#426: Our Lady of the Underpass

January 16th, 2015

A road cone. A fallen broom. A white plastic industrial-sized bucket still festooned with the label for “Artisan Chicken” institutional-serving meat.

These are ways Our Lady of the Fullerton Underpass Accident Investigation Site is honored.

In 2005, rain leached through the concrete of a highway underpass, leaving a salt runoff stain somebody decided looked like the Virgin Mary.

Crowds numbering in the hundreds flocked to the accident investigation site, a spot for people in minor crashes on the tollway to pull over and trade paperwork or get yelled at by the cops. Votive candles, floral arrangements, artwork, police barricades were piled for yards around the Virgin as supplicants wept and prayed.

Today, it’s a small cluster of garbage around a water stain. Mary has been covered in brown spray paint, itself covering the purple horns, fangs and “666” a vandal added in 2009.

Three flickering votive candles sit tucked behind a plastic chicken bucket filled with folded paper and withered bundles of roses. An orange road cone protects a folded box that once held craft-ish beer.

The underpass wall has been scribbled in wishes.

“Dear God & Blessed Mother,” a typical one starts. “Please Look over me & my Grandma & my Mom And keep them healthy thank you ♥ always.”

They ask God and Mary to watch out for sick children, for friends and family. They ask for guidance, assistance. Some ask the Lady to guide and protect certain individuals, sometimes referring to them by what’s clearly a gang name.

“And help me get off drugs,” one of the sadder scribbles begs the Virgin. “Protect me from evil.”

It was a novelty. A freak accident. A cute news story of 2005 with juuuuust enough racial element in the background to get a chuckle at the majority Hispanic supplicants.

But somebody lit those three candles.

Somebody’s picking up that broom and tidying for the Virgin Mother.

Interstate traffic screams above. The underpass is a homeless nesting site too, with elaborate bedding and, in one spot, a large pile of neatly folded blankets.

Among filth and grime, shit and holler, three candles to the virgin flicker in the wind.

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