War and peace are supposed to be diametrical opposites. In a little less than five months, though, if everything goes well, the two will come together on North Little Rock’s downtown riverfront.
The Beacon of Peace and Hope, a commemorative 36-foot-tower that will shine two spotlights into the sky, will stand next to the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum. The board — the folks who watch over the U.S.S. Razorback submarine — came up with the idea, but it’s being carried out by Women’s Action for New Directions, an organization that advocates for peace. WAND agreed to raise the $150,000 estimated cost of the monument, and is about one-third of the way to that goal.
“The idea was that everything these people have done to secure our freedom and every time they have put themselves at risk has been in the hope that peace and hope are secured for this nation,” said Rose Crane, a development consultant for the museum.
Caroline Stevenson, a WAND board member who’s chairing the monument committee, said the organization’s board thought long and hard about collaborating with the museum, but talking with some of the veteran submariners on the museum’s board helped convince them to do it.
“They were really adamant that no one wanted peace more than people who were in submarines,” she said. “They had children and grandchildren and war was the last thing they wanted.”
The partnership — and the location of a peace monument in front of an instrument of war — makes the Beacon of Peace and Hope unique, Stevenson said.
“One of the things that’s exciting about it is being able to have these conversations about how we coexist and how we support one another,” she said.
The partnership between WAND and the maritime museum won’t end once the monument is finished. The contract between WAND and the maritime museum calls for a WAND member to sit on the museum’s board in the future, and for the organization to be able to hold two or three peace observances at the museum each year.
Cindy Brown, a WAND member who’s also on the monument committee, said she’s wanted something like the planned beacon in this area since seeing two peace-focused structures in Fayetteville.
“They center thoughts of peace, form a magnet for those ideas,” she said. “I want there to be one in Central Arkansas really bad.”
Stevenson said her goal is to raise the rest of the $150,000 by the end of September, and hopes that people will see a contribution to the beacon as a suitable way to honor loved ones who’ve served in the military. If construction goes as planned, the beacon should be shining by December.
Each light is in the millions of candlepower, said Jerry Currence, the North Little Rock architect who designed the beacon. That’s so bright the project’s organizers had to get permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to shine them into the sky, and the monument will appear on future aviation maps of the area, Crane said.
The narrow steel tower will rise from the ground just in front of the submarine. Two curved arms will come out of the tower to support the two spotlights. On most nights, they’ll appear to shine up in parallel paths, but under certain atmospheric conditions, the beams will appear to converge.
“The idea that we can look and see it in the night sky, see if peace and hope have come together over our community — I think that’s a nice thing to think about,” Crane said.
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