Parking it with Purpose

On this 9/11 anniversary weekend, flags fly, “what you were doing that morning” memories come back to us, and families directly affected by the attacks are still remembered by all with great sadness of loss and senselessness of reason.

An unforgetable day, I first heard a sketchy report on the radio that a plane hit one of the Towers as I arrived at work. My daughter Tiffany was in school in NYC at the time, and I said to myself “she has no reason to be in that part of the city this morning”, and I set out about my morning with an under-the-breath prayer that the “accident” would not be too tragic for the City. Well the events unfolded, as we all know, and my family’s lives became one of the many chapters written that day, although comparatively insignificant with most others…perhaps that is another post if interested, but know Tiff was safe that day.

After every human tragedy, life goes on whether we want it to or not; whether we’re ready or not. Americans went back to work after the 9/11 attacks putting back together their life as best they could, all the while as retribution politics played out with rhetoric, military might, and soldier sacrifices.

Not until I spent some time on a new website did I realize the impact my chosen profession (as a landscape architect) truly could have on people’s lives. Oh sure, I was taught in college and have since professionally witnessed many of those impacts, but not until a park activist needed a few emotional pauses in a recent interview did it really touch my soul that I still have a purpose unfulfilled.

Give a listen to Tupper Thomas, as she talks about 9/11 and the role public parks played that day, and those days following.  This woman’s emotion speaks volumes. All her interview clips are worth taking a few minutes to enjoy, but in particular scroll down to the very last video clip on the website page: Tupper Thomas talks about 9/11. Then somebody try to tell me ‘yes indeed parks funding should be reduced’ as communities across this country try to balance their next year’s budget.

When one’s work, regardless of what it is you do, can subtly or profoundly impact the every day and extra ordinary days of people’s lives in such a way it gives pleasure, solace, and gratitude in having done a good thing, then that certainly is a good thing. That very thought has been a life/career encouragement I’ve tried to pass to my children; a challenge for everyone to avoid having “just another day at work”.

Prospect Park in Brooklyn New York was, and after watching Tupper Thomas clip, is reaffirmed to be on my “must see” park visit list. It will take-on another meaning for me both professionally and personally when visited. I will most likely ask my daughter to accompany me there as it seems only fitting that Tiff comes along for a stroll in that park. Our walk might have moments of tearful conversation if we speak of 9/11 – it wouldn’t be her & my first (or last) about that day – but we will seek out the joy, comfort, relief, and celebration of the park’s design intent…and I will bring a Frisbee to toss around just in case the intent doesn’t immediate reach out and smack us in the nose. I doubt that will happen.

“It is one great purpose of the Park to supply to the hundreds of thousands of tired workers, who have no opportunity to spend their summers in the country, a specimen of God’s handiwork that shall be to them, inexpensively, what a month of two in the White Mountains or the Adirondacks is, at great cost, to those in easier circumstances.” – Frederick Law Olmsted

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