Postcard From Tuscaloosa: Independence Day

Christopher Walsh

It's Independence Day, and I'm torn. Sort of like how 2020 is half-way over, my emotions are divided. 

I've been this way for a while. I think nearly everyone has been the way this year has been going. 

I didn't plan this, but to kick off the holiday weekend I decided to drive around town for a couple of hours, and the duality, conflicting nature of what I've been experiencing couldn't be avoided.

I started with one of my favorite things about Tuscaloosa, the American flags displayed along Veterans Memorial Parkway during patriotic events. I haven't quite captured the right photo or video of it yet, but there's just something incredibly special about the way the flags go off in the distance, looking like no matter what they'll go on forever. 

They don't of course. Near the end when I finally hit a red light, I couldn't help but notice that the flag nearest to me was torn. Although ideally it should never be displayed that way, it was almost fitting.

My next stop was campus, where the exterior of the new sports science center looks all but finished. 

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A lot more needs to be done in the interior, but if you look closely a giant script-A is in the new front lobby of the Mal Moore Athletic Complex. 

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While that project is beginning to wrap up, another is just getting going. On the other side of Coleman Coliseum there's a very large crane in the parking lot where the overpass is coming through.

After needing a detour, off a detour, for a detour, I made my way over to Bryant-Denny Stadium. Despite the recent report of another coronavirus outbreak among construction workers, the work continued with the heat index above 100. 

You can't help but feel for them. 

However, one can really start to get a feel for how it'll look when completed. 

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After dealing with more road work, a quick trip through The Strip took me downtown, and that's when things really started to hit me. 

Tuscaloosa has seen its number of confirmed coronavirus cases go from approximately 200 on May 1 to 2,188 on Friday, along with 42 deaths. The city is making masks mandatory in public effective Monday. 

Yet out of all the people I saw on The Strip just one was wearing a mask.

Like many others I question the nature of Fire Chief Randy Smith telling the City Council that he had confirmed students were throwing coronavirus parties. But then I drove past a large group playing beer pong and completely ignoring the strongly suggested safety protocols.  

I saw a sea of construction, but also businesses closed or struggling. Down by the river there's a massive hotel being built, but across the way the Amphitheater is closed, and next door the Tuscaloosa News nearly empty. 

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I was in an ideal place to watch fireworks Saturday night. Only I have no desire to go back.

I don't know what I'm in the mood for, or how I'm supposed to feel. I'm happy, sad, scared, hopeful, disgusted, proud, cautious and eager all at the same time. 

Mostly I wonder what's next. 

Without even realizing it, I turned the car and started heading back toward the flags and Veterans Memorial Parkway. They offered at little familiarity and stability, both of which have been in short supply this year.  

Only the drive on Lurleen Wallace Blvd. wasn't as hectic after two years of road construction. Look, the Jemison Mansion is getting a fence. Hey wait, when did we get a Foosackly's?

Happy Fourth of July everyone. Keep plugging away,

- Christopher Walsh 

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