Faces in the crowd & Down syndrome awareness

Names from Flight 93, 9/11 Memorial

Names from Flight 93, 9/11 Memorial

This past weekend, my wife and I enjoyed a trip to New York City. Here’s what we saw, and what we didn’t see. 

While I have traveled all over the United States, I had yet to visit New York City. So, when a credit for a plane ticket was about to expire, my wife and I decided to go.

In preparing for the trip, I asked my friends and co-workers what was the one recommendation they had. Usually, they would list one sight to see, a place to eat, and then they would say, “just grab an outdoor table and watch all the people.” So, watch we did.

New York City calls itself the “Capital of the World.” For my international readers, I know that will smack of typical American Exceptionalism. Regardless of whether it deserves that title, New York is certainly an incredibly diverse city.

Sitting at a coffee shop, my wife and I noted all the different people and the different languages being spoken. There seemed to be an abundance of French being spoken when we were shopping in midtown. Sunday, there was a Latino Columbus Day parade and today is supposed to be the Italian Columbus Day parade. And, one could not help but notice the Hasidic Jews, with their distinctive beards, side curls, and clothes, just as the Buddhist monks stood out from the crowd in their colorful robes.

But, until visiting the Ground Zero Memorial, the one face in the crowd that we did not see represented was someone with Down syndrome. There, in the midst of those paying their respects, my wife and I saw one young man with Down syndrome.

Now, our experience is far from a scientific sample. We were in Midtown and Lower Manhattan during our visit. We probably saw thousands of different faces, but even that high number is a small percentage of the millions who live in the New York City area. Further, had our Sunday schedule allowed, we could have attended the annual Romp for Research–a charitable walk that raises funds for Down syndrome research–where we would have seen many individuals with Down syndrome and their families and supporters.

But, what our experience left me wondering is whether people who did not already have a connection to someone with Down syndrome would have even noticed that amidst all of this diversity of humanity, one aspect of that diversity was not seen. And, I wondered how that lack of appreciating what is not there actually perpetuates it not being seen.

As fewer children are born with Down syndrome, will we even be aware of that representation of humanity that is no longer being represented?


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