Saturday, February 9, 2008

Today I Walked on History

Today I walked on history

I had to run to Target this afternoon in preparation for an evening at the St. Louis Symphony.

I am a fairly new resident to Kirkwood, MO so it is quite convenient for me to just run over to Kirkwood Commons and have my choice between Wal*Mart, Target, and TJMaxx when I need something for the girls. My husband has frequent public appearances or performances that entail bringing six and four-year-old girls. Today was no exception with the added surprise of the weather.

My quick trip was different today. The parking lot was crowded. Many people rushed in and out, there were lines. I saw black faces and white faces. Then something struck me, I was standing on history, on legacy, on dashed hopes and dreams, on tragedy.

I learned more about the history of Meacham Park and Kirkwood's racial divide since the tragic events of Thursday, February 8th. Being inquisitive and curious, I decided to investigate further. The Kirkwood City website has a glowing report of the history of Meacham Park but no mention of gentrification or how this community has been cut off from the core of town.

Kirkwood pretty much is between Manchester and Big Bend with Kirkwood (Lindberg) going down the center. I had to Google and Mapquest my way to Meacham Park in search of the YWCA a week or so ago. It was curious to me how this little neighborhood was so far removed and was actualy closer to Crestwood. Why didn't Crestwood annex it in 1991?

My investigations later turned up the fact that Kirkwood wanted the prime real estate, 55 acres sold to a private developer on what is now Wal*Mart, Target, and TJMaxx as big anchor stores. It stuck me that this prime area bordered by Kirkwood Road, just off I-44, easy access to I-270, and near Big Bend Blvd was real estate gold. There was later reports of how that area once held thriving black-owned businesses.

Then it all was an ah-ha moment when I, along with others, have tried to make sense of Cookie Thornton's actions. No one condones what he did. As Christians, we all cringe at the judgment awaiting him at the seat of God, the only one who can ultimately punish sin. We are just as dumbfounded, but there is a collective sense of a deeper injustice that has happened.

Common sense would say he should've just paid the fine, but was the fine just? Was it harrasment by elected city officials? Then I thought about the faces plastered online, in the paper, and on the news of those shot, they were all white,mostly white men. One man in particular stared back from eterniy and I wondered why he made it a personal point to make Cookie Thornton's life, business, and neighborhood miserable.

It all bothers me. I am new to Kirkwood and have driven through neighborhoods with construction trucks parked in driveways, blocking streets. I live right down the street (Thomas and Angenette and Rosehill area) where a man was having his house renovated. There were construction trucks and big commercial dump trucks in his drive way. I didn't see city officials ticketing him into the hundreds of thousands. There are more such construction sites around the city as people are updating old homes and the greater Kirkwood fight to prevent infill houses.

Why does greed prevail at the cost of humanity? That is what happened to the citizens of Meacham Park. There isn't a library, a bookstore, a community center, a quaint coffee shop, or even a restaurant in Meacham Park. The little neighborhood is so far removed from Kirkwood proper that it is generous to say it is part of the city.

I read a blog earlier and there were racist comments to infinity and beyond. Once again, a small community has been demonized because of the actions of one man. There were some sensitive comments about the back story that goes back almost to 1893. It was more than just a few citations or parking tickets.

In the end, people lost lives and whenever that happens there is always the search for answers. There are no answers on this Saturday evening, just saddness. Sadness reigns for the lost lives of the five victims and the lost hopes of a wife, daughter, mother, neighorhood, and siblings of a man who simply wanted to live a dream.

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