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Former U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, accompanied by her husband, Chip Hagan, wears a hard hat and holds a ceremonial shovel Wednesday during the groundbreaking for a new 180-foot-tall air traffic control tower at Piedmont Triad International Airport. As a senator, Hagan helped secure federal money for the $61 million project.

Thank you, Kay Hagan

It was good to see Kay Hagan again, basking in the warmth of both a spring-day sun and an appreciative crowd last week.

The former U.S. senator has rarely made public appearances as she recovers from a serious illness that has made speaking and walking difficult.

Hagan, 66, was stricken in 2016 by a tick-borne virus that inflamed her brain. As News & Record Staff Writer Richard Barron reported, she spent six months in an Atlanta hospital before beginning outpatient treatment and continues a physical therapy regimen in Greensboro.

So her appearance last week at Piedmont Triad International Airport was doubly heartening. Hagan was on hand for the groundbreaking for a new $61 million air traffic control tower at the airport. As a senator, she played a key role in securing funding for the project after the prospects for the federal money had waned.

PTI Executive Director Kevin Baker recalled her seeing for herself the state of the existing tower.

“She climbed up into the tower, and she learned firsthand what its limitations are,” Baker said. “She then made it her charge to help get our project out of the doldrums and moving along.”

Hagan didn’t make any public remarks at the groundbreaking, but the width of her smile and the gleam in her eyes spoke for her. Her husband, Chip, explained that his wife’s condition limits her speech and her mobility. He added that she is determined to get better.

“She is a very — I won’t say stubborn — but a very determined person and she is working very hard to try to improve the situation,” Chip Hagan said.

Anyone who knows Kay Hagan would expect nothing less. Her intelligence and her tenacity have always been her calling cards, in both her professional and political lives.

After a career in banking, Hagan, an attorney by training, served in the N.C. Senate for 10 years. Even as a freshman senator, Hagan, a Democrat, made waves from Day One, challenging Guilford County’s legislative delegation to deliver more results for constituents. Then she defeated a powerful incumbent, Elizabeth Dole, for a seat in the U.S. Senate, where Hagan served for one term before losing to Republican Thom Tillis in 2014.

Next she became a resident fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics. And after that, a consultant for a Washington lobbying and law firm.

So, it was good to see her out and about again, where we could say thank you, publicly and in person, for the new PTI tower, and for all of her other contributions to this community and this state. Godspeed, Sen. Hagan.

The people’s art

The roiling debate over Confederate monuments has lasted longer than the war that inspired them.

But sometimes lost in the discussion is that this isn’t simply a question of the monuments we have; it’s also a question of the monuments that are missing. That’s why a Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation public art initiative deserves more attention than it is getting.

The foundation announced the winning proposals last week, and while none of the winning bids came from Greensboro, the list is impressive.

Among the 10 winning bids for $450,000 in grants for “Inclusive Public Art”:

  • In Greenville: A mobile sculpture of a school bus that pays tribute to migrant farmworkers.
  • In Rocky Mount: “Photographic installations” throughout the city that focus on the contributions of black males as “everyday heroes.”
  • In Roanoke Rapids: Murals and plaques that tell the story of Sarah Keys Evans, a black woman in the Women’s Army Corps who refused to move to the back of a bus in that town in 1952.
  • In Winston-Salem: A photo mosaic that honors African American communities that were
  • displaced
  • and segregated by the building of Interstate 40 and redlining.

We applaud this thoughtful, constructive initiative and hope it inspires others like it.

Because what goes up matters just as much as what comes down.

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