San Francisco. November 27, 1978. That ominous morning, bullets ricochetted through the City Hall and Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected public official in California, lay dead. The man who had served on San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors for 11 months was killed by former supervisor Dan White with a revolver bearing serial number 1J7901.
Anger, despair and elegies ensued. Not merely at the killing of Harvey Milk, the elected official, but for the brave and endearing gay rights activist who initiated the United States’ first gay rights ordinance that sparked the legal LGBTQ-rights revolution. The man who arrived in San Francisco in late 1972, first opened a camera shop called Castro Camera on Castro Street and later plunged into gay rights and politics. Milk exhorted people to “burst down those closet doors once and for all, and stand up and start to fight.” Tired of the conspiracy of silence, he became vociferous about his gay rights’ and thousands found a voice in Milk’s brave utterances.
SFO’s Terminal 1 is the world’s first airport named after a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
That voice was silenced on November 27, 1978. But San Francisco never forgot Harvey Milk. Exactly 41 years after the bullets ricochetted through Milk’s skull, San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is paying an ode with Harvey Milk Terminal 1 -- the world’s first airport terminal named after a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
The focal point of the new terminal is a 400-foot wall that includes art, photos, notes and other mementos -- many crowdsourced from the public -- depicting Milk’s life. The wall and installation will be in place for at least two years.
A wall of Terminal 1 has photographs narrating the story of Milk’s life.
The $2.4 billion Harvey Milk Terminal 1 is the first opening phase of a project that will span through 2023. The state-of-the-art facility was designed in the spirit of the Golden Age of Travel, with gates fashioned as airline lounges, more than 2,000 places to sit down, all-gender restrooms and the first Individual Carrier System for baggage handling in the US.
The wall and installation on Milk’s life will be in place for at least two years.
“Harvey Milk Terminal 1 sets a new benchmark for the airport experience, and serves as a tribute to the life and legacy of a pioneering civil rights leader. For millions of people around the world, SFO is the first impression of the San Francisco Bay Area, and Harvey Milk Terminal 1 showcases what makes our region great: a spirit of innovation, a focus on the environment, and most importantly, a commitment to diversity, equality, and inclusion,” Ivar C. Satero, Airport Director, said.
All-gender restroom in SFO’s Harvey Milk Terminal 1 (Photo credit: Chris McGinnis / SFGate).
“This is really the first airport terminal in the world to be named in honour of an LGBT leader, so that's really significant. You’ve got a facility that's brand new that will really allow millions of people from around the world to learn about Harvey Milk's story, learn about his life and his legacy,” Doug Yakel, SFO spokesperson, added.
The name Harvey Milk has been popular in pop culture.
The Times of Harvey Milk, a 1984 documentary film, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature; Sean Penn portrayed Milk on silver screen in the 2008 feature film titled Milk; and he is featured in San Francisco’s GLBT Historical Society Museum, the first stand-alone museum of its kind in the United States.
With SFO’s Terminal 1 bearing his name, Harvey Milk will continue to be the Messenger of Hope. And flyers walking through the world’s first airport named after a member of the LGBTQ+ community will carry home the story of Milk’s fearlessness. Not many airports write odes but the one at SFO could not have been written better!
Good to know:
United Airlines will begin its first year-round non-stop service from Delhi to San Francisco on December 5, 2019. The route will be operated by Boeing 787-9. Economy class fare: Rs 71,570 onwards (as mentioned on the website)
Preeti Verma Lal is a Goa-based freelance writer/photographer. Read her columns