An Insurmountable Wall by Aribella Lafleur
Occasionally, in my nonchalant passage throughout the metaverse, I feel a need for a reflective hiatus, to contemplate the significant matters of subsistence. In that vein, I felt compelled to visit “the Wall”, a thought-provoking and inspirational virtual replica of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall.
The entry portal, an unblemished, pearlescent-paned dome, greeted our arrival with its bright aspect. Our eyes were drawn to the serene autumn vista beyond, and to a screen playing excerpts from the real-life counterpart to this subdued site.
A hushed silence descended over our number, as if we had been relocated to a time and place beyond our understanding. The dying leaves, dropping gently from the trees encircling us, took my heart with them on their graceful flight. No joyous laughter filled the air, yet the powerful and majestic sentiment pervading this location was palpable.
My habitually rowdy crew were uncharacteristically stilled by a respectful awe as they gazed upon a shining memorial to the men who rose to the challenge set by their country. The Three Servicemen statue stood proudly, as if safeguarding the location marking their lost and fallen comrades.
As I looked up, I wondered at the courage of these men, many still in their teens, thrust into the totally alien landscape of Vietnam, witnessing unimaginable horrors without respite. I was struck by the impression that, though not my land and not my war, simply by being here I was engulfed in a history that was far larger than my small existence.
Like an oyster covering a speck of grit, modern society strives to hide death, camouflaging it with the mundane. Shielded by the closed coffin, as if we have disguised the inevitable, we forget that life is a gift, and sometimes hard-won by the sacrifice of others. This “pearl”, now mirrored in two worlds, yields the beauty of remembrance grown around, and become a part of, the history that bore so much pain of loss and sacrifice. Gazing upon the extensive expanse of polished black granite, inscribed with the names of men and women whose service helped keep this dream of freedom alive, I could almost glimpse the faces peering out from the smooth, cold surface.
We set off in search of the name of one of my team’s relatives who had fallen in combat. Using a directory terminal we easily located the correct wall panel (after a false start with the incorrect name), and all joined in the quest with surprising enthusiasm.
Upon finding the name etched on the face of the wall, we paused in reverential silence, before leaving a white rose as a tribute.
Standing later in the shadow of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial statue, the sharp contrast of the bronze against the white paving stones, our interest was drawn upward. We glimpsed the heartache of tending the dying, of repairing the wounded only to have battered souls sent back out to the fray, all written on the brow of the valiant nurse figure. Though none called for honour, it seemed a fitting acknowledgment to these courageous women.
For some time, I sat at the base of a giant pine with the handsome, crimson-vested builder, Bleys Chevalier. I marvelled at his recreation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall, and at the responses it had evoked within me. The muted attitude of my attendants assured me I was not alone in my sentiments.
As the sun set lazily over the falling leaves, like the myriad of lives lost, I walked back to the long wall.
A lone patriotic flag rested against the wall, the symbol of national pride and loyalty to a cause greater than oneself. I remained, captivated by the floodlit scene, as the night closed around me, the conclusion of the day intimating a fitting time to end my poignant visit.
As I departed, I wondered if the changing of the seasons would bury this bright-hued landscape in a shroud of white, consigning the fallen, both leaves and souls, to distant memory. I vowed to return with my team….
Lest we forget.
Copy and images (c) 2007, Aribella Lafleur. All Rights Reserved.
Produced with the editorial assistance of Must Packbiers.
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