A few weeks later we were at my house in TN driving to Lynchburg, TN and we saw a bunch of wooden crosses along the side of the highway. At first I didn't realize what it was for and then it dawned on me when I realized there were twenty six. . All the way in TN this tragedy had been felt. And it went further than that there were memorials across the country. It truly is a day that has effected people all across the country.
Part of the widespread reaction was that everyone could identify with the loss. Everyone was asking themselves what if that had been my child, cousin, niece, nephew, or neighbor. That thought inspired lots of different reactions from people. One group of NJ firefighters started the Sandy Ground Project. They began building playgrounds all along the east coast, 26 in total one for each victim.
For more info about this wonderful organization follow this link: http://www.thesandygroundproject.org/
I found out about this because my store teamed up with other to donate supplies and labor to plant flowers in the West Islip park that would be built for Madeleine Hsu. I went back last week to see the finished park and to see how the flower beds were doing. Here is the main entrance that my coworkers and I proudly worked on.
There were some other flower beds throughout the parking lot and up to the beach. Then the playground was built on the beach. I hadn't been able to stay long enough to see the playground finished so this was the first time I was seeing the completed park.
Each playground is built specifically for the person it is named after. So some of the signs included things that Madeleine had written, said or drawn. It also had pictures of her favorite things.
As you can see from the sign this is the twenty third park they have built.
I hope that her parents can find some comfort in the fact that other children will have some place to play and enjoy being children and that their daughter will always be part of that joy.
Personally for me it was an invigorating experience. I felt like I was part of something that would help several communities heal. The families in Newtown, as I said before, hopefully can find some peace in the fact hat the names of their loved ones will be remembered. As well as remembering them and their likes and personalities in the individualization of each park. Also the community of West Islip gets a park that was damaged during Hurricane Sandy re-done in an effort to rebuild the areas damaged by the Superstorm. By participating in a project like this I feel like I have taken some kind of ownership of the situation. I helped take a negative and turn it into a positive even if in a small way.
It made me feel good to go back and see the completed playground and check on the flowers my coworkers and I had planted. There were some people lounging on the beach and a family enjoying a meal at the picnic benches that had been installed.
I had spent the entire day digging, planting flowers, and spreading mulch. I thought I would be sore but I wasn't in fact I felt relaxed. Really I felt better both physically and mentally then I had in a while. And I think it is part of doing something for other people creates a natural high. It just feels right.
As I was driving home I thought of the quote from Mr. Rodgers:
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."That was what we were doing. That is what the people in TN were trying to do along a highway over 1600 miles away from the tragedy. By helping we show our empathy with those directly impacted by the event and give ourselves hope that we can make a difference.
Tennessee is the volunteer state and I intend on doing a lot of volunteering when I move. I may not be able to donate money to various causes but I have skills and time that I can put to use.
I want to thank the Sandy Ground Project and Lowe's for allowing me to participate in this wonderful project. I look forward to future chances to do something that will impact my community.