Hallowed Place. Oreland, Pa. 2009


Four Elements of Roadside Tragedy

1.The Event. What was just a random spot along any highway or intersection, without special meaning, becomes the location of significant violence or tragedy, and the place of sudden death of a person or persons. The site now bears the physical evidence of the event. Damage or scarring to the ground, damage to trees or telephone poles, debris from the parts of vehicles involved in the crash, debris left from emergency workers (caution tape, medical supplies, etc) and possibly some contents of the vehicles involved in the accident.

2.Hallowed Place.The Site now becomes a hallowed or sacred place, with the significance of being the last place that a person or persons were alive on earth. It is the place that the person(s) passed over to another world or state of being. Friends and family visit the site within the first 24 hours of the event and gather together for the first time to begin the initial stages of grief (shock and disbelief). This state of sacred or hallowed ground remains as such forever regardless of whether or not a memorial is created. It will always remain a significant place for the family & friends of the dead, as well as those who witnessed or responded to the event.

3.Spontaneous Memorial. A spontaneous memorial is erected at the site to commemorate the event and honor the dead. This is usually created by the friends and/or family of the deceased. Typically this spontaneous memorial is erected within the first 24 hours after the event and serves as a gathering place for the mourners to connect with each other and pay tribute to the victim, as well as begin to make sense of and process the event as reality. The spontaneous memorial make take many forms; from simple mementos and flowers brought to the site by mourners during their first visit to the site, to the placing and arranging of rocks and or parts of the vehicle found at the site. Candles and personal items are often part of the initial spontaneous memorial. The site now becomes visibly identified as a place of death or tragedy.

4.Dynamic Shrine.The Memorial is tended to on a continuing basis. Many times the spontaneous memorial is left as is, with friends and family returning to visit in first months or year after the event, but the memorial is not tended to or revised in any way. Eventually the site is no longer visited, and the memorial eventually deteriorates in the sun and weather. But many memorials are visited by friends and families for many years after the event. The initial spontaneous memorial may be revised or improved upon. A purpose built cross or plaque made be installed at the site. The memorial is decorated seasonally and for holidays; the annual birthdays of the victim are commemorated, and small mementos are left from time to time. The memorial transcends from spontaneous memorial to permanent and dynamic shrine. The location is typically now identified with a name or initials of the victim, and a date of the event.
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