Christina Megerian lit a candle Saturday and thought of her 11-month-old son -- living proof of the Armenian people's will to survive.
"I stood with such pride knowing that . . . we stand as a community," she said. "And that my son will be proud to be an Armenian as well."
Megerian, 28, of Locust Valley, was among those marking the 100th anniversary of the massacre of nearly 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children in their homeland by the Ottoman Turks.
Nearly 200 people, some of them descendants of families that survived the slaughter, gathered yesterday afternoon at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County in Glen Cove.
Historians have called the massacre of ethnic minority Armenians that began in 1915 genocide -- and a model for Adolf Hitler's extermination of European Jews.
For years, the Armenian people have called on the Turkish government to recognize the genocide, only to be met with staunch denials. But Armenia's United Nations ambassador, Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, told those gathered Saturday that the efforts will continue.
"The Armenian genocide is not a tragedy for just one nation. It is a universal tragedy," he said.
He said he was encouraged by the confidence young Armenians have in their future. "We exist in full confidence as a nation with all its institutions, with all its identity. You cannot wipe out a nation which has been creating history for over 4,000 years."
Memorial center chairman Steven Markowitz said the commemoration should also serve as a reminder for people to confront intolerance in their own communities.
"It's discouraging that we spend so much time teaching people about the Holocaust and people are becoming more aware about the Armenian genocide, but, nevertheless, these kinds of situations continue to exist," he said.
The ceremony coincided with an exhibit that includes scenes of Armenian life before, during and after the genocide.
Megerian's husband, Paul, 29, lost several relatives in the massacre. His great-grandfather came to America and started the rug store Paul Megerian now owns in Locust Valley.
After lighting a candle, he said: "We feel that the memory of the Armenian souls will never be lost."
Ashod Spendjian, 56, of Glen Cove, whose grandmother survived by fleeing to Egypt, said he has held strong to Armenian traditions and culture.
"They tried to wipe out the whole nation," he said. "By holding on to this, we, in essence, have won. We have survived."