This past weekend found me on an unplanned trip to Ohio. I stopped by Ashland to visit friends before making my way up north on Saturday. My grandfather lives in an eastern suburb of Cleveland, and we talked for some time of his days as an actor and a political player, and of the role his parents played in establishing the independent Ireland. After some time visiting with him, I left to head further east to the home of my mother and stepfather. The trip between their homes takes about 45 minutes, all along Chardon Road. Starting in the town of Willoughby, colors of red and black began to appear on the roadside. Flags were at half-mast outside of government buildings and most private property. The more I traveled down the road, the more the red began to grow--soon on every lamppost, pole, tree, and road sign that there was. It seemed to reach a crescendo at the All Souls Cemetery, where my grandfather's parents and his wife are buried, and where one of the all-too-young victims had just been put to rest earlier that day.
Upon entering Chardon, the tiny town that I have been to often since my mother relocated to just outside of it, signs with hearts on them began to appear among the political yard signs. Every home and building showed a town in solidarity, red and black everywhere. The town square appeared calm beneath the falling snow as I drove by, but it had been hectic earlier in the day as citizens from Chardon and neighboring communities gathered to form a human chain around a local church in order to keep the despicable Westboro Baptists from bothering the mourning families during a funeral. My mother takes this road several times a week to head to her father's home, and said she nearly had to pull over from crying so much on Tuesday as she passed the square and saw the scores of cameras gathered there. She says that she still has difficulty driving the road, tears filling her eyes as they take in the miles-long stretch of red and black.
That small community is strong. They like to say that "Chardon will take care of Chardon," and certainly seem to be doing just that. This quaint Ohio town did not deserve the tragedy inflicted upon it, but if any community can pick up the pieces after such an ordeal, it is Chardon--with the love and condolences of all its neighbors throughout the country, and especially along Chardon Road.