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fortsign4Fort McHenry and the Star-Spangled Banner: Historical Context

With all the hou-haa going on right now about the US anthem, honoring it and what it means to be patriotic, this seemed like a good time for me to try and finish writing about Fort McHenry in Baltimore and the birth of the song that was inspired by a huge flag.

In July we were in Baltimore for a conference, our first time to visit this American city. Our knowledge of its history was a bit sketchy to say the least, so we had a great time exploring Fort McHenry, and the small house where Mary Pickersgill lived and helped stitch the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen his victory poem that later became the American anthem.

It’s actually a tense and dramatic story, made more real by visiting the sites of the action, and trying to visualize what happened on those momentous days.

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The inside of Fort McHenry today

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Entrance to the inside of the fort today

battle_starsignEveryone speaks of the War of 1812, but in reality the major events took place in 1814.

Bit of background:

After the American Revolution and the exhausting fight to win independence from Great Britain, tensions between the two countries still smoldered. Britain was at war with France for supremacy in Europe, and also set policies that interfered with American trade, like confiscating merchant ships and cargoes. The British navy needed more men, so would board American vessels and seize men said to be British deserters. They also forcefully blocked American expansion along the Great Lakes and Northern Frontier.

Many Americans, including President James Madison, wanted to strike back, and Congress declared war on June 18, 1812. Over the next 2 years, American and British forces clashed in many places from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. The British occupied the fertile Chesapeake Bay, and raided waterfront towns.

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One of the canons in Fort McHenry

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Fort McHenry

By summer 1814, President Madison realized the war could escalate, especially since Napoleon had fallen and the British then had more troops available. He worried in particular about the Washington-Maryland area and called for more militiamen and volunteers.

On August 19, 1814 British General Robert Ross brought more than 4,000 troops ashore in southern Maryland to start a land invasion, and Rear Admiral George Cockburn sailed up the Potomac River towards Washington DC. Both of them and their troops arrived at the edge of DC at dusk on August 24, and created havoc and panic. They torched much of the city, including the US Capitol and the President’s house. The rampage only ended because of a violent rainstorm. Bladensburg, a tobacco port just 5 miles northeast of the capital, was also attacked and badly affected, mostly because the American commanders and troops were very inexperienced compared to the British counterparts.

From August 28 the British plundered Alexandria for 5-6 days and then set their sights on Baltimore, on the Patapsco River with its many ‘arms’ and branches.

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The guns that won the battle

Amristead

armisteadplaqueBut, Baltimore was better prepared than Washington had been. Under Maj. Gen. Samuel Smith, a US Senator and veteran of the Revolution, defences were erected, arms and equipment stockpiled, and troops trained. He had about 15,000 men, and Fort McHenry, the key to the harbor, had 1,000 men. Fort McHenry was commanded by Maj. George Armistead. The fort’s guns and two batteries along the river’s edge dominated the channels leading to the city. A line of gunboats and sunken hulks across the mouth of Northwest Branch also obstructed entry.

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Direct Hits to Fort McHenry–in which 2 officers were killed

On September 12, Ross’s troops marched towards Baltimore. Ross was killed but his replacement, Col Arthur Brooke, marched to within 2 miles of the city and was waiting for the naval attack to end before assaulting the city. British Admiral Cochrane knew that for the British campaign to succeed he had to capture or destroy Fort McHenry. He attacked the fort at dawn on September 13th and the bombardment from the water carried on for 25 hours. Armistead estimated later that between 1500 and 1800 shells and rockets were fired at the fort. However, only two officers were killed and several gun crew members injured.

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Dawn’s Early Light

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The soldiers on Fort McHenry hoist the huge flag

Around midnight Cochrane realized that shelling the fort was not enough and decided to send small boats as a diversion up the Ferry Branch of the river to distract the Americans and allow Brooke to storm the east side of the city where he was waiting. But in the dark, this plan went wrong—they rowed up the wrong branch, and other barges were detected and driven back by the Americans. The British carried on bombing the fort until 7am on September 14th, and then they withdrew.

The American soldiers fired the morning gun and hoisted the huge flag that Armistead had ordered especially, which later became known as the “Star-Spangled Banner”.

How did that happen? This takes us to Francis Scott Key.

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Plaque to Francis Scott Key on Fort McHenry

As the British sailed toward Baltimore in early September 1814, Georgetown attorney Francis Scott Key and John Skinner, the US agent for the exchange of prisoners, met the British to negotiate the release of Key’s friend, a physician abducted from Maryland. They were aboard a truce ship when the British began bombarding Fort McHenry outside Baltimore. They had to watch the fighting through the night, but then came the raising of that large flag measuring 30×42 feet, which Key could see even from a distance. He then knew that the Americans were victorious and was very proud. To record his thoughts at that moment, he wrote a poem about his feelings on seeing the flag. This poem later became the national anthem. Some of his words say “the stars of that banner”, which led to the actual flag being called The Star-Spangled Banner too.

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Viv M and a flag and statue of Key in the Fort McHenry Museum

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The flag on Fort McHenry today

President Madison signed the Treaty of Ghent on February 17th, 1815, and the war was officially over. Neither America nor Britain had won a clear victory, but the war gave Americans a stronger sense of collective identity and confirmed its new position on the international stage.

Fort McHenry became a National Monument, which people can visit. We did and it was fascinating—I’ll write more on that later.

Two lasting symbols came from this war: The Star-Spangled Banner (now in the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington DC) and the national anthem that honors it. More details on those coming too.

 

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Aronia Berry bushes

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Unripe berries

berriescloseIn recent years I’ve heard a lot about aronia berries and how they are one of the new “superfoods”, mostly due to their high antioxidative activity and their high level of vitamins, minerals and folic acids. We even tried a few dried berries from Whole Foods, and I have to say I wasn’t that impressed with the taste.

So, it was really interesting a few weekends ago to actually see some aronia bushes and find out more about how they are grown.

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Our group at the farm

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A young aronia bush

We were in Wisconsin visiting a business colleague of my husband’s in Milwaukee, and after that we drove to their house in Door County, at Sister Bay at the end of the peninsula. They have a beautiful house on the water there, plus he owns a farm just behind the house. Part of the farm, called Hidden Acres, is devoted to a community garden and part to a commercial enterprise, where they grow all kinds of vegetables organically for local restaurants. Wonderful to wander around and pick fresh carrots or purple beans, for example.

Something new that he is trying is growing Aronia berries. The bushes are now about cheesecakethree years old and are producing quite nicely. The best production will come after about 5 years, apparently. The berries were not ripe yet: harvesting will be at about the beginning of September.

Our host’s wife made a cheesecake for dessert, and served it with a berry compote, made of blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and aronia berries. In a mix like that, the aronia berries were quite pleasant. We tried eating a few fresh ones too, and found them very fibrous and chewy and not terribly tasty really. But, mixed in a smoothie they are very good.

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eating plain fresh aronia berries

We found out that Aronia is a woody perennial shrub in the rosaceae family that is native to the eastern United States. It grows in full sun and along woodland edges, so the setting of this farm is perfect.

Aronia has benefited from increased interest in phytonutrients, plant compounds that have beneficial effects on human health. Interest in “eating healthy” has led to worldwide growth in the popularity of aronia berries and products made from them. Aronia has been grown as a commercial berry crop in most Eastern European countries since the 1950s, starting in the Soviet Union in the late 1940s. It is now becoming a more popular cash crop in the Mid-West of the USA too. Some sources say that Aronia berries top the list of more than 100 foods that have been scientifically tested for antioxidant capacity.

 

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Inner harbor

Part of Baltimore’s famous Inner Harbor

We have just returned from a week’s trip to the city of Baltimore, a first for me. We really enjoyed it, in spite of the extreme heat and humidity, and agree that the city deserves its nickname of “Charm City”.

They have done a good job with public transport, which is very important for a city to be moving forward. They have a Light Rail system, many different bus lines (some are free), and a metro.

 

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Our Light Rail ticket to BWI Airport

For example, it’s very easy to get from Baltimore (BWI) airport to downtown. When you’ve collected your baggage walk to Gate 18 in the baggage collection area and buy Light Rail tickets at the machine there. Normal fare is $1.60, but seniors pay only $0.80 (there are some advantages of being a senior!). Then Gate 19 straight ahead leads directly onto the platform. During the day, trains come about every 20-25 minutes and it took us about 40-45 minutes to get to Camden Yards, one of the convenient stops for the Convention Center (the other is the next stop, Convention Center, but that day the train ended at Camden Yards).

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A Purple Line Charm City Circulator bus

Returning to the airport very early in the morning, trains only run every 30 minutes and do not stop at Convention Center, so we caught the train at Camden Yards again. Same price, from the ticket machine.

Another great feature of public transport, for both visitors and locals, are the Charm City Circulator buses. There are four lines that run different routes. Each route has a color—purple, orange, green, and dark blue (called Banner Line). We used them a number of times, as the routes run to most of the main tourist sights. Best of all they are FREE! People hop on and off at will. Pick up a Charm City Circulator bus schedule at the Visitors’ Center on the Inner Harbor.

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Sign on the sidewalk: North Adams is very much an “art” town

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Only a part of the eye-catching mural inspired by Egyptian stories

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Another section of this huge mural

Beautiful Murals in North Adams, Massachusetts

As you know by now, I love public art of all forms and we were happy to find lovely murals on our trip to the Berkshires recently. I’ll mention four, although we did see a couple of others.

The town of North Adams in the Berkshires has become an art friendly environment, as artists (both local and international), many local businesses, and the city government try to preserve this old mill town. Many of the old Ebigbirdmill buildings and warehouses are now converted into galleries, shops selling vintage items and plenty of restaurants. Street art has popped up on many of the brick walls too, especially after the public art projects—DownStreet Art, and the Mural Project (2012)—were started. This project was designed to revitalize downtown North Adams, by harnessing art organizations and events already in the city and changing vacant and open spaces into art destinations that make locals proud and attract tourists. Well, they certainly did attract us. We were only in town for a couple of days attending a family wedding, but we managed to find many of the fascinating murals.

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Alaa Awad is obviously a very talented artist

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EanimalsJust down from Public Eat and Drink (a great place to eat) is a long wall of eye-catching color. It’s a nearly 60-foot-long mural on the base of the Route 2 (Mohawk Trail) overpass—it’s beautiful and amazingly detailed. Egyptian artist Alaa Awad created it and gave it as a gift to North Adams. Awad has painted street art in Asia and Denmark and has had exhibitions and murals in Germany and throughout Egypt. This North Adams piece, though, is his first commissioned work in the USA. It was unveiled June 26, 2014. His work is inspired by historical

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A giraffe—I think

Egyptian tomb paintings, and his mural is covered in stylized figures of ancient gods, chimeric beasts, animals and people.

Awad aims to celebrate humankind and make Egyptian heritage known as a source of pride for Egyptians, and instill ideas such as “peace, mercy, justice and balance.”

Awad is a graduate and a faculty member of the Luxor Faculty of Fine Arts and Egypt, and he teamed up with fellow artists to use art to protest censorship, social injustice, and civilian lives lost during the revolution in Tahrir Square in 2011.

On the opposite side of the street is another large bright mural, this one very abstract. It was done by Maya Hayuk in 2012.

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Much more abstract

And on the back of the Mohawk Theater nearby is a huge colorful mural by Spanish art collective Muralismo Publico. It seems to have a flamenco/Spanish dance theme.

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In MassMoCA

In the lobby of MassMoCA (and therefore free to view) is a fascinating 120-foot-long mural by Barbara Takenaga, called “Nebraska”. She presents an image of the wide-open plains of her home state. Pulsating lines of white dots, repeated 14 times, radiate out from a horizon line, making us think of neat rows of corn extending as far as the eye can see, and an infinite canopy of stars above.

 

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Deer on a wall near Renee Restaurant

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Monkey on an underpass pillar

 

 

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hailsignHonoring the Mohawk Native Americans

Reaching out with Hope

When we attended a family wedding in the Berkshires this October, one of the things I was determined to do was visit the “Hail to the Sunrise” Statue on the Mohawk Trail. Luckily we were staying nearby, so it was quite possible. And we were not disappointed.

The Mohawk Trail is a 63-mile winding road stretching east from the Massachusetts/New York line, close to Williamstown, to Millers Falls on the Connecticut River, just beyond Greenfield in Massachusetts. It runs through part of the well-known Berkshires, and is especially beautiful to drive in fall when the fall colors are truly glorious.

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You can just see the Chief directly behind the circular pool

chiefRodThe Mohawk Trail began as a trade route for the Native Americans of the Five Nations and connected Atlantic tribes with tribes in Upstate New York, hundreds of years before European settlers arrived. They used it to pass between the Connecticut and Hudson Valleys. It followed the Millers River, Deerfield River and crossed the Hoosac Range in the area that is now northwest Massachusetts.

Hail to the Sunrise” is a lovely monument just outside the town of Charlemont, Mass, about halfway along the Trail. The Monument consists of a prominent statue of a Mohawk Indian and a reflecting pool, and is the main feature of Mohawk Park, a roadside park on the Mohawk Trail. It was sponsored by The Improved Order of Redman, and Degree of Pocahontas.

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The monument honors the peoples of the five Mohawk Nations that inhabited western Massachusetts and New York State. The Mohawks who traveled this trail were said to be friendly to while settlers. Today the monument is a reminder of the area’s Native American heritage.

The bronze statue depicts a Native American man in traditional garb

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Note the arrowhead-shaped inscription stone

looking eastward across the Deerfield River with his arms uplifted in supplication. He faces the direction of the rising sun and is greeting the Great Spirit. The bronze statue, created by sculptor Joseph Pollia (1893-1954), rests on a 9-ton boulder. It was unveiled in October 1932, attended by more than 2000 people. The arrowhead-shaped tablet on the base of the statue reads: “Hail to the Sunrise—In Memory of the Mohawk Indian. The Mohawks of the Five Nations began to settle in New York State in 1590 and for 90 great suns they fought the New England tribes. The New York Mohawks that traveled this trail were friendly to the white settlers.”

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One of the inscription stones

The pool is lined with 100 inscribed stones from various tribes and councils from throughout the US. The grounds are open to the public and the park is a welcome stop along the scenic highway. It’s a great place to stop and contemplate Native American culture and history and how these peoples were so badly treated overall by the white settlers. For me, the man’s pose gives cause for hope, like he’s reaching out for a better future.

Charlemont is an old town, first settled in 1749. Every summer, the Mohawk Trail Concerts take place in the old, acoustically-perfect Charlemont Federated Church. They have been held here since 1970, founded by Arnold Black, a violinist.

 

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One of the many lovely vistas on the Mohawk Trail

This historic trail is on the US National Register of Historic Places and is perfect as a Weekend Getaway and to view Fall Foliage

The US boasts an incredible variety of different terrains and scenery, wonderful National Parks of all kinds, and many national treasures. To enjoy some of them, there are numerous great scenic drives, from coast to coast, past mountains, valleys, forests, canyons, coastlines: think of the Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia, North Carolina), San Juan Skyway (Colorado), 17-mile drive (Carmel, California), the Overseas Highway (Florida Keys), the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) in California past Big Sur, Route 66, and the Great River Road along the Mississippi River.

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“Hail to the Sunrise” in Mohawk Park

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Rod M and “Hail to the Sunrise”

These are the ones traditionally on the list of “most scenic drives” but you can find beautiful stretches of highway just about anywhere you look.

New England has numerous drives, especially lovely during the fall, and one such is the Mohawk Trail through the Berkshires in western Massachusetts. This large highland region is a broad plateau dissected by hills and peaks and cut by river valleys. Geologically very old, it’s linked to the higher Green Mountains of Vermont. The main North Berkshires region (according to the local map we got) is around the towns of Williamstown, North Adams and Adams.

We were there one weekend in October for a family wedding and found it

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View from Whitcomb Summit Inn to the Elk statue

enchanting. It’s a very pretty part of the country and the fall colors were gorgeous. It’s not densely populated, with little towns strung out along the river valleys. It’s interesting to know that this is where Indian tribes used to live and hunt and that as we drive along the Trail we are, in a way, following in the footsteps of the first people in this area.

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The Elk statue

The Mohawk Trail began as a trade route for the Native Americans of the Five Nations and connected Atlantic tribes with tribes in Upstate New York, hundreds of years before European settlers arrived. They used it to pass between the Connecticut and Hudson Valleys. It followed the Millers River, Deerfield River and crossed the Hoosac Range in the area that is now northwest Massachusetts.

These days, the Trail is part of Routes 2 and 2A, following much of the view2original Indian trail for about 69 miles, from Williamstown (home of Williams College) in the west, to Greenfield in the east. When it was incorporated in 1753, Greenfield was the northern frontier before the Canadian border. The Berkshire Mountains are easily visible from some places and many people think this is the most beautiful drive in Massachusetts. There are stopping points along the way, with scenic viewpoints, roadside attractions (notably the “Hail to the Sunrise Statue” at Mohawk Park in Charlemont—a tribute to this Native American heritage), and gift shops.

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The famous hairpin bend

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Golden Eagle restaurant at the hairpin bend

The Trail is very tourist-oriented now, but you can imagine those old traders passing through. The road is narrow and winding, and the multiple layers of rolling hills, ablaze with color at this time of year, are generally quite gentle, although there is a steep climb up to Mount Whitcomb, the highest point of the Trail at 2173 feet. On the western side of the summit is the popular hairpin bend and look-out at Western Summit (called Spirit Mountain by Native Americans) over the city of North Adams and to the Taconic Mountains. On the eastern side the highway descends steeply down the slope of the Hoosac Range, following the Cold River and then the Deerfield River. Note the “Elk on the Trail” statue at Whitcomb Summit.

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Walking on the trail in Natural Bridge State Park

foliagesigncloseEach new vista around a sharp corner had us all “oohing and aahing”. The prettiest section (we thought) was between North Adams and east to Charlemont, where often the road is winding along the edge of the Deerfield River. If you stop at some of the roadside lookouts next to the gently gurgling river the sound of water is very soothing. The river is gentle now, but gets much fuller in spring and summer—full enough for tubing and whitewater adventures, popular pastimes. Many of the outdoor activities were not open now, as it’s out of season, although winter sports season will begin soon. In summer, camping, hiking, horse riding, fishing, zip-lining etc are offered. We passed a couple of ‘Bear Crossing’ signs, and wondered how often bears are still seen around here.

It’s a spectacular drive, always lovely I’m sure, but especially now. We tried to absorb the scenery, to imprint it on our minds, as we know it’s fleeting and will be gone in a few weeks. Perhaps it’s that transitory/fleeting element that makes it even more precious.

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Part of the gorge in Natural Bridge State Park

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Rod M pointing out part of the natural arched stone bridge

Besides the recreational and nature possibilities and fall foliage tours, the Berkshires (Hills or Mountains) are popular with tourists because of the vibrant visual and performing arts and music scene. There are a number of good museums (for example, MASSMoCA in North Adams); performing arts institutions like Tangelwood; America’s first and longest-running dance festival, “Jacob’s Pillow”; and it’s the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, to name but a few.

The name Berkshires came from Sir Francis Bernard, the Royal Governor in office 1760-1769, who named the area “Berkshire” to honor his home county in England.

Besides the Native American history, this area has other interesting

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Susan B Anthony Birth House in Adams

historical tidbits. For example, during the American Revolution, a Continental army force under Henry Knox brought captured cannons from Fort Ticonderoga by ox-drawn sleds south along the west bank of the Hudson River from the fort to Albany, where he then crossed the Hudson. Knox and his men continued east through the Berkshires and finally arrived in Boston. This feat, known as “the Noble train of Artillery” was accomplished in the dead of winter, 1775-1776.

NAdamssignAdams is also the birthplace of Susan B. Anthony (in 1820), the famous suffragette, and you can visit her birth house.

If you only have a few days, here’s what we suggest.

Where to Stay:

—at the Whitcomb Summit Retreat, 229 Mohawk Trail (about 15 minutes out of North Adams, and just next to the Elk statue). You can easily drive to places from there. www.whitcombsummitretreat.net Their logo is “stay at the top” and the views out are spectacular.

—or you could stay in North Adams at the Holiday Inn, 40 Main Street.

Where to eat In North Adams?

A good breakfast place is Renee’s Diner, 780 Massachusetts Ave (on

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Brewhaha Cafe

FaceBook). A lovely coffee shop is Brewhaha, 20 Marshall Street (on FaceBook).

We had excellent meals at Public Eat and Drink, 34 Holden Street in North Adams (www.publiceatanddrink.com ), and at the Golden Eagle, right on the famous hairpin bend, at 1935 Mohawk Trail (www.thegoldeneaglerestaurant.com ). MASSMoCA has a café, called Lickety Split, and a restaurant called Gramercy Bistro.

What to Do:

First, do the drive between North Adams and Charlemont and stop to visit the “Hail to the Sunrise” statue, a memorial to the Mohawk Native Americans, sponsored by the Improved Order of the Redman. Also stop at the Elk Memorial on Whitcomb Summit.

If you have a clear day, visit the Natural Bridge State Park, just outside of North Adams. It’s an easy, pretty walk and well worth the view of the only natural water-eroded marble bridge in North America, created by the Hudson Brook. It’s about 550 million years old, and is 30 feet wide, spanning a chasm about 60 feet deep.

Drive a little south to Adams and visit the Susan B Anthony Birthplace Museum, 67 East Road, Adams, www.susanbanthonybirthplace.org

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MASSMoCA

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An amazingly detailed mural

In North Adams, visit MASSMoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, the largest Contemporary Art Museum in USA), and then check out the colorful murals on the wall nearby, on the underpass of Route 2.

A must-see is the Western Gateway Heritage State Park, right in the center of North Adams. This freight yard district has been restored and has a variety of historical attractions, including an exhibit on the building of the Hoosac Tunnel.

North Adams was a railroad and manufacturing hub, using power generated by the Hoosic River (producing textiles and shoes), with many huge old mill buildings (MASSMoCA is in the largest now). Many of the others have been converted into art spaces, galleries, and little shops (most closed during winter).

North Adams has a Fall Foliage Festival at the end of September/beginning of October, and there’s a Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, close to the MASSMoCA.

 

 

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General view of Memorail

General view of Memorial

Even today, people still bring items to remember and honor the victims

Even today, people still bring items to remember and honor the victims

The mission statement of the Memorial is “...May this Memorial offer comfort, peace, hope and serenity.” It succeeded admirably for us.

At 9:02am on April 19, 1995, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was destroyed in the largest terrorist attack in US history up until that time. One hundred and sixty eight people died, and thousands of others were affected in countless ways.

A couple of months ago, we re-visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial, dedicated on April 19, 2000, the five-year anniversary of the attack. I knew it was a highly significant memorial, but I wasn’t expecting to be as moved as I was on our first visit years ago. Significantly, we were still very moved on this recent visit.

Looking from Gate 9:01 across the Reflecting Pool to Gate 9:03

Looking from Gate 9:01 across the Reflecting Pool to Gate 9:03

Gate 9:01

Gate 9:01

In these troubled times, especially in the aftermath of 9/11 and other more recent horrific shooting sprees, and bombings, a visit to a memorial such as this serves to remind us of the suffering of individual people regardless of where the troubles occur, and of people’s amazing ability to rebuild, to heal, and to make meaning out of tragedy.

We wandered around the outside Memorial first to see the site and setting for this tragedy. What draws one’s eyes immediately is the chain-link fence along the edge. From afar it’s a blur of colors and shapes, but as you get closer the details emerge—a teddy bear with a picture below, a sock, a T-shirt, a card, flowers, a flag. The fence is covered with these kinds of items, so touching, so personal, giving tragedy a face. People are still bringing things, all these years later.

The huge Gates of Time, framing the moment of destruction (one inscribed with 9:01am, the moment before the destruction; the other with 9:03 am, the moment after the destruction), are at each end of the Reflecting Pool, which has replaced the street where the bomb went off. These Gates of Time illustrate so clearly just how quickly a tragedy can happen, how quickly lives can be lost and changed forever.

Some of the Memorial Chairs

Some of the Memorial Chairs

Survivor Tree in late winter

Survivor Tree in late winter

The highlight is the Field of Empty Chairs, in the green grassy area that was the site of the Murrah Building. There are 168 chairs, one for each life lost, including 19 smaller chairs for the children. The chairs are made of bronze and stone, each glass base etched with the name of a victim, and individually illuminated at night.

A park ranger told a poignant story of how the final chair design was chosen. Apparently many people liked the chair concept, perhaps because so many of the victims were office workers who frequently sat on chairs. The adults at the meeting wanted to discuss this further, but a 10-year-old boy stood up and said that he didn’t care what the other people said. He liked the chairs, because any time he missed his dead mother he could go and sit on her chair and it would be like her lap and he could remember her. Who could resist such a touching statement?

Another high point is the Survivor Tree, a large American elm that was badly damaged by the blast but, with lots of care, has survived. It is a symbol of resilience, both of Nature and of humans. We found the circular promontory around it a good place to sit and contemplate the whole Memorial.

The Reflecting Pool reflecting the Museum

The Reflecting Pool reflecting the Museum

The Oklahoma National Memorial Museum in the former Journal Record Building, also badly damaged by the bombing, has interactive exhibits on two floors. It takes you on a chronological self-guided tour of the story of the bombing and its after effects, divided into ten chapters. Many graphic and moving pictures, video clips and interviews, and artifacts rescued from the blasted building, combine to give a very personalized and poignant experience. We were stunned and shocked all over again. I felt as though these atrocities had been done to me too.

In my opinion, the Gallery of Honor is the most touching room in the exhibit. Around the edge of this circular room are photographs of each victim. Many also have items selected by the families, such as watches, medals and awards, wedding or other pictures. The most heart-breaking are the toys with the photographs of some of the children.

We all leave changed in some way. The events themselves were so dramatic, and the message from the Memorial is so powerful, and yet does help soothe some of the anguish. As is written on the Gates of Time, “We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence…

The Museum is open 9am-6pm Mon-Sat and noon-6pm on Sunday.

Adults $12; seniors, military and students $10; children under 5 free.

The park is open all the time.

The web site is excellent and has much information.

http://www.oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org

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