McHenry Author Shares Two Years Of Witness at ‘a Peculiar Institution’
By Sharon Boehlefeld, Features Editor
February 4, 2021
Several years ago, a book club I belonged to opted to read a collection of the records of Lewis and Clark from their expedition to explore the newly aquired Louisiana Territory.
I must admit, I didn’t get the book finished by our discussion, but I wanted to read it all. As it happened, we scheduled the discussion to coincide with the launching of the expedition, which was on May 14, 1804.
I went home and started reading each installment on the anniversary of the day it was written. I finished on Sept. 23, 2006, two years later.
As I read Mark Waters’ “Signs ... From a Peculiar Institution,” I felt a need to do exactly the same thing. 
He subtitles his book “One witness’s account of a quite ordinary horror (and a small peace).” In it, he recounts two years of prayer at the former Rockford abortion facility, now a police station.
His reflections clearly show his background as an English professor at McHenry County College. He opens with a discussion of Moby Dick, and drops in comparisons to other fiction throughout the paperback.
On one day he reflects on “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” a short story by Flannery O’Connor. 
On another, he writes the record of a day as an act in a play.
He talks of the many women whose children were not “saves,” the term the pro-life supporters at the facility used when a woman turned away from an abortion.
He tells of the day a woman fluent in Spanish just happened to walk by when the sidewalk counselors needed a translator.
He recalls days of sun, rain and freezing cold when he and others stood their ground in order to pray for and try to stop the “ordinary horror” that went on inside an old public school where children once went to learn and play.
He talks about the neighborhood, and the people whose ordinary lives continued despite a “neighbor” they didn’t approve of.
He unveils a slowly developed and uneasy acquaintance with the man who owned the building, a man who tried to prevent a van offering ultrasounds to park on the street, and worked to disparage those gathered to pray and counsel.
He describes interactions with police, some leading to arrests, most leading to reports being filed that led to no charges.
One small error caught me up. He describes the facility as being on Rockford’s West Side. In fact, it was east of the Rock River, the “dividing line” between the parts of the city. Despite that, the book is worth reading. 
But it can be emotionally wrenching, and I don’t recommend trying to read it in one sitting.
The Rockford facility is closed now and Waters has joined others praying at Planned Parenthood in Aurora.
He is the faculty representative for the MCC chapter of Students for Life. 
Waters also maintains a Facebook page where he continues a pro-life conversation.
“Signs ... From a Peculiar Institution” is available from Amazon.
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