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Editorial: Salisbury, Rowan better because of initiative

For brief moments throughout the calendar year, we’re called to reflect on our history.

On the third Monday of each January, we celebrate the work and life of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. On July 4, we celebrate our country’s independence. On Nov. 11, Veterans Day, we honor the men and women who have served our country in the armed forces.

But in Rowan County, we’ve recently spent time reflecting on another moment in our history.

In February, our community began a “49 Days of Gratitude” celebration, which drew inspiration from the story of the Merci Train and North Carolina’s 40-and-8 boxcar from that train. The story goes that France sent a train containing 49 cars to the U.S. in February 1949 as a way of saying thanks for the American Friendship Train of relief goods that came to the country in 1947. One car went to each state at the time. North Carolina’s was delivered to Raleigh in 1949.

As part of our celebration, donation boxes were distributed to collect supplies needed by various nonprofits in the community. There were also a number of events connected to the celebration, too.

Scores of schoolchildren, for example, participated in the Butterfly Project, which tied in the history of the Holocaust related to World War II. Ceramic butterflies were painted with the goal of creating several permanent art installations throughout the county. Those butterflies honor the lives of the 1.5 million Jewish and non-Jewish children who died in the Holocaust.

Whether good or bad, we must not forget our history. Those of us decades past our school days or recently graduated need reminding of those important moments at times. The “49 Days of Gratitude” celebration took a piece of our past and made it relevant to the present for adults and children alike.

Salisbury and Rowan County are better because of the 49 days in which the service project lasted. We hope those who organized this year’s event will use its success to build upon the “49 Days of Gratitude” celebration for a similar or second incarnation in 2020.

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