Recently the New York Times featured a story about the Virgin Mary of Breezy Point. For those of you who don’t know, the Virgin Mary of Breezy Point is a Virgin Mary statue that was the only thing left standing amidst the charred wreckage of a home at the corner of Oceanside Avenue and Gotham Street in Breezy Point, Queens. In fact, it is perfectly in tact, down to it’s shell crown niche, and the eery backdrop of blocks of destruction make it all the more compelling. In Catholicism, the veneration of the Virgin Mary stems from the belief that the holy are imperishable to fire or other forces. So naturally, this statue has made quite the buzz across the country. It’s been featured in stories by CNN, FOX, NBC and the Wall Street Journal. People are making pilgrimages to Breezy Point to witness this so called “miracle” with their own eyes. It has become the feel good story of a neighborhood arguably decimated worse than any other region by hurricane Sandy. But forgive me if I am not so taken by this statue.
Do you remember the 9/11 Cross? Two steel beams in the shape of a cross that had held together as the building collapsed and are now on display at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. When they were uncovered on Septemeber 13th, 2001 in the ground zero wreckage it caused quite the media and religious uproar. Then there’s the Oklahoma City Elm Tree, also known as the “Survivor Tree”. It stood just yards from the explosion of a bomb that killed 168 people on April 19th, 1995, but for some inexplicable reason the tree remained, and still remains standing. It serves as a memorial and a sign of strength for all those affected by the Oklahoma City bombing. Also popular is the Buddhist teacher Shinran Shonin statue that stood 1.5 miles from the center of a nuclear blast that leveled the city of Hiroshima in 1945. The statue now stands outside a Buddhist Temple on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, still in mint condition. There is a plaque next to the statue that reads “a testimonial to the atomic bomb devastation and a symbol of lasting hope for world peace”.
To me, the Virgin Mary of Breezy Point is news that has been repackaged and sold back to us. It seems to me that journalists will always strive to find some source of comfort amidst total chaos. Why? Because it is the exact kind of feel good story that sells newspapers. If you disagree, visit www.stpeterslist.com , a religious website that has figured out how to cash in on this “miracle” by selling Virgin Mary of Breezy Point graphics on their merchandise. More importantly, this story takes away from what is really going on in Breezy Point. People around the country look at this statue as a sign of hope, while people in Breezy Point are wondering why this statue is intact and their homes are destroyed. This story takes away from how terrible things really are in Breezy Point. I’m not saying that it is or is not a miracle, I don’t think anybody has the right to make that call, but I do think in the grand scheme of things that it doesn’t really matter. Does this miracle make up for what has just occurred? Is this the olive branch god gives us after the great flood?
University of Delaware Student Cody Greenstein who was born and raised in Breezy Point thinks of the Virgin Mary of Breezy Point as” a little hurtful, because right now most people have forgotten about what has happened to us, and they find solace in this statue story, but things aren’t all right, the media should be taking a more serious outlook on Breezy and portray that were still not okay”. Cody, whose home was one of many that was destroyed said that he believes “this story is more for the benefit outside world and not for the people of Breezy”.
I think that it is a great thing that this statue has inspired so many people. In and of itself, the Virgin Mary of Breezy Point is an amazing occurrence unexplainable by simple logic. But this story also makes me feel cynical about journalism. People want a symbol of strength because the country has been wounded, and that is what the media is trying to give them. But anything written about Breezy Point should draw attention to the utter devastation people are living in, not a feel good story about the Virgin Mary. But the Virgin Mary sells papers, and people want to feel like things are getting better.
It’s not that this story isn’t newsworthy, it’s that it’s become more newsworthy than Breezy Point as a whole. I’m afraid of Breezy Point falling out of the public eye. It happened to New Orleans and some neighborhoods have still not been rebuilt. Soon Breezy Point will be yesterdays news, but the people who live there will still be piecing their lives back together. Thats how the media machine works, people want to hear about the recovery effort, not that Cody Greenstein and his family ate Thanksgiving dinner at a hotel.