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John Lennon Fans Pay Tribute in a Divided America: ‘The Things He Knew Are Still So Relevant Today’

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John Lennon’s message of unity is more important than ever in a divided America, fans of the late Beatle said as they gathered to pay tribute in New York City on the 36th anniversary his murder.

“I think he’d still be telling us to be loving each other and be kind to each other,” said Andrew Mark, who visited Central Park’s Strawberry Fields, a memorial space dedicated to the singer. “Things are really torn right now—with everything.”

Everything, Mark said, includes the “terrible things that are going on” amid the current political climate and global wars.

Mark, 27, had traveled to New York from Allentown, Pennsylvania on Thursday specifically to honor Lennon because of the singer’s deep impact on his life through music and writing.

“He stood up for what was right when he was around,” Mark said. “Marched through the streets and told everybody, ‘just love each other and be nice to each other’ and that’s it. I feel like we need that more.”

Lennon, who was shot and killed by Mark David Chapman on Dec. 8, 1980 outside of his home at The Dakota apartment building in New York, was a staunch advocate for peace. Along with his wife Yoko Ono, Lennon staged events to champion world peace, most notably through a bed-in in 1969. Ono on Thursday called for an end to gun violence in the U.S.

At Strawberry Fields, tour groups and fans eager to honor Lennon passed through the memorial, stopping to take pictures at a mosaic in the “Imagine” memorial that pays homage to Lennon’s famous song. On the edge of the mosaic sat Martha Wagner, who brought a small chair so she could stay all day, lighting incense and candles to pay tribute to Lennon and fellow Beatle George Harrison, who died in 2001.

Wagner, 64, said the messages of peace Lennon spread through his music and activism were important, “especially today.”

“Especially after the horrible outcome of this election, we need it more than ever,” she said, referring to Donald Trump winning the 2016 victory.

Greg Packer, Wagner’s friend who regularly meets up with her once a year at the memorial, agreed. “With everything going on in the world, we really need to listen to John’s message about more peace and love, and more understanding and more acceptance in the world,” he said.

Packer, 52, said he visits Strawberry Fields each year because Lennon “made New York City his home, just like I made New York my home.”

Across the street from Strawberry Fields, people gathered outside the Dakota. Sarah Combs, who had travelled to New York from Ohio with two friends, said coming to the spot of Lennon’s killing was something she would remember forever. His spirit, she said, lives on and is needed in today’s divided country.

“The things he knew are still so relevant today,” she said. “The lessons he was trying to teach us before he was murdered are lessons that we still need to learn.”



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Write to Mahita Gajanan at mahita.gajanan@time.com