David Pisarra

A murder happened in Woodlawn Cemetery last week. I know because I witnessed it, and I have the pictures to prove it.

There were dozens of participants, all black, and they were causing quite a cacophony as it happened.

Luckily I had my new Canon D90 camera and a long lens to capture them in the act. It was a bloodless affair, impressive really its efficiency.

The crows moved throughout the cemetery, from the far back area by the Masons, through to the side where the many an old gravestone is crumbling and then into the center area where they could perch on the trees and were prime targets for my shooting.

Yes, it was in fact a murder of crows that happened in the cemetery, they come through about 6:00 p.m. every day it seems. I noticed this because I’ve been walking and photographing in the cemetery a great deal. I find it a quiet and peaceful place to relax and gather my thoughts.

This week of course my thoughts are turning to the coming Memorial Day, which is this coming Monday. As a day of remembrance we use it to take a moment and think back on the sacrifices that so many made to allow us to continue living the life that we do.

Born out of the tragedy that was the Civil War, Memorial Day is supposed to be a time that we stop to honor the fallen. Nationally we have a National Moment of Remembrance which according to usmemorialday.org was created by a “resolution [that] was passed on Dec 2000 which asks that at 3 p.m. local time, for all Americans “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to ‘Taps.”

Sadly I feel that many will not know of this, and even fewer will take part. It’s so much more enjoyable to focus on the bbq, the kids in the pool and the 50% off sales at our local big box retailer.

I’m of two minds on this, on the one hand, the frustrated pacifist side of me is appalled that people still die in combat. I long for a world where people don’t have to kill each other over philosophical or economic differences. It seems enormously unenlightened to me that we as a planet have not evolved to the point where we can resolve these issues without resorting to killing each other – but I know that is pie-eyed optimism and will seem hopelessly naïve on some level.

On the other hand, I feel that we should take time to honor the fallen – but why do we do that? Is it for their benefit? No, not directly, after all they’re not around to see the flags, the tears and hear the muffled sobs of the surviving spouses, family and friends. We do it really for the still living to know that if they should be killed in the line of duty that they will be remembered. We do it to give meaning to the efforts of our service-members as they slog through jungles and fry in deserts. We do it let them know that we appreciate them, and that should they die, they will not be forgotten.

We normally remember the fallen with parades and flags and ceremonies each year. But not this year. There are no parades, or big events planned at Woodlawn Cemetery at 14th and Pico.

As a publicly owned and operated cemetery, Woodlawn has a duty to the community to provide both a final resting place, but also a social benefit in honoring and remembering those who have passed on. There are many notable people in the cemetery, from Paul Henried the actor director, to Leo Carillo the Conservationist, Abbot Kinney who was “real estate baron”, Evelyn Hooker the Psychologist, and Sally Ride the astronaut. There are those interred at Woodlawn of less fame but probably greater notoriety, men like Jimmy Phipps, who died 47 years ago on May 27, 1969. He was only 19 when he was killed in action during the Vietnam War, and was posthumously given the Medal of Honor.

For those who wish to do something more than just bbq to remember the fallen this Saturday at the Los Angeles National Cemetery in Westwood there is a Flag Placement opportunity from 8-11:00 a.m., there is parking in Lot 29 and it’s a chance to be of service to those who served.

I have mixed feelings about cemeteries in general, they seem like a waste of good land in some ways, they could be public parks or used for public buildings. Alternatively, I have seen the benefit they bring to our city as a central place to honor those who have contributed to the development of our civic life. Monuments to the fallen stand as remembrances of the cost of war, and maybe they help temper the drumbeats for war. Perhaps the fields of headstones and grave markers will keep us from the next great conflict.

So this weekend, put down the burgers for a moment, and as you’re on your way to the Home Depot Memorial Day Extravaganza Sale, drop by the Woodlawn Cemetery with your family and see what the cost of war was and is, and consider that the fallen are guardians not just of our past, but are light bearers on what to avoid in the future.

David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at dpisarra@pisarra.com or 310/664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra