Last week, we remembered the devastation and loss of life of 9/11 in very solemn tributes. What I found even more frightening was the horror wrought by domestic terrorists on Jan. 6, although the destruction was not on the same scale. I find it difficult to believe that folks would take to violence to invade the Capitol to overthrow our government. Both of these events were determined to destroy our democracy.

My extensive travel over my 97 years has taught me how difficult it can be for folks living under other forms of government. I am grateful for the opportunity to travel and learn the uniqueness and traditions of each place, such as the rain forests of the Amazon, the glaciers of Alaska, the romantic canals of Venice, the startling waterfalls of Argentina. I saw the amazing Golden Buddha of China and even walked part of the expanse of the Great Wall. I saw the Sphinx of Egypt, the Parthenon of Greece, and the Pyramids of Mexico. There was great beauty in the sculptures of Italy and the breath-taking gems of architecture of houses of worship, most probably slave-built. I’ll always remember these masterpieces. Probably the most haunting experience I ever had in my travels was going into the dark attic where Anne Frank wrote her story. The horror of man’s hatred and bigotry was palpable in that room. 

What made my travels even more precious to me was the opportunity to individually travel with my five young grandchildren. I fashioned myself a bit of an “Auntie Mame” character. I wanted to introduce each of them to the wonders of experiencing other cultures and traditions and also have them learn to appreciate our democracy and way of life.

Our River Forest cannot boast about any specific, awesome site. Yet River Forest is a peaceful island in a sea of chaos. When I stroll under the arch of trees, I feel like I’m in a great natural cathedral. The village offers a contrast from the hate and violence that permeates our society. Our town is a natural, beautiful area, complemented by its residents, most of whom are thoughtful humanitarians who care for each other. 

It is shocking to me that there are other folks, here and outside our borders, who do not value living in a diverse democracy. There are folks in our country willing to follow a path of lies, hatred, and violence which ekes away the very tenets on which this country stands.

Thank you, River Forest for being that refuge of peace and kindness.

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