From February 2003 to April 2006 I spent a considerable amount of time holding protest signs in a silent vigil for peace on the Quad on our campus in front of the First Amendment plaque at the base of the flag pole. For about a year and a half this vigil took place for an hour around noon almost every week day. By 2006 we were there only once a week. Many times a colleague and a lone student activist kept me company. Some days I was on my own.
Today, during the noon hour I walked to that familiar place on the Quad. No one was there. No one has been there for a long time. I sat for a while on a concrete bench in the sun, facing the flag pole.
In over 250 vigils, protests and marches I saw and heard many things. All worth remembering.
December 3, 2003
It snowed last night. It was cold and overcast on the Quad today. There was snow on the ground and the walkways were wet. The air temperature was 33 degrees. Towards the end of our vigil the drizzle became more persistent.
I held the “…one nation, under surveillance” sign.
An individual approached me from the southeast walk. As she came up to the flag pole she said, “My family really appreciates that you’re out here.” I replied “Thank you.”
I must have had a somewhat quizzical look on my face. She continued, “We lost someone.” I asked, “In Iraq?” Because of her age I continued “A cousin?” She nodded and replied, “He was 20 years old. He had been there only three months.” “I’m sorry to hear that.”
We conversed quietly for a short while.
Finally I said, “No one can express anything adequate enough to take away your family’s pain.” As she turned to leave she repeated, “We appreciate that you’re out here every day.” It was difficult, and definitely not enough for me to reply, “Thank you.”
Definitely not enough.