WHATEVER personal, political or other nuances people may find in Marion Barry's message delivered to a crowd of cheering followers yesterday, the theme was the right one for this hour: "Now is the time for healing." There was, at last, an apology addressed to all city residents -- "young or old, black or white, Jew or gentile, rich or poor" -- and to every corner of the city: "Forgive me for any hurt I may have caused. ... I'm hoping that any of you who still harbor resentments and vengeance can let go ... let go of the past, let go of the hate."

He is right about that, and at times he was even moving on the subject. But there is a flaw in his further insistence that "we must forget about this trial." True, there is no need to harp on it or relive its every dreadful moment. And whatever future actions are taken in the case, it is also true that the verdicts represent a conclusion of a particular process that needs to be accepted. But part of that conclusion is that the mayor of Washington has been convicted on a drug charge. The trial should be remembered, not forgotten, for the record it established. It was a useful -- even essential -- examination of evidence that the mayor was involved with illegal drugs. Now constructive change may begin.

The trial and the verdicts made important distinctions between the man, the law and the city that should be remembered too as the residents accept Mr. Barry's new call for understanding. People are eager to move on, to listen to those who seek to guide and improve not only the services of their local government but also the tone it sets.