My family started on Friday evening adorning the trees around our home with purple ribbons and the placards I’d ordered. It was a labor of love that encompassed all five of us as we all took part whether it was affixing the ribbons to the trees, tying bows or threading the ribboned placards through a portion of the bow. The weather forecast called for rain all weekend and Mark and I were up early on Saturday to continue our task. We tied a ribbon on a tree near a fast food hangout of all the high school kids. The day was sunny and as soon as we would tie a ribbon there would be someone walking by to read it. Kendall was with us and she watched beaming every time someone stopped to read the cards. “They’re reading about Jordan. It’s working.” Her pride engulfed me and we made a roundabout circle of our neighborhood placing ribbons on the trees by the park near our public library. One of our neighbors from our old block drove up and asked what we were doing. When we explained about honoring Jordan on that would have been his graduation her only response was, “Can I help?” Mark grabbed a spool of ribbon and handed it to her through the car window. As she drove off she said, “I’ll make sure Linden is covered with purple ribbons.” As we walked back home planning to put ribbons on Jordan’s tree, in front of his elementary, junior high and high school another friend found us on our path.
“I wanted to know if you needed help with the ribbons?”
“Yes, that would be great.”
“Oh good, Giancarlo (her son) told me he wants to help.”
“I love that boy he is so sweet. Please tell him thank you.”
Many people already knew of our ribbon project because of a short article that was in our community paper, The Wednesday Journal. I’d emailed the editor asking if there was a way he could inform community members about the significance of the ribbons. The article written exceeded all of my expectations:
Family honors late son, OPRF alum with purple ribbons
written by Terry Dean
Jordan Moore-Fields would’ve been among the graduates walking across the stage this June at Amherst College in Massachusetts.
This weekend, his family will honor his memory with a special tribute that many in Oak Park will get a chance to see. On Saturday, May 21 and Sunday, May 22, his family will place purple ribbons around town to mark what would have been his graduation from college. Moore-Fields, an Oak Park and River Forest High School alum, died in a car accident in fall 2008 while on his way back to Amherst. The three other passengers in the car, his college friends, survived with minor injuries. Moore-Fields, 19, was a passenger during the ride.
“As I proudly watch his friends take the next step in their journeys, my family needed to show our forever pride in Jordan,” his mother, Jackie Moore, said in an email to Wednesday Journal on Monday.
Moore-Fields, one of four children, was a sophomore at Amherst, studying political science. In 2007, Wednesday Journal named him one of its Student Citizen Award winners, an annual honor that recognized high school students in Oak Park and River Forest. He graduated from OPRF that year with 3.5 GPA, worked on the school’s student newspaper, the Trapeze, and also was a mentor to other students while serving on the Minority Achievement Committee (MAC), a group for black male students.
Neighbors and friends expressed themselves in so many ways. My former next door neighbor and forever friend had the following blogspot in one of our community papers:
I am remembering Jordan this weekend.
He would have graduated from Amherst College today had he not tragically been killed in a car crash his sophomore year. He would have graduated top in his class, no doubt, same as he did when he graduated from OPRF in 2007. Jordan was a shining star in all that he did. His death did not mythologize his achievements and character, as can sometimes happen. He earned his kudos while he was still with us.
Jordan was my next-door neighbor for much of his life. Often he would help be out by baby sitting in a pinch. He was raised to be involved in his community. To pitch in. To make a difference. Sometimes I couldn’t even get him to take money for his service. He did, however, appreciate payment in homemade cookies.
I am thinking too of his family.
A family that produced four children of extraordinary integrity. A family with the heavy burden of burying a son and brother. A family simultaneously celebrating the graduation of another son and mourning the loss of what Jordan might have become. I follow their journey via Jordan’s mom, Jackie’s blog (alwaysmomof4.wordpress.com). Maybe you do too?
I wrote back to Muriel on Sunday morning after reading the post telling her how wonderful it was on such a tricky day emotionally to see Jordan through someone else’s eyes and share their memory of him. Later that same day I received the following email and picture from a dear high school friend of Jordan’s:
Hi Mrs. Moore,
Jordan was on my mind all day yesterday. When my roommates saw me struggling to tie the ribbon around the front tree by myself, they came out to help. I explained what I was doing and why, then Nick, Shanza and Eric helped me tie the ribbon and take a photo. My friends never met Jordan, but I talk about him enough that they know in what high esteem I hold him and how important he is to me. We stood in silence for a minute after Nick took the picture, and yesterday at around 7:00 last night four kids in Urbana, IL were thinking of both Jordan and your family.
Thank you so much for organizing the ribbon program, this was a great way to honor and remember Jordan.
Only the best,
Erin's ribbon for Jordan
Pictures started to come in from different people both family and friends from around the country. My cyber friend Claire sent the following astonishing photo accompanied by this note:
It poured most of today; I thought it appropriate. Early this evening, the sun came out and I was able to take a purple ribbon to my front yard. My plans for a big, elaborate display in the maple tree were thwarted by the weather and the soaking grass beneath my feet. Instead, I took a smaller, shiny purple ribbon and placed it over the shoulders of the statue of the woman that feeds my birds, under the dogwood tree. I called Jordan’s name into the sky and wished for peace for you, Mark, and your three earthbound children.
Then I recited this poem, by Robert Desnos, translated from the French by X.J. Kennedy.
I have so fiercely dreamed of you
And walked so far and spoken of you so,
Loved a shade of you so hard
That now I’ve no more left of you.
I’m left to be a shade among shades
A hundred times more shade than shade
To be a shade cast time and time again into your sun-transfigured life.
I’m sorry, Jackie, so very sorry. I hope the attached photo is a help.
Please feel free to use any of this on your blog, if you wish.
With love on this most difficult day,
In Claire's garden
I caught my breath with one of the pictures I received. It was from the mother of one of Jordan’s friends, Christian who was in the car with him the night of the accident. She wrote:
Dear Jackie and Mark,
Please know that we remember Jordan today and every day!
Attached is a picture of Christian placing an Amherst purple ribbon on our tree today to honor Jordan.
We are thinking about you and your family and we wish you peace!
Christian standing next to purple ribboned tree in his yard.
Mark’s cousin who lives in North Carolina also sent a picture of her beautiful tree:
And yet another picture emailed to me from a friend whose name is also Jackie, whom I met in a grief support group:
There were also so many words of encouragement and grace given to me by my Facebook friends and family. Many of them changed their profile picture to the Jordan Button for the day.
Our family and friends near and wide helped us to get through a tough day. I was glad the sun was shining and that there were many people out and about stopping to look at the ribbons and read about my boy. Thank you all for being so understanding of my need to pay tribute to Jordan in this way. I am blessed to be thought of and cared about by such wonderful people. If there are more pictures out there please feel free to email them to me or add them in the comments section and I’ll include them in my Purple Ribbon Album.
Here are some of the neighborhood pictures that we took and we only got to a portion of the ribbons that dotted our community:
Outside the high school
The ribbon on the giant Catalpa in our front yard
Kendall standing next to a tree outside of the elementary school that all my kids attended.
The most fancy and first ribbon that adorned our neighborhood. Thank you Cynthia and family.
A view down our old block ribbons were placed on every other tree. Mark made sure to put a placard on the tree in front of our old house.