Archive for the ‘Memorials’ Category

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Beirut Barracks Memorial

It was great early-spring weather for a bike ride today.  There was no longer any sign of the recent cold, rainy conditions that took away the cherry blossoms.  Instead, the skies were clear.  There was a slight breeze.  And the temperature was just warm enough to hint of summer’s approach.  So on this lunchtime bike ride I rode over to Arlington National Cemetery (MAP), and went for a long walk on the grounds.  And it was during this walk that I visited the Beirut Barracks Memorial.

The Beirut Barracks Memorial honors the 241 American servicemen, comprised of 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers, who were killed in the October 23, 1983 terrorist bombing of the Marines barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. The bombing occurred during the Lebanese Civil War, when two truck bombs carrying what the FBI called the largest non-nuclear bomb in history, detonated by suicide bombers affiliated with a splinter group of the Iranian-and Syrian-supported Hezbollah organization, struck separate buildings housing United States and French military members of the Multinational Peacekeeping Force in Lebanon killing the U.S. servicemen, as well as 58 French peacekeepers, six civilians, and the two suicide attackers.

The memorial consists of a Lebanese cedar tree and a stone marker which reads, “‘Let Peace Take Root’  This cedar of Lebanon tree grows on living memory of the Americans killed in the Beirut terrorist attach and all victims of terrorism throughout the world.  Dedicated during the first memorial ceremony for these victims.  Given by: No Great Love. October 23, 1984.  A Time of Remembrance.”  And it is located in the green expanse of Arlington National’s Section 59, near the final resting place of some of the first Americans to shed blood in the fight against Middle East terrorism.  Twenty-one service members who lost their lives in the Beirut Barracks Bombing are also buried in Section 59 near the memorial.

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Red Cross Memorial Memorial to Workers Killed in Service in Vietnam

The first American Red Cross Field Directors were sent to South Vietnam in February of 1962.  The last Red Cross staff members to serve in country departed just over 11 years later, in March of 1973.  During the intervening years there were five men and women of the American Red Cross who died in Vietnam in service to the Armed Forces.  And on today’s bike ride, I went to see a small memorial to them, which is located on the grounds of The American National Red Cross Headquarters, which is located at 430 17th Street (MAP), just a few blocks from the White House.

The five Red Cross workers killed while serving in Vietnam were Vernon M. Lyons, Paul E. Samuels, Hannah E. Crews, Virginia E. Kirsch and Lucinda J. Richter.  But other than their names and the dates of their deaths which are inscribed on the memorial, there was no information  about who they were or how they were killed.  So I looked into it later, and this is what I found out.

Of  the five Red Cross workers killed, Vernon Lyons was the first.  One of 300 American Red Cross field directors, hospital personnel and recreation workers serving in the war zone at that time, he on August 29, 1967, when his jeep exploded a mine near Danang.  The 48-year old Lyons, who was from Wichita Falls, Texas, was serving as an assistant field director attached to the 1st Marine Division.

Paul Samuels was killed on January 25, 1968, at the Khe Sanh Combat base, in northwestern Quảng Trị Province, Republic of Vietnam, during the initial stages of the Tet Offensive.  At the time of his death, the 44-year old was serving as an American Red Cross field director.

Little information is available about Hannah Crews other than that she died in a jeep accident in Bien Hoa on October 2,1969.  Similarly,  the only information I could find on Lucinda Richter was that she died of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder,  in Cam Ranh Bay on February 9, 1971.

Virginia Kirsch, or Ginny as she was known to her friends, was perhaps one of the most tragic stories because she murdered by someone she went there to serve.  The 22-year old from Brookfield, Ohio, had been in Vietnam for only two weeks serving as one of 627 in-country recreation workers, affectionately referred to as Donut Dollies, when she was stabbed to death on August 16, 1970 in her billet at the headquarters of the 25th Infantry in Cu Chi, 20 miles northwest of Saigon.

An investigation determined that she was murdered by an Army soldier named Gregory W. Kozlowski, who was arrested and charged.  However, an Army Medical Review Board eventually issued a finding that Kozlowski was unable to determine right and wrong at the time of Ginny’s murder and that he was unable to cooperate intelligently in his own defense.  As a result, charges against him were dismissed and he was never prosecuted for Ginny’s murder, the first in the history of American Red Cross service overseas.

Because Lyons, Samuels, Crews, Richter and Kirsch were not in the military at the time of their deaths, their names are not inscribed on The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.  But their service and their lives are not forgotten.

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Note:  After the charges for killing Ginny Kirsch were dismissed, Kozlowski was discharged and placed on the Temporary Disabled Retired List and his medical records were transferred to the Veterans hospital at Wood, Wisconsin.  Twelve years later Kozlowski was arrested for the murder of a man in Milwaukee.  He was ultimately found, again, to be mentally ill and remanded to a series of mental health institutions within the State of Wisconsin.  However, after years of treatment and therapy, the psychiatric doctors deemed Kozlowski to no longer be a threat to either himself or others . In January of 2008, the Circuit Court granted Kozlowski a conditional release to a group home in Milwaukee. There has been no further information regarding his whereabouts since that date.

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In addition to the individual graves of those buried in Arlington National Cemetery, there are also a number of monuments and memorials.  The most well-known of which is the iconic Tomb of the Unknowns. But there are also dozens of other monuments and memorials to a variety of people, groups and events interspersed throughout the cemetery’s 624 acres. And on this lunchtime bike ride, I sought out and found the memorial to the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

The Space Shuttle Columbia was the first orbiter in NASA’s Space Shuttle fleet.  It launched for the first flight of the Space Shuttle Program on April 12, 1981, and provided over 22 years of service, successfully completing 27 missions before tragedy struck on February 1, 2003.

Near the end of its 28th mission, as it was travelling at a rate of approximately 8,000 miles per hour, the Columbia disintegrated as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere.  This created a debris field which encompassed hundreds of miles across Northeast Texas and into Louisiana.  The orbitor’s disintegration resulted in the deaths of all seven crew members aboard, whose remains were found along with the the nose cap in Sabine County, Texas.  The crew members killed on its final mission were: Rick Husband, the Commander; William C. McCool, the Pilot; Michael P. Anderson, Payload Commander/Mission Specialist 3; David M. Brown, Mission Specialist 1; Kalpana Chawla, Mission Specialist 2; Laurel Clark, Mission Specialist 4; and Ilan Ramon, Payload Specialist 1.   Nearly 84,000 pieces of debris from the orbitor were also found.  They are stored in the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center.

Less than two months after the disaster, President George W. Bush signed into law the “Emergency Wartime Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2003”. The “Columbia Orbiter Memorial Act” is contained in that supplemental appropriations act, which is now known as Public Law Number 108-11.  The Law authorized the Secretary of the Army, in consultation with NASA, to place the memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe, accompanied by over 400 family members, former astronauts, and friends dedicated the memorial on February 2, 2004.

I found the memorial by using a new app I recently downloaded to my phone.  It is called ANC Explorer, and it’s a free app available for download for both iPhone and Android smartphones.  ANC Explorer can also be launched using a traditional computer, and accessed at the cemetery using the free WiFi available at the Welcome Center and Administration Building.  The app is also available for public use on computer kiosks at the cemetery.

ANC Ecxplorer allows users to locate gravesites and other points of interest throughout the cemetery by providing step-by-step directions to these locations.  The app also allows users to view and save front-and-back photos of a marker or monument.  Further, the app provides emergency and event notifications, self-guided tours, and the ability to share your experiences and photos on popular social media sites. Users can also save favorite places in the new “My Content” feature to create their own custom walking tours.

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The Harry S. Truman Scholarship

There is a long tradition of creating presidential monuments and memorials to honor our country’s past presidents and perpetuate their legacies.  This is especially the case in our nation’s capital.  The most well-known local presidential memorials are the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials.  Some presidents even have more than one memorial to them here in D.C.  For example, Franklin Roosevelt’s original desk-sized memorial in front of the National Archives Building and the 7.5 acre FDR Memorial near the Tidal Basin, which are the smallest and largest presidential memorials in the city.

But on this bike ride I went to see one of the most unusual of all the presidential memorials – the one created for Harry S. Truman.  Or to be more accurate, I went to the house where the memorial resides.  Because instead of a statue, the official Federal memorial to our nation’s 33rd President is the Harry S. Truman Scholarship.  And under law, it is the only Federal memorial allowed to honor its namesake president.

The scholarship was created by Congress in 1975 as a living memorial to honor President Truman.  It is a highly competitive $30,000 Federal scholarship towards a graduate education, and is granted to approximately 55-65 U.S. college juniors each year for demonstrated leadership potential and a commitment to public service.

The scholarship is administered by The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, which is an independent Federal executive branch agency.  The foundation is headquartered in a brick rowhouse located at 712 Jackson Place, near Lafayette Square Park, in northwest D.C.’s Downtown neighborhood.  The building I saw on this ride was not all that interesting.  But learning all about the foundation and scholarship made up for that. 

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James A. Garfield Memorial

Despite serving in office for only 200 days, President James A. Garfield is, in my opinion, one of the most unique and interesting Presidents in history.  For this reason, and because it was on this day in 1881 that President Garfield succumbed to wounds inflicted by an assassin 80 days earlier, for this bike ride I chose to ride to the James A. Garfield Memorial.  It is located on the grounds of the United States Capitol Building in the circle at First Street and Maryland Avenue (MAP ) in the Downtown area of Southwest D.C.

Born in Orange Township, now Moreland Hills, near Cleveland, Ohio on November 19, 1831, James Abram Garfield was the last of the seven Presidents who were born in log cabins.  His father, Abram Garfield, was from Worcester, New York, and came to Ohio to woo his childhood sweetheart, Mehitabel Ballou.  When he got there and found out she was married already, he married her sister Eliza, instead.  His father died when he was still a baby, and he was raised by his widowed mother and elder brother, next door to their cousins, in virtual poverty.

Before eventually entering politics, Garfield first unsuccessfully tried his hand at being a frontier farmer.  Then, after completing his education, he worked teaching Greek and other classical languages for his alma mater in Ohio (now called Hiram College), where he met and eventually married one of his students, Lucretia Rudolph.  Together they had seven children, one of whom lived to be 102 and did not die until the 1970’s.  He also served in the Union Army during the Civil War.

While still serving in the Army in early 1862, Garfield began his political career.  He ran for the U.S. Congress in Ohio’s newly redrawn and heavily Republican 19th District, and won.  During his time in Congress, Garfield supported and voted for the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson in 1866.  Also during his time in Congress, Garfield served on a specially-created Electoral Commission that decided the disputed outcome of the 1876 Presidential election, giving the presidency to his party’s candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes.

Then, while still serving as a Congressman in 1879, Garfield was elected by the Ohio Senate to replace John Sherman as U.S. Senator from Ohio because Senator Sherman resigned his seat to campaign for the presidency.  Garfield then went on, unexpectedly, to beat Sherman in the primaries and then win the 1880 presidential election.  As a result, there was a period of time, following the presidential election, where Garfield was a sitting congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senator-elect, and the U.S. President-elect, all at the same time.

Some other interesting aspects of Garfield include that he was the first primarily left-handed President, but he was also ambidextrous.  It is said you could ask him a question in English and he could simultaneously write the answer in Greek with one hand and in Latin with the other.  Also, as a minister in the Disciples of Christ Christian Church, Garfield is the only President to ever have been a preacher.  Also, as a former professor of languages, Garfield was the first President to campaign in multiple languages. He often spoke in German with German-Americans he encountered along the campaign trail.

On the morning of July 2, 1881, just four months into his presidency, President Garfield went to D.C.’s Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station, then located at the corner of Sixth Street and B Street, and the present site of the West Building of the National Gallery of Art.  He was there to catch a train on his way to a short vacation.  As he walked through the station toward the waiting train, a man named Charles Guiteau stepped behind the President and fired two shots.  Guiteau was an attorney and political office-seeker who was a relative stranger to the President and his administration in an era when Federal positions were doled out on a “who you know” basis. When his requests for an appointment were ignored, a furious Guiteau stalked the President, vowing revenge.

In comparison to the enormous amount of security now surrounding the President when he travels, it is incredible to think that when President Garfield was killed he was walking through a public train station with no bodyguard or security detail.  He was scheduled to travel alone, and was being seen off at the station by two of his sons and two friends.  One of those friends was Robert Todd Lincoln, the son of the first President to be assassinated.

Guiteau’s first bullet grazed Garfield’s arm.  The bullet second passed below the president’s pancreas and lodged near his spine, and could not be found by doctors.  Doctors made several unsuccessful attempts to remove the bullet while Garfield lay in his White House bedroom, awake and in pain.  Alexander Graham Bell, who was one of Garfield’s physicians, invented a metal detector to try to find the location of the bullet but the machine kept malfunctioning, apparently due to the metal framework of the bed Garfield lay in.  Because of the rarity of metal bed frames at the time, the cause of the malfunction was not discovered.

By early September, Garfield, who was recuperating at a seaside retreat in New Jersey, appeared to be recovering.  However, he took a turn for the worse and succumbed to his injuries.  He died 80 days after being shot.  Historical accounts vary as to the exact cause of Garfield’s death.  Some believe that his physicians’ treatments, which included the constant probing of the bullet wound with unsterile instruments, may have led to blood poisoning.  His treatment also included the administration of quinine, morphine, brandy and calomel, as well as feeding him through the rectum.  Many believe that the medical treatment he received eventually led to, or at least hastened, his demise. Autopsy reports at the time said that pressure from his internal wound had created an aneurism, which was the likely cause of death.  Garfield’s spine, which shows the hole created by the bullet, is kept as a historical artifact by the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

Garfield was the second President to be assassinated, after Abraham Lincoln in 1865.  At 200 days, Garfield’s presidency was the second shortest, behind William Henry Harrison’s presidency, of just 31 days.  Also, Garfield is the second youngest President to die in office, behind John F. Kennedy, who was 127 days younger that Garfield was at the time of their deaths.

This ride was an interesting one, much like Garfield himself was interesting.  And it was not a very long ride, but it was for a President who did not serve for very long in office, and did not live a very long life.  Garfield worked as a farmer, a janitor, a bell ringer, a carpenter, a canal boat driver, a college professor, a lawyer, and a preacher.  He was also a Brigadere General in the Army, a Congressman, a Senator and a U.S. President.  So I guess maybe it’s not about how long you live, but what you do while you’re alive that counts.  

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Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial

Arlington House, also known as the Robert E. Lee Memorial, and formerly named the Custis-Lee Mansion, is a 19th-century Greek revival style mansion located atop a rolling hill in what is now Arlington National Cemetery (MAP), in Arlington County, Virginia.  And on this lunchtime bike ride I ventured over the Arlington Memorial Bridge to Virginia to see and find out more about the historic house.

The mansion, overlooking the national capital city landscape across the Potomac River, has a long and storied past.  Construction began in 1802, but was not actually completed until 1818. It was owned by his adopted grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, son of John Parke Custis who himself was a child of Martha Washington by her first marriage, and a ward of President Washington.  It was originally intended as a living memorial to President George Washington. To design the estate Custis hired George Hadfield, an English architect who came to D.C. in 1785 to help construct the U.S. Capitol Building.

Custis began living in the house in 1802, in the north wing, which was the first part completed. Two years later he married Mary Lee Fitzhugh, and she moved in with him. Construction of the house continued around them for the first sixteen years of their marriage, and they lived in Arlington House for the rest of their lives .  They were buried together on the property after their deaths in 1857 and 1853, respectively.

Their only child, Mary Anna Randolph Custis, took ownership of the property upon her father’s death. She moved in and lived there with her childhood friend and distant cousin, who she had married years earlier. His name was Robert E. Lee. They would have seven children, six of whom were born at the estate.

Contrary to popular belief, Lee never actually owned the Arlington estate.  However, as Mary’s husband he did serve as custodian of the property, which by that time had fallen into disrepair. Although it would take several years, Lee returned the property and its holdings to good order by 1859. But that would only last a couple of years. It would not be long until Lee would leave Arlington Mansion, never to return again.

On May 24, 1861, just hours after the Commonwealth of Virginia ratified an ordinance of secession, thus joining the Confederate States of America, over 3,500 U.S. Army soldiers, commanded by General Irvin McDowell, streamed across the Potomac River into northern Virginia and captured the Arlington estate.  It would soon be seized by the U.S. government when Mrs. Lee failed to pay, in person, taxes levied against the estate.  It was then offered for public sale, at which time a tax commissioner purchased the property for “government use, for war, military, charitable and educational purposes.”

It wasn’t until 1864, when the increasing number of battle fatalities was outpacing the burial capacity of D.C. cemeteries, that 200 acres of Arlington plantation were set aside as a cemetery. Upon the authority of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, General Montgomery C. Meigs, Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army, appropriated the grounds for use as a military cemetery.  Meigs believed Lee committed treason in deciding to fight against the Union, and denying Lee use of the mansion after the war was politically advantageous.  So he decided that a large number of burials should occur close to Arlington House to render it unlivable should the Lee family ever attempt to return.  And he was successful.  The mansion never again served as the Lee family’s, or anyone else’s, home.

Throughout the war, the Arlington estate also provided assistance to the thousands of African-Americans slaves fleeing the South.  The U.S. government even dedicated a planned community for freed slaves on the southern portion of the property, which was named Freedman’s Village.  The government granted land to more than 1,100 freed slaves, where they farmed and lived until the turn of the 20th century.

Neither Robert E. Lee, nor his wife ever attempted to recover control of Arlington House. However, after Lee’s death in 1870, his son, George Washington Custis Lee, brought an action for ejectment in the Circuit Court of Alexandria (today Arlington County).  Custis Lee, as eldest son of the Lees, claimed the land was illegally confiscated and that, according to his grandfather’s will, he was the legal owner.  In December 1882, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, returned the property to Custis Lee, stating that confiscation of the property lacked due process. The following year Congress purchased the property back from Lee.

In 1955, Congress enacted Public Law 84-107, a joint resolution that designated the manor as the “Custis-Lee Mansion”, and as a permanent memorial to Robert E. Lee. The resolution directed the United States Secretary of the Interior to erect on the premises a memorial plaque and to correct governmental records to bring them into compliance with the designation, “thus ensuring that the correct interpretation of its history would be applied”.  Gradually the house was furnished and interpreted to the period of Robert E. Lee as specified in the legislation.  In 1972, Congress enacted Public Law 92-333, an Act that amended the previous law to designate the manor as “Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial”.  It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in October of 1966, and is currently administered by the National Park Service.

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The view from the front porch of Arlington House

 

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A September 11th Memorial Grove

On today’s lunchtime bike ride I chose to ride to a local September 11th memorial.  On past anniversaries of the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon, the World Trade Center in New York, and United Flight 93 which crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, I have observed the occasion by riding to memorials to those killed on that day.  I have been to the National 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon, as well as The Victims of the Terrorist Attack on The Pentagon Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.  But the anniversary this year falls on a weekend.  So on today’s ride to end the workweek I rode to one of a number of local memorials here in D.C. – the September 11th Memorial Grove, located in Historic Congressional Cemetery (MAP).

Within the cemetery, the grove is configured as an alley, originating across from the gravesite of John Phillip Sousa and continuing southward down a hill to the far edge of the cemetery near the Anacostia River. Because the Sousa grave is the most visited area of the cemetery, the grove draws people in and leads them on a short walk through the memorial site.

The purpose of the memorial at Congressional Cemetery is threefold. First, as a cemetery, it was a logical place to memorialize. And the trees were especially fitting for the cemetery, fitting into its memorial tradition of the use of cenotaphs, or empty tombs. The second reason is because the memorial helps in creating a renewed awareness of the cemetery, to bring more people onto the site, thus continuing the tradition of a cemetery as a gathering space. The third reason for placing the memorial grove within the cemetery was to be part of a landscape plan to re-tree the cemetery.

At the entrance to the grove is a maker containing a poem entitled, “Remembrance”.  It reads,

“For those who no longer hear noisy leaves
shimmering in the summer breeze …
For those who might have sought shelter from the
mid-day sun under a nave of gnarled hornbeams …
For those who would grieve in the quiet space
amid a grove of flowering trees …
For those who perished on September 11, 2001.”

The September 11th Memorial Grove at the cemetery is the first of a series of nine memorial groves planned for the city, with one central and eight ward-based neighborhood memorial tree groves created both to remember September 11 and to celebrate the community that surrounds it.  So I guess I know where I can go on the next eight anniversaries of that terrible day.

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A Ghost Bike in Anacostia

The summer heat was a little milder today than it has been lately, and with forecasts predicting that temperatures will be increasing to over a hundred degrees within the next few days, I decided to go for my daily bike ride a little early again today, and I made it a long one.  For today’s ride I decided to ride around southeast D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood. So I took my favorite route, going past Robert F. Kennedy Stadium and through Kingman and Heritage Islands, and started out today’s Anacostia ride on Anacostia Avenue near Benning Road.

Rather than riding on the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, I initially chose to ride on Minnesota Avenue, which parallels the trail and the river, so I could ride through residential areas. The trail has been greatly improved over the past few years, as has the quality of the Anacostia River. But the residential areas provide a better flavor of the historic and unique working-class neighborhood. And it was there that I came across a type of memorial that many people don’t even know is a memorial. I found a “ghost bike.”

By definition, “a ghost bike is a bicycle painted white and left as a memorial, usually by other cyclists, at a site where a cyclist was fatally injured by a collision with a motor vehicle.” And as I would come to find out, the ghost bike I saw on this ride, which is located in the 2600 block of Minnesota Avenue, at the corner of Minnesota Avenue and Burns Street (MAP), marks the spot where a 23-year-old cyclist named Jerrell Robert Elliott was killed by a hit and run driver just last month.

A ghost bike carries with it an extremely personal connection because it memorializes someone at the very location where that person was killed.  And Elliott lived only a few feet from where he was hit and left to die very early in the morning of July 23rd.  He was considered by family and neighbors to be a really good kid with a bright future.  As a child, he was a member of The Young Marines, the Fort Dupont Ice Arena’s youth team and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)/D.C. Police Teen Jr. Police Academy.  And he remained active as an adult.  The 23-year-old loved playing hockey and riding his bike, and is thought to have been on his way home from a local gym when he was hit.

While I was there paying my respects and taking a photo of the ghost bike and memorabilia that had been left at the site, an incredibly nice young woman from the neighborhood named Wanda stopped to talk with me.  She was friendly, and caring, and seemed to embody the best qualities of the neighborhood.  She told me a little about Elliot.  She also told me about how touched his family was by the cyclists who had brought and placed the ghost bike there.  Then she told me about two women who had stopped to help him after he was hit, but that no one had since come forward with any information about what had happened.  She said she had a bike, and we also talked about the neighborhood, and how the cycling infrastructure is not only inadequate overall, but how it has not kept pace with more affluent areas of the city.  Before she left, she stopped to clean up a broken vase and some debris at the base of the ghost bike, further exemplifying to me how thoughtful and welcoming so many people in the Anacostia neighborhood are.

In addition to the personal aspect of a ghost bike memorial, its meaning and appearance also invoke a reminder of the vulnerability of all cyclists.  According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 726 cyclists were killed in this country in bicycle/motor vehicle crashes in 2014, the most recent year for which statistics are available.  So as I rode back to my office at the end of my ride, I rode with a renewed awareness of the need to always ride defensively on my bike, and to drive cautiously when I’m in a car.  I hope all of you reading this will do the same.

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NOTE: Police are still searching for the driver of the car that hit Elliott. The suspect was driving a gray colored vehicle, possibly a Volvo, according to a release from the MPD. “We’re looking for anyone who may have seen anything—either leading up to the actual crash or even after the crash,” according to Officer Robert Wilkins.  Information can be provided anonymously through The D.C. Crime Solvers Program by calling (202) 727-9099, or you can text your tip to 50411.

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The Samuel Hahnemann Monument

Located on the east side of Scott Circle, near the cross section of Massachusetts and Rhode Island Avenues (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s DuPont Circle neighborhood, is a memorial to a German physician and the founder of the homeopathic school of medicine. Known as the Samuel Hahnemann Monument, or simply Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, it was the destination for this lunchtime bike ride.

Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann was born in Meissen, Saxony, near Dresden, Germany, on April 10, 1755. He studied medicine for two years at Leipzig but later, citing Leipzig’s lack of clinical facilities, he moved to Vienna to continue his studies.  He would go on to graduate with honors from the University of Erlangen in August of 1779.  He then settled down in Mansfield, Saxony, where he became a village doctor, got married, and raised a family that would eventually include eleven children.

Within approximately five years of starting his practice, Hahnemann became dissatisfied with the state of medicine at that time. Complaining that the medicine he had been taught sometimes did the patient more harm than good, he actually quit practicing medicine. Having become proficient as a young man in a number of languages, including English, French, Italian, Greek and Latin, he began working as a translator and teacher of languages. But he continued to be concerned about the medical practices of his day, especially practices such as bloodletting, leeching, and purging.  And he vowed to investigate the causes of what he considered to be medicine’s “errors.”

It was during this time, while he was working as a translator, that he was tasked with translating William Cullen’s “A Treatise on the Materia Medica.” While Hahnemann was contemplating information in the book he was translating, he began experimenting on himself. And through this experimentation he came up with the principle of “Similia Similibus Curentur” or “like cures like,” meaning a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people would cure similar symptoms in sick people. And it was this principle that became the basis for an alternative approach to medicine which he gave the name homeopathy.

Following years of fundraising efforts by the American Institute of Homeopathy, this monument to the founder of homeopathy was dedicated in 1900. The monument was significant at the time because Hahnemann was the first foreigner not associated with the American Revolution to be honored with a statue in D.C. Among the thousands of attendees at the dedication ceremony were prominent citizens such as President William McKinley, Attorney General John W. Griggs, and Army General John Moulder Wilson. The Classical Revival monument consists of an exedra designed by architect Julius Harder, and a life-sized statue by American sculptor Charles Henry Niehaus, whose works include The John Paul Jones Memorial and several statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol Building.
The sculpture sits beneath a red, yellow and green mosaic dome, and the monument contains four relief panels, which depict Hahnemann’s life as a student, chemist, teacher and physician.

Because homeopathic remedies were actually less dangerous than those of nineteenth-century medical orthodoxy, many medical practitioners began using them.  At the turn of the twentieth century, there were approximately 14,000 practitioners and 22 schools dedicated to homeopathy in this country alone. However, although homeopathy continues to exist today, it is nowhere near as popular or accepted as it once was.  As medical science advanced, and large-scale studies found homeopathy to be no more effective than a placebo, homeopathy declined sharply in this country.  The number of practitioners has decreased dramatically.  And schools either closed or converted to modern methods, with the last pure homeopathic school in this country closing in the 1920’s.

But the monument to the pseudo-science’s founder remains.  In fact, it recently underwent an extensive restoration process, which was completed in 2011.  Today, the Samuel Hahnemann Monument is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it and the surrounding property are owned and maintained by the National Park Service.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

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Saint Mother Théodore Guérin

Saint Mother Théodore Guérin is a statue by American artist Teresa Clark, and it is located on the grounds of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Catholic University neighborhood. The statue serves as a memorial to Théodore Guérin and was a gift from the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, an apostolic congregation of Catholic women which she founded in Indiana in 1840. It was this public artwork that was the destination for this lunchtime bike ride.

Born Anne-Thérèse Guérin in France in 1798, she knew from an early age that she wanted to devote her life to the church. When she was ten years old, she was allowed to take her First Communion, which was two years earlier than the custom of the time. And it was on that day that confided to the priest that she wished to enter a religious community. But at the age of 15, tragedy struck her family when her father was killed. Having already lost two children, the grief of losing her husband was too much for her mother to bear, and she fell into a deep and incapacitating depression. So Anne-Thérèse took on the responsibility of caring for her mother and sister and the family’s home. It wasn’t until years later, when Anne-Thérèse was 25 years old, that her mother recognized the depth of her daughter’s devotion, that she permitted her to leave to join a religious order.

Anne-Thérèse entered the young congregation of the Sisters of Providence of Ruillé-sur-Loir, where she was given the religious name Sister St. Théodore. She was first sent to teach at Preuilly-sur-Claise in central France. During her career in France, Sister St. Théodore also taught at St. Aubin parish school in Rennes and taught and visited the sick and poor in Soulaines in the Diocese of Angers. In 1939 Sister St. Théodore would be asked to travel to the United States to assist the Diocese of Vincennes, Indiana, by providing assistance and religious instruction to the great influx of Catholic immigrants of French, Irish and German descent. Although she was at first unsure of her abilities to complete such a mission, after considerable discernment Sister Théodore agreed.

Despite the humble resources available to them, in July 1841 Sister Théodore and the along with some other sisters opened St. Mary’s Academy for Young Ladies, which later became Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.  Over the next decade she also helped establish parish schools at Jasper, St. Peter’s, Vincennes, Madison, Fort Wayne and Terre Haute, all in Indiana, and at St. Francisville in Illinois. In 1853, she opened establishments in Evansville, Indiana and North Madison, Indiana; in 1854, at Lanesville, Indiana; and in 1855 at Columbus, Indiana, south of Indianapolis.  She also assisted in establishing two orphanages in Vincennes, and free pharmacies at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and in Vincennes.

Sister Théodore also proved to be a skilled businesswoman and leader as well as a beloved general superior.  By the time of Mother Théodore’s death in 1856, the Sisters of Providence congregation had grown from six sisters and four postulants to 67 professed members, nine novices and seven postulants.  Since that time more than 5,200 women have entered the Sisters of Providence.  Currently there are nearly 350 sisters in the institute, roughly 300 of whom live and minister from the motherhouse grounds in Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana.  Other sisters minister in 17 U.S. states and here in D.C., as well as in Asia.

Sister St. Théodore was canonized a saint on October 15, 2006, and continues to be a woman who inspires people more than a century and a half after her death.  She is a mentor for people today because she was an educator, a businesswoman, a pharmacist, a leader and, most of all, a strong, faith-filled woman.  She even inspired Teresa Clark, the artist who was commissioned to create the statue for the shrine.  Clark was a non-religious person, but was so was moved by the story of the Saint Mother that at the age of 50 she was baptized Catholic.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]