Skeptical, Roque followed her to the tree and found a knot in the trunk that bore a remarkable resemblance to the iconic imagery of the Virgen de Guadalupe. Slowly, word spread, and crowds upwards of 100 people began to gather and pray around the tree.
The Police Department finally cordoned off the tree and the space around it in order to protect the praying crowd from Bergenline traffic. Hundreds of votive candles with the virgin's image were lit and placed around the tree, and devotees left photos of sick loved ones, baby shoes for protection, and other symbolic prayerful gestures.
Roque stood with Copantitla Thursday morning among the crowd who chanted prayers in front of the image in the tree.
"It's a miracle," Copantitla said in Spanish. "And it's so close to Town Hall. I believe it's a good sign for the mayor."
The mayor was recently arrested by the FBI for alleged computer hacking, involving a rival's "Recall Roque" web site.
After Copantitla made her comment, a red colored votive exploded from the heat of its own flame, startling the crowd.
"It's okay," one of the women said in Spanish. "Red is the color of the virgin's veil." -- Gennarose Pope