Belief Beat

My journalism career has included reporting for the Republican-American, a daily newspaper in northwest Connecticut. Though surrounded by sweet Gilmore Girls-inspiring towns, Waterbury is a somewhat gritty place — my car was keyed in the company parking lot on my first day, though the perpetrator was promptly caught and forced to pay for the damage — but I never imagined that such a horrible crime could take place beneath the giant cross overlooking the city.

In short: last week, 16-year-old Chloe Ottman was raped, strangled and stabbed by a close friend at the base of the cross, which is part of the abandoned Holy Land USA, a Catholic tourist attraction shuttered in 1984. (Check the Republican-American and The Wall Street Journal for the stories; read at your own risk, because the details are horrifying.)

I must confess that I’ve never liked that huge hilltop cross — to me, it looks tacky, especially lit up after dark for all the cars stuck on I-84 to enjoy. But next week, when I’m traveling between New York and Boston, I’m sure I won’t be the only driver looking up at it and shuddering, now with good reason. Stay tuned to see if this crime is what prompts the cross, along with the other forgotten religious symbols and biblical replicas on the site, to finally be removed. Then again, maybe some people feel this tragedy serves as all the more reason to reopen the park and restore its good intentions? One of the commenters on the WSJ piece suggests as much:

Waterbury should put effort into making Holy Land a safe park. Ridding the place of ruined objects and offering money to the Sisters who have inherited the property. This is a gem of a location offering great views of the city and provide some solstice to the family who lost the girl. Her death would not be in vain.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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