The other day, I got to do something I never do.
My dear friend came into town and we took one of those double decker bus tours. (Click here to see photos better) You know how it is, you live in a tourist place like D.C., and you don’t really get to see it until guests arrive from out of town. What a treat. Someone else did all the driving, we were deposited literally in front of every important monument without having to hike a million miles or search for a parking spot.
Even better, from the top deck, on this incredibly warm winter day, we had an elevated view and a tour guide narrating what we saw.
The best part was that we were able to spend time together without either one of us fussing. No one was cooking, or scrambling to do dishes, or trying to figure out where to go. We just went, and did, relaxing and laughing together.
By the time we reached Arlington National Cemetery, I was too exhausted to move. I guess my back isn’t what it used to be, and I told my friend to go ahead while I waited for her. After all, I’ve seen the place before; why should she miss it because of me?
There in the stillness, the tombstones almost seemed to speak. Husbands and wives buried next to each other, some men lying all alone. Every now and then, a child was buried there, too. All of them were so darn young.
A plaque from the French declared, “N’oubliez jamais.” We will never forget. But so many of these people are forgotten. Their family tree dies out, and they blend into an amorphous group representing a time of sacrifice and courage. And we, like the French, often forget what they sacrificed to make us the “Greatest Nation on Earth.”
Just before closing, a group of teenaged students came barreling down the road. Their youthful energy was astounding. Leaping, laughing, running — there in the cemetery . It wasn’t that they were being disrespectful, they were just so full of life. I’m sure even the specters that haunt the place envied their vivacity and smiled at their hijinx.
After all, isn’t this why all these brave people gave up their lives? So future generations could run and play and thrive? Believing theirs was the war to end all wars. Believing their sacrifice could make it better for generations to come.
Maybe that is why so many of us here are obsessed with writing and reading suspense and mysteries. We face horror squarely, deal justice in a world that is not always just, and we laugh at death as our characters go on — against supremely terrifying odds — to live, to succeed, and to love.