There were lights. Reds, purples and blues danced across the made-up faces and costumes of intricate zombies, Marie Antoinettes, Pennywises, jedis and inflated T-rexes bobbing their heads above the spooky crowd. The fictional beings promenaded in throngs, the booming drums echoing down every block of Greenwich Village.
It was almost as if there hadn’t been an attack a mile away just four hours earlier.
Loaded with heavier security than in previous years, New York Police Department officers patrolled the Village Halloween Parade with bulky AK-47s as helicopters flew overhead protecting the festive crowd.
“Anything the police asked us to do, we absolutely did right away,” said Jeanne Fleming, the artistic and producing director of the Village Halloween Parade. “But they asked us to do very little. They themselves did a lot. From my perspective, they had us covered.”
The parade was just a mile away from where Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old from Uzbekistan, mowed down pedestrians and cyclists on a bike path near the World Trade Center memorial. His attack killed eight people and injured 12 others.
There were brief rumors that the parade might be called off due to the attack, but Fleming says there was never any consideration of cancelling. The decision was ultimately made by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD.
“I certainly would not have cancelled it myself,” Fleming said. “We want to show the world that New York City is not going to be stopped by this.”
Though the mood throughout the parade was one of excitement for the festivities, Fleming told the band to start with a slower rendition of Frank Sinatra’s famous “New York, New York.”
“We showed from the beginning that we recognized what had happened and that we mourn for those who passed,” Fleming said.
Though the crowd seemed a bit thinner than previous years, Fleming said she didn’t see a dramatic change in turnout. Even amid tragedy, the New York City spirit prevailed.
“[The crowd] was amazing, the positivity, the love, the good energy, the desire to show that we are going to go on,” Fleming said. “We are going to dance in the face of death and no one is going to be able to stop that spirit … what honors the dead is that we chose to live.”
Originally published in Chelsea News on November 1, 2017.