Garden of Peace, Boston’s Quiet Memorial

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I usually don’t mind stopping to give directions to people who are lost. Certain areas of the city can be quite confusing, especially downtown where the streets are intertwined and the names change unknowingly.

This weekend I stopped to give directions to a couple who did not seem like tourists. They had no shopping bags or maps, but looked weary from walking in circles. Their destination was close, though I had never heard of it. The wife explained that they were looking for a garden where they might find a rock with their daughter’s name.

The place they were looking for is the Garden of Peace, a memorial for homicide victims of Massachusetts nestled near the State House. The garden started with a vision in 1995 by members of Parents of Murdered Children. It wasn’t until 2000, with the renewal of the Saltonstall state office building that the vision started to become a reality. Through the efforts of the Garden of Peace coalition, the plans for the development of the new building required a place for the garden in its plans.

Finally, on September 24, 2004 the Garden was dedicated as a memorial, with over 1,500 present for the ceremony. Thanks to funds from private individuals, foundations, corporations and the support of Massachusetts Development, the site has turned into a meaningful sanctuary where families like the couple I met can find hope in their loss.

Though the Garden is quite small, the number of rocks with victims’ names is quite overwhelming. The design, created by landscape architect Catherine Melina, is simple but beautiful in its thematic approach. The main focal point of the memorial is the Tragic Density, a circular black granite stone which symbolizes the enormous weight of sadness and grief.

Though this weight will always be felt by people like the couple I met, the Garden serves as a reminder that peace is universal, and Boston welcomes all.