I tend to lose all sense of time when away from home, and so it was during our trip to Boston this last week. With old friends to visit, news and experiences to share and memories in which to revel, all tomorrows and yesterdays seemed to merge into one delightful now.
Sadly all things come to an end and so this morning, filled with happy thoughts, we are taking to the road again and traveling 95 South toward home. I have always enjoyed a long drive, and today I’m feeling relaxed and entertained by all the billboards that loom over the highway.
Some are contradictory. One huge billboard expostulates: “Don’t bank and drive!” while one some distance away suggests: “Banking on the go?” and proffers a convenient AP. Other billboards offer self-improvement—of sorts. “Keep the beach beautiful,” crows one that sports a lady in a bikini and an ad for cosmetic surgery. Another hints, “Keep the love, lose the handles,” and advertises something called body sculpting—whatever that may be.
Mike and I begin to look for clever or amusing billboards. One says that it is a Monogamous Billboard but offers no explanation. Is it lonely? Does it require dating services? But here is another that might help. “Big, strong billboard seeks advertiser—ready to communicate.” Now, there’s an offer no billboard can refuse!
Here’s one that asks, “What do you love?” another that suggests alternate therapies for dogs, a third that sports George Washington in sunglasses and declares: “It’s not your father’s Valley Forge.” Finally, here comes one that simply says, “Be brave!”
I am mouthing these rather cryptic words when we see a large American flag flying at half mast. “Oh,” Mike exclaims, suddenly somber. “Of course. It’s 9/11.”
We look at each other. How could we have forgotten? The sun suddenly seems less bright, and the fun of travel and the road slips away into terrible memories. I switch on the radio and hear that in Pennsylvania people are commemorating the heroes of Flight 93. Tremulous voices in New York pronounce the names of those who died when the TwinTowers fell.
Now, we travel in a hush of remembrance. We both recall where we were on that day, twelve years ago, and we tell each other, softly, how we felt. We recount our sense of disbelief and unbearable loss. I brush away tears and feel a heaviness that is almost despair. In a world where such terrible things happen—where awful things are happening this moment, how can anyone be truly happy?
Suddenly, there is a roaring sound nearby, and a motorcycle passes. There’s a second one—and then another thunders by. “It’s a convoy,” Mike says, and here they come—one after another, motorcycles with flags attached. A rider waves at us, smiling cheerfully, and I wave back. “They must be going to a rally—maybe a parade commemorating 9/11. In Washington, maybe, or Virginia,” Mike says.
There are at least a hundred riders. One biker rides ahead of the others—perhaps he’s the leader, for his large flag has unfurled and stars and stripes ripple in the wind. He rides with head held high and so do the others and watching them I feel an uprush of spirit. And I think—this is a reminder that though we grieve for what was destroyed and who was lost, the spirit of our country and its people remains strong. It is a reminder that all of us must ride ahead, bravely and with hope, into whatever winds may come.
That terrible day
I sat on the warm back steps
Holding grand daughter