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Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of a devastating tornado that I remember well. It passed within a few blocks of the house where I grew up, killing 21 people and injuring more than 350 others. It then touched down at the intersection of Boyle and Olive in the heart of Gaslight Square. Insurance money for the damage done by the twister helped rebuild the neighborhood that became a cultural and entertainment mecca that put St. Louis on the map nationwide and around the world.
The heyday of Gaslight Square coincided with that of the Broadway musical Camelot. Like the mythical kingdom of Camelot, Gaslight Square flourished gloriously and briefly and then disappeared.
This coming Saturday marks another important anniversary, that of the founding of St. Louis in 1764. I recall the bicentennial of this date 45 years ago, when the commemoration included the construction of the Gateway Arch. Today the Arch stands as a magnificent and enduring monument that not many people visit.
With the 250th anniversary of the founding of St. Louis five years away, we should heed the dual lessons of Gaslight Square and the Arch. By February of 2014 we need to find a way to combine the exhilarating energy of Gaslight Square with the permanence and stability of the Gateway Arch. For a city that has the resilience to rebuild after deadly tornadoes this should not be an insurmountable task.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Tom Schlafly is an attorney in St. Louis.