The Zero Mile Post marked the meeting of two railway lines and possibly the beginning of the city of Atlanta. Zero Mile is a series of sometimes fictionalized and sometimes real stories based on life in Atlanta, Georgia.
By Nicki Salcedo, columnist
I wish we’d stop blowing things up in Atlanta. It might be related to our fiery past. Blazing march to the sea and crosses in flames. Bombs in the park blowing things up. Bombs in the stadium imploding things down. We scar the side of a granite mountain with picks and axes then call it a monument. We are immune to destruction.
But we don’t like it.
Atlanta shouldn’t be a city of fire, rebirth, and redemption. Atlanta should be a city where we build with sustainability in mind. We are a city of granite, marble, and brick.
We are a city in the trees. They rise above us and give us shade. We are unlike any city with our green spaces. The trees make us feel small. The parks help us feel grand. Don’t cut the trees down without planting new ones. Don’t steal the open spaces.
Don’t push the forgotten people away. You can tell a lot about a city by who stands at a bus stop. We are your constituents, too.
We are poor and underpaid and overlooked. We are neglected until you tear down our churches for your stadiums, proving you serve no God but yourself and love no neighbor unless it will line your pockets with more money. We are not ignorant of your power.
You give tax credits to Hollywood, but not books for every student. Believe me, I enjoy see Thor filming on Broad Street. We all enjoy seeing Thor. But the economic strength of our future is not with superheroes, but in communities.
Dear Mayor, do you want to make Atlanta great? Again? Let us help you.
Listen to us.
Give our children opportunities that are not crime. Give our neighbors solace that is not opioids. Do not give support and sympathy for one type of drug addict while neglecting the others.
Our children. Our elderly. Our friends.
Your ideas should reflect the voice of the people. A true leader makes choices not for personal gain, but civic good. Encourage those who work in thankless jobs to do their jobs with pride. Prove to us that you are willing to do the tough jobs with humility without accolades. Create opportunities for trades and craft and artists and farmers.
Our city is a fertile ground for perseverance and creativity.
I don’t want things to stay the same. I like change. I like progress. Atlanta needs progress with a purpose and change with a plan.
We need a legacy. Not the flames, not the confederacy of dunces we’ve become. Atlanta was built to be a crossroads, an intersection, the zero mile point in a long journey.
Take us into the future.
We are erroneously remembered for our Civil War past and our celebrity housewives. Shame on us. There are men and women who stay at home and work from home who can show you the real “real” of Atlanta.
There is laundry to be done. Dogs to be walked. We care for our parents and our children and our jobs.
Atlanta is the kindest place I’ve ever known. Remember this.
I have received hugs from strangers in the airport and at the grocery store and in the early hours of Piedmont Park.
We are a city of runners and cyclists.
We area city of artists and innovators.
We are a city of spiritual people.
My day is improved when a stranger says “Good morning.” It happens every day. I meet the eyes of someone I don’t know, and we smile. We are the best of this city.
I ask this city, this new mayor, to provide opportunities for all. I ask for this city to be a safe shelter from crime. If you are a good mayor, a true mayor you will make these things a priority.
Remember the trees and grass.
Remember those students who need books. Remember those kids who need opportunities.
Remember the people at the bus stop in the rain.
Remember the tallest building and highest officials are often brought down to dust. That’s history again and again.
Make Atlanta great. Again. And again. Surround yourself with the people. Look us in the eye. Humble yourself. You are our servant. In order for you to be great, make us all great. Not again, but always.
Nicki Salcedo knows the loops and the back roads of Atlanta. She is a novelist, blogger and working mom. Zero Mile stories appear on the Atlanta Loop on Wednesdays.