I visited the wall. There were others there with me who were also in their own world. People walking, standing, staring. Some touched the wall, caressing it across its face. Some touched a special name as though touching it helped bring that person back to us... And it did. Some stopped at a special name and did a rubbing, as if they could bring that part of the wall away with them. And they could. Some looked at the wall almost afraid to touch it, as if that the connection would fill them with something too powerful to control. And they were right. I started walking and looking. Five names per row. One row on the first tile. Three rows, fifteen names on the next twenty five, thirty five ... Almost a thousand by the middle. Each name was unique. Each represented the potential for a life. He/she could have been here today, but... In a sense they are here, for a moment. For every one of us who comes or cares. But also they are gone forever, lost. The loss of someone's brother, or son or father is overwhelming. The sadness of the loss of the thousands of brothers, sons , fathers, gripped me so. I felt a sadness a sorrow an aloneness that took me away to a quiet solitude that no one could touch. I took the hand of my wife, and looked at my children. Holding on to make sure that what I had was real and could not get away. I needed an anchor, something solid to help keep me together. I cried freely for all that was lost. I cried with all the parents and children, brothers and sisters who were ever there or who shared that pain. And it was a pain as real as any hurt I have ever received. The names...Morales, Johnson, Walters, Isenberg, Howard, Youngbear. I knew the Youngbear family when I lived in Minnesota, though not this warrior. When I started, I could see the land, and looked down upon the tiles. Now, in the middle, all I could see was names on black marble. No sky, no horizon, only the names of those who passed. I felt trapped by the image, I was sinking with no way out but to continue. I climbed out of that blackness, saw once again bits of sky and land. I made my way out, back to the World, to the safety of 1998. At the foot of the marble were flowers, some wilted, some new. A picture of a soldier in Vietnam. He was smiling. Behind the names was the cold blackness of the Marble. On the marble were the muted reflections of those of us who had come to pay our respects. Our details were not clear, the tears on our cheeks were not reflected, no one there needed to see the tears to know of their presence.
Copyright 1998 © Jed Proujansky All Rights Reserved