Hamburg – April 28th, 1997
This was another GREAT day along the road to FREEDOM for Corky! This time the weather forecast was a tad unfriendly… rain by mid afternoon, ‘they’ said. As things turned out, they were right… it did rain by mid afternoon, but precisely at the conclusion of our happy event in the heart of downtown Hamburg. Perfect.
We rolled into the square at 9am… I’ll never know how Pete, our driver, managed to navigate his way through the construction zone… and parked right in the middle. Another thing I’ll never know is how we managed to get a permit to do that. The ease of our arrival was just a portent of the friendly welcome that Hamburg afforded Corky this day. Within minutes another GREAT sign came along in the guise of half a dozen policemen. They chatted to Martina, our Vier Pfoten leader, looked over the plans, and offered to call in the emergency police force if we didn’t have enough help! OK, Hamburg, that did it for me… you see, I still remember San Diego last year, with the dark presence of Officer Howe & his Sea World cronies. Believe me, it’s VERY nice to feel welcome. Anyway, soon a crowd of kids arrived and the square was alive with people hanging sections of CORKY’S GREAT BANNER between lampposts and trees, up stairways and down, back to back. I walked along some of the sections, again seeing many patches for the first time and everywhere seeing (which occasioned hearing) the chant FREE CORKY! FREE CORKY! FREE CORKY! FREE CORKY! FREE CORKY! FREE CORKY! FREE CORKY! It all looked and felt wonderful. Everyone was into it. Pete, our driver had a bright idea… how about running a section of the BANNER around the windows on the top level of our Great Pink Bus? OK… all it needed was a bit of string & someone small enough to climb through the bars of the sun roof. No problem. Anna ran off to buy string. Then a whole class of kids arrived (they’d just travelled for two hours)… within minutes the tables were alive with energy being put into new patches. Literally, the GREAT BANNER was growing by the minute. Later, the kids got to see the patches they’d made last year, a real thrill for them. You get the idea, I’m sure… altogether, this was a lovely, lovely scene.
Martina, Niki & I headed off down the street to the press conference at 11am, while the BANNER was still confined to the square. The conference was well attended… by five Hamburg radio stations, both major daily newspapers and a major magazine (with 3.5 million readers). Ten journalists stayed a full hour, genuinely interested & asking lots of good questions… and not just because of the excellent coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice & tasty bite to eat that came with the setting at the Movenpick restaurant. By the end there was no question that Hamburg would hear Corky’s story. As we milled about, after the discussion, I glanced out the second floor window of the room… to see the GREAT BANNER TO FREE CORKY! stretching along the pavement as far as I could see in both directions. It looked endless. GREAT!
Back at the square, our bus, now festive with BANNER ( appropriately enough a German section) had become the centerpiece of the set. Other sections were still being carried and laid out along the downtown streets…. eventually, they reached City Hall square, and we stopped there. It was enough, more than enough. Soon, a new phase began… with a great gang of kids hard at work writing messages to Anheuser Busch on paper…. and then having them faxed to that BAD company’s headquarters in St. Louis. I have no idea what the fax operator might have thought at the other end, with these whale drawings and strange messages in German coming through, but I’m quite sure one thing was clear… the message FREE CORKY! that was on each one. Meanwhile, the sounds of orcas calling filled the air, echoing off the walls of buildings around the square. A bit after 2pm it was time for some brief speeches to end the more or less formal proceedings of the day. Then, almost as we stepped off the stage, the first sprinkle of rain came. Our crew headed off quickly to pick up the BANNER and succeeded in getting it all in before the real rain came down. That made it all just another ordinary Hamburg day, we were told.
No ordinary day for us… or for Corky!
THANKS, HAMBURG. YOU ARE GREAT!
A couple of hours from now we head for Vienna…, fingers crossed & feeling quite fine.
FREE CORKY! wishes to you all,