Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Peace trees

This was in the paper today. The people are trying to write the name and hometown of each dead soldier on a CD and hang it from their trees. I have put the article here in full along with the link because it may require registration or it might go away.
Trees of CD teardrops
Outside a South Austin house, discs represent soldiers killed in Iraq

By Denise Gamino
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Photos Jay Janner & Nick Simonite

Shimmering wafers of heartache spill from trees in a South Austin yard.

There's a whimsical feel to the dangling medallions, but each sliver of silver is a public eulogy for a fallen American soldier.

About 1,800 discs, each with a deceased soldier's name, rank and hometown, hang from the trees in Michael and Tina Heffernan's yard.

Recycled cds and dvds hang from trees. Each disc represents a soldier killed in the war in Iraq.

Five red buds and crape myrtles are called "Peace Trees" by owners Tina and Michael Heffernan. For six months, the couple have recycled used CDs, DVDs, video game discs and audio book discs into a striking memorial to the American military men and women killed in Iraq. Each disc is adorned with the name, rank and hometown of a dead soldier.

As of Sunday, the U.S. death toll stood at 3,137.

"That really doesn't have a lot of impact for most people," said Tina Heffernan, a professional event coordinator for nonprofit fundraisers. "Numbers are so random. This is a real visual impact of what a number means.

"It's part war protest, part memorial, part art project. People can read what they want into it."

So far, only about 1,800 of the fallen U.S. soldiers have a designated disc in the "Peace Trees." The Heffernans started with a donation of 1,500 discs but now they need more.

"We're (eventually) going to run out of tree space," Tina Heffernan said. "We hope by then they'll be coming home and it will be a non-issue."

The Heffernans live in the 1800 block of Treadwell Street in the Zilker neighborhood off South Lamar Boulevard. Their one-story house has a front door painted a deep shade of magenta with purple, yellow and sage-green trim on the porch. The shutters are cobalt blue, and disc golf baskets dot the front yard (as well as the front yards of several neighbors).

The trees drip silver tendrils of colorful discs like some kind of artificial Spanish moss. When the wind blows, the digital doughnuts brush against each other with a soothing sound that could be mistaken for a waterfall.

When the couple decided to start the memorial project, Tina Heffernan sent an e-mail to her circle of friends to ask for their discarded compact discs. People began dropping them off in piles and bags.

Many of the soldiers are honored on free trial discs for various Internet service providers. Others are memorialized on unwanted discs filled with music as diverse as Christmas tunes to classic oldies.

The name of Marine Lance Cpl. Trevor Aston, 32, of Austin, who was killed on Feb. 22, 2005, is written on the silver side of a red-and-orange AOL disc. Navy Petty Officer Christopher G. Walsh, 30, of St. Louis, who died on Sept. 4, 2006, is honored on a television series DVD.

The names and hometowns of the dead are as varied as the original data on the digital discs. Some people have written personal messages next to a soldier's name: We miss you. Watch over us. You are remembered. One name is punctuated with little hearts.

At the curb is a plastic pouch filled with a dozen or so discs, a black Sharpie pen and a paper list with the names of fallen soldiers who have yet to be added to the tree memorial.

The Heffernans' entreaty is posted there: "Come visit our Peace Trees. Each CD represents an American soldier's life that has been lost in the Iraq war. Feel free to fill out a CD and hang it in the tree. (Please check off the name on the list.) Think about peace!"

The project began last summer with the family's own rejected discs but quickly ballooned.

"We found a guy on the Internet who has a CD recycling business," Tina Heffernan said. "He sent us 1,500 CDs. I asked, 'Can I pay you?' And he said, 'No, just send me pictures.' We went through the 1,500 and we needed more, but I couldn't find his Web site."

The response to the "Peace Trees" memorial has been mostly positive.

"People drive by and say, 'Thank you for keeping people alive to the notion that this is happening. These are kids who are dying over there,' " said Michael Heffernan, an architect. "We have people who come and sit quietly. We have some who laugh and look at the trees. We have some who come by and scowl."

Every response is valid, he said. The project's goal is to affect people who "just kind of go about their daily lives and forget what's going on in the broader world."

Michael Heffernan always has the same reaction when he walks among the trees budding with lost lives.

"They look like tears coming down out of the trees," he said.


Undeniable Liberal said...

That is really cool. Thanks for sharing.

Mando Mama said...

I love this. Beautiful, strange, and uncontestable -- private property! Heh.

Thanks for sharing the story. I would be surprised if it didn't go national.

beepbeepitsme said...

This is when I know that my eyes are gettin' old. I can't read the red font against the green/blue background. lol

I can see the picture though and enough to make out that it is a tribute to the soldiers who have lost their lives.

A very moving and tasteful tribute it is too.

Blueberry said...

I changed the color. Is this easier to read?