This week, I visited Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. There are no adequate words to describe the area's historical significance, and beauty. With its historic homes on Baltimore Street, some still bearing the scars of the infamous battle, and the nearby Battlefield, Gettysburg is a slice of history preserved. The National Cemetery, not too far from the center of town, is a reverent monument to the soldiers, both Union and Confederate, who fought bravely, and lost their lives, in July, 1863. Gettysburg is rife with living history, and as such, deserves respect.
While in the National Cemetery, I witnessed a pitiful display of ignorance. As my husband and I strolled the grounds, conscious of the great personal sacrifice the markers represented, we came across a tourist engaged in a heated cell phone conversation while leaning against a tombstone, with one foot resting atop the marker. Obviously, insensitivity has no boundaries.
And contrary to popular belief, Gettysburg is not a ghost hunters' paradise. I was disappointed to see a different ghost hunting tour advertised on nearly every corner in town. Life imitates television, I suppose, and in this economy, who can blame the town's residents for capitalizing on the popularity of television's many ghost hunting series to stir up a bit of business? But such practices smack of manipulation, and degrade the town and its history.
As the site of one of the most horrific battles of the Civil War, Gettysburg is sacred land. Approximately 48,000 individuals died there...48,000 sons, husbands, brothers, fathers. Gettysburg is not just a page in a history book. It is real life, life lived, learned, and lost. It is a rare individual who is not moved by the sight of row after row of graves in the National Cemetery, a rare individual who does not pause to reflect upon the soldiers, past and present, who sacrificed so much. Gettysburg is a symbol of the atrocities of war.
Despite the “Got Ghost?” t-shirts, the tour buses, and the idiots who disturb the peace with cell phones, Gettysburg is still, and will always be, hallowed ground.