Its motto is a quote from General Stark, a Revolutionary War hero, "Live Free or Die", and it is called the Granite State not just for the many granite formations but also for the character and strength of her citizens both past and present. New Hampshire, one of the original thirteen colonies is home to the White Mountainís Presidential Range.
New Hampshire is also the location every four years for the first Presidential primary election and in Dixville Notch the first votes in the Presidential election are cast and counted shortly after midnight.
In another famous New Hampshire notch, sometime Friday night while Franconia was shrouded in clouds and fog, the Old Man of the Mountain vanished into history. The stone profile was a natural rock formation that was formed by glaciers, viewed by millions and became the symbol of the state. For over 25,000 years, the Old Man perched majestically over Profile Lake looking out toward Mt. Lafayette, but on that fateful night the cherished state symbol slid from its rocky perch in the fog in the dark, alone. It was not until 7:30 Saturday morning after the fog had lifted the world began to see the Old Man had taken his final journey.
The weather has been extremely harsh in the area over the past winter, and in particular over the last couple of days. Along with strong winds, fog and heavy rain, and the overnight freezing temperatures may have all contributed to the demise, although at this time no cause has been determined.
Locals were shocked. No one expected the craggy granite face to disappear. It was a landmark, often taken for granted by those driving by. No one ever thought he would not be there on this bright and sunny Saturday morning.
As people looked up over Profile Lake all that was left were bent braces and a large black hole. No one saw it coming, no one imagined it would happen, but it did.
A little over two hundred years ago, while the Old Man watched over Franconia, the people of New Hampshire signed the Declaration of Independence. After helping put in place our Constitution and Bill of Rights, New Hampshire joined the other colonies in forming our democratic republic.
Just as the Old Man was protected by strong cables, our founding fathers braced our democracy with the Executive, Congressional and Judicial branches of our government. But these braces are bending too, from the strong winds of continual war, the harsh fears of terrorism that have eroded our freedoms and the heavy weight of deficits, tax cuts for the rich and the unforgiving disregard for education, health care and the environment.
It took 25,000 years for Mother Nature to take back the Old Man, but it has taken corporations and the far right less than two score to put huge cracks in our democracy.
No one expected these fissures in our democratic process. Too often we have taken our country for granted. And less than three years ago no one would believe the underpinnings of this great country would now be in as great a peril as the Old Man. No one saw it coming, no one imagined it would happen, but it did.
In less than a year New Hampshire will hold this country's first primary and the citizens of Dixville will be ready to cast their votes the following November. From its mountainous perch, the Old Man once stood for centuries as a testament to the strength of this country. Before the 2004 vote, will we as a country be able to come out of the fog of our pseudo-patriotism and denial of what is happening to the stability of this country. The Old Man has become a black hole. Will American democracy live free or die?
Jackie Hannigan and Paula Fee live in Massachusetts and just happened to be riding through Franconia Notch that fateful Friday night.
Jackie holds a Masters in Social Work from Simmons College and is presently the Director of Social Services for a nursing home/rehabilitation complex. Paula has an MEd. from Cambridge College and is an administrator in a local school system.
E-Mail Jackie and Paula: email@example.com