My 25 year old son is a former music major who played the tuba for many years. Very talented kid. He now lives in San Antonio where he teaches high school math. Recently, he asked if I could bring his tuba to Texas so he could start playing again. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to see him so I jumped in my car and headed south.
I went to Florida first because my sister just moved there and visited with her for a day. I then headed west to see my cousin, who lives in the sleepy town of Gulf Breeze. After a brief visit I started making a bee line to Texas but, before I could even get out of third gear, I found myself driving through Pensacola.

And I suddenly got the chills.

PensacolaMany of you will remember that Pensacola was a hotbed of radical anti-abortion activity years ago. Indeed, as you approach that part of the state there are still billboard after billboard with pictures of little fetuses telling us how a 10 week fetus can recite poetry and do other amazing things. Fortunately, things have gotten a little quiet in the last few years.  As David Gunn, Jr. has been reminding us in his blogs, on March 10, 1993 his father – an abortion doctor – was murdered at the Pensacola Women’s Medical Services building as he was entering the facility. A year later, in 1994, my organization – the National Coalition of Abortion Providers – organized a one year “tribute” to Doctor Gunn at the very site where he was killed. It was a truly emotional moment for the attendees. Approximately 60 of Doctor Gunn’s colleagues made the trek to Pensacola and, with security guards stationed on the rooftops of nearby buildings, we held an open air ceremony which featured an emotional speech by his son.

As I drove into Pensacola, I realized I had to stop at the site once again.

I had a very eerie feeling as I approached Cordova Square and, although the area is now a little more built up, I recognized the building immediately. The clinic is long gone and the building is now the home of several small offices, including an Allstate Insurance agent, a home decorator, a public relations firm and a website designer. But what threw me off was the actual site where Doctor Gunn died is not in its original state. On that horrible day, he parked in his reserved spot and walked towards the back of the clinic. But over the years, someone carved out a cut through road and then put up a large, long fence along the back of the building. So, the actual scene of this horrible crime is no longer recognizable.

Still, I could not help but be paralyzed as I stood there remembering what happened that day and how the murder was a front page news story for weeks and months to come. Indeed, about 18 months later, just a few blocks away, another abortion doctor was killed at another clinic in the city just a few months after NCAP’s tribute.

To try to leave on a more “positive” note, I walked across the street to the serene open air amphitheater where we had our wonderful yet sad tribute. I sat there for thirty minutes and recalled young David, who was visiting the spot where his father died for the first time, talking about “this paranoia that is Pensacola.” He made a great impression that day and we all took solace in being together for a much-need group hug.

I’m glad I stopped in Pensacola.

We must never forget. I know I never will.