I drove across El Curtola Bridge on my way to a gathering for Acalanes High School grad Brett Olson on Sept. 11, the American flags strapped to the chain link fence above the freeway, the crowd marking the anniversary small but proud.
The crowd that turned out to remember Olson that evening was much larger, but more somber, candles and armbands with the 20-year-old's name on them replacing the red, white, and blue. A hawk hunted above us as hundreds of people gathered on the patch at Acalanes, interested in the activity and circling. Somehow, Brett Olson's father Michael found the inner strength to address his son's many friends as the candles burned down and the tears fell and I, for one, tried not to feel like a voyeur.
Yesterday, we learned that a dedicated American ambassador and three other foreign office staffers were targeted and killed in their embassy on the anniversary of 9-11 -- by the very people he was dedicated to helping achieve peace and liberty in their land. Friends and family members of career diplomat and Piedmont High School graduate J. Christopher Stevens said he could have had his pick of high-paying private sector jobs, but that he chose a career in international diplomacy because "everything he did was for the United States."
As I write this a ceremony honoring the original moon-walker, Neil Armstrong, is underway at the National Cathedral in Washington, with the last man to leave his footprints on the lunar surface -- Eugene Cernan -- eulogizing Armstrong, an inarguably brave pilot and pioneer whose penchant for privacy helped characterize him as "tempestuous" later in his life. His "small step for man" marked him for the rest of his days, it seems. Also today, his family - and undoubtedly hundreds of law enforcement colleagues - will say goodbye to Officer Kenyon Youngstrom at Mission Church in Vacaville. Youngstrom was shot and mortally wounded seconds after he walked up to a car on the shoulder of Interstate 680 in Alamo, dying of his wound on Sept. 5.
The passing of these people, and the various ways we have chosen to mark their departure, set me to thinking early this morning -- and grasping for some sort of galvanizing moral to help make sense of the often twisted final ironies our last days sometimes highlight. Scratching my pointy little head for a couple of hours before the sun came up on a new day and finding nothing remotely galvanizing I'll end this by saying simply that those we've lost live within us as long as there is someone to remember them, that new voyages and discoveries and adventures are waiting to be had and they would undoubtedly want us all to push on.
That's as much sense as I can make of often senseless things. It's going to get better. It just has to.