At the back of an inconspicuous building in industrial Greenville, SC, history sits silent, slowly rusting in the elements. Deep within the corridors of the once vibrant passenger train cars, the voices of the past call out, longing for days gone by. Train cars of yesteryear transported countless people and their dreams to cities all over America. Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis and points west.
Mothers held tight to their children who had no idea the trip back home to grandmas marked the day their family was torn apart. A young woman spread her wings for the first time and left the security of home in search of her identity and her own way to live life. A doctor answered the call, closed up his practice back east and headed west to provide medical aid on the Navajo Nation.
Each hallway echos with the sound of hope and promise. Each seat holds secrets revealed to a total stranger sitting next to them as tiny towns clicked by out the window. Bellman, porters and conductors mindlessly spouted rote commands to cars of passengers who’s ears were deafened by consuming thoughts of their destination.
Hundreds of miles away to the north, ancient buildings sat abandoned and silent, worn by the fierce winds of Lake Ontario. Railway cars that once carried necessities now rusted on abandoned rails. Just on the other side of the tracks, a graveyard provided the resting place for cars that had seen better days.
Everywhere I looked as I drove through rural upstate New York, I saw remnants of days that had long since retreated into the innermost hiding places of history. Life built up around the history and continued on. Locals don’t even notice the old buildings and other pieces of their past, but I did.
Our history forges our future. Perhaps a young man road that train to Greenville and grew up to become governor and changed the world. Or maybe the old buildings on Lake Ontario housed furs trapped by the Native Americans and grizzly trappers who braved the cold to help America stay warm.
Time does wait for no man. It marches forward with a determination to continue ticking out the hours and days until they become a part of the past, then releases it as if it never were connected. History, on the other hand, is the bedrock of today upon which we build our tomorrows. It is undeniable. Unshakable. Unmistakable. The days gone by point the way. It shows us where we missed and weaves a fabric of hope and future.
I love to reminisce about my days gone by. Yes, even the worst of them are part of who I am and I gain so much wisdom from them. I’m grateful for each one. Many I would not wish to return to but I treasure them all. They whisper to me on a cold dark night. They compel me down the roads of our great nation in search of the heartbeat of America.
Days gone by…