Niagara Gazette

Columns

March 28, 2013

HAMILTON: Resurrecting a city by celebrating life

Niagara Gazette — When I drive down the streets of our declining city, from time to time I will see pink or blue-bannered storks propped up in people’s front yards. They announce the birth of a new baby girl or boy. A flash of warmth floods within my heart, and for that moment, I feel that all is right with our world.

Sadly, I don’t have to drive much farther to see some street-side, temporary memorial of deflated balloons, fading flowers, rain-soaked stuffed animals and such that are tied to a telephone pole. They memorialize that tragic death of a loved one. Someone’s loved one has died in that very spot – and that saddens me in a couple of ways; you are not going to like some of them.

I know what is like to lose a loved one. Again, my godson, who was as my first son, was shot and killed when he was but 14 years old. My mom died at 29; and I was a month short of my eighth birthday. The later impacted me so much so that every time that I drove under the old north Main Street railroad viaduct and I saw the mid-street iron support that was dented as a result of a fatal accident that occurred there in 1960, I cringed. Now, even when passing under the new railroad bridge, even though there is no mid-street supports, my mind still flashes back to that incident more than 50 years ago. I know how it feels when someone dies whom I did not know at all.

How would I remember that, when I was only 6 years old, you ask? It is because I remember hearing my mother talking about it when she would drive us on Main Street to go shopping, and I internalized her feelings about what had happened. That was when both she and Main Street were still alive. In many ways, my mom still lives in my memory; and for many of us older Niagarans, Main Street still lives in ours. 

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