Sept. 9, 2013 By Christian Murray
The Sunnyside community paid tribute Saturday to 6-year-old Benjamin Wheeler, who was one of 20 children gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December.
In a tearful ceremony, nearly 100 people gathered for a street co-naming on the corner of 41st Street and Queens Boulevard. This was the street where the Wheeler family had lived when Ben was born– and where Francine Wheeler, Ben’s mother, had lived for 13-years.
David Wheeler, who spoke at the ceremony, said he hopes that the street co naming will help keep the fight for gun control alive. He said that people should ask questions and tell tourists who Ben Wheeler was–and what happened to him–when they walk by.
Wheeler said it is necessary for the gun debate to keep going. “It is up to us to make our schools, malls, offices and parks safer for children everywhere,” Wheeler said.
He said Ben’s co-naming was different than most others. “He didn’t serve in WWII and liberate a concentration camp…or coach basketball and dedicate himself to the youth…Ben had only just learned to tie his shoes,” David Wheeler said.
As David spoke, Francine’s eyes filled with tears as she held on firmly to her only remaining child, Nate, 9.
One of Ben’s passions was the No. 7 train and initially Congressman Joseph Crowley reached out to Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer to see whether a subway station could be named after him. However, they concluded that the MTA would not support such a measure.
“I knew we could co name a street,” Van Bramer said. Furthermore, what’s special about this street, Van Bramer said, is that it is next to where the No. 7 train goes back and forth.
Meanwhile, Crowley knew that Ben was an ardent Beatles fan and broke into song, singing Here Comes the Sun.
Crowley finished the song with the line “it’s all right” as he looked at Francine.
Nate, proudly, went on to pull the ribbon that unveiled Benjamin Wheeler Place to great applause.