by Tim Gilmore, 6/17/2012
The Flagler Fire Tower rises 100 feet above the small hill on the side of Beach Boulevard. Its metal stairway zigs across one level, zags across the next, back and forth all the way to the top. In the Great Depression, FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps built a fire tower here. The first one was probably wooden. The metal tower came sometime between the Depression and the rechristening as the Southside Fire Tower in the late 1950s. Where the park is now were once a lookout residence and then a trailer park.
On February 10, 2011, a nine year-old boy named Javier notices that someone has cut a Javier-sized vertical slit in the locked security fence that surrounds the fire tower and keeps anyone from climbing it. He gets a look in his eyes.
Javier climbs the fire tower.
Javier looks down at churches on both sides of Beach Boulevard. He looks down at the cars blocking multiple lanes. He looks down at All-American Hot Dogs in its red roof. Javier looks down at trees. He looks down at his mother who, looking around the park frantically, has finally discovered his ascent. He’ll come down to her. But not just yet. Had he never climbed the fire tower, the Javier that lives the next 72 years would have lacked a key component of his own mindset. Javier, nine years old, looks down at the world from a distance, and he understands, furthermore, that the world can be seen from a distance, and that seeing the big picture of the world is one of the most beautiful things he can do.