Security would not let me take my camera inside so believe me when I say Brianna’s eyes opened wide at the grandeur of the 85 foot cupola that extends up four floors. She punctuated her amazement saying, “Grandma Patty, this is a day I will never forget!”
Visitors can schedule an escorted tour, but I knew my way around the Courthouse. I had been there many times. For two summers in a row while in college, I worked in the mail room where I helped Evelyn Mills process the outgoing county mail through a Pitney Bowes postage machine. Years later, I became acquainted with Family Court and Domestic Relations through an unfortunate divorce from Brianna’s grandfather and subsequent custody and support proceedings. There’d be none of that marring our visit though it was apparent others were less fortunate. Court was in session.
Brianna pledged silence so we could go into one of the court rooms that a clerk assured us was “the most beautiful of all.” We quietly took in the coved ceiling, colorful murals, and globular chandeliers while District Attorney John Peck cross-examined a man alleged to be an accomplice in the robbery and murder of a Hempfield Township man in 2006. Before the testimony became graphic, we exited to the hallway. There, I tried to explain to Brianna that a judge and jury will decide if a bad man will need to go to jail.
“This is Brianna’s first trip to the Courthouse,” I causally told an attorney who noticed Brianna and me wandering around the circular mezzanine and leaning over the banister to get a better look at the cupola.
“Would you like to meet a Judge?” He asked Brianna. I answered “yes” for her.
Judge Marsili greeted Brianna wearing his official court robes. He told her that he thought the ceiling in his Family Court Room looked like an upside-down old fashioned bathtub. He pointed to the two round windows and shrugged, “I wonder why my windows here are round?” Then, he gave Brianna a silver badge in the shape of a star. He declared her an official Deputy Sheriff just like the man on duty in the court room.
In the Information Office, I bought Brianna a souvenir photograph of the Courthouse for her Mom to put in a memory scrapbook. The ladies there found goodies for Brianna too. She left their office with a Rubrics Cube, smiley face erasers, stickers and a pencil. Not to be outdone by the Judge or the ladies, the security guard who returned my checked camera to me had a law enforcement badge for Brianna.
“Here you go. You can be a police officer too,” he said handing Brianna the badge.
“I’d rather be a princess,” she said.
This will also be a day I will never forget!
Photos of the interior of the Westmoreland County Courthouse can be found online under History at http://www.co.westmoreland.pa.us
May 14, 2008