Black Hills, South Dakota
by Cassia Reynolds
My friends and I stared at Mount Rushmore for the recommended 10 minutes (how long can you really look at a statue in the distance?). After we perused the equally gigantic maze of the accompanying gift store, we wandered back onto the crowded walkway where I immediately lost my buddies in the mob of tourists. I couldn’t see over the sea of shoulders (thanks again, genetics) so I climbed on top of a stone post for a better view. After a few futile minutes of scanning the masses for familiar faces, I gave up and sat down on the pedestal to wait for them.
While I waited, I flicked through the images on my camera. I noticed I’d only taken a few snapshots of the actual monument. This didn’t concern me; it was like photographing the Mona Lisa or the Statue of Liberty. Pictures just don’t do justice to an in-person visit to such a grandeur piece of history.
Instead, my memory card was chock full of photographs of random tourists who were hanging out at the national memorial. And that’s when it hit me: a profound understanding of why I felt that visiting Mount Rushmore was such an important cultural experience. The actual presidential portraits were just happenstance. It was the swarming hordes of American people who, like me, had flocked to this place, drawn by a desire to witness this historical landmark. It was the fact that though we came from totally distinct parts of the country and lifestyles, we all somehow felt so connected to Mount Rushmore that we traveled (sometimes for weeks) through plains, forests, mountains, and deserts to see it. This place was truly a crossroads of American life.
And so to conclude my Mount Rushmore series, I give you my interpretation of this American cultural experience through a collection of scenes: