Thursday, July 12, 2007

My Impressions of Camp Casey

My ambitious plans before leaving for Camp Casey included much blogging and regular updating. I found out right away that this was a ridiculous idea. We were so busy and there was so much going on that I had to use every minute to do what I came to do - take pictures, record peoples' stories, and help Bree get up to speed on who's who and what's what here in Crawford, so that she can begin to develop a game plan for this next phase of Camp Casey. As it was, I was up till at least 4 or 5 in the morning every day we were there.

As of now, I'm on the train back to LA from San Diego, and my brain is still spinning from information overload, so I'll try to start from the beginning and sort out my impressions.

Day One - Thursday, July 5

Bree and I leave from the San Diego airport in the morning, heading to Dallas/Fort Worth and from there on to Waco, the closest airport to Crawford. Bree is on the no-fly list (big surprise there!) so there is no convenient check-in at the kiosk. Fortunately we both travel light, so we don't have to deal with checking bags.

We take a small prop plane from DFW to Waco. When we arrive, we are greeted in the terminal by a contingent of the Camp Casey regulars, waving ands holding up "Welcome Home Bree" signs. I don't know anyone yet, but I recognize Cindy Sheehan, who has come to pick us up in her RV, newly dubbed "Jezebel", which she bought with the proceeds of the Camp Casey property. Jezebel will be taking her on her next road trip, which will begin Tuesday the 10th and end up in New York on the 29th.

After she and Bree greet each other, she comes up to me, says, "Hi, I'm Cindy" and gives me a big hug. She's taller than I expected, and looks younger and prettier in person than the news pictures of her indicate. Bree and I climb aboard Jezebel. Cindy is going to take us to Camp Casey first before we go to the hotel we're staying at in nearby McGregor. I have my camera out, and I get some pictures of some of the flooded areas. By the side of the road, you can see trees here and there that look like they're coming out of the water like mangroves in a swamp.

As we get into Crawford we see the 'downtown' area, with the famous Yellow Rose store, which proudly proclaims its allegiance to all things Bush. On the opposite corner is a restaurant/ gift shop/gas station, also featuring a plethora of Bush swag. There is a dilapidated barber shop, several antique shops, and a lonely-looking barbecue joint (which I hoped to sample but didn't get a chance to) and Crawford City Hall, which is not a stand-alone building but a storefront a couple of doors down from the Yellow Rose. We continue on past the town area and soon we can see the driveway to Camp Casey on our right.

We turn into the driveway through the open gate with its 'Camp Casey' sign. To our immediate left on the driveway is a picture of Casey Sheehan amid a bed of sunflowers - the most prevalent flowers we see. The property is grassy and greener than I expected, most likely due to the extra rain and flooding. Next on our left is what appears to be a wooden pallet stood on end, with a sign saying 'Blessed Are the Peacemakers", and after that a large circle of white stones enclosing rows and rows of small markers - mostly white crosses with a flower on each one, although there are some black crosses and also a Star of David or two. In the midst of the markers is an American flag at half-mast. There is a pile of stones with scattered flowers surrounding a sign which asks "For What Noble Cause" and lists the number of American dead and wounded. It is updated daily by one of the vets who take care of the property day-to-day. Although these are poignant reminders of loss, there is a calm and peaceful energy which is almost palpable from the minute you enter the property.

It is indeed 'hallowed ground'.

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