SOPHIA - 4
happens when a child keeps believing in praying for the lost
souls and the candles of Vigilance go out? In this story
Sarah is dismayed her favorite shrine disappears, but then revived
when she finds another to honor.
KEEP THE CANDLES LIT
G-Ma Lori—Oct. 22
“Oh, no, no, G-Ma, look! The angels aren’t lighted up.”
Sarah was almost in tears.
I looked in the window
of the Salon along Fourteenth Street to confirm my granddaughter’s
great disappointment. Indeed, there were no lit candles
in front of each of the two cherub figures on the shelf within
the beauty parlor. The candles had been diligently aglow
since September 11. It was the shop’s tribute to those
who died in the New York City World Trade Center disaster.
As my three-year-old ‘light of my life’ hopped off the building’s
ledge, I hugged her tightly. “Hush, hush, dry those tears,”
I murmured trying to soothe her dismay.
Each day I pick up Sarah
from preschool and we walk past the Salon, she eagerly races
to her perch to study the burning vigil lights and 'her' angels.
Today, it was as if the candle inside her had been snuffed.
“G-Ma, no peoples will ‘member
the crashed buildings anymore because the lights are out.”
She pressed her nose against
the window again and tapped noisily on the glass. The
Asian women, who usually smile at Sarah’s delight for the cherubs,
caught her frown. They tried to get Sarah to return
their smiles, but their smiles and histrionics were in vain.
Sarah’s disappointment won out. We traipsed off toward
her brother’s school.
“Sarah, it’s all right dear,”
I attempted to soothe her pathos and quiet her Irish temper.
“I’m afraid our city is beginning to forget our tragedy.
G-Ma is sad too the shop forgot to light their candle today.”
I felt sad for Sarah and the city. How quickly we forget.
Along the streets the posters of missing victims were disappearing.
The numbers of flags were diminishing. The city was getting
back to “normal,” all, that is, except my three-year-old who
hadn’t forgotten the sadness in her own, child-like way.
As Sarah’s older brother, Matt,
excitedly ran to us from his dismissal lineup, she yelled at
him. “Matt, Matt, the fire is out, our angels won’t be
with all the
dead peoples. They will
Sensitive to his sister’s concern,
Matt gently took her hand and turned to talk to me.
"Why, G-Ma, are the candles out? You know the flowers
in front of the new wall painting on the corner are all
dead too. Why is that?” he asked. Sarah grabbed
onto his hand and
tightened her grip. I quietly sighed, racing for
a quick and honest answer. Matt couldn't be fooled with
any brush-off answers.
“I wish G-Ma could give
you a ready answer, but, I can’t, at least not right now,” I
knew the best reply would be one that didn’t demean Matt’s concern.
“Then when, G-Ma, when,” demanded
the five-year-old, anxiety ringing in his Voice.
I decided a distraction
was in order. I gave them each a Tootsie Pop I’d saved
in my bulging bag just for a treat. It worked, but I knew
Matt would not settle for a diversion for long. He’d be
asking the question again sooner or later.
We turned onto Seventh Street
where my husband and I live. Sarah tore her had from my
grip and ran to a beautifully decorated doorway of an apartment
building. I had noticed the well cared for ‘shrine’ and
today it was especially lovely.
“G-Ma – it’s Okay. Look
at the new flowers, and the candles are fired up,” Sarah exclaimed,
We gathered around the
small but impressive tribute to ‘Joyce’ – rows of candle--some
lit--and dozens of fresh roses surrounded her picture. Joyce
was a beautiful young woman from the picture that was taped
on the apartment entrance door. It was very evident someone
loved her very much to faithfully tend her memorial and even
a bronze plaque graced the cornerstone of the apartment building.
I assumed she had lived in the apartment building that was paying
tribute to her.
G-Ma, there’s even a pumpkin for her, and a painting with a
heart on it.” Sarah was elated.
The kids appeared mollified,
but I wondered about the increasing lack of upkeep of the once
abundant ‘shrines’ around the city. There was a
general lessening of concern about remembering the horror
of the Second Tuesday Of September. I wondered why the
kids hadn’t forgotten, and the adults were beginning to.
Grandmothers don’t forget.
Children don’t forget. I had lived through a number of
wars—big ones—small ones. I knew Terrorism wouldn’t
go away. Only this war was different. The enemy
was targeting my grandchildren. They were indiscriminate
in who they killed or maimed. I didn’t like the
idea that people were letting candles go unlighted, or were
chasing anthrax scares—diversions, I thought, like the Tootsie
Pops—to keep our minds full of fear as the Terrorists planned
something bigger next.
“Sarah and Matt,” I said.
“Let’s say a prayer for ‘Joyce’ and include all of the other
people who were also hurt and lost. We will remember them
every night in our prayers and tell them they will never be
forgotten. We will be vigilant. Our family will
continue to tell them they are not alone, and are not forgotten.
We’ll put our Semper Vigilantes card by our bedside where we
pray to be sure to remember them.”
Matt took charge of the answer. He puffed out his chest,
assuming what I said was his idea, after all. “Yes, G-Ma, we’ll
be Semper Vigilantes like G-Pa is always telling us.
Maybe we should tell the teachers at school to not forget too,”
Matt thoughtfully ventured. “Then the kids will tell their
moms and dads, and the dead people will always be remembered.”
“My school prays every morning,”
piped in Sarah. “We ‘member too.”
I was more than relieved. As we crossed the
street to enter my apartment, I was proud of 'my' two little
ones. They had arrived at their own answer to their questions.
Sarah and Matt were doing their part and doing it well.
Communities, I thought, must not let the memories of those loved
ones, or strangers blow away as the dust from the rubble blew
over our city, or the leaves blew off the trees getting ready
The next day another light of hope in the future met Sarah as
we walked by the beauty salon with the cherubs. Sarah
didn’t run to the window as usual. In her little mind
the reason to sit on the ledge had been extinguished.
Then we heard a tap and both of us looked at the cherubs.
The candles were lit and the women smiled and waved to Sarah.
I looked at them and then down at Sarah
who was beaming, watching the candles flicker. I
said the words, Semper Vigilantes into the window.
Then I smiled and gave the women inside two thumbs up.
Sarah was my candle.
She was re-lit. Her hope was burning. So was mine
that the candles of vigilance would never go out.
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