Anniston celebrated Thursday when a phone call from Washington delivered the awesome news about this community’s Freedom Rider sites. It’s official: They’re now national monuments, forever. Tell your friends. Spread the word. Let the rejoicing begin.
Now it’s time to write thank-you notes to those who made this latest bit of good news for Anniston possible. Without them, none of this would have been possible.
Thank you, President Barack Obama. You get it. This isn’t just a small city like so many others in the South, places with tough pasts. This is an American story about a diverse nation that’s battled through rough times of inequality and hate. The world needs to hear about the Freedom Riders’ bravery and this city’s journey.
Thank you, former Mayor Vaughn Stewart. Your ability to envision grandiose ideas allowed this to happen. Your enthusiasm was contagious. You sold us on the concept. It’s only fitting that you were the one Washington first called.
Thank you, Pete Conroy. Your persistence — or, perhaps, stubbornness — and vision about a Freedom Riders park on Alabama 202 served as a catalyst. What others saw as a patch of grass alongside a state highway, you saw as opportunity.
Thank you, state Rep. Barbara Boyd, D-Anniston. Lending your voice to the Freedom Riders Park project gave it momentum and heft. It’s a fine example of elected leadership.
Thank you, staff of Anniston city government. None of this was easy, an endless stream of paperwork and emails and phone calls and meetings and urgent requests. A common theme heard Thursday was one of teamwork that included two mayors (Stewart and Jack Draper), two city managers (Brian Johnson and Kent Davis) and a host of city employees.
Thank you, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis. Your kind words about Anniston’s commitment to its Freedom Riders legacy are forever appreciated.
Thank you, Hank Thomas and your fellow Freedom Riders. You are an inspiration to anyone who values peace and abhors violence.
And, thank you, to those who attended the Freedom Riders public meeting in October. That day will long be remembered as one of modern-day Anniston’s seminal moments, a day when residents from all walks of life gathered for a common cause and the city’s future. Today, we are better because of it.