Sunday, July 7, 2013

Faces of the Fallen

In 2006 I was lucky enough to go on a class trip with my high school to Washington DC and New York City. This trip brought me memories that I will never in my life be able to forget. I had tons of fun doing things like watching the Changing of the Guard at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, playing in the BIGGEST toy store I've ever seen, and watching The Lion King on Broadway (FANTASTIC.) but the memories that really touch me are all of the times that I spent crying instead, and believe me, I cried a LOT. Today I'm going to tell you about two of them though.

We went to Arlington National Cemetery and were lucky enough to go on the last day of the Faces of the Fallen memorial. It was a collection of portraits from 200 different artists of the first 1,300 service members who died during OIF/OEF. This. Was. Heartbreaking.

There were two faces that stuck out to me, and even now years later I can remember them. One was an eighteen year old girl. She enlisted right out of high school and died eighteen days after her boots hit the soil overseas. Her portrait stuck out to me for two reasons. 1) I was sixteen. She was two years older than me, and she gave everything. 2) Her portrait was in her cap and gown. It really drove home how young she was. I still think about her on occasion and wonder what she would have accomplished in her life. The second was a marine in his mid thirties, he stuck out not because of his portrait, but because of the picture and the note left on it. There was a picture of newborn twins with a note that said "I'm so sorry you never got to meet them, you would have been a great father, I know you're watching over us." I lost it. I cried so hard I had to walk out of the memorial because I just couldn't stop. His babies cross my mind from time to time too, they're preteens now. I couldn't imagine growing up without my father, and it absolutely breaks my heart that they had to. 

The second memory took me quite some  time to find a picture because I couldn't remember what it was called. Across the street from the World Trade Center is the Subway. Along the walls of the stations are hundred of these:

tiles of artwork that children painted about how they felt about 9/11 and messages of positivity, love, and in some cases loss. I wish I knew where all of my pictures from NYC were, but these were pre me having a digital camera day. The one tile that affected me the most caused me to have a complete mental breakdown in the middle of the Subway station. It was a picture of the twin towers with a fire fighter with angel wings and a rainbow. It said "My Daddy went in a firefighter and came out an angel." Seriously guys, it has been eight years since I saw that pictures, and every time I think about it I cry. I'm sitting here typing this and having tears running down face.

What's the best memorial that you've ever been to?

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