Part of Isham Park, this garden honors the memory of Bruce Reynolds (1960-2001), a Port Authority Police Officer, who on the morning of September 11, 2001, rushed from his post at the George Washington Bridge into the inferno of the World Trade Center, sacrificing his life to save others.
Bruce Reynolds was the son of J.A. and Geri Reynolds; the family moved from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Inwood when Bruce was only five years old. As one of the first African American families in what at the time was a predominately white, Irish-American neighborhood, the Reynolds’s (both social workers) reached out to their neighbors. For their first Christmas in New York they held an open house party, and Bruce grew close to his Irish community.
According to his parents, Bruce Reynolds wanted to be a policeman from the age of 12; it was also at that time that gangs wreaked havoc on Isham Park. J.A. Reynolds formed the Park Terrace West Gang, which, with funding from the New York Department of Youth Services, brought neighborhood youth together to restore the park, and especially this garden. Bruce worked here for hours learning about horticulture.
In May of 1980, after attending the Fashion Institute of Technology, Bruce joined the Department of Parks & Recreation as an Urban Park Ranger, where he brought his knowledge of science and his gregarious nature to the teaching of children.
Bruce left Parks in 1986 and joined the Port Authority Police. In 1990 he met Marian McBride of County Donegal, Ireland. They married a year later and bought a house in New Jersey; Bruce joined the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Bruce visited Ireland every summer, and spent time with the McBrides, walking in County Donegal’s bogs and singing in its pubs. Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds had their first child in 1997 and their second in 2000.
When last seen on September 11, Bruce was helping a woman who had been seriously burned by jet fuel. On May 18, 2002, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, who served with Bruce in the Urban Park Rangers, formally dedicated this garden to the man who as a teen gave of his time so that his neighbors might enjoy this garden, and as a police officer gave his life so that his neighbors might live.
-Source: NYC Parks Dept.
I remember Bruce when he was underfoot as a kid, when we teens were working and sweating under Jack’s focused ‘stay on task’ eye. How we look back and love every minute of building creating that Garden! How we look back and wish that we’d known about 9/11, a date thirty years in our future, a veritable eternity away, so that we could have grabbed a hold of Bruce and surround him in our arms, not letting him go anywhere. I worked there during the summer of ’71, I believe it was. I was a student at SHM, the all-girl’s Catholic High School, The Garden’s backdrop. Jack Reynolds would have us go up to The Woods with wheelbarrows and we’d haul them full, stacked to the brim with wood chips, back to The Garden. To this day, thirty-eight years later, I see a wood chip anywhere, and I’m back there. Instantly. We used to take the A down to 125th Street to collect our City paychecks. Hey. $40/week for a teen back then was gold. We met other kids from downtown who’d take the train up to work with us. It was there that I learned how to make ‘corn rolls’ on black kids’ hair. I loved those kids that we met and worked hard with there. No commute. It was across the street from my ‘house’ (apt.) in Isham Gardens, when the towers were still up on the roof; The Castle in which a lot of us kids were raised together, and remain like brothers and sisters to this day, no matter where we’ve traveled or where we’ve lived. Jack worked miracles during those lazy, long days of summer in the 70s, through us and the ‘older teens’ who were the original hard workers (i.e., Stevie Hanford and Dennis ‘Roach’ Mulford), for there was no way we could have imagined what Jack, all along, had envisioned. When we started, Bruce’s Garden was nothing but an empty lot full of dirt and broken glass. We stayed and worked until Jack’s vision was realized – we built The Well, put the stone bricks in there that line the little paths, planted all sorts of seeds, about which we had no clue, but ‘Jack says to just do it.’ ‘Father What-A-Waste’ (because he was so good lookin’) Jack Abrams – one of the (many) Paulist priests, used to come up from the Rectory at Good Shepherd to check up on us and give us encouragement. We stayed until it was completed, and we stayed throughout the first invitations to the public to visit. We stayed to perform (playing our guitars) and invited guests to perform, as fundraisers. We stayed until we suddenly started to grow up, in the days before we’d all disappear from Our Inwood to go on with our lives. Although many of us left, Inwood never did, and never will, leave us. God bless Bruce, his wonderful Dad, Jack, who did so much for a bunch of kids who didn’t have anything else to do that summer, and for you for starting this amazing website. We’ll be on this site, my family and I, since we are doing what we always felt we would do after living elsewhere for thirty plus years. We’re moving back to Inwood, come November ’09. We’ll rent an apartment somewhere. It’s a little worn around the edges, Inwood is, to our comparative eyes, as we are, but it is still vibrant, still beautiful, still Home. To everyone who grew up there, and to everyone who lives there now and loves it, it is, nothing less than “My Inwood”. We each have a 100% share in its priceless stock.
What a wonderful memory you shared. I hope you moved back to Inwood!
And of course, I assume, but don’t know, that you are aware that Mr. Reynolds passed away recently.
His memory is for a blessing. Soon we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Bruce’s Garden. Your work is truly appreciated. The stone walks are still there, a welcome to our feet.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Officer Reynold’s father (who was an actor) for a newsletter article and consequently over the years heard wonderful stories about the family. I had dinner with his parents a few times. They were lovely people and I always heard about Bruce and his family. I shared the pain of Bruce’s disappearance in the wake of 9/11 and the pain of learning of his demise. I had heard about the park dedicated in his honor and will make it a point to visit. What a wonderful person he was.
Just wanted to remember my cousin on this day. We remember you and we will always love you. God bless you, Bruce.
Thank you so much for this moving tribute. I have lived directly across the street from Bruce’s Garden for many years. I often run into Mr. Reynolds when I am out walking dogs. So sad, yet so inspiring.
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