I suppose I should begin with a statement along the lines of, “the views and opinions expressed in this post are mine alone, and do not necessarily represent the views of , well … anybody else – organization, agency or otherwise”.
Today marks six months since our community was devastated by the April 27th tornados. I was invited to attend a community gathering to celebrate one family’s perseverance and hard work on their journey to recovery, as they moved into their new home – built on the very site where they had lost everything six months ago. The rebuilding was a collaborative effort – from the weeks and months of sweat and toil by the homeowners, coupled with help from several local agencies, the long term recovery committee, and the generosity of numerous local contractors and suppliers who provided manpower and materials. I applaud them all, and I am so happy that this family has been able to rebuild and remain in the place they know as home. It exemplifies the good that can be accomplished by a community pulling together, and the strength of a family who never gave up hope.
But as the minutes passed, and the state and local political dignitaries arrived, along with their carloads of security detail, the media, etc., I couldn’t help feeling a little uncomfortable. I know it is “the way of things”, but I personally dislike the whole ribbon-cutting-for-political-photo-ops routine, the talking-head political speech-izing for exposure… the pat-myself-on-the-back “yes, I knew I had to get on the waiting jet to fly home from my duties in the legislature to see what I could do, blah, blah, blah.” (Yes, one of them really said that.)
And as wonderful as it was to see so much rebuilding in this hard-hit neighborhood, there are still many families who are still struggling to recover – houses right across the street that have no roof, people fighting with insurance providers, homes that have been left damaged and even abandoned. Several neighbors (in less fortunate states of rebuilding) were watching all of the hoopla of politicians and the media from across the street – and I couldn’t help wonder how they were feeling?
I was happy that the homeowner was given the chance to say a few words, but at the end of the day it felt a like political showcase. And, in my opinion, Mr. Legislator, the press-worthy heros – or at least the ones I would rather celebrate and hear speak on this day – are the first responders, firefighters and emergency response workers (standing quietly in the background today) who were pulling people from the wreckage of their homes in the dark; the families who ran to help their neighbors and offered them shelter; the local businessmen who donated tens of thousands of dollars in relief supplies; the local community agencies and the long term recovery team who continue to work with struggling families. While I know that politics played a part somewhere in the disaster response equation, it is the reaction, action and perseverance of the local citizens and community that has accomplished the most good.
I confess I left with mixed feelings. Happiness for the family returning home, grateful to the countless community heros who are still hard at work, troubled by the sight of neighbors who continue struggling to recover and rebuild – and sadly, some disdain for the politicians who grabbed this opportunity for press coverage. Just my opinion.
There were some drawings from neighborhood school children that were clipped to a clothesline in the background of all of the ceremonial stuff … and they spoke to me. I’m not even sure if any of the politicians noticed them? When the words “hope” and “joy” are clouds above a piece of heavy equipment moving debris, when the sky is streaked with ink black and crimson, when the sun is bright yellow above a family cat that survived the storm – these are the voices of recovery I hear, and the ones I will never forget.
OK … not really family portraits, but I get a lot of teasing that I take more photos of my bikes, especially Elisabetta, than I do of my kids these days. It’s actually the reason I bought her. (Kidding…).
Another lovely fall day riding around Chattanooga. Had some errands to run, did some shopping, enjoyed a lovely lunch with my beloved (human, not bicycle), took some time to doodle and take pictures. You should all know by know, it’s what I do – mastering the art of goofing off….
Spent last week in northwestern Pennsylvania, visiting my husband’s family. We took our bikes, hoping for some nice riding on the rural roads with leaves turning and crisp temperatures. Sadly, the weather did not want to cooperate. Gusting winds, rain and temps in the 40’s (F) held little enticement for cycling …
My in-laws live in a small community in rural PA; there are lots of Amish and Mennonite families in the area. It’s an odd feeling to pedal along and approach (or be passed by) a horse and buggy. Better than being passed by cars any day.
Toward the end of the week when the skies began to clear, we took a ride to the Conneaut Lake Park – an old amusement park that originated in the 1890’s that became a local area attraction in the mid-1900’s. In it’s steel boom hey-day, it was a big draw to families employed by the railroad, as well as a convenient vacation getaway for people from Pittsburgh. When my husband was growing up in the area, he and his brother and sister all had summer jobs at the Park. Sadly, it has become one of those places largely lost to the past … although it still opens in the summer, it is barely able to survive any more. It was kind of fascinating to walk around the largely deserted grounds, covered in falling leaves.
Even though we didn’t get to ride as much as we had hoped to, it was a good visit. Nice to see family, good to feel the chill of the North, and great to have a slice (or two) of my mother in-law’s always-amazing pies. 😀
A few of the other pictures ….
Getting to be that time of year again… The tangy, musty smell of leaves crunching underfoot – and under my wheels. The colors of pumpkins, gourds and chrysanthemums. Apples and cider and cinnamon-spiced pastries. The shrinking of daylight, wind rattling the tree branches, geese on the pond. Just some photos… 🙂
Yesterday, while pedaling around Chattanooga for the afternoon, we came across a fascinating live gallery of artbikes gathered near the Chattanooga Aquarium. All of the bikes are student creations, sponsored by a local non-profit, Art120.
Art120: Benefitting art, education, and the community
Art 120 is a 501(c)3 organization created to provide funding for arts education, an
annual free arts event for the public known as an art car parade, and opportunities to connect the public to artists and art within about a 120 minute commute of
Chattanooga. Art 120 supports artists, arts related nonprofits, and their communities
by providing opportunities designed to foster a better understanding of visual art
by the public.
What was most inspiring for me was getting to talk to one of the young artists, Jack – creator of his wonderful bike-flight of fancy he calls “Jack Slays the Dragon” (I hope I got the title right, Jack?). Jack designed and constructed this great piece of moving artwork by himself (although he said he did have some help with the welding); he conceived the design, shaped the metal framework, and attached the wire/shredded plastic covering. And best of all … he looks awesome while riding it! Who wouldn’t want to ride a dragon?! (Video of several of the artbikes, including Jack on his dragon, being ridden through Coolidge Park, here.)
While Jack’s Dragon was really my favorite, there were a couple of other spectacular creations including the Swing-By-Bike, and the Bedframe Rat Rod (a nifty tandem built around an old bedframe).
I ❤ bikes, of course … but I also love the creativity that they can inspire. I love to see people celebrating the art of the bicycle, and the limitless imagination of young minds. Applause to Jack and the folks at Art120.