Tom Brokaw’s book, The Greatest Generation, speaks of the WWII generation. Every member of it knew personal sacrifice, either through knowing someone lost in the war or through rationing or extended work in factories. The generation he speaks of was forged in the scarcity of the Great Depression, tested on the battlefields of Europe and Asia, returned after seeing and having personally experienced the horrors – and wonders of war in its humanity, and came back to a nation exalting its courage and bravery.
The key qualities that this generation held were humility, duty, honor and trust. These were qualities thrust upon them by their situations. These qualities were what got you through the worst and also those that brought you the best. They set our country on a path of expansion that we tread on even today.
And some of those qualities can be seen today in the shadows of the horrific bombing in Boston.
They show in the bravery of an anti-war protester father who lost his son in the Iraq war. Carlos Arredondo, nearby the finish line when the bombs went off, is talked of as a hero. His empathy and care for his fellow humans erupted as suddenly as the explosion. He ran to the area where the explosion had happened with no apparent concern for his own safety. He’s seen in a famous gristly photo with a man in a wheelchair whose legs had been severed and shredded by the explosion. Arredondo’s focus is on the victim – his attempts to calm and comfort clearly as visible in the photo as his bloodied hands and the shock on the poor man in the wheelchair’s face.
Duty extends even to the privileged in the form of a former lineman for the New England Patriots, Joe Andruzzi. When asked about his role, he simply stated that focus shouldn’t be on him but on the first responders – the police, EMTs, firemen and physicians who also raced to the scene.
Stories are told from hospital administrators shocked to find lines queued around the building not for information or gawking but to donate blood. Stories warm the cold dark regions of humanity when we hear of people not only in the Boston area offering their beds and homes to those displaced by the blasts, but even as far away as North Carolina. Stories are told about the people, seeing runners and spectators aimless after the chaos, opening their homes with blankets, water, and in a move so appropriate for Boston – beer!
THESE are the stories of Americans. These are the stories of survival, and strength and courage. This is what makes this country great. Our diversity is set aside in these times so we see each other not as partisans or races or creeds but as one country, the greatest country to ever exist on this planet.
And as we suffer and survive through these trials, the world watches. They reel at the evil and revel at our kindness. These are the images that help make people want to jump on rickety boats with the hope of making our shoreline. These are the images that make people want to save thousands of dollars to be placed in a wretched cargo hold in a rolling ship. And these are the images that make them point across the seas and say THAT IS WHERE I WANT TO LIVE.
And for me, it is faith that helps me to grieve for the lost and injured. I believe that the fallen are with the creator God, in his arms. His perfection envelops their souls now, safe from any more pain and harm. These horrible acts do not kill their souls – and they can serve to strengthen ours.
And we mourn and grieve for all of Boston. All of the northeast. All of America.
God bless America.
Tall shadows frame the the art.
Down below, dashed lines of people saunter or flash by. The mechanism is green with an oddly placed flashing light. The artist extends at its reach.
Some stop down below, wondering what the mechanism is doing. Painting, they say. A mural. Others look past sunglasses to a device. Yet others are annoyed by those slowing and stopping.
Those who hustle along to their destinations miss the mechanism. How odd to walk but not see it, with its odd flashing light.
Where Florida is tolerable. It’s the moments like these, where the sun shirks below the horizon, leaving only an orange glow to mark its passing. It’s the moments like these, when the temperatures and humidity cooperate to allow open windows at home where fresh air blows dusty mantles and blinds sway in the gentle breeze. It’s the moments like these where I am surest of God’s ever presence, and re-awed at his creation. He made that big bang, knowing it would lead to this here and now. And in knowing, this day like all others is a gift. And it is the remembrance of these days that gets me through the furnace of summer to the ecstasy of fall and winter.
And in moments like these, I remember my love for camping with my daughter, and bicycle rides when sweat isn’t as pervasive. When evenings are comfortable. And then in March we’ll start back along the path of longer days and warmer evenings. Cheers to fall!
Sitting here. Watching. Umbrellas nervously clutched. Anxious looks skyward lead to worried thoughts. How fast is it approaching? So hard to tell with all the facades in the way. Fingers reaching from all around skyward hold workers in their grasp.
Then it begins with a violent and rude outburst. Thunderous roaring rumbles and echoes down here. Facades reverb like large tall drums, magnifying the effect. Flash bulbs of a God size precede the roar and accompany the drops. People scatter, shielding themselves with papers, books or their hands.
The sounds and sights start to abate now. The pace of falling slows. From my window on the street, I experience none of their panic or hurriedness. My rain coat sits unused in my bag. Umbrella, dry. Waiting this out is easy and refreshing. I am a houseplant, with a window to their world.
Why does knowledge feed me so?
Its wispy wings surround me.
I feel the rhythm in its words,
their meanings and depth, they chide me.
Words within words, phrase within phrase
look and you will find, thee.
I search the winds of information around me,
and cheer when their meanings appear to me.
When knowledge is what I do not seek,
darkness tends to follow.
For it is the light of knowledge that guides my way,
its search for which then sates me.
True knowledge, I will never find
as long as heartbeats bind me.
Until they cease, I hope to feel
those wispy wings about me.
So knowledge, you I hope to seek
till death or dementia define me.
As a 30-something who grew up reading, over and over, the section from the Encyclopedia Britannica on the space program, when I listened to the story today on NPR of the first departure of a shuttle to its final resting place, I had a range of feelings. Generally they were bittersweet. On the one hand, hearing of the ways NASA has planned to have en-route viewings made me extremely happy and proud. On the other, the realization that these beautiful, complex, very imperfect creations – much like their makers – who have spent months in space but will never again taste the freedom of open air or the blueness of a perfect day saddens me.
The vehicles once designed to accept and attenuate many times the force of gravity will instead only feel that of a single gravity’s tug. Tiles designed to be ablative in the face of thousands of degrees of friction with the upper atmosphere will instead bask in the climate controlled space they will hang or sit. Engines, long since removed and replaced with replicas, will never exert thrust upon these vehicles.
This process has been much like the death of a person from old age – eventual. The final flights, like the last sweet breaths of a life, were the punctuation at the end of their flight stories. Upon the completion of these last flights, the three shuttles were rolled, ever slowly in their grounded way, towards the very vehicle assembly building where it was previously readied for spaceflight, but now the building served not as a re-nourishment but as a mortician. The shuttles were carefully hoisted into a scaffolded configuration inside the building, as if on a gurney, splayed open and then drained of their bodily fluids for their display to us, its loving family. Nasa is outfitting them with prosthetic replica engines and parts – their Sunday best – for the viewings along its trip before they rest.
And like a grand Emperor beloved by its subjects, we have painstakingly chosen its huge tombs such that these both physical and metaphorical giants will be visible for generations to come. Millions of people will pass in front of its unseeing eyes at it counts the passage of time in years, decades, and perhaps centuries.
What will future generations far in the future think of it? Will it be an ancient relic, similar to the pyramids, where they will wonder how our simple knowledge and ancient technology were able to fly these as we did? Or will they instead look at them as the genesis of their reaches into the cosmos?
My hope is that their esteem and thoughts of the shuttle program include all the love and affection of children like I was, where every trip into the history of the program was a poignant reminder to look to the sky and dream of tomorrow. This is one of the many gifts the shuttle gave. We mourn their passings from flight today.
And let us not forget Challenger. And Columbia. Of these we have but fragments and photos to remind us. Your memories live on and we miss you.
So thank you, shuttles. Rest you well.
I sit here in a deli, though that word is foreign to some of its youngest denizens. The youngest would much rather be in a cafe or a sandwich shop – or a hip coffee shop that sells food. Only their parents or grandparents eat in delis after all, they would tell their friends if seen there.
Surrounded by tables full of a half dozen decades worth of age and experience, I revel in its dichotomy. A cacophony of voices surrounds me, but the table behind catches my attention. Amongst the chorus, I hear a few men short of a dozen talking. Their loud voices and tones are unmistakable – there is power, perhaps even political power there.
As I listen, I note without looking on the cast of characters. On the one, there are the wise – the old guard, having visited here for the better part of their longer lives. They speak of experiences their less experienced neighbors can hardly relate to nor understand. On the other are the upstarts – hungry for the respect and authority of the elders. All speak in the measured speech that is both careful and confidant.
Laughter echos off of the walls now at a crass joke from within their ranks. Suddenly the demeanor of the table changes. A single of them raises a chastising voice to its younger teller for offending sensibilities. The teller has made a juvenile mistake. But the accuser is neigh offended – this is about power and demanded respect. The joke was not appropriate for he of a lesser statute, and the elder has called the younger to task.
A quiet, semi-contemplative period follows where eyes quietly poll each member of the party. This silent roll call vote will never be truly known, but its importance wanes. A half apology is made in the form of an explanation – no one at the table is a novice at this give and take, and the youth has gained some lost ground. Conversation turns to less serious matters as the lesser attempts to assert his technological prowess. The older shrugs off this attempted parry as unimportant, but I hear the reticence in his voice. The elder statesman realizes he has been bested. That paradigm will one day shift.
As they rise to leave, there is back slapping, many handshakes and cheery loud machinations with the promise for more lunches together. These are men exuding power, demanding respect by their words and body language, tone and piercing looks.
The men rise to part, except the act of rising is difficult for some due to aged atrophy. The young, first to rise, offer practiced assistance to the elder, further raising their stature to the group. I wonder, unable to turn around and look, if the youth stand taller as they offer assistance – a reminder that time strolls through their ranks unabated by power.
The dichotomy stays unbroken. Some habits are hard to break.
Then I look over my shoulder as the tables are pulled apart. They seem to still radiate from the men that occupied them. Oh, if those tables could talk…