I live on a battlefield.
It’s hard to forget. There are memorials, historical markers, road signs and billboards announcing it. The names of creeks and ridges are synonymous with battles. There are military graveyards next to schools and roads. Cannons point over the city. Tourists come from around the world to see it.
I live in Chattanooga, home of the Choo Choo, The Battle Above The Clouds, Chickamauga Creek and Missionary Ridge, the first step on Sherman’s march to the sea.
We have the fastest internet in the country for the same reason the second bloodiest battle of the U.S. Civil War was fought nearby – geography. We sit where the Tennessee River carves a gap through the Cumberland Plateau. Internet trunk lines and railroads naturally gravitated to the point of least resistance. It’s a natural gateway.
Almost 50,000 men were killed or gravely wounded in multiple battles around the besieged city. The first national parks were created here to make sure no one ever forgot. The Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Parks are promoted as great places for families to picnic.
It’s an odd esthetic.
If that’s all there was to the story it would be a depressing place but it’s not. And that’s the point.
It’s a survival zone.
A full 2% of the U.S. population was killed in the Civil War. New studies gaining acceptance now estimate the dead at 750,000 soldiers. Today that would translate to more than six million people.
But that means 98% of the people survived.
They built a new city over the old one. They rebuilt the railroads for the Chattanooga Choo Choo. They harnessed the power of the rivers to generate electricity. They built interstates and ran internet cables through the same mountain passes soldiers marched.
Today I walk the streets of a city that has survived some of the worst carnage in our country’s history. I get coffee. I walk my dog. I am not afraid.
The idea that cowards placing a few publicity-generating bombs against defenseless marathoners is going to make us all quake in our boots is pathetic. It shows an ignorance of who we are and where we walk every day.
I walk on a battlefield.
My father and grandfather were soldiers. We are a nation born of risk-takers and adventurers. We have conquered oceans, deserts, mountains, skies and outer space. We run 26.2 miles for fun.
We take battlefields and turn them into parks to remind us of the sacrifices made for freedom. We will not run from those who threaten freedom bought with such a price.
You will find us standing.
Photo of the Chattanooga National Cemetery by Hal Jespersen at en.wikipedia. Released into the public domain (by the author). Other photos by Dennis Ritchie.