During our return from the North Cascades Highway earlier this year, we drove past Oso, the site of a terrible landslide. At the time, I didn’t realize where a good place to stop would be but, on a more recent trip up in that area, I decided to stop at the location of the memorial. The Oso Slide made national headlines at the time it happened in 2014 – before we moved to Washington – but it quickly faded from the national headlines. The side of a hill gave way after extensive rain and the nature of the material meant that, rather than sliding gently downhill, it gathered momentum and went a long distance.
A huge amount of the hill gave way, crossed the river and engulfed the small community and the highway on the other side. 43 people died and 11 survived. Given those numbers, it is surprising that it is so little known outside the local area. The river was blocked and caused flooding upstream and a lack of water downstream. It soon cut itself a new path though. The highway needed extensive repairs which took many months to complete. There was nothing that could be done for the people and their homes though. Most were found quickly but it took a while until the last victim was found.
There is a small memorial by the highway. A tree is planted for each of those lost. They each have a story and profiles of them all can be found on the Seattle Times website if you get a chance to look. There is a sculpture of mailboxes of Steelhead Drive, the area that was wiped out. Plans are underway for a more permanent memorial and donations are being accepted.
The hillside itself has a huge scar across it where the land gave way. As is often the case, the scale of it is hard to understand when you are far enough away. Looking closer at the trees around the rim shows you just how big it is and how much material thundered down the hillside. There are mounds all around the valley floor where material piled up after it stopped. To stand in front of it, you are left deeply touched by what happened. Someone else was visiting when we were and he sat on the hood of his car starting up at the hill for many minutes. I was left wondering just what his connection was to the awful events that took place.
The journey to Portsmouth on the ferry is one I have made more times than I can recall and one of the landmarks that is embedded in my mind is the Naval Memorial on the front at Southsea. This obelisk is a clear sign of either arriving or leaving but it is something that I have never actually looked at in any detail. After we departed the Island on our last trip, we stopped off on the seafront at Southsea and walked along to the monument to check it out.
The obelisk is all I had in mind previously, but the memorial is so much more. The original monument was created after the First World War for all the seaman that lost their lives. There are many panels around the column with names and ranks of seamen. Just looking at the different roles of sailors in that era of ships is interesting and to think of them all lost is sobering.
The memorial was expanded after the Second World War. The walls surrounding the tower and the columned end sections were added along with sculptures of sailors. The detail of them is impressive considering how long they have been exposed to the sea air and the Woolly sweaters, boots, beards and hats have a very authentic feel to them. I find it hard to believe I have passed by this memorial all my life and only now did I stop to look and appreciate it.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial has been under construction for a while including the restoration of the B-52G, Midnight Express that spent many years outside at Paine Field. The opening ceremony took place over the Memorial Day weekend and I went along to check it out. I wrote an article for GAR about the ceremony and, if you want to read that, you can see it here.
The article includes most of the good images from the event so I won’t duplicate it all here but instead I shall just post a couple of shots that summarize what happened.
After our trip around the Legion of Honor, we took a stroll around the grounds by the museum. The majority of the land is taken up with a golf course – a sad use for some great open space in the city – but, as we walked around the sidewalk, there was a sign for a holocaust memorial. We figured we would take a look. We were anticipating some sort of plaque or a wall. We weren’t prepared for what was actually there.
Tucked behind a wall was a sculpture that really made you stop. A solitary figure stood behind a barbed wire fence while many bodies lay on the ground behind him. It was striking. I know I had been anticipating something straightforward so the contrast was marked but, even so, the effect when I first saw the memorial was dramatic. It really struck you hard. I hope the pictures provide even a hint of how effective the memorial was.
Walk around the headland from Sutro Baths and you come to a great view looking across towards the Golden Gate Bridge. Here is located the memorial to the USS San Francisco. The ship was engaged in a vicious battle during the Second World War at Guadalcanal in which her senior officers were killed. The ship survived albeit heavily damaged. When she was scrapped after the war, the wings from the bridge were kept and placed as part of the memorial. They still bear the scars of the rounds that hit the ship during the engagement with the steel holed and twisted in many places.
Of course, Donner Pass and Donner Lake are named for the Donner Party. If you are not familiar with American history, this was a group heading west that got trapped in the pass in winter and many did not make it out alive. Those that survived had to do some harsh things to make it. The tale is a sad one and there is a memorial to the party near one end of the lake at the location in which they camped. There is a visitors’ center and a number of trails. The focal point is a large memorial. The base of the memorial is as high as the snow was reportedly deep that winter. It is a lot of snow! On top is a group of hardy travelers. When you think what people went through to get across the country in those days, they were truly hardy types.
In previous posts about the federal building memorial in Oklahoma City, I talked about how it is lit at night and that I wanted to go back. This I have now managed to do. I showed up around sunset and walked around the whole memorial. I was traveling light so no tripod, only a GorillaPod. This worked fine for most things. I was interested to discover text on the end of the memorial which lit up at night. I had thought it was a blank wall previously.
The subtle lighting across the memorial was very nice. As the sky color faded, I got a bunch of shots, some with quite long exposures which helped to blur out the other visitors of which there were plenty. The gentleness of the scene was what I wanted to convey since it was even more apparent in the dark than during the day, even though it is a calm place then too. That the place feels so peaceful while remembering such a violent event is a tribute to those who created it and maintain it.
Work recently took me to Oklahoma City. I had been there on another work visit a few years ago and that time I visited the site of the federal building bombing. It was a moving place and this time I wanted to go back and take my camera with me. At the end of a day of meetings, I headed across.
The location is slightly odd in that it is in the heart of the city and has a steady stream of visitors but it doesn’t feel busy. I parked on the street across from the entrance and wandered around freely rarely crossing paths with others. There was even a school group there but they didn’t seem intrusive. The memorial has a few key elements.
The footprint of the building is now a grassed area. Surrounded on three side by walls, part of which are the only remaining sections of the original building, the grass is filled with chairs. These chairs are made from bronze and glass and each represents a victim of the bombing. They are laid out in rows based on the floor that the victim was on at the time of the attack. There were many children killed as there was a daycare facility in the building and the chairs for the children are smaller. This has a very poignant effect. The front of each chair has the details of each victim. Apparently, at night the chairs are illuminated from within and I may have to go back when I am next there to see this.
The street that used to run alongside the building and on which the bomb was placed has been closed. It has been leveled and a rectangular pond now is there. At each end are metal arches with two times on them. 9:01 represents the city before the bomb and 9:03 is the city after the bomb.
Across the water from the chairs are a couple of other features. One is a tree. Despite the damage inflicted on everything in the area, this tree survived and became a symbol of the city’s survival. Also, there is a building that previously held a newspaper but is now the museum associated with the memorial. It shows signs of damage sustained and there is graffiti from some of the original rescue workers.
Like so many well thought out memorials, this one is very simple yet very effective. More recent events have led many to forget just how terrible an event this was. It was an example of just how much someone could take their personal point of view to an extreme at the expense of so many innocent people. Quite relevant when hearing some of the things people say these days. If you look at the fence with keepsakes and photos attached to it, it becomes a lot more apparent just how personal an attack like this is to those involved and a reminder why there is no justification for anything like it.
With Veterans’ Day upon us, the city of Chicago held a service at the Vietnam War Memorial. This is located just across the river from me and, when I saw that something was being set up, I went across to see. It is the fiftieth anniversary of the Vietnam War and there are additional elements of remembrance that are associated with that.
The mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel was speaking at the event as was an alderman who served with the Marines in Vietnam. It was not a huge event but there were plenty of people there and it was all done in a very classy yet personal way. All of the services were represented and there were many veterans in the crowd as well. I am certainly glad I found out it was going on.
The World War II memorial opened a few years ago, after we were no longer living in DC. However, I have been to DC a number of times for various work tasks and have had a chance to visit it before. It is a very large memorial and impresses you with the scale of itself which is probably appropriate given the scale of the conflict and the loss of life it represents.
There are two halves to the memorial, one representing the Pacific conflict and the other the Atlantic. Each of the states are represented on columns around the site and there are several water features. On a hot day, the large expanses of light colored stone can make the temperature a little hard after a while so the running water and the areas of shade can be a welcome respite.
The whole design is very classical in its approach. Whether this is a reflection of the response to previous monuments to conflicts on the Mall or whether it is just what seemed appropriate to those selecting the bidding architects I don’t know. I think it works well and sometimes you don’t have to be different. Since the whole installation is so large, a classical approach seems quite appropriate. It is interesting that it took so long for this memorial to be built but now it is there, it adds an appropriate element to the Mall.