A poignant, long-awaited memorial to the estimated 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide was dedicated and unveiled before a crowd of as many as 1,000 in Old Pasadena’s Memorial Park Saturday afternoon.
The gathering included a large contingent of Los Angeles-area government and law enforcement officials, Armenian-American clergy and members of the Armenian-American community. The event came days before the 100th anniversary of the start of pogrom on April 24, 1915.
For over ninety minutes under a blazing sun, speakers thanked the city and recounted the memorial’s purpose and local Armenian-American children sang before clergy led the dignitaries and crowd to the shrouded memorial itself for the unveiling.
“It’s hard for us to understand, to comprehend, the deaths of a million-and-a-half people. But nevertheless, we have a responsibility, all of us, to make sure that everyone is aware of this tragic and discrediting event in the history of mankind,” Mayor Bill Bogaard told the crowd. “We must do our best to assure that events like this do not happen in the future.”
The monument’s unveiling came as the culmination of three years’ work by the Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial Committee, a non-profit set up to raise private funds to build and maintain the memorial. Former Pasadena Chief of Police Bernard K. Melekian is a Co-Chair of the Committee with attorney Robert Kalunian.
The construction and landscaping completes the vision of Catherine Menard, who won the highly competitive responsibility of designing the monument. Menard was an Art Center student at the time her design was selected. She has since graduated, and she returned to speak at Saturday’s ceremony.
The memorial features a 16-foot tall tripod that captures the image of the structures used by the Turks to hang Armenian artists and leaders 100 years ago.
From its apex, a drop of water will fall every 21 seconds, Menard said. In a year, 1.5 million drops will fall, symbolizing the souls of the departed genocide victims each one-by-one entering eternity, she said.
“Our ancestors can never be replaced. Their descendants will have a powerful and solemn place to properly remember them and to celebrate the survival and successes of Armenian American’s in Pasadena and throughout California. I am proud and humbled to be part of the project,” said Kalunian.
Neither the U.S. Government or the Turkish government have officially acknowledged that the Armenian Genocide ever occurred.
The memorial’s location remains controversial in the eyes of many Pasadenans, who feel it should not be located in the city’s Memorial Park.
“Inappropriate,” one woman wrote on Pasadena Now’s Facebook page. “That park already had it’s dedication and purpose. Armenian Genocide is tragic of course, but has nothing to do with Memorial Park and American War veterans.”