Photo by Paul Witt, courtesy Gettysburg CVB.
Cannons are silent before the beginning of a re-enactment at Gettysburg National Military Park.
I'm back in the Majestic for today's panels and workshops; they started a little late this morning so am juggling interview times. Right now sitting in on a presentation on the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Ground.
The organization seems to manage to reach into so many areas – lobbying successfully to land a National Heritage Area, but also creation of summer camp for kids (they do everything from tour Montpelier to bike Gettysburg to develop podcasts), Elderhostel programs, teacher education programs through Northern Virginia Community College, service learning through Harpers Ferry public schools, the publication of three, four books now, partnerships with regional and state tourism organizations, schools, scholars, in advance of Civil War Sesquicentennial. An interesting and effective model for a nonprofit, combining academe and tourism, education and lobbying.
We're watching a film about the summer program, lovely fade-outs from children in modern dress to children in historic dress. Young people telling the stories of young people from the Civil War, including Annie Brown, the daughter of John Brown. I didn't know her story – she chose to go with her father instead of stay with the rest of her family, to help hide his presence in Harpers Ferry, and apparently nearly went mad after he was arrested.
Lends an extra layer to a statement from one of the young narrative voices: "The decisions we make as children determine the outcome of our lives."
We hear about the John Browns, the Jefferson Davises, the Abraham Lincolns, the Clara Bartons, the Robert E. Lees – the major figures in the war, the big stories – the trend I keep hearing over and over at this conference and in the books by its speakers is the idea of the small stories, the war in microcosm, to borrow a word from Dr. Ayers' book, how those mere four years, those massive four years, impacted parents, children, brothers, sisters, wives, husbands, towns, slaves and freedmen, at the close-to-home and close-to-heart level.
Forgot to mention yesterday: this is a town where history and present-day constantly collide, merge into each other. While sitting in this 80-year-old theater yesterday evening, watching the images of the 1860s on the screen, I felt a deep rumbling in the floor and outside the walls – thought it was a train, and then heard the blast of its horn repeat, the sound of wheels on tracks, headed south, finally fading.