Mourning a Rock
Rhymes with Purple
Posted by Wobert on 05/04/03.

Ok, I'm probably going to get a lot of hate for this, but that's never stopped me before.

This is something I wrote for school. Don't worry, I gave you the unrevised version so it wouldn't seem too out of place.

Death in the Family?

Due to a relatively recent decision by the New Hampshire State Legislature, I cannot call myself a New Hampshire native. I was born in Vermont, but I did most of my growing up, or at least most of it that I can remember, right around Franconia Notch. The White Mountains were my childhood home, and as such The Old Man in the Mountain was a prominent and memorable (if not actually important) figure in my life. So I was obviously upset when I heard that the boulders had broken free of the face and tumbled down, but I wasnít hit nearly as hard as I apparently should have been.

My mom and grandmother, both New Hampshire natives, have been in mourning for the past two days. Iím not sure if there have actually been tears shed, but Iíve seen them standing bright in my motherís eyes several times since the collapse. All the radio stations carried updates on and discussion about the collapse through the whole day yesterday. This morning, the newspaper had a front-page feature on the fall of the state symbol. Amidst all this grief, I felt like I had shown up for a wedding wearing an aloha shirt. I was bummed out by the news of the collapse, I was a little depressed by the realization that my young cousins would never even see the Old Man, and then I moved on. It was just a bunch of rocks, after all.

A large part of my lukewarm reaction may be the disgust I began to feel when, as I was driving through Concord, the deejay cut into my oldies music to tell us what the Office of Emergency Management was doing to handle the crisis. Then he brought on an emergency dispatcher to get her take on things, and talked about the first police officer on the scene. I was horrified. Tragic as it may be, the collapse of the Great Stone Face is not an emergency by any stretch of the imagination. I mean, really-even the experts have agreed that the landslide could have occurred a full day earlier without anyone knowing. If an event can go unnoticed for a day and a half, I donít see how one can justify getting the Office of Emergency Management involved. Even if someone had seen the face start to crumble, what would emergency responders do? Catch the rocks as the fell? Apply a huge Band-Aid?

I became even more disgusted when people started to talk about memorial services. Memorial services. For a rock. Admittedly a very special rock, but a rock nonetheless. The pastor in church this morning lamented the fact that the only comforting words he could find to deal with the Profileís tragic demise were those of that old funeral refrain: ďThe Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.Ē Donít we have anything better to do with our time than to mourn a landslide that did not claim a single life or injure anyone? We must live a pretty pathetic existence if we waste so much energy being sad about a boulder.

The Old Manís sudden absence obviously does create some messy problems for the residents of the Granite State. Our state symbol is gone, but it remains on our license plates and our quarters. When he was still around, the Old Man was one of the most-photographed spots in New Hampshire, if not the country. The Old Man in the Mountain was used for many things in this state, and now itís gone. But so what? Do we really expect to lose tourism dollars because one landmark suddenly isnít there anymore? Did people really come up from Arizona just to snap some pictures of this natural sculpture? Of course not. And I donít see any reason why we need to stop using the Old Man as our state symbol. Many other states put their pride in historic events or people-John Glenn, the Wright brothers, Davy Crockett, the Alamo. South Carolinaís state flag still includes the Confederate flag, a symbol which is both outdated and, in many cases, offensive. Thus the problems created by the collapse of the Old Man, so daunting at first, arenít really problems at all. We donít need to change our state symbol, we wonít lose any tourist dollars, and we definitely donít need to rebuild the Great Stone Face.

The people of New Hampshire are now experiencing one of the earliest stages of mourning: denial. We as humans are so desperate to control nature, so unwilling to admit that there might be forces out there more powerful than we, and finally so immature that we cannot accept the inevitable fate of the Old Man in the Mountain. The most wondrous aspect of the Old Man in the Mountain was the mystery of its creation. Almost before men had even stopped being monkeys, a natural outcropping of rock had been shaped into a remarkable semblance of a person. It is almost not possible for such a sculpture to have come about by coincidence, but whether by coincidence or an act of God, the Old Man was created entirely without human help. Thatís why it was amazing. Mt. Rushmore is amazing as a human accomplishment. The Profile was astounding as a natural occurrence. Now Nature has destroyed one of its miracles, and we just need to deal with that.

My mother has proposed a trip, sometime in the next few weeks, to go to Franconia Notch and ďpay our respectsĒ to the Old Man. I will join my family on the trip, I will look at the spot where the face used to be, and then I will go comfort Mom. Since I have not been struck with such profound grief, it is my responsibility to help those who have.

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Freaky-B @ 05/04/03
"I can't justify all of the other people's reactions, but i do feel an empty spot in my heart. The old man was simply the collest thing about driving 2 hours north up 2 west milan on friday nights. I will never for get watching the visage appear from the hilside. I don't justify the office of emergency getting involved, but the politicians for the most part care about what the people care about and people care about the old man. The more the politicians appear to care, the more likely they are going to endear themselves to the people. On rebuilding, I hope they do, so one day my kids can expierance a similar ammount of awe. On the state symbol part, i agree with (hold on my cat is pissed that i'm not petting him and typing instead -- okay i just kicked him out where was I?) Ohhhhh yes many states use symbols that are long gone to represent themselves, i see no problem continuing to use the old man. "


Spoonman @ 05/04/03
"Yeah that monument had symbolic meaning for all of us New Hampshirites. I'll surely miss it."


Wobert @ 05/05/03
"I miss it too, but we just have to accept the fact that it's gone."


Freaky-B @ 05/05/03
"bad example, but are people accepting the fact that that the twin towers are gone?"


Fred @ 05/05/03
"That's really not a good example, because alot of people lost loved ones in the twin towers, so it might be harder to cope with."


Wobert @ 05/05/03
"The Twin Towers were actually a tragedy, with massive loss of human life and very concrete economic implications. The collapse of the Old Man took no lives, injured none, and the only economic cost will be that of going through all of our tourism literature and getting rid of the little picture. So it's really nothing like the Twin Towers. Nice try though."


Shadow @ 07/07/03
"*glances around* Well, hell. I have no convenient landmarks in this province that exaploded to mourn. So I'll just...yeah. Eat some pie."


stormyrain @ 08/18/03
"it really is a pathetic existance if a rock is mourned. i mean come on sure its all well and good to be upset over it, but a memorial service??? a bit carried away... but thats just the opinion of a jersey girl..."


Iamme @ 11/06/03
"I said something about the Old Man in a paper for a class, and I think I might have lost points for saying it, simply because it doesn't exist anymore and the guy grading the paper knew that and commented on it. I know very well that it doesn't exist anymore! I'm from New Hampshire, and I probably knew before most people living here! And big deal if it doesn't exist anymore...am I not allowed to mention it as a natural formation in a paper anymore?"



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