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    « World Humanitarian Day: Remembering Our UN Neighbors | Main | At Last, A Place to Sit Down: Cafe Green »

    09/06/2009

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    The Bristol Basin Plaque
    A WWII link between Bristol England and New York City


    completed in December of 1974, The English-Speaking Union again orchestrated a ceremony to replace In the early days of the war, vital wartime supplies were sent to Bristol from the United States. Since the ships could not return to New York empty, rubble from the bombing wreckage of the city of Bristol was used as ballast. That rubble, all that was left of the homes and lives of so many Bristolians, was offloaded on the shore of the East River near 25th Street and formed a landfill, the hardcore for what would become the FDR drive. In 1942, moved by the story, the NYC Commissioner of Works Walter Binger suggested to Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia that a memorial should be erected near the spot where the remnants of the City of Bristol had been dumped and that that area of the East River be called Bristol Basin. The English-Speaking Union of the United States took up the idea and arranged for its accomplishment. We commissioned Stephen Vincent Benet to write a poem for the plaque to commemorate the site. The plaque was placed on a footbridge over the East River Drive in June of 1942 by Mayor LaGuardia at a ceremony planned by the ESU. It stayed there until 1970 when the area was redeveloped as the apartment complex, Waterside Plaza. When construction was the plaque on the complex’s newly-created riverside plaza. At that ceremony, Bristol-born actor Cary Grant dedicated the plaque and spoke of his family who stayed in Bristol during the bombing adding, “I have a deep-seated emotion about this ceremony.”
    The plaque is still on the plaza today reminding a new generation of the debt that all who hold freedom dear owe to those in Britain who lost so much in its name. In 2001, a month after the terrorist attack of September 11, 200, the story of the Bristol Plaque was made a part of the exhibit The British in New York Since 1770 at The New-York Historical Society.
    This information was sent to me in the UK
    By Alice Boyne the President of The English
    Speaking Union of the USA in New York.
    I living as a child during the Bristol Blitz
    in the 1940's

    Are you ready for this, Ken?

    While living in LA around 2002, I found a discarded Certificate of Honour awarded to a 15-year-old boy in Bristol in 1906 for "saving his fellow creature from the peril of death by drowning."

    And I kept it -- and only started researching it when I was living back in NYC because I wanted to find the descendants of the rescued and the rescuer. It turned out that, unbeknownst to me, the whole time I was researching it, I was living ON TOP OF LANDFILL from the Bristol Blitz! I had walked past this plaque hundreds of times and never stopped to look at it.

    There's so much more to the story, but that sums it up. Except to say that I did locate the descendants of the rescued girl and the descendants of one of the rescuer's brothers. We couldn't find out what happened to the rescuer. If you've got relatives in Bristol, they may have seen the articles and short BBC Points West piece about my story.

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