I was nine years old when Times Beach, Missouri was evacuated. Times Beach had 2,000 people, which was just about the same number of people that lived in my town; something happened, and all of a sudden, the people no longer had a town to call home. The evacuation was permanent.
This incident stuck with me for a couple of reasons. One, the town was a town just like mine. And two, Times Beach was the exit right before the exit to Six Flags St. Louis. I knew right where it was, and so I felt in some way connected.
I used to study road atlases the same way some kids studied baseball cards. When the next year’s road atlas came out, I flipped to Missouri. Times Beach was no longer listed. The Interstate exit had been removed; it was like the place had never existed.
What was there? What had happened to the town? The people who lived in the town? I longed to go there, but I never had the opportunity. Every time we drove to Six Flags, though, I thought about Times Beach and wondered if it was fenced off and guarded. If someone did sneak in to visit, would they get sick and die? And could a similar accident happen to my town? What would I do if I could never return home again?
Today, Times Beach has been gone for 30 years. It is now apparently safe to visit the location, and a State Park has taken the place of the town. For some reason, I’d still like to visit, but I’m not sure why or what it is I think I’d discover if I did.
What is permanent?
“Nothing is permanent.” -- Buddha