I went back to visit the scene of the accident at Chalco Hills, as described in my previous post. It's actually a very beautiful park; well-maintained, spacious, bright, and quite friendly. There's nothing about it to indicate that there was ever tragedy in its past. I suppose this is by design, since the park is supposed to be a place for people to relax. Yet, I can't help feeling that it's also a sin of omission.
The construction of the artificial Wehrspann Lake and surrounding nature reserve necessitated the closure of what had been two significant country roads: Cornhusker Road (which is a still major traffic artery to the east) and 156th Street. Mapquest illustrates this well. The Omaha area street system is a tidy grid pattern, which makes getting lost rather difficult. So, it is easy to see how Cornhusker and 156th, two brackets in the grid, are interrupted by the park.
Here is the western bank of the lake. There is a small parking lot which is connected to the walking trails that circle the lake, as well as a fishing area.
An aerial view reveals that the fishing area and connecting trail are actually a remnant of what was Cornhusker Road. The old road disappears right into the lake. It's difficult to see this in person, but Mapquest's satellite view makes it plain.
To the immediate west is an area where the modern walking trail and the original road run side by side.
The walking trail terminates in a small cul-de-sac in a new, upscale development, where the paved, modern Cornhusker Road picks up. None of this was here at the time of the accident. Though not far from town proper, this area was wilderness in 1984.
Here is the view looking eastward, back the way I had come. The lake itself is blocked out by the hill, but there is a good view to the far side of the lake where the distinctive Sapp Brothers "big coffee pot" watertower stands. The continuation of the modern Cornhusker Road runs alongside it.
The old 156th Street is a lot harder to find, at least in person. Portions of it survive as part of the modern walking trail system. In other places its existence is only indicated by less abundant grass and an unnaturally symmetrical absence of trees.
There's nothing inherently eerie about this place. Yet, there is no denying the strangeness of walking down a trail that used to be the very road where a tragic event unfolded. For me at least, visiting that place was a moving experience.
Do you have a place like this in your life, maybe tucked way, way back in your childhood? If so, go there. Get back in touch with the things that had an impact on you. Keep alive your memories of those who preceded you, and also of yourself, the way that you used to be.