Thursday, September 28, 2006

Snow Day

The sleepy little seacoast town that I teach physics in has called a day of mourning for Army Specialist Jared J. Raymond. A recent SHS graduate, he was KIA in Iraq last week. In his honor, the town closed the schools for the day. The main streets were blocked off. Jared was given a full military funeral including a dress parade. Hundreds of people lined up along the route from the church to the cemetery. Most of the high school was in the crowd lining both sides of the street, students and teachers. Many more stood outside the church during the funeral. The services were broadcast via loudspeaker to those who arrived too late to sit inside with the family.

I am new here. I may have grown up the next town over but that was forever ago. Anyone I would have known is gone. Alan’s friends from Temple… Marty’s friends from running track… The girl Matt Dunn stole from Alan… That girl, Piper that I had a crush on from the drama fest… Long gone, all of them.

I certainly didn’t know Jared. He graduated high school two years ago. Many of my colleagues knew him. A few were broken up over this. The impression I get is that he wasn’t a great student but he was a nice kid, polite. Didn't deserve to die. That could describe anyone. It could have described me.

I went downtown to stand with the students. I didn’t have to. Jared wasn’t my student. I didn’t know him. I mostly have freshmen, many of which didn’t know him. I didn’t have come in today. I could have taken the day off. I could have worked from home and caught up on lesson plans. I could have done any number of things on this sunny warm New England autumn day. I didn’t do any number of things. I stood with the community and watched them bury a child.

During my job interview the principal said to me, “I’m not hiring people who want a job. I’m hiring teachers who are going to become a part of the community.” I liked that and agree with it. It turned out to be a big a selling point to me. So I stood there, not to impress the principal but to join my new community.

I stood there under a giant American flag as the caisson passed with Jared Raymond’s body covered under a smaller flag and thought of the investment the community put into Jared Raymond as he grew up. I thought of the time his family spent with him and the dreams they had for him. I thought about the education the community offered him. I imagined him playing in the park the same way the children played today before their parents told them to stand still as the horses pulled Jared’s casket by. It’s a shame America wasted that investment on a war we have no legitimate business fighting.

Tomorrow school will begin like usual. The news helicopters wont be flying over Humphrey Street. For all, Jared will be a memory. Another family, perhaps from the mid-west or perhaps from Salem will get their own sad news. Another lesson we won’t have learned. Another investment squandered. Another dream cut short. We don’t belong in Iraq. We don’t belong in Afghanistan. We don’t belong in Iran. We need to bring our children home alive.

10 Comments:

Blogger Origami Yoda said...

Wow.

Sep 28, 2006, 8:10:00 PM  
Blogger marthadot said...

beautifully written, Dean.

Sep 28, 2006, 8:19:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin Wolf said...

If there's good in a moment like this (in addition to truly being with your community) it's the quiet and the opportunity for reflection, just as you've done so well here.

For me anyway, there's always the next day to get back to anger and disgust and an even stronger wish to oppose those who got us into this mess.

Sep 29, 2006, 9:21:00 AM  
Blogger RicketyFunk said...

That is saddening. A Good person shouldn't go halfway around the world to get killed so a political body can be in control of another political body.

On the flipside (and not to downplay the somber mood of yesterday's events)

I read some H.P. Lovecraft early this summer.

He has a cold and impersonal view of the world that we project so much of our own 'animism' upon. Power exists that surpasses anything we can make with our metaphorical thumbtacks and bandaids, Elmers Glue and rubber bands in desperate efforts to keep us in control over them. For instance, the decline in the magnetic field that terra firma generates. Once that's gone (if it goes, science doesn't profess to confirm that), ain't nothing gunna matter no more.

The point to take is that maybe our significance should not be found in a false sense of security through control.

Where then do we find it? I don't know. Community is a good place to start.

Sep 29, 2006, 10:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Adorable Girlfriend said...

It's true, community is important. It's a very Jewish concept and you did right.

And Rickety is correct, no American should be dying in Iraq. This was a kid who the system failed along time before Bush took office, who was fighting for a war he had to be tricked in for an America that didn't support him. Thank you, Swampscott for trying to correct America's and when I say that, the right's and Bush's, wrong.

Bless the family and friends that he have been left behind. May they find comfort in each other and a braver America as time marches on.

Sep 29, 2006, 4:55:00 PM  
Blogger coffeesnob3 said...

Well said, Dean, well said.

Sep 29, 2006, 8:18:00 PM  
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