Souls We Might Not Remember, Ever

We are the dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders Field.

In Flanders Field by John McCrae

NC State’s belltower stands tall in the background. A few gunshots. Three F-15s grazing the sky. A thousand poppies, real and fake mingled. Hundreds of people. Thirty minutes to remember thirty-four dead souls. Memories, if not lost forever, do shrink in time. But the memory is there, nevertheless, no matter how faint. Hundred years of World War I and we still remember the martyrs, the heroes, the ones who’re gone. But their spirits will live, probably, forever.

The ceremony is over. Those who had to visit the shrine and see the names on the plaque (the photograph of the original plaque, actually—memories do rot away with time) are now leaving. The belltower is alone, again. I stand there listening to the chimes, each one of them bringing a different question. Questions, not from the spirits locked in the tower but from the ones wandering in the world, the world where God knows when these ceremonies will reach. The souls which we might not remember, ever.

When the shrieks of eight-year-old Samar Hassan dampen the tolling bells, I’m left speechless. ‘Where is my school?’ She asks. ‘Or do I have to breathe in the midst of chaos forever?’ The souls of the martyrs from Gaza’s school look at the plaque and ask ‘Where’s our plaque? When will someone remember us?’ All I can do is look away. Those fifty girls from Afghanistan come to me, breathing raggedly, ‘Will we be able to smell the poppies, ever?’ What can I say to them?

I look at the austere memento and the flock of souls standing beside me. How many such belltowers, I wonder, will we need to remember these poor souls? Will we have enough marble to build their plaques? How many poppies, even if they’re fake, will remind us of those humans? Will thirty minutes be enough for them too? If we were to remember all the Palestinians, Iraqis, and Afghanis, will the bells ever stop tolling? In which Flanders Field shall these souls seek peace?

Or maybe it’s too much to ask for. Maybe we should only remember those who die in World Wars, the big wars, the ones that matter.
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