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June 28. 2014 8:42PM

An elm tree dies in Portsmouth; honoring good, dealing with evil

News came last week that Portsmouth’s last surviving American elm tree had died. It was more than 100 years old and had somehow survived the Dutch elm disease that had killed off stately elms in many U.S. cities through the years.

This particular tree was on Peirce Island. That island was the spot from which the body of University of New Hampshire student Elizabeth Marriott was dumped into the Piscataqua River’s powerful currents in October 2012. It has never been found.

Last Friday, a jury of his peers found Seth Mazzaglia guilty of Lizzie Marriott’s murder in the first degree.

Anyone following any of this case must have lost a bit of their faith in humanity, the guilty verdict notwithstanding. There is evil in this world, and there always will be.

But there is also good. New Hampshire sees that good in a jury doing its difficult job. And it finds it in the story of retired U.S. Army staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts of Nashua.

Pitts will receive the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama later this month. His gallantry in combat in Afghanistan five summers ago is a testimony to what is good and courageous in the human spirit. Despite his severe wounds and exposed condition, Pitts defended himself and his comrades while whispering into a radio to call in friendly fire on the enemy that was overrunning the American position.

New Hampshire also saw, last month, the example of another fine young man, Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon Garabrant of Greenfield, who lost his life to an enemy explosive in Afghanistan. He was just 19. He had signed up to serve his country.

One New Hampshireman will be honored with the nation’s highest medal. Another, scheduled to be brought home to New Hampshire yesterday, will be mourned for his loss and remembered for his service.

The good may not let us forget the bad. But the good can provide us with the strength and inspiration to continue to fight the evil.

 

It would be a good thing, too, if a new tree were to be planted and take root on Peirce Island.


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