Thursday, July 12, 2007

Sorry, this has been a longer break than I intended! My husband and I have been to the UK, where I looked at a couple of small war memorials, one civic, one religious. I just wanted to see what smaller groups do, how they remember their war dead. Both of these monuments remembered the fallen of World War II as well those from World War I, the Great War. I'm not sure how these pictures will be arranged when the blog is published so I'll describe them: you may exercise your brains by figuring out which description goes with which photograph!
The plaque with the radiator in front is from St. Machar's Cathedral in Aberdeen, Scotland. Despite this name, this church is now used the the Church of Scotland, though as another plaque inside notes, there has been Christian worship on this spot for the last 1,400 years. The stained glass window over the memorial plaques is of St. Michael slaying the serpent (Satan). St. Michael is the patron saint of soldiers and the prayer that is associated with him begins: "Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle . . ."
The statue is in a small park next to the Thames in Twickenham, England. Though it did not have names, around the base were reliefs showing the various kinds of military service, including a group of nurses, pilots, soldiers . . . the pictures I got don't really show enough.
Obviously it was important to the people of those times and places to remember the sacrifices that had let them keep their freedom. I hope the people of Montgomery County, Maryland will come to the same conclusion.
This trip was also marked by the activity of some not very efficient terrorists. The day we left for London, two petrol-filled cars were found in Central London, a few blocks from the hotel we were staying in Saturday night. When we finally arrived, we did see a police presence (though whether higher than normal I can't say). A few hours after landing, we were walking in an effort to stay awake when we were ambush-interviewed by a television reporter from Scottish National Television. I had had about 45 minutes of sleep in the previous 24 hours but I mustered up a nearly-coherent statement about not having changed our plans to fly to the UK that morning, that we would be alert and try to not do anything stupid, and that letting the terrorists change our plans would mean that they had won. A few hours later, two Iraquis drove a Jeep Cherokee full of petrol through the front door of the airport in Glasgow and I thought about my interview that that was one clip that was never going to see the light of day.
Amazingly, none of these incidents injured any innocent people: the biggest effect was the increased security at airports which was time-consuming but bearable. I flew to Aberdeen, Scotland without trouble the Monday after the Glasgow event. Flying back on Tuesday night, it was clear that they had bumped up their security in Aberdeen (concrete barriers, armed policemen) but again, only an earlier cancelled flight and a 2-1/2 hour delay for me.
We were in the UK for a conference of Catholic bioethicists that Richard had wanted to attend. Once again, he did not know many of the participants and we found ourselves explaining that we had had four children but lost one in 2004. It was a little less fraught than Richard's earlier experience, maybe because I was with him this time and drew away some of those conversations. I end up in those all the time, though I avoid doing it unnecessarily: In the Aberdeen airport I was chatting with a woman, told her I had two daughters and a son, and then caught myself saying about Matthew "My youngest son . . ." I'm sure she noticed but I did not go back and explain.
We flew back to the States on July 6th, which would have been Thomas's 23rd birthday. Though we did not get to church that day, my Aberdonian friend Barbara had asked for Mass on that day in her small urban parish to be said for my Thomas. Even in Scotland, he is not forgotten.



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