, combined with his personal history, has produced a kind of mission statement of mourning: “Funerals are for the living,” he wrote in one of his memoirs.

Detailing the tics and triumphs of colleagues or loved ones, Mr. Biden prioritizes acknowledging the children of the dead, warmly referring to “your dad” or “your mom.” “You’ve got good blood,” he tells them. In the compilation of eulogies through 2008 — a document provided by Mr. Biden’s campaign and independently described by several former aides — Mr. Biden often nodded to spouses by recounting their marriages with a love poem from the 16th-century writer Christopher Marlowe.

Carol Balick was one of those spouses to hear a Biden eulogy — he spoke at a memorial service for her husband, Sid Balick, in 2017, decades after Mr. Balick hired Mr. Biden as a young lawyer. The couple knew Mr. Biden before the rest of the country did, back when he lost his first wife and daughter.

“I think about Joe just enveloped in grief in his life, just enveloped in grief, and how the privacy of grief was invaded by his public responsibilities,” said Ms. Balick, 84, who attended Neilia and Naomi’s memorial in December 1972.

Ms. Balick has retained an enduring image of that service: Mr. Biden at the front door of the church afterward, a 30-year-old senator-elect consoling his guests. “Hundreds and hundreds of people, many of them just sobbing, grief-stricken,” Ms. Balick said. “And Joe comforted them as they left the church.”

In the decades since, Mr. Biden — whose campaign declined to make him available for an interview — has been quick to remind his audiences that the healing process can be uneven, speaking of the “black hole” that can linger long after a death.

Addressing grieving military families in 2012, Mr. Biden described becoming furious with his God after the accident.

“You can’t be good,” he recalled thinking, through gritted teeth. “How can you be good?” He came to understand, he said, how someone could contemplate suicide.

He landed on a line for mourners that has become his signature grieving advice, dispensed to tearful voters on the campaign trail and repeated as recently as last month: the idea that a memory of the person who died will one day bring a smile before a tear. He offered a version of that message as he memorialized Senator Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson of Washington in 1983, and has shared it many times over.

“I promise you, I give you my word, I promise you, this I know,” he said at Mr. McCain’s memorial, 35 years later. “That day will come.”

Credit…Pool photo by Susan Walsh

As he began speaking about Strom Thurmond in 2003, Mr. Biden wondered aloud why he was there.

“I’ll never figure him out,” he said, joking that his speech was the “last laugh” for the once-proud segregationist. “What else could explain a Northeast liberal’s presence here as the only outsider speaking today?”

One explanation was straightforward: The two had grown genuinely close over Mr. Biden’s decades in the Senate.

Another was implicit: Mr. Biden had a habit of judging the dead as they had hoped to be judged.

And so, Mr. Biden ruled, Mr. Thurmond was a “product of his time,” a “brave man” who eventually “moved to the good side.”

He approximated a quote from William Hazlitt, an English writer: “Death conceals everything but truth and strips a man of everything but genius and virtue.”

“The truth and genius and virtue of Strom Thurmond,” Mr. Biden said, “is what I choose, and we all choose, to remember today.”

It is that instinct that makes a Biden eulogy “the clearest expression of his worldview,” said Jeff Nussbaum, a former speechwriter, defining this outlook as: “Try to find that which is worth celebrating, or at least recognizing, in others.”

Mr. Nussbaum recalled the “impolitic observation” about “Irish Alzheimer’s,” an imagined condition where all is forgotten but the grudges. “Joe Biden, when it comes to eulogies, is the opposite,” he said. “He forgets the grudges and remembers only the positives.”

Of course, this approach carries risk in other settings. Last year, Mr. Biden attracted criticism for speaking warmly about his working relationships with segregationist senators.

More broadly, some Democrats see Mr. Biden’s paeans to bipartisan civility as dated and naïve amid the tribalism of the Trump age, even as allies hope he will appeal to moderates disillusioned by the president. Whatever the result, the eulogies affirm how central this bearing is to Mr. Biden’s self-identity. Several include touches of performative marvel that he, a Democrat, has come to compliment a Republican.

His preference for compromise over ideological rigidity has also seeped perceptibly into his prose. “Our differences were profound,” Mr. Biden said of Mr. Thurmond, “but I came to understand that as Archibald MacLeish wrote: ‘It is not in the world of ideas that life is lived. Life is lived, for better or worse, in life.’”

For those who have demonstrated “courage” or “loyalty,” in Mr. Biden’s estimation, a special commendation tends to follow, particularly if a subject has helped Mr. Biden at some political cost. In eulogies for both Mr. Thurmond and Senator Ted Kennedy, Mr. Biden saluted them for defending his integrity as plagiarism accusations felled his 1988 presidential run.

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, a Republican for most of his career, was recognized for cutting an advertisement for Mr. Biden’s 1990 re-election. “Do you know anyone who would do that in politics?” Mr. Biden asked at Mr. Specter’s memorial in 2012.

“He gave a deeply personal eulogy,” Mr. Specter’s son Shanin said. “Maybe a tad long — maybe a tad long — but that was OK.”

In the summer of 1991, Mr. Biden scrawled out bullet points to memorialize his first father-in-law, Robert N. Hunter.

He moved through the hallmarks of a Biden remembrance — Shakespeare, Emerson, self-deprecation. After jotting down several pages of largely handwritten notes, he looked to a eulogy he had given two years earlier for a close friend, Pete McLaughlin, who died at 45.

“He did not choose his lot, but once it was drawn, he showed us how a man should play it,” Mr. Biden had written, underlining the word “man.” “That is Pete — and that is no ordinary man!”

This time, Mr. Biden crossed out “Pete,” writing in “Mr. H.”

The echoes emphasized the layers of loss that have shaded his life — and offered a glimpse of the vocabulary of grief he was assembling.

Over the years, Mr. Biden repurposed his own words for multiple memorials, demonstrating a fondness for certain linguistic flourishes that became trademarks of his eulogies.

His father, Representative Tom Lantos of California and Mr. McLaughlin were all “larger than life,” in Mr. Biden’s telling. When you were with them, he said every time, “you knew you could win” — a distinction shared with Dr. Biden’s grandmother and at least two other friends.

Though he recycled his most compelling lines without apparent hesitation, there is no evidence that Mr. Biden sought to borrow from others without attribution in his eulogies.

In fact, drawing on his own memory and a weakness for Irish poetry, Mr. Biden has at times brought an almost academic seriousness to his task.

Sometimes, this has meant informal interviews with loved ones in a quest for anecdotes. He once sent an aide to scour a bookstore for “A Man for All Seasons,” remembering a line he found relevant to the life of a friend he was eulogizing.

Credit…Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

And if his language has often repeated over the years when describing the dead, Mr. Biden’s sketches of himself have rarely been generic.

Mr. Biden, as rendered by Mr. Biden, is a particularly vivid character, unguarded and at times politically incautious.

He has offered snapshots of a rowdy adolescence, recalling a demolition derby with Mr. McLaughlin on Route 202 or the story of a college friend, Don Brunner, taking a fall with the campus police for a young Mr. Biden, who was trying to visit a romantic interest.

Eulogizing Mr. Brunner in 2004, Mr. Biden remembered asking him to become a roommate: “I said, ‘My name is Joe Biden, you know I like you,’” he began, according to a transcript. “Thank God he didn’t think I was gay.” (“He regrets this joke,” said Andrew Bates, a Biden campaign spokesman, “and it does not in any way reflect his views about advancing and protecting the rights of the L.G.B.T.Q. community.”)

Mr. Biden’s identity as a man of, by and for the Senate shone through in eulogies for Washington colleagues and childhood friends alike. There were the requests for “a point of personal privilege”; references to powerful contacts (“my cellphone rang and it was Secretary of State Powell”) and the mention of his own prestigious posts.

“I was one of those folks they call a ‘chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee,’” he once said, apparently seeking to add credibility to his praise of several military leaders.

More than occasionally, memorial services have coaxed arresting self-reflection out of Mr. Biden.

Eulogizing his first wife in 1972, he suggested that she had shaped his perspective on race as a young man. Before Neilia showed him the way, Mr. Biden said, he was “probably one of those phony liberals” who would “go out of their way to be nice to a minority.”

“She made me realize I was making a distinction,” he continued at St. Mary Magdalen, a church in Delaware. “But in dealing with minorities, she made no subtle condescending gestures.”

“I’m going to try to follow her example,” he promised.

Wilmington’s The Morning News reported that Mr. Biden maintained his composure until the end of his speech, when his “emotions enveloped him and he hurriedly left the altar.”

It was a pain beyond compare, friends say, until 43 years later, when Mr. Biden returned to another Delaware church for another service.

Beau Biden was an emerging political star and his father’s protégé when he learned he had glioblastoma — the same disease that killed Mr. McCain and Mr. Kennedy.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

At the funeral, the elder Mr. Biden’s two surviving children spoke. The Army chief of staff, Ray Odierno, spoke. President Barack Obama spoke.

Mr. Biden, for once, remained in the pews.

But from the vice president’s too-familiar perch — behind the lectern, before an anguished audience — his boss supplied one small comfort: a Biden-style eulogy.

Mr. Obama spoke directly to Beau Biden’s children.

The Obamas had “become part of the Biden clan,” he said.

And with that, he instructed, came the “Biden family rule.”

“We’re always here for you, we always will be,” the president said. “My word as a Biden.”

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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Houston Bids Goodbye to George Floyd, Whose Killing Galvanized a Movement

HOUSTON — George Floyd died at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis. A thousand miles to the south, in the Texas city where he was raised, two rows of police officers saluted as his coffin went past.

Hours before Mr. Floyd’s funeral began at a southwest Houston church, uniformed officers stood between the hearse and the front doors. As relatives and friends pushed the gold coffin with blue trimming into the church, the officers raised their hands in a show of respect.

Mr. Floyd’s funeral and the public viewing that preceded it a day earlier have been a counterpoint to the fury that his death touched off in cities across America. Mr. Floyd, who grew up in a tough public housing complex in Houston’s predominantly black Third Ward, was considered a native son, and the tone adopted by protesters, activists, elected officials and police officers has been one of honoring a grieving Houston family.

Inside the Fountain of Praise church, Mr. Floyd, 46, the emblem of an international movement whose name has been chanted by thousands of people since his death, was remembered as the son, brother, uncle and father that he was in life.

Video

transcript

‘We All Loved Him’: Family and Friends Honor George Floyd

Hundreds of mourners filled a Houston church more than two weeks after George Floyd’s death powered sprawling protests across America against racism.

[singing] “George Floyd, lovingly known as ‘Big Floyd’ and the ‘Gentle Giant,’ was steadfast in his kindness and devotion to helping his fellow Jack Yates Lions succeed through his genuine example of love, faith and generosity.” “The world knows George Floyd. I know Perry Jr. — he was a pesky little rascal, but we all loved him. And I just want to thank all the mothers that are here today. And if you’ve got a nephew, an uncle, just hug them and just let them know we are for all these young black men that are coming up in this world today. And just hug them and love them because we don’t ever know.” Singing: “The good times that made us laugh, outweigh the bad.” “Your children will be honored to witness your contributions firsthand. You didn’t make excuses, but stood tall and accepted your responsibilities like a real man.” “We must commit to this family — all of his family, all five of his children, grandchildren and all — that until these people pay for what they did, that we’re going to be there with them. Because lives like George will not matter until somebody pays the cost for taking their lives. The problem is too many of you been walking by the Eric Garners, been walking by the Trayvon Martins, been walking by the Arberys, been walking by — and now we stopped for George Floyd. And I’m in Houston today because I don’t want nobody to call me a passer-by.”

Westlake Legal Group merlin_173379327_79d9408a-86ad-44c8-a43b-7e6a0bf573a1-videoSixteenByNine3000 Houston Bids Goodbye to George Floyd, Whose Killing Galvanized a Movement Race and Ethnicity Police Brutality, Misconduct and Shootings Houston (Tex) George Floyd Protests (2020) Funerals and Memorials Floyd, George (d 2020) Black Lives Matter Movement
Hundreds of mourners filled a Houston church more than two weeks after George Floyd’s death powered sprawling protests across America against racism.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Godofredo a Vasquez

George Perry Floyd Jr. was born in North Carolina but grew up in the Cuney Homes housing complex in Houston. He was a 1993 graduate of Jack Yates High School, where he played on the basketball team as a 6-foot-6 power forward “able to dunk with both hands.” And he was a father of five and grandfather of two, according to the funeral program.

His relatives referred to him as “Superman.”

“The world knows George Floyd,” said Kathleen McGee, one of his aunts, surrounded by relatives, all dressed in white. “I know him as Perry Jr. He was a pesky little rascal, but we all loved him.”

Like the funerals of Michael Brown and Eric Garner in 2014, Mr. Floyd’s funeral became a moment of both national reckoning and mourning, as black leaders and Mr. Floyd’s family celebrated his life and denounced the brutality of his death.

The funeral aired live on broadcast and cable television, and as it began at noon, the New York Stock Exchange went silent for eight minutes, 46 seconds — the length of time a Minneapolis police officer held Mr. Floyd’s neck under his knee before he died. It was the longest moment of silence on the stock exchange floor in its 228-year history.

In Houston, speaker after speaker invoked the political moment born out of what happened in Minneapolis.

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Updated 2020-06-09T23:50:09.473Z

“This was not just a tragedy. It was a crime,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, the civil rights leader who delivered the eulogy.

“We must commit to this family — all of these families, all of his children, grandchildren and all — that until these people pay for what they did, that we’re going to be there with them,” Mr. Sharpton said. “Because lives like George’s will not matter until somebody pays the cost for taking their lives.”

He admonished the country’s political and business leaders for belatedly saying they were sorry for the mistreatment of African-Americans. “Don’t apologize — give Colin Kaepernick a job back,” he said, referring to the former N.F.L. quarterback. “We don’t want an apology. We want him repaired.”

The service came after five days of public memorials in Minneapolis, North Carolina and Houston, and two weeks after the Minneapolis police officer was caught on video making the arrest that ended Mr. Floyd’s life.

On Monday, a public viewing in Houston drew nearly 6,400 people, including Gov. Greg Abbott, nurses fresh from work dressed in scrubs, new fathers holding babies and Mr. Floyd’s high school classmates. Following Tuesday’s service, he was to be buried at the Houston Memorial Gardens in a grave next to his mother, Larcenia Floyd, who died in 2018.

In a video message, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, offered his condolences to the family, saying he understood the weight of grieving in public. Mr. Biden, who has often connected to people through grief after suffering deep losses in his own life, spent time with the Floyd family in private on Monday.

“No child should have to ask the question that too many black children have had to ask for generations: ‘Why? Why is Daddy gone?’” Mr. Biden said in the video. “When there is justice for George Floyd, we will truly be on our way to racial justice in America.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_173372151_33e87aa7-aca5-4894-b5f9-891ea1f38252-articleLarge Houston Bids Goodbye to George Floyd, Whose Killing Galvanized a Movement Race and Ethnicity Police Brutality, Misconduct and Shootings Houston (Tex) George Floyd Protests (2020) Funerals and Memorials Floyd, George (d 2020) Black Lives Matter Movement
Credit…Pool photo by David J. Phillip

Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston announced from the altar that he would sign an executive order on Tuesday to ban police chokeholds and strangleholds. Among other things, the order would also require police officers to give a warning before shooting.

“We honor him today because when he took his last breath, the rest of us will now be able to breathe,” said Mr. Turner, who is black.

No one mentioned President Trump, but Representative Al Green, Democrat of Texas, said that the next person in the country’s highest office needed to tackle racial inequality. And Brooklyn Williams, a young niece of Mr. Floyd’s, called for an end to hate crimes.

“Someone said, ‘Make America great again,’ but when has America ever been great?” she said. “America, it is time for a change!”

Mr. Sharpton began his eulogy with a warning that people — especially elected officials — tend to forget about police killings before officers have been brought to trial. Often, he said, bad police officers are “protected by wickedness in high places.”

The officer who pressed his knee into Mr. Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He and three other officers who participated in the arrest have been fired, and the other men were arrested on lesser charges.

Mr. Sharpton promised to be back in Minneapolis when the trial starts, and to march on Washington “by the tens of thousands” on the anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in August.

One by one, Mr. Sharpton named the relatives of other black men and women whose killings have invoked concerns over racial injustice and asked them to stand. Other mourners stood, too, until everyone in the sanctuary was up and clapping and the funeral of one man briefly became a funeral for all the other lives lost.

“The mother of Trayvon Martin, will you stand,” he said. “The mother of Eric Garner, will you stand. The sister of Botham Jean, will you stand. The family of Pamela Turner, here in Houston, will you stand. The father of Michael Brown from Ferguson, Mo., will you stand. The father of Ahmaud Arbery, will you stand.

“All of these families came to stand with this family because they know better than anyone else the pain they will suffer from the loss that they have gone through,” Mr. Sharpton said.

Most mourners and public officials attending the funeral wore face masks. But the coronavirus pandemic at times seemed an afterthought. Among the hundreds of people inside the sanctuary and outside in the parking lot, people hugged, shook hands and passed funeral programs and business cards.

“I see that you all have destroyed all laws of social distancing,” joked the Rev. William Lawson, pastor emeritus of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in Houston.

After the service, Mr. Floyd’s body was carried out of the church toward the final, private observances at the cemetery. His body was borne by horse-drawn carriage along the final stretch of the route, with the public permitted to gather along the roadside and watch.

“You called for Mama,” Mr. Sharpton said during his eulogy. “We’re going to lay your body next to hers.”

Credit…Michael Starghill Jr. for The New York Times
Credit…Michael Starghill Jr. for The New York Times

A group of activists and Houston-area residents stood outside the church throughout the funeral — a much smaller gathering than the thousands who flocked to the church on Monday for the visitation.

Before the service began, a young man and woman walked up to the bouquets of flowers left by mourners at the church’s front doors, beneath a framed picture of Mr. Floyd. They knelt and prayed, and the young man raised his fist high.

The man, Arion Ford, 27, a community organizer from the St. Louis area who is a friend of the Floyd family, choked back tears as he stood up.

“I was praying for Mr. Floyd,” Mr. Ford said. “In my mind, I’m thinking, that could be my father, that could be my cousin, my brother. It could happen to any one of us. We are fed up, as you see out on the streets.”

His friend, Trisha Boyle, 29, a community activist also from St. Louis, said Mr. Floyd’s death had started a movement.

“We go to school,” she said. “I have two master’s degrees. Arion is studying to be a lawyer. We do the American dream. There’s this one piece that’s missing — we’re murdered. We’re murdered if we’re jogging. We’re murdered if we just so happen to have a counterfeit bill. Is that a death penalty?”

Later, as Mr. Floyd’s coffin was wheeled out of the church, a man standing in the back of the group of onlookers shouted, “We will breathe!” Another yelled, “Get your knee off our neck!”

The two rows of police officers stood to the side. As the coffin was lifted into the hearse, a chant broke out: “Say his name! George Floyd! Say his name! George Floyd!”

Manny Fernandez reported from Houston, and Patricia Mazzei from Miami.

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Biden to Meet With George Floyd’s Family in Houston Ahead of Funeral

Westlake Legal Group biden-to-meet-with-george-floyds-family-in-houston-ahead-of-funeral Biden to Meet With George Floyd’s Family in Houston Ahead of Funeral George Floyd Protests (2020) Funerals and Memorials Floyd, George (d 2020) Biden, Joseph R Jr
Westlake Legal Group 07biden-floyd-facebookJumbo Biden to Meet With George Floyd’s Family in Houston Ahead of Funeral George Floyd Protests (2020) Funerals and Memorials Floyd, George (d 2020) Biden, Joseph R Jr

Joseph R. Biden Jr. will travel on Monday to Houston to meet with the family of George Floyd, a black man whose death at the hands of the police touched off a nationwide outcry over racism and police brutality.

Mr. Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, will offer his condolences to members of the Floyd family and will also record a video message for Mr. Floyd’s funeral service on Tuesday, according to a Biden aide. Mr. Biden is not expected to attend the service — given his Secret Service protection, there were concerns about creating a disruption — but he wanted to offer in-person condolences, according to people familiar with the matter.

His trip to Texas comes against a backdrop of enormous protests against police violence and systemic racism that are unfolding across the country, including huge marches on Saturday, and as Mr. Biden is still navigating how to travel safely during the coronavirus outbreak. Until now, his recent public outings have been limited to his home state Delaware and to nearby Philadelphia.

Mr. Biden, the former vice president, has spoken out passionately in recent days about the need to heal racial divisions in the country. He laced into President Trump in a speech last week for fanning the “flames of hate,” and he has advocated a number of new police reforms. While the protests have been largely peaceful, he also nodded to violent clashes between the police and some people in the crowds, as well as looters, urging a “nation enraged” that “we cannot let our rage consume us.”

To many of Mr. Biden’s allies, perhaps his greatest strength is his ability to empathize. His first wife and daughter died in a car accident soon after he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972, and his son Beau Biden died of brain cancer five years ago. He has eulogized dozens of prominent figures but has also often used his personal experiences with overcoming grief to connect with voters on the campaign trail who were in mourning.

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Hundreds Gather at a Memorial for George Floyd in Minneapolis

Westlake Legal Group hundreds-gather-at-a-memorial-for-george-floyd-in-minneapolis Hundreds Gather at a Memorial for George Floyd in Minneapolis Police Brutality, Misconduct and Shootings George Floyd Protests (2020) Funerals and Memorials Floyd, George (d 2020)

MINNEAPOLIS — Hundreds of mourners gathered at a Minneapolis chapel on Thursday to remember George Floyd, the man whose death set off anguish and demands for changes to American policing across the country.

A giant image of a mural of Mr. Floyd was displayed at the front of the sanctuary at North Central University — an image that was painted in recent days along a Minneapolis street near where a police officer had held his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, even after Mr. Floyd had said, “I can’t breathe.”

At the bottom of the image in the church were the words: “I can breathe now.”

Sprays of white flowers were placed around a shiny copper coffin, and security officials, in masks because of the coronavirus, lined the stage.

More memorial services are planned to remember Mr. Floyd in the coming days — including one on Saturday in Raeford, N.C., where some of his family lives, and on Monday in Houston, where he lived for many years.

Some seats were reserved with the names of celebrities and political leaders who were expected to attend. Among them were placards for Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, Gov. Tim Walz, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith of Minnesota, Martin Luther King III and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

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Updated 24m ago

The event was open only to invited guests and family members, but hundreds of people gathered outside the chapel under cloudy skies. Outside on the street, T-shirts with images of Mr. Floyd and “I can’t breathe” across his mouth were on sale.

“We have to be united, even with Covid,” said Yousif Hussein, 29, who was planning to attend the memorial for Mr. Floyd.

“I have to show solidarity with George Floyd,” Mr. Hussein said.

The service, to be led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, comes a day after enhanced charges were announced against the white police officer who wedged his knee onto Mr. Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, as well as the new charges against three other officers who participated in the arrest. All have been fired.

The State of Minnesota has filed a civil rights charge against the Minneapolis police force over Mr. Floyd’s death, pledging to investigate whether the department has engaged in systemic discriminatory practices.

Mr. Sharpton said he would announce a new social movement at Thursday’s memorial service and would call for federal legislation aimed at putting an end to racial injustice by the police.

Mr. Floyd’s death came after a deli employee called 911, accusing him of buying cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. A video of his last moments, as three other uniformed officers did not intervene, set off protests in dozens of cities. At least six people have died in violence connected to the protests.

Mr. Floyd had been a star football and basketball player in high school in Houston, moving to Minneapolis about five years ago. Family and friends described him as happy, careful not to judge and easy to talk to.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_173160591_89755ff3-4c5e-4169-9296-bad547c7673c-articleLarge Hundreds Gather at a Memorial for George Floyd in Minneapolis Police Brutality, Misconduct and Shootings George Floyd Protests (2020) Funerals and Memorials Floyd, George (d 2020)
Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

When he returned to Houston for his mother’s funeral two years ago, he told a cousin that Minneapolis had come to feel like home.

The city he adopted already is filled with tributes and memorials; the names of other black men and women who have been killed by police officers across the country are scrawled in large pink, blue, yellow and green chalk letters on the street where Mr. Floyd was arrested.

The display is alongside a place where many of those passing through the now-famous neighborhood have gathered in recent days. J.T. McReynolds, 11, had memorized all of the names, rattling them off in a tiny voice this week as he sought shade in a car parked under a tree while he and his parents took a break from a day of protesting.

“Sean Bell. Trayvon Martin,” the boy began, and then paused. “It’s just hurtful. We’re trying to be peaceful and get justice for George Floyd.”

For nearly three months, Americans have avoided most collective outpourings of grief as fears of the coronavirus converted funerals of lost friends and family into painfully socially distanced affairs. Plans were being finalized at the last minute for the memorial service at a chapel that holds several hundred people. Social distancing was expected to be in place for mourners.

Besides Mr. Sharpton, Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney who is representing some of Mr. Floyd’s family, also will speak.

Others planning to attend the memorial service was Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who died in 2014 when a New York police officer placed him in a fatal chokehold. His last words, “I can’t breathe” — repeated years later in another city by Mr. Floyd — galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement.

“It just feels like I’m coming to my son’s funeral again,” Ms. Carr said on Wednesday in Minneapolis. “This young man was crying for his mother at the end. That was like my son echoing from the grave saying, ‘Mama, you’ve got to do something. They’re still killing us.’”

Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura contributed reporting from Minneapolis, and Audra D. S. Burch from Hollywood, Fla.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

What Time Is the George Floyd Funeral?

MINNEAPOLIS — For nearly three months, Americans have avoided most collective outpourings of grief as fears of the coronavirus converted funerals of lost friends and family into painfully socially distanced affairs.

But hundreds of people were expected to turn up Thursday for a memorial service for George Floyd, a man whose recent death in police custody has elicited such outrage across the country that it has pushed fears of a global pandemic into the background.

“We have to be united, even with Covid,” said Yousif Hussein, 29, who was planning to attend the memorial for Mr. Floyd, a black man who died last week after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest.

“I have to show solidarity with George Floyd,” Mr. Hussein said outside the corner market in midtown Minneapolis where Mr. Floyd made his final gasps — for help, for his mother and for air, a plea that has since become a painful refrain for racial and social justice in America: “I can’t breathe.”

Mr. Floyd’s death came after a deli employee called 911, accusing him of buying cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. A video of his last moments, as three other uniformed officers did not intervene, set off protests in dozens of cities and led to criminal charges this week against all four police officers. At least six people have died in violence connected to the protests.

On Wednesday, the Hennepin County medical examiner released Mr. Floyd’s autopsy report, which revealed that he had tested positive for the coronavirus in early April, although it gave no indication that the virus factored into his death. The news came as a gut punch, a painful reminder of how the virus has hit the black community in Minnesota, and throughout the nation, in disproportionate numbers.

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Updated 2m ago

Thursday’s memorial service is scheduled to take place at 1 p.m. in a large sanctuary at North Central University in Minneapolis. Other services for Mr. Floyd were planned for Saturday in Raeford, N.C., where some of his family lives, and Monday in Houston, where he lived for many years.

The service, to be led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, comes a day after enhanced charges were announced against the police officer who wedged his knee onto Mr. Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, as well as the new charges against three other officers who participated in the arrest. All have been fired.

The state of Minnesota has filed a civil rights charge against the Minneapolis police force over Mr. Floyd’s death, pledging to investigate whether the department has engaged in systemic discriminatory practices.

Mr. Sharpton said he would announce a new social movement at Thursday’s memorial service and would call for federal legislation aimed at putting an end to racial injustice by the police.

On Wednesday, Quincy Mason, the son of George Floyd, for the first time visited the site where his father was pinned to the ground, dropping to one knee on a chalk drawing depicting Mr. Floyd’s body with wings and a crown and the words, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”

“My father should not have been killed like this,” Mr. Mason said later that day.

The mayor of Minneapolis, Jacob Frey, said Mr. Floyd’s death was a moment for the city to come together and address “systemic racism head on.”

“George Floyd’s life was defined by peace and love for his family and friends,” the mayor said in a statement. “But he was denied mercy in Minneapolis when our officers failed to recognize George’s humanity. That can’t be where his story ends.”

Mr. Floyd had been a star football and basketball player in high school in Houston, moving to Minneapolis about five years ago. Family and friends described him as happy, careful not to judge and easy to talk to.

When he returned to Houston for his mother’s funeral two years ago, he told a cousin that Minneapolis had come to feel like home.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_173160591_89755ff3-4c5e-4169-9296-bad547c7673c-articleLarge What Time Is the George Floyd Funeral? Police Brutality, Misconduct and Shootings Murders, Attempted Murders and Homicides Funerals and Memorials Floyd, George (d 2020) Demonstrations, Protests and Riots
Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

The city he adopted already is filled with tributes and memorials; the names of other black men and women who have been killed by police officers across the country are scrawled in large pink, blue, yellow and green chalk letters on the street where Mr. Floyd was arrested.

The display is alongside a place where many of those passing through the now-famous neighborhood have gathered in recent days. J.T. McReynolds, 11, had memorized all of the names, rattling them off in a tiny voice this week as he sought shade in a car parked under a tree while he and his parents took a break from a day of protesting.

“Sean Bell. Trayvon Martin,” the boy began, and then paused. “It’s just hurtful. We’re trying to be peaceful and get justice for George Floyd.”

Plans were being finalized at the last minute for the memorial service at a chapel that holds several hundred people. Social distancing was expected to be in place for mourners.

The service will be for family, friends and invitees of the Floyd family, according to the university’s website. Local media planned to livestream the event, and many people demonstrating on Wednesday said they had intended to gather in an area outside the chapel to pay respects during the service.

Besides Mr. Sharpton, Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney who is representing some of Mr. Floyd’s family, also will speak.

Among those planning to attend the memorial service is Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who died in 2014 when a New York police officer placed him in a fatal chokehold. His last words, “I can’t breathe” — repeated years later in another city by Mr. Floyd — galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement.

“It just feels like I’m coming to my son’s funeral again,” Ms. Carr said on Wednesday in Minneapolis. “This young man was crying for his mother at the end. That was like my son echoing from the grave saying, ‘Mama, you’ve got to do something. They’re still killing us.’”

Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura contributed reporting from Minneapolis, and Audra D. S. Burch from Hollywood, Fla.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

‘We Ran Out of Space’: Bodies Pile Up as N.Y. Struggles to Bury Its Dead

The 40-foot trailer has been there for weeks, parked outside the Leo F. Kearns Funeral Home in Queens. Its refrigerator hums in an alley next to a check-cashing establishment. Thirty-six bodies, one atop the other, are stacked on shelves inside.

The funeral director, Patrick Kearns, has barely slept since the day he took charge of them. As he lies awake in the middle of the night, he knows there will be more.

“It weighs on you, having so many cases in your care,” he said. “The death rate is just so high, there’s no way we can bury or cremate them fast enough.”

With more than 18,000 announced fatalities and a total death toll that is almost certainly higher, the coronavirus crisis is the worst mass casualty event to hit New York since the Spanish flu pandemic a century ago.

At the height of the outbreak in April, a New Yorker was dying almost every two minutes — more than 800 per day, or four times the city’s normal death rate. And though the daily toll has recently slowed, hundreds of bodies are still emerging each day from private homes and hospitals.

While hospitals bore the initial brunt of the crisis as sick people flooded emergency rooms, the sheer volume of human remains has pushed the system for caring for the dead to its limits, too: Hospital morgues, funeral homes, cemeteries and crematories are all overflowing and backed up.

The scale of the problem was brought into sharp relief on Wednesday afternoon, when the police found dozens of decomposing bodies stashed inside two trucks outside a funeral home on Utica Avenue in Brooklyn. The owner, Andrew T. Cleckley, said he had nowhere else to put them, adding simply: “I ran out of space.”

What happened in Brooklyn appears to be an extreme case, and state health officials said on Thursday they would investigate the matter. But in the last two months, funeral home directors have begun to store bodies in viewing rooms and chapels, turning up their air-conditioning systems to avoid decomposition. Some are transporting bodies to other cities and states to be cremated.

Some hospitals ran out of body bags — the city has since distributed 20,000 — and others have used forklifts to transfer piles of corpses into makeshift mobile morgues. So many people have been dying at home that the medical examiner’s office has turned to teams of soldiers working around the clock to pick them up.

Cemetery administrators have been scrambling to meet the need for burials, and the city’s four crematories are backed up for weeks. To stave off a secondary public health emergency, any bodies left unclaimed for 14 days were, for a time, being buried at a potter’s field on Hart Island in the Bronx.

For the families of the dead, the overloaded system has turned the already painful act of mourning into a kind of anxious torture. Some have found it hard to track the bodies of their loved ones as they move from morgue to morgue. Others have had trouble hiring hearses, which are now in high demand.

Because of social distancing rules, wakes are often not permitted, and funerals that once took days to arrange can sometimes now take weeks — if they can happen at all. Even when they do occur, extended families are not supposed to touch one another or get too close as they stand beside a grave.

“We wanted to grieve together, and we weren’t able to,” said Reginald Teekasingh, whose grandfather was buried by Mr. Kearns. “Nothing was like it should be.”

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ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_171909693_207c8344-c47f-4e2b-88f1-13ec8e5675d6-articleLarge ‘We Ran Out of Space’: Bodies Pile Up as N.Y. Struggles to Bury Its Dead Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York New York City Green-Wood Cemetery (Brooklyn, NY) Funerals and Memorials Deaths (Fatalities) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) cemeteries
Credit…Sarah Blesener for The New York Times

Funeral directors like Mr. Kearns have found themselves in the middle of a logjam, besieged at one end by constant calls for pickups from hospitals or nursing homes and stymied at the other by an inability to cremate or bury people quickly.

A fourth-generation funeral director, Mr. Kearns, 50, has always thought of himself as “a final responder” to the neighborhoods his family has served since 1900. Some of those communities, like Richmond Hill, Jackson Heights and Corona in Queens, have been among the hardest-hit sections of New York.

In an average month, Mr. Kearns performs some 30 or 40 funerals, but in April alone he expected the number to be about 200. And that, he said, was on top of the 150 more he was asked to do but couldn’t because he lacked the energy and equipment. His supply of caskets has at times run short.

Though he has spent his life around death, Mr. Kearns has never seen anything like the coronavirus crisis. Death certificates have been difficult to file; cremation permits have been hard to obtain; and keeping track of the endless wave of bodies has been harrowing.

“My stress levels just keep going up,” he said.

On April 17, for instance, Mr. Kearns dispatched two assistants to Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens to retrieve a body, but the person they had been sent to find was not on the correct shelf in the hospital’s mobile morgue. Locating the body required hunting through dozens of others in the darkness with a flashlight, comparing names and numbers with the data in their log.

All of this has exacted a toll. In the past few weeks, Mr. Kearns said, he has lost 20 pounds and missed most family dinners. On a recent evening, working in his trailer, he tripped and smashed his head against a shelf. After blacking out, he woke on the floor among the corpses. His wife and business partner forced him to go home.

“I’m looking forward to the end,” he said. “That’s all I can say.”

At most of the city’s 50 cemeteries, telephones have been constantly ringing. On the grounds outside, digging crews have been working through the weekends.

“We’re swamped — absolutely swamped,” said Julie Bose, the president of The Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn, where the number of funerals has tripled. “And that’s every day, day in, day out.”

The city’s four crematories have also backed up. Like other funeral directors, Mr. Kearns has been taking bodies to other cities for cremation. A few weeks ago he reached a deal with a crematory in Schenectady, about 145 miles north of New York City, to avoid the crush downstate.

Anticipating the surge, officials in New York relaxed restrictions on city crematories in late March, allowing them to work around the clock. Each has recently been running at double its capacity. None, however, were accepting new appointments until well into May.

On a recent week, the crematory at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn handled about 130 cases — more than double its typical load. Richard Moylan, the cemetery’s president, said that two of his five ovens had broken down from overuse.

“The chambers need a break,” Mr. Moylan said, “but as fast as we cremate people, they keep coming in.”

It was much the same at the Fresh Pond Crematory in Middle Village, Queens, where the four cast-iron units are handling more than 75 bodies each week, up from the usual 45.

Mr. Cleckley, in an effort to explain how dozens of decomposing bodies ended up in trucks at his funeral home, said one of his drivers had arrived at the gates of a city crematory at 6 a.m. on a recent morning to find 15 vehicles from other funeral homes ahead of him. “People are spending all night at crematories waiting to get seen,” he said.

Dan Wright, the secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 813, which represents about 500 funeral service workers in the New York area, put it bluntly: “People are dying faster than we can get them to their final destinations.”

Funerals, limited to 10 or fewer people, at times look like a kind of dark ballet. As mourners wait in their cars, crews in masks and gloves put caskets into the ground. Families gather graveside — not too close together — only after the diggers have moved away.

“I don’t know how I would have felt if I had to bury my mother under these conditions,” said John Blumer, a grave digger at the New Montefiore Cemetery on Long Island. “The body goes down to the ground alone. It’s hard for them.”

When Cruz Morales, 75, died at a nursing home in the Bronx earlier this month, her son Jose spent nearly a week making calls, looking online and going door to door in an attempt to find a funeral director. With no success, he began to worry that St. Barnabas Hospital, which had claimed his mother’s body, would have to send it on to a public morgue.

“My worst fear was that I didn’t want my mother’s body to be dumped somewhere and then I have to look for her all over the city,” Mr. Morales said.

Last week, he finally found someone at the D’Bari Funeral Home on East 188th Street who could help him — or so he thought at first. Mr. Morales, a Pentecostal Christian, wanted his mother to be buried. But the wait for a cemetery plot was far too long, and the staff at D’Bari was only scheduling cremations.

With no other options, Mr. Morales agreed to a cremation, knowing that while he might not get to see his mother off, she would at least be able to rest in peace. “Even though it’s not what we hoped for,” he said, “I feel so secure.”

For Mr. Teekasingh, whose grandfather died of the virus, the hardest part of the process was picking only 10 relatives to attend the burial. The rest of the family had to watch by Skype.

“A lot of us were not able to see him when he passed,” he said. “It was not normal.”

Near the middle of April, Mr. Kearns got a panicked call from a client. She had just found out, she said, that her father had died from the virus two weeks earlier at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. Was there anything he could do?

Knowing time was short, Mr. Kearns called the hospital and discovered that the man, who had been unclaimed for more than 14 days, had already been scheduled for burial on Hart Island. Mr. Kearns and his team rushed to Montefiore — a race to see if they could beat the transport unit from the medical examiner before it took the man away.

“In the end,” Mr. Kearns said, “we were able to get there first.”

In normal times, the medical examiner’s office would involve itself in a death only if it was sudden, violent or unexpected. But during the pandemic, the office has become the official backstop for an overburdened system.

Dr. Barbara Sampson, the city’s chief medical examiner, said that the city had managed to double its capacity for body storage — to about 1,800 — by setting up four portable “disaster morgues,” tent-like structures in secluded areas, in addition to its fixed mortuary buildings.

The expansion allowed the office to lift the 14-day deadline for funeral directors to pick up a person’s remains before they are sent to Hart Island. Instead of using the potter’s field, Dr. Sampson said her agency would soon start letting families freeze the bodies of their loved ones as a “long-term storage option” at the disaster morgues.

“I’m confident,” Dr. Sampson said, “that we will have enough capacity to be able to hold people appropriately with dignity and respect until the funeral industry can catch up.”

Though officials have declined to say how many coronavirus victims have been buried on Hart Island in recent weeks, the numbers tell the story. Last year, a total of 280 people were buried on the island. This year, 550 people have already been buried there, 450 of them in the past two months alone.

Some hospitals were seemingly caught short by the sheer number of bodies the crisis produced, running low on body bags as their small, in-house morgues filled up. Many were forced to improvise with refrigerated trailers that the city rushed to them.

At Woodhull Hospital in Brooklyn, one doctor recalled that after a coronavirus patient died in bed, his body lay untouched for six or seven hours. The hospital morgue was already full. There was nowhere else for the man to go.

At St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, the chief executive, Dr. David Perlstein, said the city had told him that no one would come to pick up the bodies until there were 100 in his trailer. To increase capacity, he was advised to build a row of shelves.

Since March, Dr. Sampson’s office has distributed roughly 150 refrigerated trailers among the city’s roughly 60 hospitals. The medical examiner has also brought on more than 200 soldiers and airmen from the Army, the National Guard and the Air National Guard to bolster its normal mortuary work.

Four-person military teams have been using a fleet of 15 vans, most of them rented, to pick up bodies from private homes when families cannot afford a funeral director or when no next of kin can be determined.

In March and April, the recovery teams picked up 4,729 bodies, more than double the number for the same period last year. Some survivors have reported waiting hours in the presence of the dead for the units to arrive.

Dr. Sampson has also reassigned more than a third of her 800-member work force to front-line jobs, including nearly 200 highly trained scientists from the agency’s DNA lab. They are answering phones, conducting investigations and helping out in the morgues.

“We have had to increase every aspect, basically, of what we can do,” she said.

Every night at 7, New Yorkers celebrate the city’s health care workers with a salute of horns, songs and clanging pots and pans. Nothing similar exists for the grave diggers, cemetery receptionists and funeral directors.

“These people are the hidden heroes of this disaster,” said Dr. Emily Craig, who works with a federal database of missing persons. “They work tirelessly.”

The only public accolade that Mr. Kearns has gotten came from his daughter, Fiona Kearns. A few years ago, Ms. Kearns worked as a teacher in Missouri, and earlier this month, as the dying reached its peak, some of her friends from the Midwest posted Facebook messages claiming the death rate in New York was overblown.

On April 17, she put up her own message, describing the grueling days and nights that Mr. Kearns was spending with the dead.

“If you would like to look my father up, his name is Patrick Kearns,” she wrote. “He is my hero and currently working 16 hours a day.”

Edgar Sandoval, Nicole Hong, Ali Watkins and Alexandra E. Petri contributed reporting.

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Hasidic Funeral in Brooklyn Draws 2,500, Creating Crisis for Mayor de Blasio

Westlake Legal Group hasidic-funeral-in-brooklyn-draws-2500-creating-crisis-for-mayor-de-blasio Hasidic Funeral in Brooklyn Draws 2,500, Creating Crisis for Mayor de Blasio Quarantines Police Department (NYC) Jews and Judaism Hasidism Funerals and Memorials de Blasio, Bill Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Brooklyn (NYC)
Westlake Legal Group 29nyvirus-hasidic-facebookJumbo Hasidic Funeral in Brooklyn Draws 2,500, Creating Crisis for Mayor de Blasio Quarantines Police Department (NYC) Jews and Judaism Hasidism Funerals and Memorials de Blasio, Bill Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Brooklyn (NYC)

Soon after a revered Hasidic rabbi died of the coronavirus in Brooklyn on Tuesday, his fellow congregants informed the Police Department of an unexpected decision: Despite the coronavirus restrictions now in place, they would hold a public funeral.

The local police precinct did not stand in their way, a testament to the Hasidic community’s influence in the Williamsburg neighborhood. By 3:30 p.m., police officers began erecting barricades, expecting a small number of mourners to show up. Loudspeakers were put up to help mourners hear while keeping their distance.

But by 7:30 p.m., an estimated 2,500 ultra-Orthodox Jewish men had arrived to mourn Rabbi Chaim Mertz, packing together shoulder-to-shoulder on the street and on the steps of brownstones, clearly violating social distancing guidelines and turning the funeral into one of most fraught events of the virus crisis for Mayor Bill de Blasio.

After the crowd had been broken up, Mr. de Blasio lashed out on Twitter at “the Jewish community, and all communities,” saying he had instructed the Police Department “to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups.”

Mr. de Blasio spent much of Wednesday on the defensive over his handling of the funeral and his use of the phrase “Jewish community” in his public criticism of the mourners. But the episode also underscored the challenges that officials have faced in addressing the flouting of social distancing rules in insular and close-knit Hasidic neighborhoods around the New York region.

People in these neighborhoods have long voiced distrust of state and local authorities, even as they have been able to band together to exert political power. Hasidic Jews have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, which has killed hundreds in their community, including influential religious leaders.

The challenge of monitoring gatherings may become even more daunting as the weather gets warmer and more New Yorkers are tempted to leave their homes for the first time in weeks, taking long walks or meeting in parks — even as the pandemic appears to have no clear end in sight.

On Wednesday, Mr. de Blasio defended his remarks at a news conference and said he “spoke last night out of passion.”

“People’s lives were in danger before my eyes and I was not going to tolerate it,” he told reporters. “I regret if the way I said it in any way gave people a feeling of being treated the wrong way, that was not my intention. It was said with love, but it was tough love, it was anger and frustration.”

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Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, said the mayor’s remarks were unfair to the more than one million Jewish people who live in New York City. “The few who don’t social distance should be called out — but generalizing against the whole population is outrageous especially when so many are scapegoating Jews,” he wrote on Twitter. “This erodes the very unity our city needs now more than ever.”

Jacob Mertz, a spokesman for the rabbi’s synagogue, Kahal Tolath Yakov, said in a statement that it had tried to organize the funeral to stay within social distancing guidelines but “unfortunately, this didn’t pan out, and NYPD had to disperse the crowds.”

“We came up with a plan to have many streets closed, so that mourners can participate and walk the coffin while following the social distancing rules and wearing masks,” Mr. Mertz said in a statement. “New Yorkers walk the streets daily, thus, a funeral — we thought — shouldn’t be different, as long the rules are followed.”

Mr. de Blasio has longstanding ties to the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, which supported him as he rose through the political ranks from the City Council, then as public advocate and as mayor.

When Mr. de Blasio needed donations to his flailing presidential campaign to qualify for the democratic debates, he turned to Orthodox donors.

But the mayor has run into frequent political headaches related to public health issues in the ultra-Orthodox community, including the measles outbreak and his policy on a circumcision ritual, metzitzah b’peh, that led to multiple children becoming infected with herpes.

Rather than restrict the practice, the mayor instructed parents to ask the mohel performing the rite whether he was infected with herpes.

“The mayor has boxed himself into a corner with the Orthodox community to the point that he has had trouble when it comes to policing necessary regulations that are designed to prevent the spread of communicable diseases,” said Menashe Shapiro, a political consultant and founder of Shapiro Consulting Group. “Whether it’s measles, coronavirus or the bris fiasco, he has demonstrated a tremendous weak spot with this community.”

Most of the Orthodox Jewish leaders who have died during the pandemic have not had big crowds at their funerals, and religious leaders say those who violate stay-at-home guidelines represent a small portion of their community.

Jewish leaders and groups reacted with outrage to Mr. de Blasio’s remarks about the funeral, which took place on the same day as a military flyover by pilots from the Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force’s Thunderbirds, drawing throngs of New Yorkers to watch from parks and sidewalks.

Shia Katz, who attended the funeral, said loudspeakers and Police Department barricades were set up to help control the crowd, which was mostly composed of young men because many older people stayed home out of fear of the virus.

Mr. Katz said that the speakers were not turned on, however, causing the people already assembled on the street to crowd closer together. The gathering quickly turned into “chaos,” he said.

“They’re not bad people, they’re lost people,” Mr. Katz said. He said gathering to mourn was “just as important as the fighter jets in the sky.”

At the news conference on Wednesday, Mr. de Blasio said that mourners had to realize they were risking the health, and possibly even the lives, of those around them.

“We have to understand what it means to hold a large gathering in New York City today,” he said. “It means unfortunately that people who go to that gathering, some will be sick with this disease. That’s just a fact. We know this. Some will spread the disease to others. People as a result will die.”

At the same news conference, Dermot F. Shea, the New York City police commissioner, said the Police Department had dispatched officers to monitor the funeral on Tuesday alongside members of the neighborhood Hasidic safety patrol, known as shomrim.

The department had thought it was “unlikely” a large crowd would gather. A senior law enforcement official said on Wednesday that no more than a hundred mourners had been expected.

“We didn’t know it would be this size gathering,” the official said. “Obviously this took us aback.”

The virus has strained the Police Department, which has seen nearly 20 percent of its uniformed ranks sidelined by the pandemic. Thirty-seven officers and civilian members of the department have died of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Twelve summonses were issued at the funeral for failure to disperse, out of 146 summonses that have been issued citywide for similar violations of social distancing. Mr. Shea said Wednesday that the department was “beyond, at this point, asking people to comply” with public health guidelines.

When people gather in large groups, he said, they are “putting members of my department at risk.”

That concern was shared by others, like Yvonne Moore, a home health aide who encountered the funeral during her commute home to Canarsie on Tuesday night. She wove her way through the crowd in a mask and gloves, which she said many of the mourners around her did not have.

When she got home, she said, she struggled to reconcile the idea of mourning a loss in a way that risked exposing others to the same kind of death. She said she had never seen such a large crowd in more than a decade working in South Williamsburg.

“I’ve seen weddings, I’ve seen funerals, this took the cake,” she said. “I was saying, ‘Oh my God,’ it was so crowded.”

Jeffery C. Mays, Edgar Sandoval, Nate Schweber and Ashley Southall contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Dozens of Decomposing Bodies Found in Trucks at Brooklyn Funeral Home

Westlake Legal Group 29nyvirus-funeralhome-facebookJumbo Dozens of Decomposing Bodies Found in Trucks at Brooklyn Funeral Home Funerals and Memorials Deaths (Fatalities) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Brooklyn (NYC)

A funeral home in Brooklyn improperly stored dozens of decomposing human bodies in two rental trucks parked outside that drew scrutiny after neighbors detected a stench coming from the vehicles, officials said on Wednesday.

It was not immediately clear whether the bodies found in the trucks, at the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home, were linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

But the sharp rise in fatalities caused by the virus has taxed New York City’s ability to handle its dead on every front. Funeral homes have been overwhelmed, and cemeteries and crematories have struggled to keep up with the demand for their services.

Police officers were called to the funeral home, in the Flatlands neighborhood, on Wednesday after neighbors complained about a foul odor coming from the trucks, a police spokesman said.

The state Department of Health, which regulates funeral homes, was also called to the scene to determine whether the home was handling human remains appropriately and issued two summonses, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation.

The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said the funeral home had started storing bodies in the trucks after its freezer stopped operating properly.

Eric L. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, arrived on the scene around 5:15 p.m. He said it took him several minutes to understand what was happening. Police officers and other investigators had sealed off the streets like a crime scene, he said.

He soon learned that the foul smell coming from a tractor-trailer and a U-Haul truck was a result of dozens of bodies being stored in the vehicles.

“This is traumatizing to family members,” Mr. Adams said.

A man who answered the phone at the funeral home hung up before a reporter could ask questions.

Mr. Cleckley could not immediately be reached for comment. Mike Lanotte, the president of the New York Funeral Directors Association, said that Mr. Cleckley was not a member of the organization.

Funeral directors are required to store bodies awaiting burial or cremation in appropriate conditions that prevent infection.

A Health Department spokeswoman, Erin Silk, said that alternate arrangements for the remains were being made by the funeral home.

Alan Feuer, William K. Rashbaum and Edgar Sandoval contributed reporting.

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De Blasio Breaks Up Rabbi’s Funeral and Lashes Out Over Virus Distancing

Westlake Legal Group 28nyvirus-hasidicNEW-facebookJumbo De Blasio Breaks Up Rabbi’s Funeral and Lashes Out Over Virus Distancing Williamsburg (Brooklyn, NY) Jews and Judaism Funerals and Memorials de Blasio, Bill Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

Mayor Bill de Blasio lashed out at Hasidic residents of the Williamsburg section in Brooklyn late Tuesday night after personally overseeing the dispersal of a crowd of hundreds of mourners who had gathered for the funeral of a rabbi who died of the coronavirus.

In a series of tweets, Mr. de Blasio denounced the gathering, which the police broke up, and warned “the Jewish community, and all communities” that any violation of the social-distancing guidelines in place to stop the spread of the virus could lead to a summons or an arrest.

“Something absolutely unacceptable happened in Williamsburg tonite: a large funeral gathering in the middle of this pandemic,” the mayor said in one post. “When I heard, I went there myself to ensure the crowd was dispersed. And what I saw WILL NOT be tolerated so long as we are fighting the Coronavirus.”

The authorities have dispersed several well-attended religious gatherings since restrictions on such events were enacted in the face of the outbreak. The events that were broken up included weddings and funerals in New York neighborhoods with large Jewish populations.

But the episode on Tuesday, which, according to Yeshiva World, involved the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Mertz, appeared to be the first time the mayor had directly participated in a dispersal.

“My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed,” Mr. de Blasio said in another post. “I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period.”

Hasidic groups and leaders reacted to the mayor’s warning with outrage.

Chaim Deutsch, a City Council member who represents a section of Brooklyn with a large Orthodox Jewish population, expressed anger and disbelief on Twitter, writing, “This has to be a joke.”

“Did the Mayor of NYC really just single out one specific ethnic community (a community that has been the target of increasing hate crimes in HIS city) as being noncompliant??” Mr. Deutsch wrote. “Has he been to a park lately? (What am I saying – of course he has!)”

“But singling out one community is ridiculous,” he added in another post. “Every neighborhood has people who are being non-compliant. To speak to an entire ethnic group as though we are all flagrantly violating precautions is offensive, it’s stereotyping, and it’s inviting antisemitism. I’m truly stunned.”

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Other people noted the size of the crowds that had gathered earlier in the day across the region to watch a military flyover by pilots from the Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force’s Thunderbirds honoring essential workers.

Photos posted on social media showed people gathering on city streets and in parks to watch the flyover; many of the assembled appeared to be standing close together and not wearing masks.

The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council said in a tweet that “people failed to social distance at a funeral the same day that thousands of New Yorkers failed to distance for 45 minutes to watch a flyover.”

The group criticized the mayor for making a statement about “the Jewish community” based on the actions of a few hundred people in one neighborhood. It said the mayor had not made similar remarks about other groups, adding that hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Jews live in the New York area.

“It is unacceptable that videos of some people in this community failing to social distance is news and is news in a generalized way (“Orthodox/Hasidic Jews”),” the group said in a tweet.

Mr. de Blasio’s press secretary, Freddi Goldstein, disputed the suggestion that the mayor’s comments reflected a double standard in enforcing social-distancing rules.

“The mayor has been one of the staunchest supporters of the Jewish community since his earliest days in public service,” Ms. Goldstein said in a statement. “There were thousands of people gathered today, putting their lives and the lives of others at risk. It is his responsibility to all New Yorkers to speak up.”

The pandemic has hit Hasidic residents of New York with devastating force, sickening and killing people at a rate that local leaders and public health data suggest may exceed that of other ethnic and religious groups.

Hundreds of Hasidic people have died of the virus, community leaders said, including influential religious figures like the Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, who led the Novominsker Hasidic dynasty and Agudath Israel of America, an umbrella ultra-Orthodox organization.

Most of the Orthodox Jewish leaders who have died amid the pandemic have not had big crowds at their funerals, but some have been mourned at large public gatherings like the one on Tuesday in Williamsburg.

The persistence of such events has drawn wide news media coverage. It has also generated deep unease among Hasidic groups, who feel they are being singled out for opprobrium and worry about anti-Semitism. And in any case, they argue, public health violations in their neighborhoods endanger them most of all.

A police spokeswoman said that officers were at the funeral but had not made any arrests. Videos posted on social media showed that members of the neighborhood Hasidic safety patrol, known as shomrim, were there as well.

Gatherings of any size have been banned in New York State for more than a month as part of the sweeping orders enacted by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

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Iran Fires on U.S. Forces at 2 Bases in Iraq, Calling It ‘Fierce Revenge’

Westlake Legal Group 07iran-stampede-facebookJumbo-v2 Iran Fires on U.S. Forces at 2 Bases in Iraq, Calling It ‘Fierce Revenge’ Suleimani, Qassim Stampedes Iran Funerals and Memorials Deaths (Fatalities)

BAGHDAD — Iran attacked two bases in Iraq that house American troops with a barrage of missiles early Wednesday, Iranian official news media and United States officials said, fulfilling Tehran’s promise to retaliate for the killing of a top Iranian commander.

“The fierce revenge by the Revolutionary Guards has begun,” the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps said in a statement on a Telegram messaging app channel.

Iraqi military officials said that Iran had fired 22 missiles at two military bases in Iraq where American troops are stationed. United States officials initially said there were no immediate indications of American casualties, and senior Iraqi officials later said that there were no American or Iraqi casualties in the strikes.

After the strikes, President Trump, who has vowed a strong response to any Iranian attack on American targets, met at the White House with his top national security advisers, including Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to discuss possible retaliatory options.

On Twitter a few hours later, Mr. Trump struck an upbeat tone and promised to make a statement on Wednesday morning. Some aides said they believed that Mr. Trump wanted to find a way to de-escalate the crisis.

“All is well!” he wrote. “Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far!”

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, also seemed ready to stand down, for now. “Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense,” Mr. Zarif tweeted. “We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.”

The American killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, a hero at home but a terrorist to the United States government, has scaled into one of the most dangerous confrontations between the two countries in the four decades of animosity that have followed the Islamic Revolution.

Iran’s firing of ballistic missiles from inside its borders — not relying on rockets from Iranian-backed proxies — at two of the main military bases where many of the more than 5,000 American troops in Iraq are stationed was a significant escalation of force that threatened to ignite a widening conflict throughout the Middle East.

It was also a stark message from Tehran that it has the will and the ability to strike at American targets in neighboring Iraq.

“It is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran and targeted at least two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. military and coalition personnel at Al Asad and Erbil,” Jonathan Hoffman, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, said in a statement.

Iranian news media reported the attacks hours after the remains of General Suleimani were returned to his hometown in Iran for burial amid a huge outpouring of grief and rage at the United States. The funeral procession was so huge and unwieldy that more than 50 people died in a stampede, state news media reported, forcing a delay in the burial.

Iranian officials said the attacks began at 1:20 a.m. — the time General Suleimani was killed Friday by an American drone at the Baghdad International Airport.

Some Iranian officials posted images of their country’s flag on Twitter, in a pointed rejoinder to Mr. Trump, who tweeted an American flag after General Suleimani was killed.

Iran’s military planners had anticipated retaliatory strikes by the United States. Key military, oil and energy sites were placed on high alert, and underground missile defense systems were prepared to counterattack, said a person familiar with the planning.

Iranian officials had been waiting for Mr. Trump to address the nation on Tuesday night, and when he did not do so, they suspected that the United States might wait to respond or not respond at all, the person said.

Two people close to the Revolutionary Guards said that if the United States did not strike, Iran would also de-escalate. But if the United States did attack, then Iran was preparing for at least a limited conflict.

Reports from American intelligence agencies of an imminent attack from Iran had intensified throughout the day, and senior officials had said they were bracing for some kind of attack against American bases in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East.

Over the past two days, American military and intelligence officials had closely monitored the movements of Iran’s ballistic force units — the crown jewel of the country’s arsenal. It was initially unclear whether the movements were a defensive dispersal or the preparations for a retaliatory attack. But by midday Tuesday, top American officials said it had become clear that some kind of Iranian attack was coming.

As tensions mounted, the president’s top national security advisers began gathering in the White House Situation Room about 2 p.m. — about three and a half hours before the attacks. Mr. Trump joined them after a previously scheduled meeting with the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Unlike after the American drone strike last week that killed General Suleimani, Democratic congressional leaders were notified immediately after the Iranian strikes.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi was meeting on Tuesday evening with senior Democrats about Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial when she was handed a note telling her of the Iranian attack on American forces in Iraq.

“We must ensure the safety of our servicemembers, including ending needless provocations from the administration and demanding that Iran cease its violence,” Ms. Pelosi tweeted. “America & world cannot afford war.”

Reactions to the strikes diverged sharply on Capitol Hill, with Democrats condemning the series of events that led to the escalation, and Republicans pressing Mr. Trump to project military strength.

Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, used Twitter to urge lawmakers to reassert Congress’s constitutional authority over matters of war and peace.

“The escalation of violence between Iran and the United States makes the constitutional responsibility of Congress to decide whether to declare war more important than ever,” Mr. Durbin tweeted.

Representative Michael Waltz, Republican of Florida, a former Army Green Beret who served in Afghanistan and worked in the Pentagon under President George W. Bush, said in a brief interview on Tuesday evening that he would reserve judgment about the strikes until more information became available. But, Mr. Waltz said, “the president’s been very clear, as you should be in a deterrence posture: They will impose consequences and they’ll be directly on the Iranian regime.”

One of the bases that was struck on Tuesday, Al Asad Air Base, has long been a hub for American military operations in western Iraq; Danish troops have also been stationed there in recent years.

In 2017, as the American-led coalition built up the base for its campaign against the Islamic State, roughly 500 American military and civilian personnel were located there. Units stationed there consisted of a shock trauma medical unit, a targeting cell, a Navy SEAL Special Operations task force and a company of Marines that served mostly as protection for the American side of the base. The airfield serviced drones and reconnaissance aircraft.

After the physical defeat of the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate in 2019, some troops have left the base, but it still maintains a robust presence.

The other base that was struck, in Erbil in northern Iraq, has been a Special Operations hub to hundreds of American and other allied troops, logistics personnel and intelligence specialists throughout the fight against the Islamic State. The base shares its borders with the city’s airport, which transport aircraft, gunships and reconnaissance planes have used as an anchor point for operations in both northern Iraq and deep into eastern Syria.

The Iranian missile attack came on a day that began with thousands of Iranians taking to the streets for General Suleimani’s funeral procession, a public mourning marred by a deadly stampede.

The head of Iran’s emergency medical services said 56 people had died and 213 were injured, the broadcaster IRIB reported on its website, as millions of people flooded the streets of Kerman to witness the procession.

Witnesses said on social media and on the BBC’s Persian service that the street leading to the funeral was too narrow to handle the crowd, and that some side streets had been closed off for security reasons, leaving those who were caught in the crush with no place to escape.

The overcrowding and the subsequent stampede in Kerman led the authorities to delay General Suleimani’s burial, the state news media reported. But he was buried around midnight, as Iran prepared to launch missile attacks against American forces in retaliation for his death, said Hossein Soleimani, the editor in chief of the main Revolutionary Guards news website.

The general’s body had been flown to Kerman after a funeral service on Monday in Tehran, the capital, where there were even bigger crowds. He had requested a burial in his hometown.

Alissa J. Rubin reported from Baghdad, Farnaz Fassihi from New York, Eric Schmitt from Washington and Vivian Yee from Beirut, Lebanon. Reporting was contributed by Helene Cooper, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Catie Edmondson, Nicholas Fandos, Mark Mazzetti and Michael D. Shear from Washington; Maggie Haberman and Nilo Tabrizy from New York; and Megan Specia from London.

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