By Jean Bentley
Updated July 07, 2009 at 11:14 PM EDT

Though the heart of today’s Michael Jackson memorial may be nearly 3,000 miles away at Los Angeles’ Staples Center, New Yorkers marked the solemn occasion this afternoon by gathering to watch the event on a jumbo screen high above Times Square (fans also gathered to watch the event on a screen in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood). As the memorial began, a light rain began to fall in New York, scattering the Times Square observersunder overhangs and into nearby shops. Elizabeth Marrero and herfamily, clad in Jackson t-shirts and buttons, rolled up their postersbut remained in their lawn chairs. ”We’re staying,” she said. ”It’sonly water; we’re not going to melt. We’re here to say goodbye to theKing of Pop.”

Linda Temple of Westchester, N.Y. traveled to Manhattan because she wasmoved by the all-inclusive spirit of the gathering. “I love beingaround so many different cultures, because that’s what Michael wasabout,” she said. Karen Sealy of Queens said she came ”to say goodbye to an icon who touched everybody in some magical way. I’m focusing on the good….They can’t do enough for what he accomplished, what he gave the musicalworld. This should keep going for the rest of the month, the rest ofthe year. There should be a Michael Jackson day.”’

But Jackson was a controversial figure, of course, and some fans acknowledged the uncomfortable parts of his life story as well. Roman Shusterman of Coney Island, Brooklyn, who wore a Michael Jackson t-shirt and carried a handmade poster, said it seemed like the singer had been gone for years, his legacy overshadowed by lawsuits, financial troubles, and losing Neverland Ranch. But now that Jackson has died, however, Shusterman liked how people are again focusing on the positive aspects of his life. ”In a way, his death has revived him,” he said.