Banner for Chattanooga to be available for signing Saturday

Revitalize Port Angeles spokeswoman Leslie Kidwell Robertson is big on spirit. (Diane Urbani de la Paz)

Revitalize Port Angeles spokeswoman Leslie Kidwell Robertson is big on spirit. (Diane Urbani de la Paz)

PORT ANGELES — On Saturday, a relationship born in a best-city competition and forged in subsequent tragedy and gratitude will again be marked by this city reaching out to Chattanooga, Tenn., with comforting words.

Area residents are being asked to sign a banner to residents of that town where a school bus crash Monday killed six children.

The community-activist network Revitalize Port Angeles will unfurl the blank 8-foot-by-3-foot “Community Christmas Card” at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Conrad Dyar Memorial Fountain at Laurel and West First streets, group founder Leslie Robertson said Thursday.

“It’s devastating, having been there and visited and knowing how warm those people are,” Robertson said.

“We are sort of unofficial sister cities.”

The banner-signing is among activities that will culminate in a happier note: the 5 p.m. illumination of the community tree.

The bus that crashed after swerving off a road Monday in Chattanooga was carrying 37 children, several of whom were also seriously injured.

The driver, who was reportedly driving on an unauthorized route, has been charged with vehicular homicide and reckless driving.

The relationship between Port Angeles and the city 2,600 miles away was borne in competition fostered by Outside magazine in mid-2015.

Chattanooga was voted “America’s Best Town of 2015” in May 2015, while Port Angeles, roughly a 10th of that city’s size, came in close second.

Then on July 16, 2015, in Chattanooga, a lone shooter killed four Marines and one Navy petty officer.

Robertson collected signatures and expressions of support for the Southern city on banners and presented it in person to city residents.

As a return hug this July, Chattanooga radio and television host James Howard piloted a flight to Port Angeles to commemorate the mass shooting.

Howard flew a Cessna 172 named “The Spirit of the Fallen Five.”

He brought a thank-you banner signed by Chattanooga City Council members and hundreds of other Tennessee residents.

Howard presented it to Port Angeles City Council members and business leaders when he arrived at William R. Fairchild International Airport.

The paper banner that Port Angeles-area residents will sign Saturday will be unfurled on a table at the fountain, ready for expressions of sympathy.

“It’s devastating that they are dealing with yet another tragedy,” Robertson said. “It’s a bummer.

“I hope this is the last time we have to do something like this again for them, I will say that.”

“Isn’t that the truth,” Chattanooga resident Vicki Millholland Hawkins said Thursday in a telephone interview.

Hawkins, a Port Angeles native, met Robertson on Robertson’s first visit to Tennessee with the first banner.

“That they would go to the trouble and time and effort to do this, I know that Chattanooga appreciates it,” Hawkins said.

“It seems like all the bad things stop when something like this happens.”

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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