50 Years’ Perspective

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50 years later: Governor Mike Beebe recites John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech on the steps of post office in North Little Rock, Arkansas

1963: The year President John F. Kennedy was assassinated; the year my only sibling, Lesli Ann, was born.

Today, during a gloriously sunny noon hour, I was one of about 200 people gathered at the steps of the former Argenta Post Office (now Laman Library branch) in North Little Rock to listen as Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe read John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address. You know the most famous passage of that address: “… ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

I was struck by other passages that, despite being spoken more than 50 years ago, are very relevant today. Passages such as, “Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.”

And, “The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe – the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.”

In Arkansas we have the divisive issues of gun and abortion rights. Nationally we have the equality of marriage act being debated in the California Supreme Court, gun control and the never-ending questioning of tax laws. Meanwhile, our fellow citizens are starving, going without shelter, with ineffective education, without jobs, without basic healthcare, and those babies who are born to mothers who cannot care for them go in need of loving adoptive families, of any gender combination.

I talked with my mom this past weekend about the upcoming JFK photography exhibit in Argenta. I told her I hoped to listen to Governor Beebe’s address and to look at the photos.

She said wistfully, “I lived it. I don’t have to see it.” I wonder if I’ll feel that way about 9/11 memorial exhibitions many years from now.

Mom told me again as she’s told me in the past: When she was pregnant with my sister in 1963, following the national tension of electing the first non-Protestant president, especially one who was seen to have such “radical” views (in the South) on race relations and equality, the Watts riots and related events, she remembers wondering what kind of tumultuous world she was bringing a child into. Let me be clear – she supported then and still supports racial equality – but she saw what the struggle had brought forth.

View from the triple underpass overlooking the grassy knoll and Dealey Plaze in Dallas.

View from the triple underpass overlooking the grassy knoll and Dealey Plaza in Dallas.

In five years, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. would be dead, and a year after those tragedies, the United States would put a man on the moon. Tumultuous times indeed. But no different than today.

As Governor Beebe recited the famous words spoken by our 35th president, I thought about my visit to Dealey Plaza in Dallas this past Friday. I thought about President Kennedy on his inauguration day, laying out his vision for the nation’s future, full of hope. And I thought about the video I’ve seen – we’ve all seen – of the president’s motorcade in Dallas, of the deadly shot, of Jackie scooping up pieces of her husband’s brains, of the chaos and speculation that ensued.

Kelley and I stood looking over that very place. The place where this young president was assassinated. By exactly whom and why is still speculated. The place where thousands and thousands of visitors pay homage each year, especially this year. Fifty years later.

I can’t help thinking: what will be our children’s and grandchildren’s perspective 50 years from now?

My hope is we’ll have the same view on marriage equality and homosexuality then as (most of us do) now on racial equality and women’s rights. I hope the debates in the Arkansas legislature and in the nation’s capital don’t put us in reverse.

Related links

Eleven Years after 9/11

I vividly remember being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Little Rock’s I-30 bridge that sunny September morning 11 years ago. I remember hearing on the radio that a small plane had hit one of the twin towers. I immediately called my then-husband, an amateur pilot, who was already on the job at his highway department office. I said to him, “What kind of idiot can’t miss a skyscraper that big?”

Of course we all soon learned what was really happening.

I, like you, watched the television and listened to radio news reports that Tuesday and in the days and weeks that followed. We watched in disbelief and horror as the towers burned and fell, at the gaping hole and smoke left at the Pentagon, and later as we saw the smoldering crater in that field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. When search-and-rescue turned to search-and-recovery, like you, I mourned with the families and friends coming to grips with such a senseless loss.

Like you, I gained even more respect and appreciation for first responders who run in when everyone else is running out. But maybe unlike you, I had never been to the Word Trade Center, the Pentagon or that field in Pennsylvania before the attack, so seeing those places in the news reports was a bit like watching a horror movie – not quite real.

It wasn’t until I visited the 9/11 memorial garden last year, shortly after it opened on the 10th anniversary of the attack, that it truly became real for me.

I had never stood at the bottom of the World Trade Center towers and taken in their impressive stature. I had never looked down over New York City from their observation floors. Visiting the footprints of those enormous and iconic structures that are now replaced with somber fountains, and experiencing the reverent park that surrounds them, personalized it for me.

I was standing where the towers stood. I was standing where the victims died. I was standing in the only place loved ones might be able to reconnect with the spirits of those they lost.

The memorial site is very quiet and peaceful, despite being in the middle of New York City. The white noise of water flowing through the enormous granite-lined pools accomplishes that – and I’m glad.

I invite you to read the post I wrote last year following the day  Kelley and I visited the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the 9/11 Memorial.  Visiting those three historic sites in the same day gave me a perspective on the freedoms we American’s enjoy, what our forefathers sought here, and what was viciously attacked eleven years ago.

Freedom: Embraced, Exercised and Attacked

Note: I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the dedicated soldiers who, shortly after 9/11/01 and yet today, are fighting the wars that the attacks spawned.  So many have been killed and so many have been injured, yet their love for our country endures. So many have been sent on tour after tour after tour, yet their love for our country endures. So many families have lost their beloved soldiers, yet their love for our country endures. My heart and support goes out to each and every one.

Capitol and Main’s Unshuttered Corner

NEW INFORMATION just in! I’ve added it to the bottom of the post. (Sept. 5)

As I’ve said in prior posts, I didn’t get to enjoy Main Street Little Rock in its commercial heyday. By the time I was conscious of the area, on periodic visits from Stuttgart, it was on the downhill side of the Metrocentre Mall days.

Seeing the once-bustling storefronts now empty, boarded over or worse, makes me sad. I’ve seen photos and own post cards showing how it once was. We live on Louisiana Street, one block west of the 500 block of Main. And I work just four blocks west, so I naturally pass through the Main Street area many times a day and have become accustomed to the way things are.

I was thrilled this week to see the dusty windows of the former Baker’s Shoes store and the Boyle Building (aka MM Cohn’s) at the southwest corner of Capitol and Main visible for the first time in many years. You probably know this corner most recently as the location of the “Bucket List on Main” chalkboard project where passersby were invited to answer the question, “Before I Die I Want To…”.

Above photo by Brian Chilson of the Arkansas Times.

The Downtown Little Rock Partnership and other like-minded organizations smartly covered the boarded-up corner with chalkboard paint in the spring of 2011 and provided chalk, which attracted a lot of attention and activity. I have enjoyed reading the responses and occasionally added one of my own. The interactive exhibit is gone, along with other sheeting that had covered and protected the store fronts and entrances on that corner. And that’s fine. They served a protective purpose.

Uncovered: the southwest corner of Main Street and Capitol Avenue on Sept. 1, 2012

In early August, Oregon-based real estate developer, Scott Reed, purchased the Main Street buildings between Capitol and 6th Street (the 500 block of Main) with plans to develop the block into street-level commercial space and residential space in the upper floors. The buildings he purchased are our back-door neighbors, just south across the alley from our home at Lafayette Square. Our condo’s bedroom windows overlook that block of real estate.

You know how these things often go. A real estate deal and development is announced, but actual activity isn’t seen for months or years – sometimes never. That’s why I was surprised and delighted to see the plywood down so soon and evidence of work inside MMCohn’s former entrance on Capitol. The open-work, metal roll-down security door at that entrance has been engaged for years – it is now rolled up revealing the building’s official Boyle Building name in the glass. There is clear evidence of workers coming and going, and that makes me so happy. I can’t wait to witness and support what’s written in the next chapter of Main Street’s history book.

To see the recent revitalization of this and other blocks on Main Street after such a long dormancy makes me wonder if these silent spaces weren’t whispering their own answers to, “Before I Die I Want To …”

ON FOOT, CAMERA IN TOW

This Saturday afternoon, right before another wave of Hurricane Isaac’s outer-band storms rolled into Little Rock, I took a few minutes to explore this corner on foot with camera in tow. You can see what I saw by looking at the photos: dusty display windows and the Baker’s Shoes logo imbedded into the sidewalk, a Crayola soldier who’s flipped his lid, and the MMCohn script marking the store’s entrances.

What you can’t experience is the smell coming through those panes of glass and door cracks. It’s something you’ve likely experienced elsewhere, an olfactory time capsule. The smell of another time, yet in the current place. It said to me, “Let some fresh air in, we’re ready to breathe again.”

GALLERY

HISTORY OF THE BOYLE BUILDING

A photo from Arkansas Historic Preservation Program showing the beautiful Boyle Building which has/had Baker’s Shoes and MMCohn at street level. This photo was taken before the chalkboard and other coverings were removed from the corner.

The still-impressive, 11-story white skyscraper was Little Rock’s second tallest building when State National Bank built it in 1909. The bank went out of business in 1911 and local realtor, John Boyle, paid the back taxes and took over the building in 1916, renaming it the Boyle Building (name still evident today on the Capitol Street side). In 1949, a penthouse was added to the top floor, which I have often thought would make a fantastic modern-day condo. The views of downtown and the river must be amazing from up there. Next time you’re downtown, take a look at how beautiful the building’s upper floors are. It’s easy to let a building’s street-level condition distract from its overall beauty and character.

In 1960, MMCohn signed a 45-year lease of the space (which now we know was an overly-optimistic plan).

The above information is from what I think must be the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program’s nomination that the Capitol-Main Street district be added to the National Register of Historic Places – which it was in April 2012. Hooray! No doubt that designation made available historic preservation tax credits that Scott Reed took advantage of.

The entire document can be read here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/87075038/4/BLOCK-MAIN-STREET

RELATED

A Bucket List on Main, Arkansas Blog, June 2011 – http://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2011/06/09/a-bucket-list-for-little-rock

Before I Die, I Want To …, ArkansasTies blog, July 2011 –  http://www.arkansasties.com/WhatsNew/2011/07/before-i-die-i-want-to

NEW INFORMATION (9/5/12) Very exciting funding and development news for my ‘hood!

In an email from the Downtown Little Rock Partnership this afternoon (thanks Becky Falkowski!) I learned that the City of Little Rock is making a big announcement tomorrow morning at the corner of Main and Capitol – right where the photos of the Baker’s Shoes storefront, above, were taken. When you read the announcement below, you’ll see that it adds important information to the big picture of Scott Reed’s purchase of the 500 block of Main Street. Great example of grant money, a preservation mindset and private real-estate investment all coming together for good. Fingers crossed it all comes to pass.

I hope I can get out of the office tomorrow morning to attend; I’d like to hear all the details for myself. The following is the notice from the city:

  • What: Main Street Redevelopment Announcement
  • When: Thursday, September 6, 2012 – 10:00 a.m.
  • Where: Corner of Main Street & Capital Avenue

Almost a million dollars will be infused into Main Street to revitalize approximately 250,000 square feet of vacant property. The announcement of this capital from the Pulaski County Brownfield Revolving Loan Fund will be announced Thursday, September 6th at 10:00 a.m. at the corner of Main and Capital.

The Brownfield Program is an intergovernmental collaboration between Pulaski County and the cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock. The agreement was formed in 2000 to redevelop contaminated properties in the downtowns on both sides of the Arkansas River. The Brownfield Revolving Loan Fund is funded with a $3 million Environmental Protection Agency grant for cleaning up environmentally impacted sites.  The EPA Region 6 administrator for this program, Amber Perry, will be on hand to discuss the importance of this project

The project that will be discussed tomorrow consists of four buildings which comprise the west side of the 500 block of Main Street in downtown Little Rock.  The twelve story building at the corner of Capitol Avenue and Main Street was built in 1909 and was originally named the State Bank Building. Immediately south of the State Bank Building is the MM Cohn Building that was built in 1941. The Arkansas Building at the corner of 6th and Main Streets was built in 1899 as the headquarters of the Pfeifer Brothers Department Store.  The Arkansas Annex, also known as the Kahn building, is adjacent to the Arkansas building and was built in 1954.  The buildings each has historic significance to Main Street and downtown Little Rock.

These four properties have been vacant for many years and suffer from environmental contamination which is a major barrier to putting these historic properties back in to productive use.  The very first step that must be taken is the top to bottom environmental remediation of all four of the buildings so that they are once again safe for occupancy.

Once the environmental remediation is complete, work will begin to preserve, repair and restore the historic elements of these great properties.  With the assistance of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program and the National Parks Service, the historic elements of the properties will be carefully inventoried and plans for their protection and preservation will be put into place.

The next phase of the work program will involve improvements to convert the buildings from their original uses as office buildings and department stores to a mixed use concept consisting of residential lofts on upper floors with retail spaces on the ground floors.  In keeping with the vision of Mayor Mark Stodola for an Arts District and the location across the street from the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, the project will have an emphasis on retail tenants, both for-profit and non-profit, who contribute to the fine arts, visual arts, and performing arts.  With the continued assistance of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership and the entire Little Rock community, Main Street Lofts, LLC expects to begin rental of the loft apartments as early as next year.

A Silent Sentinal: Henry Moore sculpture

A sculpture by Henry Moore graces front lawn of Two Union National Plaza Bldg, Capitol and Louisiana Streets, Little Rock

I first became aware of this sculpture in downtown Little Rock when I worked in the office building across the street. I would examine it as I walked by. Sometimes I would stare at it from my co-worker’s window several stories above.

What was this supposed to be? A distorted puzzle piece? A flattened piece of silly putty? An armless human?

Why was it in front of this triangular building? Were the building’s developers such lovers of public art that they included this display in their plans? It was a mystery to me.

Despite working so nearby for a year, it wasn’t until my husband and I moved to the Lafayette Building in 2011, a half-a-block to the south of this sculpture, that I took the time to examine it more closely. Once we lived downtown, I made a deliberate effort to explore my new neighborhood on foot (and still do).

As I walked home from a friend’s going-away party at Copper Grill one evening, I paused to take a photo of the sculpture – the photo at the top of this post.  A closer examination revealed the following inscription on its base. Now I had something to go on.

Large Standing Figure: Knife Edge, 1961. Henry Moorehttp://www.theartstory.org/artist-moore-henry.htm

The inscription reads: “Large Standing Figure: Knife Edge, 1961. Henry Moore. Purchased for the Metrocentre Mall by Metrocentre Improvement District No. 1 and paid for by private funds from property owners within the district. 1978.”

Ah ha! It’s a relic from a prior downtown development.

Further research revealed – thank heaven for Google – that the  purchase price was $185,000. That’s quite a significant investment! No doubt its value is much higher these days. Henry Moore’s work is world-renown and very highly regarded. We’re fortunate to have this treasure on public display.

I have very faint memories of the former pedestrian shopping district, called the Metrocentre Mall, which closed a portion of Main Street in the late 1970s. Only pedestrian traffic was allowed.

I applaud the Metrocentre Mall visionaries for giving the concept a go, but they were up against an insurmountable beast of suburbanization and urban sprawl. The project was an attempt to revive downtown Little Rock’s profile just as the more modern and popular shopping destinations of McMain Mall, Park Plaza Mall and University Mall were coming into being elsewhere in the metroplex.

The sculpture was originally placed in the center of Capitol Avenue at Main Street. This photo shows how it looked there.

Henry Moore sculpture in original location

Fantastic shot of the Henry Moore sculpture at its original location in the middle of Capitol Avenue at Main Street in downtown Little Rock’s now-defunct pedestrian mall. Notice Arkansas State Capitol in the distance.

Remnants of the Metrocentre development can be seen yet today in the brick-paved raised portions of the Capitol and Main Street intersection. Vestiges of the vibrant downtown that existed prior to that, in the late 1800s through the 1950s, can also be seen in the gorgeous architecture of empty buildings.

The Henry Moore sculpture was moved in 1999 from the center of Capitol Avenue to its current location one block to the west at Capitol and Louisiana streets. Capitol and Main streets reopened to automobile traffic at that intersection then; the former “mall” buildings long since converted to office space.

I can see the logic of moving the sculpture only a very short distance – the monolith is 11 feet five inches tall and it weighs 1,200 pounds! The backdrop of the Union Plaza building was a good choice.

Right now it’s the only public art structure in the heart of original downtown.

After learning about the sculpture and why it came to be in downtown Little Rock, I now see it as a silent sentinel who represents the hope for a revived downtown. That “Large Standing Figure” stood watch over the Metrocentre Mall. It probably seemed to dance with the live music at early Riverfests held downtown (see photo below). But I suspect it has mostly stood under appreciated and misunderstood by those who pass by it during their busy work days, as I did.

The sculpture seems to dance during this band’s performance at an early Riverfest.

Many months ago I heard there was consideration of moving the sculpture to the very vibrant Rivermarket area which hosts other public art installations. Clearly, it should be in a place where there is significant and leisurely foot traffic. But I hope that’s not done. I hope it stays where it is until it witnesses a resurgence of life in the Main Street corridor – and I believe we’re on the cusp of that coming to be.

Just a few blocks away, the Arkansas Repertory Theater occupies a former department store from Main Street’s heyday. The recent multi-million-dollar renovation of The Rep has breathed new life into downtown. The update influenced the awarding of  an arts-focused grant to rehabilitate the surrounding store fronts into an arts corridor.

Just this morning, the newspaper announced the sale of other Main Street buildings, right in the shadow of our Lafayette and diagonal to The Rep. Plans are to develop the former bank and department stores into retail and event space along with living space above. This announcement follows others in recent months that indicate a revived interest in our city’s core which is emanating from the decade-long vibrance of the River Market district along the river.

In the mean time, the Henry Moore sentinel and I will be standing by, cautiously waiting and watching. Hoping this century’s version of downtown is one filled with life, light and longevity.

Related references:

Garden & Gun: Little Rock Rising (mentions Henry Moore sculpture in original place at Capitol and Main) http://gardenandgun.com/article/little-rock-rising

Encyclopedia of Arkansas article about the Henry Moore sculpture: http://alturl.com/dp687

Artistic description of the sculpture from catalog of Moore’s art on display in public spaces: http://www.henry-moore.org/works-in-public/world/united-states-of-america/little-rock/100-west-capitol-main/large-standing-figure-knife-edge-1961-lh-482a

Henry Moore bio: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-moore-henry.htm 

Sweet Memories of Little Rock

It’s only fitting a blog titled “Little Rock Love” should have a loving Valentine’s Day post about its namesake.

1940s-era post card showing Main Street, Little Rock, AR

I didn’t grow up in Little Rock, but my family made frequent trips from Stuttgart, in southeastern Arkansas, to the capital city. It was a treat to go to Little Rock, and treats usually awaited me there.

By the time I came along, the retail center of Little Rock had shifted away from Main Street. The place to shop was the new McCain Mall in North Little Rock and the open-air Park Plaza mall on University Avenue. The neighboring University Mall was within a block of Park Plaza; I never understood why two shopping centers were built so close together.

I regret not getting to experience the hustle and bustle of Little Rock’s Main Street as it existed until the early 1970s. I was born in 1969 and by the time I was old enough to remember our family’s shopping trips, that era had passed. I have seen photos of the crowded sidewalks, the “vintage” automobiles parked along the busy street and families dressed up to do their Saturday “trading” in department stores such as MM Cohn and Pfeiffer-Blass. I’ve heard my husband and family members relay memories of seeing movies in one of the four downtown movie theaters.

Even so, I have fond memories of shopping trips to McCain Mall, the shiny new retail center of my youth. We’d shop at JC Penney and Dillard’s, and visit the mall Santa Claus at Christmastime. We’d often see movies at the theater inside. On many trips we’d have along my grandparents or one of my great-great aunts who loved having lunch at Franke’s Cafeteria there. My mother was a big fan of Franke’s tomato aspic salad, which to this child, was the most unappetizing form of Jello I could imagine. (I’ve made peace with it now.)

What my childhood dreams were made of - the candy store inside Farrell's

To a child, nothing was as sweet as a birthday party at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour, which included an ice cream sundae with a candle on top and a serenade by one of the waiters in a straw-brimmed hat. No trip to Farrell’s was complete – for me – without a visit to the world’s greatest candy store just inside its doors. Surely I wasn’t the only child who bought the most enormous piece of jaw breaker candy they offered, simply because it was too tempting to resist – despite there being absolutely no way it would ever fit in my mouth. Sometimes my mother would intervene and insist I get a jaw breaker of more reasonable size.

I recall many night-time rides back to Stuttgart, lying in the back seat of my family’s Oldsmobile watching the moon and the stars through the back window, seeing the power lines and street lights pass above. I often slept on the way home, though it was only about an hour’s drive. I can see myself now, drifting in and out of consciousness while my chin grows sticky from the jaw-breaker-laced-saliva escaping from my mouth.

Sweet memories indeed!

Freedom: Embraced, Exercised and Attacked

The light of liberty and sunshine

We ended our trip by spending Monday visiting some of the most popular tourist attractions in the city.

Freedom Embraced

First was the Statue of Liberty, or as we learned, the statue is actually named Liberty Enlightening the World. A gift from the people of France, the statue is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. I encourage you to read about Lady Liberty’s history and symbolism here: http://www.nps.gov/stli/historyculture/index.htm

Kelley and I have learned the value of the audio tours often available at historic sites and museums. This was certainly the case here. It was a glorious morning on Liberty Island as we circled the statue’s base, listening to descriptions of the day the statue was dedicated in 1886, and about the decade of construction that preceded it.

Gustav Eiffel – yes, of the Eiffel Tower– designed the labyrinth of internal iron trusses that supports the statue’s copper skin, which is only the thickness of two pennies.

It was truly humbling and thrilling to stand at the base of this ENORMOUS work of art – the international symbol ofAmerica’s promise of freedom. Adding to that specialness was the clear blue cloudless sky above and the fact that there were very few others on the island with us.

We had reserved space on the very first boat of the morning and that put us in the park in time to see the way morning light illuminated the statue. I took many, many photos, as you might imagine, and didn’t have to elbow through crowds to do so.

The Statue of Liberty has been the symbol of hope and awaiting freedom for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who have made our country what it is today. She and her torch were what welcomed those ships full of weary travelers to our shores, but passing through processing at Ellis Island is what gave them the key.

Ellis Island is a complex of buildings on its own island reached by a short ferry ride from the lady herself. Kelley and I were surprised to see how many buildings actually comprise the site. When we learned more about the immigration process in the late 1880s through the 1950s, it became apparent why so many buildings were needed.

Third class steam ship passengers from other countries, who wished to live in the United States, were “processed” at Ellis Island to determine whether they would be granted legal entry. Most passed through in a matter of hours, but some were detained for further medical, intellectual or mental testing. Those who were truly ill were kept in the hospital there until they recovered or were sent back home, and their accompanying family members lived on the island in dorms until the hospitalized relative’s fate was determined.

We saw the court room where immigrants threatened with being returned to their homeland pled their cases. We also saw the room where those who were allowed through met up with their loved ones already in America.

I imagine the sight of the Statue of Liberty from Ellis Island continued to give immigrants hope as they boarded a ferry bound for New York’s shore, and that those who passed by her once again as they were sent out to sea, rejected by America’s freedom, loathed her sight.

Freedom Exercised

Back on the mainland, we made our way to the city’s financial district. We had tickets to visit the newly-opened 9/11 memorial there. It wasn’t planned – but was a nice coincidence – that we passed right by the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters who are still occupying Wall Street from their camp at Liberty Square.

The space is tightly-packed with tents and peaceful protesters playing music and holding up signs. A few protesters engage the MANY passersby clogging the sidewalk with the “rubberneck” factor, though officers periodically asked people to keep the sidewalk traffic flowing. There is definitely a police presence, but no palpable tension between them and the campers.

What comes of the Occupy movement remains to be seen, but America’s freedoms allow the protesters to assemble. I had the feeling that we walked past the birthplace of a movement that will have historical significance and impact.

Freedom Attacked

Just a couple blocks away from the Occupy camp is the entrance to the newly opened 9/11 Memorial site. Tickets are free but reservations are required.

Before being allowed to walk the long path toward the memorial, which winds around the construction site of new World Trade Center buildings, visitors go through airport-like security. No one minds; it’s an understatement to say visitors comprehend why that level of security is needed at this particular location. The horrific events at this tragic site gave rise to the increased security and screenings Americans have become accustomed to over the past 10 years.

The memorial site is a peaceful, orderly and respectful place filled with trees now dressed in fall’s colors. The two square pools, which are on the actual footprints of the north and south towers, are discovered as visitors proceed through the paths and trees.

You’ve likely read about the square black granite fountains/pools and the seemingly bottomless square drains in the center of each footprint. The design combines an embodiment of endless falling blackness with elegance and beauty – an amazing accomplishment. The pools are mesmerizing.

The sound of the water when standing right at the pools drowns out the city’s noise, even the din of construction right outside the memorial’s borders. The water sound is important; it lays a blanket of reverence over this plot of hallowed ground.

The names of those lost in the towers, the planes that struck the towers, at the Pentagon and on Flight 93 are deeply embossed into the black metal frame-like railing surrounding each pool. Also there are the names of first-responders who were lost. I hadn’t gotten choked up until Kelley pointed out to me the first and last name of a woman, followed immediately by the words, “and her unborn child.”

That did it.

As we were leaving the memorial park, tears were still streaming down my face. I thought about the people who will visit this site and how they’ll think about what their loved ones endured that morning – a morning with a clear blue sky, just like the day on which we visited. I thought about those bottomless pools and deeply-grooved names – and how I hope they provide some peace.

It wasn’t until later that afternoon, as I reflected on the places we had visited, that I realized the connection between them. Each are embodiments of the freedom offered by these United States. And each illustrates how freedom’s adoption – and disdain – has shaped our country, and is shaping it still.