By Kent Larsen
In View of Temple, Graffiti Again Seeks Dorothy's Surrender
WASHINGTON, DC -- If you visit the Washington DC Temple of The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often, you've probably seen it.
On a railroad bridge, as you approach the Temple from the East on the
Capital Beltway, is scrawled in graffiti words that say so much about
how the Temple is misunderstood. "Surrender Dorothy" they read.
Or at least they did, and probably will again. For more than 20
years, if this reporter remembers correctly, the words have adorned
that bridge, just as a driver gets his first glimpse of the Temple
rising up out of the ground as you top a hill. Oz is appearing before
"I hear people talk about our temple as though we were Disneyland or
something like that," said temple administrator John Laing, who
laughs at the graffiti. Laing says he, and many other Church members,
frequently hears fairy-tale comments when he tells acquaintances that
he mentions the Temple. But, he adds, most LDS Church members in the
area laugh too, "We find it kind of amusing that people don't know
any more about us than that." But he doesn't want to encourage the
graffiti, but only because it defaces property, not because of the
The words aren't always there. Periodically the Maryland State
Highway Administration removes the message, and they were there again
at 10 a.m. last Friday, removing the latest iteration, "We've fought
an uphill battle for years with people putting graffiti on that
bridge," said state highway spokesman David Buck. The maintenance
crew last week had to shut down two lanes of traffic for about an
hour while workers scrubbed the yellow spray paint from the bridge.
And its sometimes the same workers that remove the graffiti each
time, Ronald Shifflett says he remembers clearing the words five
years ago, and again two years ago
Buck admits that the Highway Administration doesn't remove everything
put on bridges and along roadways. Since September 11th, signs, flags
and other messages have proliferated along the highways, and the
agency has had to determine which ones must go, "It's a case-by-case
thing," Buck said. "I think anything that poses a distraction we want
to take down."
Apparently they consider "Surrender Dorothy" a distraction, because
they keep cleaning it off the bridge. But even so, they don't clean
it off as often as they would like, "We don't want to just close the
Beltway over and over again," Buck said. "We hope people won't
continue to do this."
Both the Temple and the graffiti are in prime spots. The Beltway
loops around the building in a nearly 180-degree circle. And coming
from the East, the building seems to rise out of the ground, right
before you see the bridge. The Highway Administration says that some
260,000 cars pass the Temple, and the graffiti, each day.
For the Temple, at least, its good advertising. Laing says that
people often stop by the Temple because they have seen the building
from the Beltway. And, he adds, the Temple is equiped to deal with
that, "When they don't know you, people seem to think you resemble
Oz." he said. "That's why we have a visitor's center."
Bridge pranksters return; Vandals' wicked wit tarnishes Oz
Montgomery co MD Journal pgA1 2Dec01 D1
By Sara Michael: Journal staff writer
Pranksters spray-paint railroad bridge near Mormon Temple