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Street Talk

Hans Trefzer is my father in law, I’ve known him 34 years. He was born in 1937 and lives near where he grew up in Freiburg im Breisgau in the southwest corner of Germany, the area known as the Black Forest. It is not far from where France and Switzerland and Germany all meet. I spent most of last month with Hans and we went on a 1,700 mile road trip up to the North Sea in Denmark. Hans drove when the weather was good, which was hardly ever, and I drove the rest. We had a lot of time to talk. 

One of the things that came up, and we had talked about this years before, was his experience in Freiburg during the war. He was eight when the war ended in May of 1945, but he remembers well the air raids and bombing attacks. Most were small raids targeting the railroad, but one in late November, 1944, carpet bombed the city. 

A group of 292 British Lancaster bombers, Operation Tigerfish, bombed the center of old town.  It killed nearly 3,000 people including the people who lived next door to Hans. Strong as that memory is, the period after the war may be stronger. Hunger was an issue. For years when we would dine, he’d often say, “Eat, you never know when you’re going to eat again”.

Those after war years, the sorting of rubble brick by brick, stone by stone, and salvaging what would seem un-savable left a mark on him. The citizens of Freiburg rebuilt the town back to its medieval plan, rebuilding many structures as they had been for centuries. Freiburg was founded in 1120, the house Hans lived in was built in 1392. Seemed like a proven track record.

In the mid 1990s we were living in Oklahoma and Hans visited. On a drive up to Oklahoma City, we went to the site of the Murrah Building. There was just a fence around the site, the remains of the building had been cleared, and the memorial had not been built. Hans looked at the surrounding damaged buildings (some 300 were also damaged in a four-block radius) and said matter of fact, “Yes, a bomb exploded here.”

 So why am I writing this, the destruction of buildings in town centers driven by vengeful intentions? Because that is an issue Water Valley faces now. Last Friday Terry Warren filed in City Hall for a permit to demolish the buildings at 305 and 307 North Main Street –  buildings that have stood at the center of town for 140 years. Buildings that he recently spent considerable sums to renovate. 

Terry wants to smash-to-nothing the historic buildings on our Main Street. As if they were toys he no longer wants to play with. He wants to destroy buildings that are perfectly sound because….well, I’m not sure. 

There’s a timeline to all this, I feel certain Terry did not just wake up one morning and decide he wanted to destroy a town center. I should put it together. It is an interesting and not a simply linear tale.  But a convoluted story or not, that still won’t explain or justify irrational actions or willful destruction or irreversible individual vengeance directed at our commonwealth. Nice to be home again.

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