By Joyce Yeremian
On Sun., April 28, under a bright sun and deep blue sky, the Armenian Martyrs’ Memorial Committee of Rhode Island held the 98th commemoration of the Armenian Genocide at the Armenian Martyrs’ Memorial Monument, at the entrance to North Burial Ground in Providence, as we have for the past 36 years.
The program opened with the presentation of the flags by the Homenetmen Scouts and the placing of wreaths in front of the monument. Archpriest Rev. Gomidas Baghsarian from Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Church, Rev. Shnorik Souin of Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Armenian Church, and Rev. Dr. Ara Heghinian of the Armenian Evangelical Church, performed a Requiem Service in memory of the 1.5 million martyrs. The combined choirs from the Armenian churches sang our hymns. The elected officials present and giving their messages were U.S. Congressman Jim Langevin, U.S. Congressman David Cicilline, Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts, and Providence Mayor Angel Tavares, all of whom pledged their unwavering support to the community. State Representative Katherine Kazarian was also present. Aram Garabedian, a former lawmaker and great supporter of Armenian causes, said a few words. Nearly 400 Armenians were present to pay homage to our martyrs.
Pauline Getzoyan and Esther Kalajian, who represent the Genocide Education Project Rhode Island Branch, announced the 2013 Genocide Educator of the Year, Lindsay Grant Aromin of North Smithfield High School. This award includes a $500 stipend, which is made possible through the support of the Armenian Martyrs’ Memorial Committee of Rhode Island and the Armenian National Committee of Rhode Island. Aromin, whose great-grandmother was a genocide surviver—has designed well-attended classes about the genocide at her school.
The guest speaker this year was Robert C. Petrucci, Jr., a graduate of Rhode Island College and a social studies teacher at East Greenwich High School. Petrucci has designed three courses for the high school, including “Genocide of the Twentieth Century” in 2006. His method of teaching the genocide is done in a very unique way: He holds five weekly sessions in the school, which are all popular with the students; they get to learn not only about the Armenian Genocide, but how to see and recognize what genocide means, and what they can do to help further educate students and adults. Petrucci is also involved with various workshops and has received numerous awards for his work, including the Joyce and Bob Starr Teacher Award for Holocaust Education in 2011. He is one of two teachers involved with 75 students who meet annually at the Rhode Island State House to discuss global issues. His remarks were very interesting and educational and he received a standing ovation.
Six wreaths were placed by the following organizations: Armenian Church Youth Organization of America, Armenian Relief Society “Arax” Chapter, Armenian Revolutionary Federation, Armenian Youth Federation, Homenetmen Chapter, and the Knights and Daughters of Vartan. The Honor Guards included the Armenian Masonic Degree Team, the Knights of Vartan, and the Homenetmen Scouts. It was another heartfelt day, reminding us all to never forget our martyrs and survivors.