Saturday, October 11, 2014

Moral Dilemma

What to Do? 

There is now a roadside memorial where the young woman was killed. If you look at the top right of the picture, you can just see my house. In the background, behind the leaves and brush, is the fencing for my front paddock. You can see the burn marks on the tree and surrounding ground. 

There is a floral cross, bouquets, little electric candles and purple ribbon with balloons on the burned tree. 

Eventually, I would like to have the remains of the tree removed. My propery line is perhaps another fifty feet to the left. The tree is at least five feet off the road. Have to wonder had it not been there to stop the car where it would have landed. Likely on my lawn or even through my fence. The ground slopes down from the road bed. 

The blind hill on the road is further up to the left. There is tree on the other side of the road with purple ribbon on it. It's the first tree she hit.

While I understand and respect the family's and friends's needs to mark this spot, how long? And, will it start to attract people here? I've already consulted with the police about the danger. Anyone standing alongside the road in that spot is in danger, and cars parked along the road there are also at risk. The road has no shoulder and there is no place to park nearby--except my driveway.

So far, in the rain today, I have not seen any activity. There may never be any more than perhaps a few close friends. However, Ms. Pappas was a very popular school teacher in North Brunswick. I've since found out she taught sixth grade. I am still a little worried that school children and young teens might start to show up.

If no one does come, all well and good.

But then the rest of the dilemma. How long should the memorial stay there? The balloons and ribbon are pretty ostentatious. The flowers are going to dry up and just kind of lie there. The cross? Who knows?

There is a controversy all over the country about these memorials, and now I find myself in the midst of it. I would just as soon take down the tree and clean up the burned debris so the grass will grow.

As Sandburg would say,
"Shovel them under and let me work—
                                          I am the grass; I cover all."


  1. Technically, it's on your property so you can do as you wish. Difficult issue, though - is there some town rule/procedure for memorials? Can you ask the police to remove it as a hazard and then immediately have the tree taken down?

    1. All good questions. Out of respect for the family, I am leaving it. There was a suggestion on one site that about 40 days was a suitable amount of time.

      After that, I could contact the husband, I suppose and talk to him about it. I don't want to step on anyone's feelings after such a horrible tragedy. I could offer to let him plant a new tree there as a memorial, I suppose.

    2. Good ideas. It is hard for you, too, to have such a reminder of a horrible tragedy where you'll see it every day.

  2. ;that sort of memorial is becoming very common over here too.

    the other issue, of course, is the safety of the tree. from the look of it, it may or may not stand a gale. over here, if you had such a tree on your land that was liable to fall over and land on someone, you'd have a responsibility to get it checked out, and felled if necessary. i expect it's similar in the states. i'd certainly get it looked at by a tree surgeon to see whether it is going to stay up or not. and if it isn't safe, i have no doubt that the persons family would have no problem with you felling it. they also would rightly be concerned about the safety of anyone wanting to be there....

  3. It is a dilemma. I think if you contacted the police in your area with your concerns for safety of others there may be a resolution. I don't think they would have a problem with taking down the memorial and the tree. Perhaps the husband would like some of the things that people left there that are salvageable.

  4. I don't understand anyone wishing to memorialize a place of tragedy. I see many such shrines every day, by the freeway, on side roads and near crosswalks. Even without people visiting them, they are a dangerous distraction.
    You could get an arborist to certify that the tree is dangerous, as Claire suggested. Then the decision will make itself.

  5. they are, indeed, a distraction....