Brandon LacyNovember 1996
On October 12th, I stepped off the Metro at the Federal Center SW in Washington DC. I winded my way out of the Metro station, past the Department of Education, and onto a street laden with people of all shades, colors, creeds and nationalities. I looked around at my traveling companions, breathed deep, and said loudly. "Where the hell is the quilt?"
It was at that point, as if Moses himself had stepped forth from the subway, the people crowded on the mall parted and I got my first glimpse of the quilt. The day was warm, and I moved forward like I was in some drug induced trance. I looked at the patches, and I was immediately struck with a sense of sadness. In the background, I heard some group or another marching and yelling a chant of "No More Silence, No More Fear."
I looked around me and watched a group of AIDS Quilt volunteers, angels in white, laying out another section of the quilt. It was then that I noticed the wide swatch of quilt that I was viewing were the new patches laid down in the last twenty four hours. At that moment, I became numb.
I crossed the lawn onto the main Mall. And there I saw, stretching from the steps of the capital to the Washington Monument, past all of the sacred places of American democracy, the representation of 77,000 lives lost. Moving silently, in a sea of roaring sorrow, I walked, searching for the name of a friend, for a friend. I saw, as I walked on that path of lost smiles, the faces of friends, mothers, brothers, sisters, and lovers. I was struck by the pain that radiated from the Quilt. It seemed like they had been sewn with anger and love, but without fear. Fear was not a part of the dead. That belongs to the living.
I found the panel that I was looking for, and I raised my camera to take a shot. At that point a little girl, with ribbons in her hair said to her Mother, "Mama, now that they are dead, does that mean they can't smile anymore?" At that moment, my numbness vanished, and tears ran freely from my eyes.
I turned to find my friends and began walking back to our meeting place. On the way I noticed a panel set out so that visitors can write messages to the living and to those who have died. I stopped, and wrote, "To All My Friends, I hope never to see your names here..."
I hurried on and met my friends. I turned my back to the Quilt, and my face toward the Capitol. I looked at the smiling faces around me, many of whom had lost friends and family, lovers, and more to this disease. I dried my tears, because I had no right to cry. These people who had lost so much did not shed tears, and I who have not lost to AIDS should be as strong as they. I realized that in smiles are strength, in laughter is power. The silence is broken.
(Hopefully, you who are reading this article have gone/are going to vote. Every vote counts!)