The wall is about stories
a larger story still under revision
That story is complicated
The little ones are told in the letters and objects left behind
hundreds of thousands of pieces of grief in the collection
Too many letters to write
You have to get close to read it.
The shiny black granite reflects you as you look at it.
The carved surface invites you to touch it;
when you do, a ghostly hand meets yours
The memorial doesn’t leave you alone.
It pulls you in.
It encourages you to dredge up long-buried feelings
to experience them right there, in semi-public, alongside other mourners
You can physically touch a memory.
You can put your hand on a name
And it’s 6:30 am, July 23, 1970.
I can smell it, hear it, feel it —
my gun, the cordite, the madness of a firefight
How the hell did I survive this?
Here in the sacred place
you can talk to the person and complete a relationship that was cut short
A young woman tells her father he would have been the best daddy in the world.
A soldier can’t forgive himself for not realizing how badly his buddy was hurt.
A 37-year-old woman writes to her lover, who’s still 21
It’s like the person’s spirit is on there.
And the story gets told.
Yours truly, a name not mourned on the wall