To the Editor:
As I rode by the steeple construction going on at the First Congregational Church in Essex, it struck me what a poignant crossroads of historic world events I was taking in at a single glance. The steeple is being reconstructed so that it can continue to house a bell cast by Paul Revere. Paul Revere...the freedom fighting legend... the great night rider that spurred his horse from Boston to Lexington warning the colonists that the British were about to attack. The First Congregational Church of Essex has the honor of housing the 13th bell cast by the heroic man, and it has been used through the town's history to ring in many more historical local events.
Paul Revere was not a legend in his own time, but rather real man, with a regular job, who did what he could and became a legend in years to come. After that ride, Revere served in the Army but returned to his work as a silversmith after the war. Similarly, wrapped in the steeple scaffolding were several regular men, construction workers just doing their job to help save a piece of national history, and yet there was something different; they were wearing masks. I realized these seemingly regular men were yet another piece of world history in the making. Not backing down while fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. Thankfully, I have us trying to thank and honor our first line workers as heroes already, but how much more this generation will be remembered in years to come as the fighters of this unseen invader. Though we can't see the enemy this time, there can be no doubt that there’s a battle going on, and that each regular person is making history with their fight.
The crossroads of those two historical events wrapped up in the steeple were underlined by yet one more story of determination and fight that makes me chuckle and is worth including. In 1679 Ipswich had given the Parish of Chebacco (nowadays Essex) permission to build a "meeting house" (the present-day church) of their own because of the long distance it was for the people of Chebacco Parish to travel. However, after calculating how much revenue they would be losing, Ipswich rescinded their permission and forbid the men of Chebacco Parish (Essex) to build their own church. With that in mind, the WOMEN of Essex finished the building of that meeting house. There is nothing like grit and determination to get around any obstacle.
Since first writing this letter a much more serious enemy has revealed its' continued existence in our country. The same land of freedom that has been fought so hard for. This enemy is racism, hatred, injustice and meanness of spirit. An enemy that kills us from within, not from without. I feel shame. I actually felt compelled to take down our American flag in the midst of it. What a terrible change in the mood and feeling of pride I felt when I glanced at that steeple. Thankfully, Erika Brown was able to stop my letter from being published until I could include this addendum. Now I find there is no clean little summary for this letter. This enemy is too saddening and too far from being beaten to get tied up in an encouraging line or two. So, I won't even try. Instead, I will ask myself and each of us to search ourselves again and again for any hint of partiality, conceit, greed or self-centeredness that would cause us to seek our own good while allowing others to continue being stepped on. It is easy to look the other way, but if we don't seek it out in ourselves and our systems it will not be beaten. This enemy does not have a vaccine that can be invented in a lab. It is not an enemy that we can be forewarned about by a rider on a horse. Instead, each of us must be determined to fight with our seemingly regular lives, work, voices, and sphere of influences. Let’s make it a battle we can be proud of and that generations to come will look back on and be proud to remember.