Dateline: Grand Forks, North Dakota
"Legendary" . . . that is what the "welcome to" signs declare when you cross the border. A North Dakota pundit once declared that there is nothing to see in North Dakota, and nothing to keep you from seeing it. There is some truth in this, yet there is far more to North Dakota than first meets the eye.
I have been calling Grand Forks home for almost a week. It has a population hovering around 56,000 (including the personnel at the nearby Air Force base and the student body of the University of North Dakota) and is the third largest city in the state after Fargo, almost 80 miles to the south, and Bismarck, the state capital. Still, looking out over the landscape surrounding Grand Forks, especially at this time of year, one can look east and almost see yesterday, and turning west, tomorrow is just barely over the horizon. Still, I like Grand Forks. It is a town where one can easily feel at home.
I am presently serving as the visiting spring fellow at the University of North Dakota's Center for Human Rights and Genocide Studies. There have been several days of speeches, radio and television interviews, and classroom visits in conjunction with a visiting exhibit from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on the subject of persecution of Germany's homosexual community during the Nazi regime, 1933-1945. It has been both a fascinating and rewarding experience for me and I am sad to say that I will be leaving in a couple of days for my return trip home to Maryland. Everyone has made me feel at home here and I hate to leave.
During my visit I have had an opportunity to reacquaint myself with an area I first visited briefly in the summer of 1970. I do not remember much of what I saw back then, and so this visit comes as a revelation. I was also in North Dakota in the spring of 2007, traveling the same route I took across the state on my first trip so many years ago, but I did not make it up to this area. Despite my busy schedule and the winter weather that still grips the area, I have done a little exploring here and beyond the Red River of the North, in Minnesota. My visit here has been far too short; North Dakota has a lot to offer, and I look forward to returning again soon. There is much of the legend that still needs to be told.
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