America is filled with hidden gems — you don’t have to wait in line, pay for a ferry, and sail out to the Statue of Liberty to find them (though I would highly recommend doing that too). They might be small historical monuments or signs; they might be a veteran memorial or even just a piece of art commemorating nothing beyond the beauty of the piece itself. Finding these small gems and learning about them can be a rewarding experience that takes little time out of a person’s day.
One such gem, off a path in Al Lopez Park in the heart of Tampa, Florida, is the “Richard & Annette Bloch Cancer Survivors Park.” The series of plaques, monuments and other decorative pieces serve as an encouragement to those who have been diagnosed with some form of cancer, and also a tribute to those who have fought the fight before.
One centerpiece, pictured above, is a 13-foot-high monument adorned with various drawings, handprints, and notes from those who have been diagnosed with cancer. It’s a sobering place, and it was a stark reminder to me of the resilience of children, and many of the handprints were very small. The piece that stood out to me the most was this:
As my girlfriend and I walked further down the path, there were small, man-made rolling hills that I later learned stand to symbolize the difficulties involved in the fight against cancer. They reminded me of waves at a stormy sea, but also of the grassy mounds leftover from the Battle of Verdun in WWI. For those who have been immersed in the fight against cancer, it is no doubt a battlefield of its own.
The path is littered with plaques, some of which are inspirational — one reads: “Some people have been cured from every type of cancer.” Others are informational, like the one pictured below.
Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells. It is the most feared disease in America, because it is not understood, even though it is not the largest killer. If we understood cancer, we would not be as afraid of it. It is estimated that the average individual has a wildly dividing cell six times a day. The immune system recognizes this, kills it, and we never know the difference. When the immune system lets down, even temporarily, and these dividing cells get established to the point that the immune system can not control them, we have cancer.”
The path leads to a beautiful part in the park, with many power plaques. Finally, it ends with a sculpture, pictured and described below.
The United States is filled with hidden corners, silently doling out wisdom and reminders of what is important. They can have a profound effect — if you let them. What’s near you?
Images taken by the author.