Thursday, October 14, 2004

What's the Matter with Florida?

A popular new book just out is called What's the Matter with Kansas? A sequel might substitute Florida for Kansas.

Eyes Wide Open volunteers have been having a difficult time securing public space in Florida for the memorial, raising questions about the state's commitment to freedom of speech.

Here is some history:

In Tallahassee at the end of September we received a verbal denial to be on the steps of the Old Capitol building. On October 6th, we received a letter denying the application because of space considerations. Volunteers measured the sidewalk and gave them the facts that indeed the space was sufficient. The next day on Oct 7th, we received a certified letter giving planting flowers as the reason for the denial. They offered an alternative space on top of an adjacent parking garage. That space is unacceptable because it is not readily accessible to the general population. Stay tuned for the outcome.

In Orlando, our volunteer has been working since early last summer to secure a location. She has been turned down several times. At the Art Center at Loch Haven she was told flat out the Art Center board would never give approval. She went before the Parks board to get funding for Lake Eola amphitheater which wanted $3600 for 2 days and they unanimously turned her down. The application for the courthouse was stalled on the 2nd tier and never went to the 6th tier let alone the top tier. The 6th tier said it could be taken as political and any one of the elected officials could reject the project. Turns out to be untrue. She was denied by one particular official for every venue under him. We have finally secured the county courthouse after intervention by a legal team.

In Jacksonville, everything was going fine with the public park space. The cost was $100 for three days. Then, just a few days ago the park district officials said, "Oh, didn't we mention, there will be a $1500 security cost."

This exhibition has been in the most heavily security-conscious locations for months: NYC for the Republican National & Boston for the Democratic convention; Independence Mall for July 4th; and upper Senate Park outside the capitol in Washington DC. None of those locations gave us the run around or charged us exorbitant security fees.

What the matter with Florida?

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Yom Kippur Comment

This is a comment from the guest book that we keep at the Eyes Wide Open events soliciting people's reflections on the memorial:

To Smo, Jimmy, Little Joe,
Friday 9-24-04 is Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement, and the anniversary of your deaths on that trail in the central highlands of Vietnam. As I sit and look over the 1,000+ boots here representing another generation's bloodletting, I remember you and cry with the deep pain of knowing that the war goes on. I promised myself that deep, dark night that I would return to speak for you about the costs of war. I've done my best but the fear still rules...

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Lansing #2

Apolonia Rosas lost her 21-year-old son "Ricky" in the war. The weekly free newspaper in Lansing, did an advance story, dedicating the front cover to Eyes Wide Open. They used Ricky's boots and tag on the cover. Apolonia was buying pizza when she saw the picture.

Stunned, she called the organizers and talked with them. After hearing the purpose of the memorial, she came the night before to honor the Michigan soldiers and stayed most of the day on Thursday, returning late to visit her son's symbolic boots one last time.

At dusk, ending the closing ceremony, each family or their representative took the boots of the Michigan fallen from the capitol steps and returned them to the boots of their brothers and sisters on the lawn. Apolonia cried deeply, as though she were burying her son for a second time. But the memorial was also healing as she said she was grateful for the chance to be there.

She told me that she walked all of the rows of boots for all of the mothers who were not here, in the hope that one day they would walk the rows of boots for her son, when she was not there.

She wrote a note on the momento that she left. It said: "Where ever these boots may travel, my broken heart will follow. God bless America." signed "Ricky's mom." More from Lansing

Lansing #1

Even though Eyes Wide Open was only in Lansing for a day, there are too many stories for just one post.

The core planning group and 124+ volunteers were well-organized, thought of all the right details and were able to attract several military families to the memorial.

One of the first planning meetings they held was at a Middle Eastern restaurant. About a dozen of them gathered over dinner, discussing the memorial, its purpose and how they wanted the tone of the day (solemn) to be.

When they were almost finished, the waiter came up to their table and told them that the man who had just left paid for all of their meals. Such was the generosity of spirit that carried the day.

Pat Dartt arose at 4am Thursday morning in order to arrive early at work, so she could leave her office in Adrian, Michigan and make it to the memorial by late afternoon. Dartt took mementoes of her late son, Bradley Fox, who was injured March 13 in Baghdad when he was struck by shrapnel from a roadside bomb. He died from his injuries on April 20 in the Army hospital at Landstuhl, Germany. He leaves behind a wife, Sabine; sons Jan, 11, and Lucas, 8; and daughter Alexis, 3.

She wept as she placed pictures on his boots, including a lengthy testimonial to her son from a Major. When she went home, she could not sleep. She ended up being awake for 30 straight hours. More of her story...