More than 30 years ago, on a rainy Vancouver day, a dozen men gathered near Stanley Park to plant four cherry trees representing people being lost in the AIDS epidemic in B.C. The location of this memorial remained secret for nearly 30 years to protect the memorial from vandalism driven by discrimination and stigma.
Decades later, our research for AIDS Vancouver’s 30th anniversary project uncovered the location of an AIDS memorial at Devonian Harbour Park in Coal Harbour. And, nearly 35 years later, three of the four cherry trees are still standing, and a plaque was installed on a large boulder in July that dedicates the site as the first-known AIDS memorial in the world.
Today, we had the privilege of attending a dedication ceremony at Devonian Harbour Park, along with representatives from the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Park Board; survivors; and AIDS Vancouver original staff and volunteers Michael Welsh and James Johnstone, who helped plant the original trees.
We are grateful to be a part of this historic day honouring and remembering those we lost in the AIDS epidemic.