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Readers respond, with passion: Lonely beauty of dawn at Niagara Falls

Sister Corinne Yarborough of Buffalo was among the many readers who offered thoughtful, passionate replies to a column last week that made a simple point:

Dawn at Terrapin Point, at Niagara Falls – where the sunrise forges a brilliant and often short-lived rainbow from the mist – is a moment of almost otherworldly beauty.

That account led Yarborough, of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, to recall a story she once read about Helen Keller, who was left without sight or hearing by a childhood illness – yet who understood the essence of what Niagara is:


Thank you so much for the wonderful story of James and Sta Maodzwa – and our wonderful Niagara Falls.

It reminds me of Helen Keller, who was also moved by her visit to the falls (wish I could quote her words). I found this online:

"In 1893 Helen visited Niagara Falls with Anne Sullivan and Alexander Graham Bell. Because Helen could not see or hear, she relied on her other senses to experience the majesty of the powerful falls. Helen described that she 'felt the air vibrate and the earth tremble.' She explained that people sometimes asked her how she could experience beauty without being able to see or hear. She went on to say that she could not define how she was able to experience beauty. People seemed unable to understand how Helen could connect with nature because she did not have two of her senses."

At another time I also saved this quote from her, taken from 'Three Days to See,' 1933: 

“I have often thought it would be a blessing if human beings were stricken blind and deaf for a few days at some time during their adult life. Darkness would make them appreciative of sight; silence would teach them the joys of sound.

Now and then I have tested my seeing friends to discover what they see. Recently I was visited by a very good friend who had just returned from a long walk in the woods, and asked her what she had observed. ‘Nothing in particular,’ she replied. I might have been incredulous had I not been accustomed to such responses, for long ago I became convinced that the seeing see little.”

Thank you again.

Sister Corinne Yarborough, SSMN

A Derek Gee photo gallery: Dawn at Niagara

Drops of mist, sun in the leaves: Dawn on Goat Island. (Derek Gee/The Buffalo News)

Yarborough's reflection was one of many thoughts from the community, in response to the piece. A fellow reader, Rick Lecksell, recalled how he used to routinely run at Goat Island at dawn, after working midnight shifts at the old Nabisco plant, and how "there is a rainbow every day unless it's cloudy." Several readers who have left the area noted how much they miss the opportunity to take a short drive and see the falls.

"Funny how we tend to forget about the falls because it's in our backyard," wrote Debra Kroening, a falls enthusiast who noted that her 87-year-old mother recently visited Luna Island, for the first time. Jim Hufnagel left a pointed comment, a reminder to state officials that the splendor of the dawn is a reason to remember and emphasize the original plan to leave Goat Island as a natural sanctuary and reserve.

"You know how sometimes when you see something again many, many years later, and it doesn't look as large or impressive as when you were younger? Suspect that wasn't true in this instance," wrote Sue Wanner, a tribute to the timeless beauty of Niagara.

And Mandi Maodzwa – whose brother James and sister-in-law Sta, from Zimbabwe, got up early to see that stunning sunrise – summed up what happens every day at the brink:

"The universe offers us this majestic work of art. On its watch, we are invited to be guests in its gallery – witnesses to grandeur."

To add your own thoughts about Niagara, email Sean Kirst at or write to him in care of The Buffalo News, One News Plaza, Buffalo 14240.

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