Where We Live
by Steve Carr
Making Annapolis Safe for the Peacemakers
How cool was it that the Middle East peace conference was held in Annapolis?
The camera crews started showing up almost a week in advance. Once Thanksgiving was over, the circus was in full swing, starting with a guy in a tweed suit from something called Village Video Communications, doing a live feed from under a tent with klieg lights on the beach by the Severn Inn, using the Naval Academy as his backdrop. Main Street was crawling with TV crews, stopping shoppers and tourists alike to ask what they thought of the peace conference coming to town.
Annapolis is not new to the peace game. She hosted the signing of the Treaty of Paris, ending the Revolutionary War. Annapolis also played host to yet another Annapolis Conference, when the fractious colonies first got together to review the Articles of Confederation in 1786. Annapolis is a small town where big things happen.
The day before the arrival of the peacemakers, the weather turned nasty.
It had been warm and dry for months, and now with the world showing up on our door, it was rainy and cold.
But later that evening, I walked outside and found the weather had turned almost sultry. It was still spitting rain, but it was warm and blustery as a humid south wind spread low fog and mist across the northern Bay. The wind gusted noisily as the last of the burnt orange, yellow and red leaves of 2007 flew north like prayer flags.
I live overlooking the Severn River. Across the river, every light was on at the Naval Academy, the athletic fields illuminated like day. Along the Hospital Point seawall, high-tech sentries stood guard. Behind them sat seven shiny white limousine station wagons, waiting to whisk away each dignitary as soon as they stepped out of their choppers the next morning.
Standing in the whistling wind, I felt like I was in some movie. I flashed back to Tom Clancy’s Patriot Games, when Harrison Ford is ambushed by IRA terrorists on Maryland Avenue. In the mood, I scanned the river, looking for signs of someone who didn’t fit in. I know the river at least my stretch and I would notice a boat or activity along the shoreline, that wasn’t right.
I came to my senses as the wind grew chilly in the ancient battle between north and south, cold air battling against the fast-moving warm juice. Storms soon broke out. The power went off sporadically. Annapolitans slept snugly in their beds as the leaders of Weapons World descended on Chesapeake Bay from on high.
The next morning I found a fleet of gunboats patrolling the Severn as a stiff west wind turned the river to whitecaps. Bright sunshine illuminated the white, puffball clouds gliding low and slow over the town as dark, winter storm cells loomed ominously on the horizon. Press vans lined Worden Field where the Mids parade, and ambulances and fire trucks stood ready by the landing strip.
The symbolism was spooky.
Knowing that the street closures near the Academy would create a traffic mess, I rode my bike into town.
Police of every stripe lined the roads and as I crested the Academy Bridge, green-and-white Huey helicopters dotted the western sky like thumping dragonflies. Two choppers set down to my left, and the police swarmed. Motorcades barreled down Rowe Boulevard and Taylor Avenue while sirens screamed and dogs barked. I was suddenly in the Green Zone.
At lunch, I wandered down to Randall Street to check out the protestors.
Three distinct groups were separated by a large contingent of police. A small band of Arabs stood silently on the sidewalk, waving hand-painted signs of support for a Palestinian state. A much larger group of Jewish folks spiritedly shouted and sang their opposition to the conference for selling out Israel. The last group, calling itself Neturei Karta International, was a mystery to me: Hasidic-looking Jews in black hats and coats, with their dark hair in ringlets and bushy beards, loudly protesting the very existence of Israel as a Zionist tool.
All were passionate but peaceful, and the police were tolerant and good-natured. This was not the 1960s.
Will the Annapolis Peace Conference set the stage for a lasting peace among Arabs and Jews? Who knows?
Returning to my cliff after the president and the foreign ambassadors had gone, I saluted the stars as a soft west wind played a sweet night song of joy through the dead leaves of summer. Out there, I swear I could hear the generations singing John Lennon’s words: All we are say-ing, is give peace a chance.