Tube City Almanac

June 09, 2014

A Postscript to the Previous Editorial

Category: Commentary/Editorial || By

Opinions expressed in editorials and commentaries are those of individual authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Tube City Community Media Inc. or its directors. Responsible replies are welcomed.

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I know I'm going to catch some flak for the previous editorial: "Why should we want to preserve this old stuff? Just to look at it? Who cares! Move on, already."

Well, you don't preserve historic landmarks because they're "nice to look at." In fact, some of them aren't nice to look at. Instead, you preserve them because you want people to learn from them.

Americans just marked Memorial Day. Is Memorial Day simply to note the fact that people died in wars? No. It's to learn about why they sacrificed their lives for fundamental principles such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

What does a building like the water treatment plant teach us? According to Matt Bauman's excellent report, in 1908, McKeesport had a serious problem. Its water was so unhealthy that people were dying. But McKeesport-area residents got together and solved the problem.

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McKeesport's history is one of confronting and solving problems. There was no domestic steel industry in the 1870s. People from McKeesport solved that problem.

In the 1890s, people around the Mon Valley were dying from preventable accidents. In 1894, people from McKeesport raised the money to build McKeesport Hospital.

In the 1940s and 1950s, returning veterans wanted to go to college on the G.I. Bill, but American colleges and universities were bursting at the seams. You guessed it: Penn State Greater Allegheny Campus was the response to that problem, created through the efforts of local business leaders and clergy.

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If you need a more recent example of the community banding together to confront a problem, the McKeesport Message committee comes to mind. But one of the most important components of that committee's efforts has been posting the "McKeesport Message" on signs and billboards, and getting the message into schools.

The "McKeesport Message" simply doesn't work unless the "message" is in highly visible locations.

Like the McKeesport Message signs, preserving historic landmarks is a way of delivering a message about history in a highly visible way.

If preserving history teaches us that people can get together and solve our own problems, what does demolishing our history teach us? Does it teach us that we can't solve our own problems?

If it does, then that's not the lesson we should be delivering to future generations.

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Opinions expressed in commentaries are those of individual authors, and are not necessarily those of Tube City Community Media Inc., its volunteers or directors.

Tube City Community Media is committed to printing viewpoints from residents of McKeesport and the surrounding area. To submit a commentary, email tube city tiger at gmail dot com, or write to Tube City Online, P.O. Box 94, McKeesport 15134.

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