Strength in the Face of Tragedy: A Thank You to the Armenian-American Community

by Megan Wood, Jeanne Mooney, and Anne Johnson Landry

Last Friday, the Massachusetts Armenian community demonstrated the kind of resilience and courage that has inspired us to be “Boston Strong” in the wake of last week’s tragedies.

The 98th anniversary Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide was to take place on Friday, April 19, at the Massachusetts State House. We expected hundreds of people from Watertown and surrounding communities to attend.  The planned march to the New England Holocaust Memorial and Armenian Heritage Park had already been cancelled due to the Boston Marathon bombings – but there was a considered decision by the planning committee to move forward with the State House event.

All that transpired in the early hours of Friday changed those plans. With Boston and Watertown on lockdown, the plans for the Commemoration were put aside, our energy directed toward getting the stay-indoors request out to residents of Watertown and surrounding communities.

Beyond Watertown’s borders, other communities were also impacted by Friday’s events. A class of Wilmington High School students, who had studied the Genocide and had planned to attend the Commemoration, is now part of a community mourning the loss of Officer Sean Collier.

Our months of planning would no longer culminate in a Commemoration that would fill the House of Representatives Chamber with hundreds of people, young and old, school children and scouts, guest speakers and Genocide survivors. Any momentary disappointment was soon replaced with concern and prayers for our friends in Watertown, who were undergoing a horrific ordeal.

We spread the word that the Commemoration had been cancelled, but the catering order for 350 had already been prepared by Ani Catering of Belmont.  The planning committee agreed to donate the food to law enforcement in Watertown.

Coordinating this donation, when most of the committee members were subject to the shelter-in-place order, was hardly an easy task. Lalig Musserian of Belmont, the Commemoration coordinator, worked quickly, contacting Hovannes Janessian of Ani Catering. They worked out a plan with Sheriff Peter Koutoujian’s office to have the food safely delivered to law enforcement in Watertown. Hovannes waited for hours with the food before the police granted Lalig permission to drive to his catering shop in Belmont. Around noon on Friday, Lalig and her husband received clearance. Together, they loaded the van with brown bags of sweet rolls, cookies, brownies, cheeses, and beverages. They drove through empty streets and made their way through checkpoints before a member of the Sheriff’s office greeted them and accepted the donation. They were also able to hand out brown bag lunches to several Watertown police officers on patrol.

We are sure that there are many more untold stories of kindness, courage, and generosity in the face of danger that will eventually emerge. But Lalig, Hovannes, and Watertown: you inspired us with your strength on Friday. The Armenian Genocide Commemoration would have allowed us to gather together to remember the 1.5 million lives lost in the Armenian Genocide, to stand up for survivors, and to celebrate the contributions of Armenian-Americans to our society. Your contribution on Friday touched us deeply.

Last week, we saw people from all over the world come together to support Boston. The sense emerged that “We are all Bostonians.” The Armenian community also came together- once again- in the face of tragedy. Yours is truly a story of perseverance, and we thank you for your example.

Share your own reflections or stories from this past week here.

Megan Wood is Representative Jonathan Hecht’s legislative aide. Jeanne Mooney and Anne Johnson Landry serve on Senator Will Brownsberger’s legislative staff.

Published by Anne Johnson Landry

Anne works as Committee Counsel and Policy Advisor to Senator Brownsberger.