Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Waste of Time

Recently I ran across a travel article and was horrified to read that the writer considered a visit to the Alamo a waste of time.

To be fair, the writer also dissed a few other well-known tourist attractions. He was primarily focused on the structure of the place. Granted, the Alamo, sacred mission and symbol of all we hold dear in Texas, is pretty dilapidated. There isn't much to look at. And maybe it doesn't hold much fascination for a non-Texan. But perhaps it should.

Those of us who love history and historical places clearly do not visit them for the accomodations. Historical places are... well... old. They are musty. They are usually not air conditioned. They rarely have decent bathrooms. No, we make the trek because they are precisely what we expect them to be - tangible proof of struggle and triumph.

And the true purist would be offended anyway if someone came along and spiffed the place up a bit.

I visited Plymouth Rock once. I am not a descendant of one of the original pilgrim families. The rock itself was small and somewhat unimpressive. But that did not prevent me from looking out over the landscape and imagining the hardship of the individuals that settled there. It did not keep me from feeling a sense of loss as I pondered what happened to the villagers. The rock told a story.

I visited Austria once. I am not a descendant of one of the ill-fated Jewish families of that region. The countryside is gorgeous, and it was evident to me that the citizens of Austria would prefer not to dwell on the autrocities of the holocaust. But that did not prevent me from marveling at the irony of the ugliness that occurred at the hands of one egotistical lunatic. It did not keep me from being overwhelmed by the mere thought of the countless numbers of lives lost. The land told a story.

I visited New York City once. I am not a descendant of one of the immigrant families that were herded through Ellis Island on their quest for a fresh start. The Twin Towers were still standing then. They were simply pretty buildings to me. But that does not keep me from gazing at my photographs and recalling the events of September 11th as they unfolded before us courtesy of modern technology. It does not keep me from swelling with pride when I remember the unprecedented patriotism that arose from the despair. The towers tell a story.

One day there will be little remaining evidence of the destruction of the Twin Towers. Growth and progress will take over and Ground Zero will be a well-documented memory. Will tourists stand in that spot and say, "Huh... there's not much here. What a waste of my time..."?

God, I hope not.


Anonymous said...

You should send a link for your piece to the author of that story.

Belinda Scholl said...

Not only what was written above, but your piece gave me chills as I read it.

Really well done. Very touching.

Interestingly, there was a story in the Wall Street Journal last week about the Alamo. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas are responsible for its upkeep, but a splinter group wants to take over so that improvements can be made.

Good idea? Or messing with Texas?