by Allison Bolt
Growing up two hours north of Atlanta, I can remember road trips to the city and the destination of these trips was always the airport. This is not an uncommon story because the Atlanta airport is ranked the busiest airport in the world. Every day, tense hands grip steering wheels in traffic through the ever crowded pick-up and drop-off lanes and around barbed wire fencing that signal the imminent flight paths. It’s an Atlanta landmark really.
Writer and urban designer Hannah Palmer has a long history with the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport which she shared with students and visitors during a discussion of her novel “Flight Path: A Search for Roots Beneath the World’s Busiest Airport” at Ivy Hall May 4.
Some say Atlanta was built for the airport, rather than the airport was built for Atlanta. Palmer’s memoir “Flight Path” discredits this saying. Have you heard of the town known as Mountain View? Probably not due to it’s current state: buried underneath the Atlanta airport. This small town was Palmer’s hometown at birth, her house bought and demolished by the airport. Two of Palmer’s other childhood homes surrounding the airport would soon follow.
Palmer set out to investigate her family’s displacement almost forty years after the demolition of her first home. She discussed this research process, presenting a slideshow of family photos, newspaper clippings and airport maps that flashed across the screen as she shared her story. A particular photo of the Atlanta airport overlaid with a map of the towns that used to thrive there revealed the vast impact of this utter destruction and displacement.
Yet the reading and the book itself are not entirely composed of black and white research. This book is a memoir. Palmer’s visit to Ivy Hall consisted of personal stories as well as the excerpt of the book she read. Countless citizens were displaced upon the building of the Atlanta airport and “Flight Path” brings these forgotten towns back into light, while focusing on Hannah Palmer’s family story and how displacement can affect generation after generation.
Whether you were born and raised in Atlanta or you’ve recently made the city your home while attending SCAD, Palmer revealed the truth about the city’s economic center and the lasting impact of the busiest airport in the world.