From David Carroll: I’m proud to bring you this guest column by my beautiful and talented wife, Cindy Carroll. 

It was time for me to make my way back to one of my favorite places in Chattanooga.

Almost from the day it opened, the Tennessee Riverpark called to me, a city girl who loves a quick escape into nature. My kids grew up on the old playground there, threw rocks in the water, fished, shared picnic lunches with friends and celebrated birthdays.

This week, I ate my breakfast facing the river, sitting at a blue metal table. Later on my walk, I realized there were very few visitors. Yes, folks continue to pull off Amnicola Highway to pay their respects and add a flower or a flag to the memorial at the park entrance. And then they got back in their cars and drove away.

There are three sets of people in the park these days. Those who actively connect with the memories of those who have passed, those who work in the park, among them law enforcement officers with higher visibility, and a few who use the park recreationally. Undoubtedly, all who are there are having a hard time reconciling how this place of Chattanooga pride has become known as the spot for the darkest day in its history.

What do you think the Riverpark would say to us if it could speak about the unspeakable?

Remember me for what I am. Visit me. Appreciate my beauty. Yes, be respectful, because there is sadness here. But there is good in this space. There are things we know that are true, and beauty we are challenged to see.

Push past uneasiness. Bring your children, your partner, your friends. Use my playground. Run on my paths. Breathe deeply and smell the river. Listen to the chirpy, disjointed song of the mockingbird, the undulating spell cast by cicadas. Watch the fishermen reel in their catch. Scan the sky for the graceful blue heron.

Peel away from technology.

Sit on a bench. Enjoy lunch at my table. Smile at the park rangers, the policemen, the military personnel. Offer them your silent spiritual support, they hurt like you do.

No one can change what happened here. No one will forget.

Yet I remain, and I invite you into my landscape, my spot at the water’s edge, to fill your senses with hope.