OXFORD – It’s a sobering reminder, Oxford’s new Public Safety Memorial Park.
Tucked alongside the railroad-turned-bikepath, the tranquil retreat is barely hidden from the site of Laura Treppendahl’s death at the hands of a drunk driver on Jackson Avenue in February 2003.
The park was dedicated Thursday afternoon in honor of Treppendahl, who was a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Mississippi.
“This park was created on behalf of the people of the Oxford-University community who remember and honor lives needlessly lost or harmed,” states a bronze plaque on one of the courtyard’s brick walls. “May it remind us of the responsibility we all bear for the safety of others.”
Former Mayor Richard Howorth made a pointed reference to the community’s “culture of alcohol.”
“That culture … has injured and cost the lives of many, and harmed those who care for them,” he said.
Police Chief Mike Martin said even emergency responders suffer as they comfort those dying or badly injured.
“Every time, a part of our heart goes with them,” he said.
Mayor Pat Patterson noted such tragedies affect not only the families of victims, but a broad circle of friends and the broader community.
The park offers hope to those affected by such tragedy. Its centerpiece is a bronze sculpture of a woman about to release a fledgling bird from the nest she holds.
“It’s about a mother letting go of her child, and treasuring those she still has,” said Coco Treppendahl, Laura’s mother.
For Laura’s father, David Treppendahl, it also symbolizes letting go of bitterness. When Laura’s killer came to trial, he and his wife asked for the court to have mercy.
“Forgiveness is not for the perpetrator,” he said. “It’s for the one who’s hurt.”
Howorth suggested that those gathered begin to see their community “not in terms of a culture of alcohol, but, rather as a culture of responsibility.”
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at www.nems360.com/pages/oxford_and_environs.