Liebster six – the stand-out

Liebster six - the stand-out

 

Washington DC
26 Jan 2005

Josie of Josie Wanders asked me to answer ten questions as part of the nomination process for the 2017 Liebster Award.

6. What is one stand-out moment from your travels? It could be a favourite moment, something that went wrong, or something quirky that happened.

I spent the coldest Australia Day of my life looking through the Smithsonians. The day was fading as I ventured back out into the Mall, and my final pilgrimage lay at the far end.

The sun was setting as I hurried beneath the bare trees. The frozen waters of the Reflecting Pool were a sheet of ice on my left, the shadowed face of the Lincoln Memorial ahead of me drawing closer and on my right-hand side, somewhere amidst the deepening twilight, was the black stone of The Wall, sunk down out of sight. I found a path, crested a small rise, and there it was, a stream of people here in the cold sunset standing and walking quietly along the path beside the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

As the Sixties came to a climax, Australians and Americans were fighting a war in Vietnam. There’s a wall in Canberra marked with the names of those who died, and here in the heart of Washington is another wall, a great many more names, thousands and thousands of them, and just as the visitors in Canberra search out certain names and slot poppies in between the slabs bearing the lists, here visitors come to see and touch and make rubbings of the names of those they remember.

I lined up a shot along the eastern wing, the stark column of the Washington Monument catching the final watery, wintry rays of the sun, people walking, making rubbings, standing silently for photographs, or just gazing up at the names. I felt a bit of an intruder here in a sacred American place, but there was that undeniable bond between our two nations. We had fought side by side in Vietnam, and Korea and World War II before that, and again in subsequent combats, including the current war, where we were again helping to share the load.

Vietnam must hold a special place in American hearts, just as that long ago defeat in Gallipoli rings down the years in Australia, where each year people rise in the early morning to attend a service at sunrise to commemorate a dawn attack that began a legend of a hard battle fought in a distant place for reasons few of the participants could have explained. They went, they did their duty, they did their best, and some of them gave all they had. It is fitting that friends, families, comrades and descendants come here to remember those who never came home, and I was glad that I had come to pay my respects at the end of a very strange feeling Australia Day.

I raised my camera again to take another photograph – I usually take two or three of the same scene – when the young man reached up to the cold black surface of The Wall to touch a name. And my heart.

Pete

The Liebster Award:

18 Comments

  1. This sounds like a memorable experience for you. I went to the Vietnam Wall many years ago and it was very sobering. I bet it was an interesting way to spend Australia Day.

    1. Some memorials – like the WW2 one further up the Mall – leave me cold. Others, like the Wall, have their own magic. It is uncanny, just being there, so close to the spirits of the dead.

  2. DC is a place full of so many meaningful spots. And it’s true that our two nations share a lot of battlefields and comeraderie. I spent Australia Day in Melbourne in 2010, and visited the Normandy Beaches this past year (where US and AUS are remembered gratefully and fondly by the French-even going so far as to hang our flags outside their windows). Whether or not I believe in going to war or fighting, there’s no denying the solemnity of these places and the meaning they have for so many

    1. I’ve been to the American cemetery above Omaha Beach a couple of times now. The new museum is well worthwhile, but I knew the stories anyway, and it sent a chill up my spine to stand looking down on that beach.

      And then to see those endless rows of gravestones. Please. Never again.

    2. I’ve been to the American cemetery there twice now. Perched just above Omaha Beach, where many died. Another moving spot.

  3. This is such a cool concept of uniting bloggers and getting some wonderful thoughts out there! Love it!

  4. What a poignant visit to DC. It must have been different seeing it from an Australian’s perspective.

    1. Well, not from my point of view…

      But yes, it was very exciting, to see all these places from books and movies, to meet a few internet friends, to see snow, and a frozen river…

  5. I liked knowing a bit more about you. Liebster award is such an honor. Congratulations to you. Hope this is one of many that will follow

    1. Thanks. You are most kind. I like writing, I like travelling, and I like sharing my delights and disasters.

  6. I’ve been to DC many, many times and the wall never ceases to move me. Seeing the metals, stuffed animals, and letters left by others makes the names more personal to me.

    1. Each one a person. It is uncanny the way the Wall works. I’ve been there a few times now, and each time has been moving.

  7. wow how amazing! I love that you broke down the liebster aware into multiple posts rather than one big post! Love the memory you shared.

    1. Thanks. I was moved. There is a magic in the Wall.

      As for dividing the responses into seperate postcards, that’s the way I use to stop myself from writing long, rambling posts, which I am far too prone to do.

    1. Thanks! You’ll need a few weeks, if you are doing it just once. There’s a lot to see in the museums and galleries.

      I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been. And I could happily go back and see more.

    2. Thanks! DC is a place to visit many times. Or if once, for some time. Each museum and gallery needs about a day if you want to see even a fraction of the displays!

  8. Hi athousandflights, When I solo traveled & lived in Vietnam, i met lot of americans and viets there. Sometimes at the same place. Sometimes it would be fun and sometimes awkward specially if its the Vietnamese person with good knowledge of history! Good times 😉 Also, congrats. I also received the liebster award after 2 weeks of my writing.It is a great feeling. Enjoy!
    Anna
    http://www.annasherchand.com

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