Monday, July 28, 2008

My Visit with Paul

It wasn't planned, it just kind of happened.

On the way up north, just before Eveleth, we noticed a sign for the Paul Wellstone Memorial. I hadn't been to the crash site yet, but was never really aware of how to get there. While at the cabin I mentioned to 'Buhl' I had seen the sign and he stated that it was just a couple miles off the highway, well signed, and easy to get to. It wasn't till we were on our way home that I saw the sign for Eveleth and mentioned to the lovely Mrs. Flash that I had an interest in stopping by. Being a Michigander she was not as familiar with Paul, but since she has been in Minnesota over 10 year, she understood his impact to the state.

We saw the big Brown sign again, and made the turn. Tucked away in the brush was a small brown sign pointing ahead, stating 3 miles . . . then it hit me. My lip began to quiver a bit, my eyes welled, and everything came back from that day in October almost 6 years ago. It seemed like the longest 3 miles of my life. I stared at the odometer watching the tenths tick . . . 2.6 . . . 2.7 . . . and than off to the side was a driveway of sorts, and a grouping of rocks. We were there already.

From the airy entrance there are two paths, one off to the right that takes you to within 2000 feet of the actual crash site, and one off to the left which takes you to a pair of circular paths, the inside tract has memorials to the passengers aboard, the outside is Paul's legacy trail. We opted to go right to begin.

The walk down the S-curved path was the most emotional for me. To have all of Paul's work and commitment come to mind, and have it gone in an instant seems so wrong on so many levels. Making the last curve, there is a T shaped viewing platform looking out into the distance. Benches set on the deck for those to sit and reflect.

We went back down to the main entrance, and back up the left trail to the memorial circle. You can see on the picture there is a stone at the end of the trail. This is Paul and Sheila's memorial stone.Around memorial circle are large stones remembering each of the victims. The areas have a bench near each spot for reflection. As you can see at the base of Paul and Sheila's, many have left trinkets and other mementos. It was very moving. We took a moment to pause at each of the markers, as a sign of respect of those that lost their lives. It was quite sureal.

Finally we walked the outside path or Legacy Trail. Here are narratives describing Paul's life and legacy. From his beginning as a community organizer, to his membership in the United States Senate.

The trail is well designed and takes you quietly through Paul's career, the final narrative being a tribute to his wife, Sheila. Anyone who knew Paul and his family would not be surprised by this. Sheila was the rock of the family and without her strong support and commitment to the life she shared with Paul, his legacy would have been significantly restricted.

I do not hold Senator Wellstone up on some pedestal, he wouldn't want that and it just wasn't him. Paul was a regular folk who had a commitment to making this world a better place. He was not afraid to stand up for what he thought were wrongs, even though in some instances he stood alone. But there was a reason Paul was able to get those from across the aisle to vote for him, even when their ideals were at polar opposites. He had that knack that Sen. Obama pointed out to me when discussing his good friend, another Paul, Senator Paul Simon:
He was one of these guys who had what would be considered a very liberal voting record. Yet he always did well in conservative areas. Nobody could ever figure out why accept for the fact that he had mastered the art of disagreeing without being disagreeable. I think that’s one thing that American politics generally would benefit from is being able to disagree, sometimes forcefully, without name calling and without viciousness.
Disagreeing without being disagreeable. Now wouldn't that be nice.

Thanks, Paul, for making this world a better place!! You continue to be deeply missed by those that understand and respect your efforts!

UPDATE: A great site with pictures of the other Memorial Stones can be found HERE.

All pics including readable shots of the narratives along the legacy trail can be found here.

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