Martha Clark, center, holds the street sign bearing the name of her only child, Corp. Jonathan Rivadeneira who was killed in Iraq in 2007.
Last Saturday afternoon on a Jackson Heights’ street corner, Martha Clark clasped her tiny hands around a microphone, tilted her black sunglasses towards the sky, and spoke to her son.
“Jonathan,” she said in her lilting Colombian Spanish. “I know I will see you again.”
Clark’s son and only child, Jonathan Rivadeneira, was killed on Sept. 14, 2007, at the age of 22, while serving as an Army medic in Iraq.
He was among the 49 people the city decided to rename a street after late last year.
Only two soldiers lost in the war were on the list; both were Latino and both were from Queens. The neighborhoods of Jackson Heights, Corona and East Elmhurst, in particular have been hit hard. Other mothers who have also lost sons showed up to lend Clark support at the renaming ceremony included Maria Duran, Gladys Ciro and Maria Alcantara.
After she spoke, Clark, who wore a layered dress that looked like a seashell and her son’s dog tags around her neck, tugged on a rope to reveal a new sign at the busy intersection of 75th Street and 37th Avenue: Corporal Jonathan Rivadeneira Corner.
Clark’s apartment, where she raised her son, is just a half a block away from her son’s corner and in the days since it was renamed, she thinks of him constantly as she walks by.
“Everyone says I should feel really proud,” she said, “But I feel sad. I didn’t want that name there. I wanted him. It’s a very sad corner.”