Friday, June 3, 2005
Memories of Memorial Day, 2005
For the past several years I have been out of town on Memorial Day, so when it became clear we would be at home on Monday, I was determined to take part in Carlisle's Memorial Day celebration. I'm not quite sure why it was so important for me to participate in this holiday that honors our veterans. Of course I was eager to hear my neighbor's son, Second Lieutenant Dan Newman, the keynote speaker. Just three months ago Newman had returned home from a 13-month active tour of duty in Iraq. Maybe it was reading accounts of the war in the newspapers day after day and watching the evening news that made me more aware of what these young men and women have had to endure after America's invasion of Iraq. Memorial Day is a time to honor veterans of all the wars — the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. However, I have to admit that this year those serving in Iraq were mostly on my mind.
Newman's heartfelt speech moved many in the audience to tears, especially when he spoke of his comrades, helicopter pilots CWO2 Shane Colton and CWO3 Wes Fortenberry. Just as they were providing air support for Newman and his squad, their helicopter was downed, hit by an enemy missile, and the pilots were killed on impact. Newman has vowed to tell their story whenever the opportunity arises.
Not only did Newman deliver a moving speech, but the ministers and priest of the Carlisle churches spoke in turn throughout the morning, solemnly addressing the assembled crowd in Corey Auditorium, and later in Green Cemetery and at memorials along the parade route. Master of Ceremonies Doug Stevenson provided the framework for the exercises.
On stage were the Carlisle School Junior and Senior Bands, as well as the School Chorus performing music selections appropriate for the day. It was trumpeters Eric Luby, Charles Fitzpatrick, and Timothy Lamere who we heard playing taps and echoing during the Memorial Day Parade.
There is something very special about celebrating Memorial Day in a small town like Carlisle. Although a serious occasion, it provides an opportunity to speak with former neighbors and old friends. In the school parking lot townspeople were directed to line up behind the Carlisle Minutemen for the march down Church Street to Green Cemetery. Under seldom-seen sunny skies, Reverend Steven Weibley spoke at the graveside of Paul Macqueene, the veteran most recently buried in the cemetery.
The parade moved on, up Bedford Road to the Civil War Monument at the Rotary, then on to the War Memorials on the Town Green. As the crowd gathered around, listening intently, Minuteman Scott Evans and Naval Reserve Officer Josh Klein read off the names of Carlisle veterans of World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and Vietnam.
The last stop of the morning was at the 1775 Memorial Stone, adjacent to the First Religious Society. On a plaque attached to the stone, one can read the names of the 16 Carlisle Minutemen who marched to the Old North Bridge in Concord to fight the British. It was here I had a moment to speak to Carlisle School Band Director Tom O'Halloran before his musicians ended the ceremony with the playing of the National Anthem. I first met Tom in Belmont, back in the late seventies, when he was my son's trombone teacher. We have maintained a friendship for almost 30 years.
For many in the crowd the true last stop of the morning was the delicious ham and baked bean luncheon at the First Religious Society's Union Hall. Once again there was an opportunity to sit and talk with friends before heading home to work in the garden if the rains would hold off for a few more hours.
Yes, Memorial Day in Carlisle is special in so many different ways.
According to the April 8 Mosquito, Boston Magazine has proclaimed Carlisle the Best Town in Massachusetts for "Quiet Seekers." I've always said, "It's quiet here," in response to people commenting about how beautiful Carlisle is.
The next morning, on Saturday, April 9, I spent an hour on my patio and "listened" for the "quiet." I arranged a chaise to face the sun and closed my eyes, with a cup of fresh brewed coffee on my lap. Birds were the first things my ears focused on. Six or seven species were heard — the most easily recognizable of which was the male cardinal. A small plane flew overhead. A woodpecker pecked at three-second intervals. I heard what I first thought to be Marge Findlay's burros begging to be fed, but soon realized it was a gaggle of Canada geese. They quieted except for one loner that flew overhead, protesting all the way, as though he had been rejected from the flock. Then a rooster crowed, somewhere in the direction of Rockland Road. Soon I heard two of my favorite sounds.the breeze caressing the pines behind the house (the pines whispering back, "It's quiet here"), and the FRS church bell announcing that 9 o'clock had arrived. The sound of a church bell ringing in the distance is one that I have carried with me since childhood, and is the most calming sound I can imagine.
For these first fifteen minutes or so, I really enjoyed just "being;" the sun shining on my face and warming my body. Then, another plane passed overhead. I shielded my eyes to see it. It was heading due north at about 4,000 feet, the sun bouncing off its fuselage. I began to realize that there had been "plane sounds" almost all the time I had been sitting there. As this one passed out of sight (not sound), another crossed, heading east at six or seven thousand feet; then yet another, out of sight on the other side of the house, snarling to the west, seemingly at tree-top level. It got "quiet" again and I focused really hard. The sun was heating up the aluminum downspouts and they were protesting slightly as they strained against their tethers. A car door closed (probably our neighbors, the Blums), yet I heard no engine starting. It must have, because next came the crunch of tires against gravel as it left the driveway.
Funny thing, virtually no automobile sounds for the entire hour, but constant single-engine airplane sounds. The vision of bumper stickers railing against expansion at Hanscom Field came flashing. What are they thinking? "Save our Historic Towns," indeed. Don't they realize that the horse has already left the barn? Don't get me wrong. This is not about the noise from private planes. It's all about relishing my life in Carlisle as a "Quiet Seeker." I loved most of what I heard during that hour on the patio. I was struck, however, with how constant the aircraft noise was. Have you noticed it as well? Perhaps it is just a Saturday morning phenomenon; a time when people are taking off for the weekend or doing touch-and-go landings as they seek their pilot licenses.
If the plane sounds had been absent, it would have been as close to a perfect hour as I could imagine. I doubt that it would have been much different a hundred years ago, except that maybe there would have been cows "mooing" rather than planes. If you haven't "listened" lately, you might find it to be a very pleasant experience. I did and do. Thanks for listening.
© 2005 The