Our youngest daughter started middle school when we moved from Mississippi to Malibu in 2008 and needed certain shots to enroll in school, (make up your own jokes friends from Mississippi and California, but be nice!) so we went to a local urgent-care facility and waited. There in the waiting room I met a super-friendly Pepperdine student who was the incoming president of the College Republicans at Seaver College. He excitedly shared with me his plan to place a large American flag on the magnificent front lawn of Pepperdine University for every life lost in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. He said it was going to be awesome. I was impressed by both his initiative and enthusiasm.
He delivered. The display was such a success that Pepperdine immediately latched on to the idea, and this year marks the tenth consecutive year for the breathtaking “waves of flags” display.
Walking among the flags is an experience in and of itself, not to mention a photographer’s dream in the Age of Instagram, but my favorite thing to do is to watch the first responders and the veterans park their fire trucks and motorcycles on the iconic Pacific Coast Highway and walk up the hill to take in the experience. They are far more inspiring to watch than the flags themselves.
In the early years, someone had the proper idea to place flags of other nations among the American flags to represent the correct nationalities of the victims of the attacks on that fateful day. After all, the attacks were acts of aggression against the entire world. International students and guests to campus are happy to find their flag and yet sobered by the reminder of the loss that flag represents.
We still remember that terrible day. In a year or two, incoming college students will remind us that they were not alive in the fall of 2001, but as of today the flags are still flying and those of us who remember still share our stories.
President Abraham Lincoln predicted that the world would soon forget what he said that historic Thursday afternoon in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, but elementary school children still memorize his speech over 150 years later. Some things are simply unforgettable.
Posted in Original Essays
Tagged 9-11, abraham lincoln, college republicans, first responders, flags, gettysburg address, malibu, memories, pacific coast highway, pch, pepperdine, remember, september 11, united states, usa, veterans, waves, waves of flags
SCENE 1: It was August 2012 and the worst moment of my life. My mother was dying more rapidly than I and my sisters imagined, and I had spent the last hour holding her hand while she dozed in a special lift chair. The clock taunted me like an executioner. I knew that I had to fly back to California and leave her for the final time, and eventually, that time arrived. I went to grab my bag, but when I returned to say goodbye it was obvious that this would not go well. I stepped into another room to gain composure but failed, so I simply collapsed in loud tears into her shallow, yellowed chest, and through my sobs could hear her raspy, comforting, motherly voice whisper, “It’s going to be alright.” It sure didn’t seem so. When I stood to leave, I strode quickly out the door knowing that I would never leave if I looked back. A man should never have to turn his back on his dying mother, but I did.
SCENE 2: Three weeks later, I am on an afternoon flight from Los Angeles to Memphis. That night, through the miracle of air travel, I would sleep in the bed my mother died in that morning, two thousand miles from where my fateful day began. I reviewed the eulogy fortunately written the day before and fought off tears on what otherwise appeared to be a normal flight. Troubled and weary, I put away the notes and plugged in earbuds in a futile attempt at distraction and scrolled through the flight’s music offerings. For some reason, I selected Three Little Birds by Bob Marley and soon heard his hopeful, comforting, spiritual voice say, “Don’t worry about a thing, cause every little thing gonna be alright.” The tears flowed easily now, and if anyone noticed, I didn’t give a fill-in-the-blank.
SCENE 3: It is February 2016 in Malibu, California, and I am driving down the Pacific Coast Highway for a lunch appointment with a good friend. It is sunny, blue skies, seventy degrees, and heavenly. Lunch will be served by the Pacific Ocean with surfers bobbing in the waves. It has been a bit of a rough month personally, physically, and professionally, but I am recently feeling better on all fronts. Per usual, my Legend CD by Bob Marley & the Wailers is playing, and my old friend is reassuring me once again that every little thing is gonna be alright. Mom was right. Of course. She always seemed to be.
Posted in Original Essays, Uncategorized
Tagged bob marley, confidence, death, hope, life, malibu, mothers, pacific coast highway, sons, three little birds