This Memorial Day, I visited an art installation for a shipmate.
Not a cemetery, not something carved in polished granite or something glass with flags flying above it, one for the commonwealth and one for the country. This was in downtown Norfolk, Va., beneath the old sign for a Granby Street barbecue joint that left the premises some time back, in its old glass doorway and two flanking windows, and about a block from the very police administrative building in which some decisions were made about what to tell the taxpayers about a man’s death.
John Kohn was the police recruit in Norfolk who died after a series of training incidents in December. Kohn had served us with the military, and was trying to serve the city of Norfolk. I’ve written about him here before, and the press has written a fair bit about it, too. I won’t revisit it, but the circumstances of his death following a series of regrettable training incidents might have been prevented. What followed his death was a second tragedy. Transparency was needed, yet somehow avoided.
So the photo of the memorial is above. It’s simple, and striking because of its simplicity. It’s part of a larger effort called Art Everywhere, presented by, among others, AltDaily and the Downtown Norfolk Council. The memorial in question, “Remember John Kohn” by the artist called davmo, is at 250 Granby St. Here’s davmo’s dedication:
I visited this morning because I ran into Jesse Scaccia of AltDaily last night, and mentioned to him how much I liked that piece, among others, especially the (recently stolen!) pink bicycle near a streetlamp, which struck me as something an angel had leaned there while she ran into MacArthur Center. It got me thinking about Kohn again, and about davmo’s art – the mixture of words and the face, repeating images in different sizes, as well as the repetition in different windows.
Here’s what davmo told AltDaily’s Julie Alvarado about the work:
It is my way of saying I am so terribly sorry for John, his family, and all of his friends. I have had many of John’s friends see what I put together for this installation and all of them are glad that I did this for him. John has a lot of friends that want to remember.
And it’s in the perfect place. Downtown, the heart of the old Navy town John Kohn wanted to serve. Close enough to remind not just friends, but some of those in the government who need some reminding. As well as anyone who happens to be on Granby Street on a beautiful day such as this one.