By: Jen Russon
Since its completion in mid-February, the Temple of Time has added a new layer of intricacy to its smooth pinewood structure: messages written by and for people in the communities affected by last year’s school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Instrumental in assisting volunteers and artist David Best build the temple inside of two weeks, were board members at the Coral Springs Museum of Art.
Vice President Carrie Berman said the outpouring of love and support by her neighbors renews her hope for the future.
She credited Best and his team with taking a horrifying event, and managing to make something in spite of it — something that she said is bringing together a fractured community.
Visitors flow in and out of the temple daily, write on its walls, sit on its benches, and lay roses, photos and other mementos at the base of a shrine set up at the center of the grand structure. Boxes of tissues are tucked away in the corners. The temple continues to attract people from all over Broward County and beyond including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his wife Casey, who were among the guests marking the walls with their sentiments when it opened on Valentine’s Day.
Along with Parkland and Coral Springs elected officials, droves of students, parents and teachers, centurions in wheelchairs have visited the temple. On one wall, a Pembroke Pines resident remembered that one of the 17 killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Carmen Schentrup, was the child of the principal her daughter had while in elementary school.
“Thank you for taking such good care of my daughter and love and healing from our family to yours,” the anonymous person wrote to Carmen’s mother, April.
Personal messages to other victims and their families, killed or injured in the high school shooting are also ubiquitous throughout the Balinese style temple. While some of the messages are explicitly written, others seem more spontaneous and raw.
In black, bold lettering someone simply wrote, “I’m sorry I couldn’t help.”
The walls are starting to fill up and leave little in the way of empty space. Visitors said this makes them both happy and sad.
Liza Webb, a Coral Springs resident, brought her three daughters to pay their respects.
“We thought it was beautiful and fascinating. Even though we felt sad, it also brought some closure with the simplicity of writing a dedication. It made us feel like part of the community,” she said.
Webb added that she was able to watch her daughters leave messages from one of David Best’s handcrafted benches, an intricate pattern of trees with bare branches at its back. The branches raise up toward the sky.
People remark on the benches’ beauty but understand that, like the temple they were made for, all of it will burn down in May. Best had explained at an earlier art reception that setting his temples ablaze is part of their cathartic intent.
He said that what he made is no more than a pretty shape. It’s the individual’s job to come and put in their personal thoughts, their faith, their hopes and their anger. When that burns down, the hope is that some of their grief and anguish go up in smoke too.
The Temple of Time is the first of five public art works, paid for by the Bloomberg Philanthropies grant. The curated series is called “Inspiring Community Healing After Gun Violence: The Power of Art.”
The temple is open from 7 a.m. to dusk every day at 9551 W Sample Road, across from Coral Springs City Hall. The ceremonial burning will take place around May 1, 2019. Live Webcam Here.
Jen Russon is a freelance writer and English Language Arts teacher. She has published two novels to Amazon Kindle and lives in Coral Springs with her family.