I remember finding the Witch Trial Memorial moving the first time I saw it years ago, but I didn’t expect my reaction seeing it yesterday.
Jon took me to Salem MA for my birthday this weekend.
I wanted to see the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum. But we also wanted to see the town and some of the history related to the Witch Trials.
We stood at the entrance to the memorial and even before looking down to the see the words of the accused proclaiming their innocence etched in stone, I started to cry.
A rush of emotion filled my chest and the tears spilled from inside of me, then I felt it in my whole body.
Intellectually, the witch trials are so far in the past and to me they have become more of a metaphor than a reality. I didn’t even have a chance to think of the symbolism of the twenty stones, each jutting out of the wall like a tombstone, with the person’s name who was hanged or crushed and the date it happened.
The emotion came from the collective energy of the place.
Perhaps from the feeling that went into creating it and from the power of the monument itself. Or from the people who visit and leave their offerings. Or from all who have felt a victim of injustice. Maybe it’s from the victims of the trial itself. I hope not, I hope their spirits are long gone.
I walked slowly around the memorial, reading each name, date and the way the person was executed, wishing I had brought an offering, a flower or rock to leave behind.
Afterwards I wondered why I was so moved, why I felt it so strongly. I wasn’t sure but when I thought about it, the word “injustice” kept coming to mind.
The monument is a wrong acknowledged. A great lie proved wrong. A truth told. It speaks to the power of lies believed and truth ignored. Of a voiceless voice.
This is what I felt on the threshold of the monument.
And somehow, the monument itself, every individual stone, made each of those people real to me. Not just names on a list, or in a book or play. I felt their presence as real people. As neighbors and friends.