He stood rigidly at attention in front of the flickering glow of the television Saturday morning. His right hand remained in a salute as he watched the pipe band and drums marching on the screen, the Ground Zero flag borne by first responders.
As I watched him watching, I wondered what was going through his mind? Did he remember standing on Holy Ground twenty years ago in Shanksville, PA? Viewing the singed trees, the empty field, the crash site two months after September 11? Writing a comment on the white plywood board attached to a simple chain link fence- a makeshift memorial to those heroes of Flight 93?
Does Bryan make sense out of such a tragedy as September 11th? Do any of us?
Just a few years ago, we returned to Shanksville to visit the permanent memorial. The field and trees have recovered. New growth has emerged. For those who suffered unspeakable loss on that day, new growth has also occurred. But it does not cover over the scars hidden underneath the leafy canopy.
On that second visit, we were kept at a distance from that sacred space where heroes risked everything to save their beloved country. Concrete barriers held us back. Only those whose dear ones’ lives ended in that field are permitted to trespass. I’m sure they did so on Saturday as well they should.
Bryan walked all over the memorial that day, those few years back, a solemn expression on his face. The hardest part was listening to the voices of those on board Flight 93 housed inside of the stark, angular, gray building. Seeing the flight trajectory, hearing the voices, looking at the names of the heroes etched in stone-it made the abstract concrete for him.
He was there. He knows what happened. He honors the fallen. Yes, he gets it.