To save me from myself.
When I was nine, my home was Tuckahoe, New York, 16 miles from New York City. At one time it was known as the “Quarry Town of the World”. As early as 1823, its high quality marble was used to construct grand early 19th century buildings such as Federal Hall National Memorial and the Washington Memorial Arch, both in New York City, and many of the national monuments in Washington D.C.
My Grandfather, who had died before I was born, was supervisor at the quarry which was the single most important white marble deposit in America until the latter part of the 1800s. But as its beautiful white marble streaked with thin black lines became exhausted, the site was abandoned. Eventually water filled the open mine, which was the size of a football field, leaving uncovered a 20 foot wall of glistening stone. Now only one small sign marks the entrance with the notice “no trespassing”.
One typically hot summer day, our neighborhood group of five friends decided to go down the steep hill, a half mile from home, to explore the site. We were happy for a new adventure besides the kickball, stickball, roller skating, marbles, and evening hide and go seek we routinely played outside on our street or in the two acre wooded lot as yet undeveloped in the neighborhood. During those carefree days, we’d get up, dress, have breakfast, and not check home until the next meal time.
Once at the quarry, I decided to lower myself down 4 feet from the top to a foot-wide shelf left by the stone cutters. It would be just like mountain climbing! I even attached my belt to an inch wide stunted tree that had rooted in the rock. Once down, as I turned to face the quarry walls across the way, that “safety” belt snapped. As hard as I try, there is no memory of hitting the water or how I came to be standing by the road again, soaking wet, and wrapped in a blanket.
In absolute chagrin, as I looked down the road, a hundred or more men, still emptying out from the small industrial factories on Marblehead Road, were running to my rescue. They had been Alerted after one of my playmates flagged a passing car from the road. One passenger came to my rescue, the other notified the Volunteer Fire Department which gave the emergency location by a series of long and short blasts. That horn notified everyone by a code, heard for miles, that indicated the location where they were needed.
Hillary Clinton stated, during her husband’s campaign for president, “it takes a village to raise a child”. Those were words that could have applied to me riding home. I was still in shock and embarrassed to have caused so much commotion by doing what in retrospect, was a very stupid thing. But at the same time being grateful and in awe to be in a town that cared so much for each other.
Contributed by: Sandra Hamilton
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