Tucked away in one corner of the Mall, just beyond the Lincoln Memorial, just below your line of sight, so un-ostentatious that you will miss it if you are not looking for it, is the Vietnam War Memorial.
It is one of the more popular tourist attractions in Washington, D.C. In fact it is the hordes of people that first give you an inkling that there is something worth looking at in that part of the Mall.
For many of the people milling around the monument, however, this is a pilgrimage, not a "must-see" stop on a tour.
On any given day, you will find children, wives, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, pencil and paper in hand, walking along the wall, squinting, trying to find that one name they've come from all corners of the country looking for. They also come with old black and white photographs, year books, flowers, war medals, anything that once belonged to a loved one whose name has now been etched onto that wall.
They make etchings of their own. They slide their fingers along the names, the feeling at the tips of their fingers more concrete, perhaps, than anything they've been able to recall in a long time. They take photographs. They bow their heads and lean against the cold of the granite. They stand and stare. Lost, I imagine, in the memories of a time long gone.
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Related post: My essay on Washington, D.C., Power Point.