In Honor of 9/11: The Flight 93 Memorial

Shanksville, PA

My husband I frequently drive between the midwest (our parents live in Michigan/Ohio) and the east coast (we live in Virginia). For years we’ve been promising ourselves we’d stop along the way in Shanksville, Pennsylvania at the Flight 93 Memorial. But by the time we get close we are invariably tired of driving and don’t want to make the detour. We just push the last three hours home.

This August we spent an extra night on the road, so we visited the memorial on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I was so glad we did. Today seemed like the right day to tell you about it. Maybe you will feel inspired to make the detour some time if you can. At least you can enjoy the pictures.

The assortment of visitors was what you might see strolling the National Mall in Washington DC on any sunny afternoon: retired couples in golf visors, parents with school-aged children plus a stroller, a throng of boy scouts in khaki uniform, men and women sporting Harley Davidson logos, a woman or two in hijab, a large Amish family in their distinctive white caps and straw hats. In other words: a cross section of America.


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Honor Flight: a WW II Veteran Reflects

a guest post by my Dad

The following is by my father, Nicholas J. Huizenga, in which he describes a Talons Out Honor Flight he took on May 16, 2015. He died a year later, in June 2016, almost a year ago.

Nicholas Huizenga, USA private

Nicholas J. Huizenga, 1945

Memorial Day, May 25, 2015.

Nine days ago I joined 105 veterans of World War ll on a trip to Washington D.C. mainly to see the war memorials. The average age of the vets was 93 years, and each had an assistant and a wheel chair. It was a long day, which began at the Gerald Ford airport in Grand Rapids at 5:30 a.m. and ended after midnight. During breakfast we heard the old songs of the War era by the Great Lakes Male Chorus before a grand send-off by scores of people, who applauded and shook our hands with expressions of appreciation for our service.

At the Ronald Reagan Airport in D.C. we were again greeted by scores of people while a professional group of women in their 60’s sang some of the old songs. Police cars escorted our six busses down the streets of Washington, while tour guides shared information about the buildings and monuments.


My family was able to meet Dad as he came off the bus at the WWII Memorial.


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Did you hear the Thunder Roll?

Memorial Day in DC

923055_10201199214404128_1663466755_nMemorial Day weekend collided with Trinity Sunday this year. I preached a sermon titled “Cosmic!’ using Genesis 1:1 and Psalm 8. I referenced a movie called “The Overview Effect” which is definitely worth your time. It features great images from spacecrafts, and is narrated by astronauts and philosophers.

After worship, we walked down the hill to the National Mall to be part of “Rolling Thunder,” when thousands of motorcycles spend hours looping the Mall to bring awareness to the issue of POW/MIA troops.

We walked up “Thunder Alley” where you can buy riding gloves and black leather. I listened to the roar of the motorcycles, felt the street reverberate under my feet, and was blasted in the face with exhaust fumes. Rolling Thunder is a full-body experience!

We also hit a few monuments: the Lincoln monument, the Korean War Memorial, MLK monument, FDR monument. The weather was perfect. Then we “ate and ran” at a friend’s BBQ, because we were on the way to Wolftrap to hear the “President’s Own” Marine Band. This is a family tradition, so you can read about last year’s celebration here, if you’re curious. The format is the same every year, and the highlights include a stirring rendition of the 1812 Overture, the Stars & Stripes Forever, and a medley of the songs of all the Armed Forces: Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, Marines. The evening ends with a fabulous fireworks display.

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Memorable Memorial Day: 2012

The Wolftrap Memorial Day Bash

Yesterday we went to Wolftrap to hear the President’s Own Marine Band play, and to see fireworks. It’s a free event and we love to go. The gates open at 6:30 and we arrived by 6:40. Even so, the place was packed. We ended up spreading our picnic blanket on asphalt because every scrap of grass was already taken. The asphalt radiated heat, but fortunately the sun was setting.

We ate our packed lunch of chicken salad, 3-bean salad and beer among the hubbub of families. Beside us were four very tan young people drinking wine. On the other side was an extended family of parents, grandparents and small children, with multiple conversations going on at once in both Spanish and English, equally fluent. Another family arrived carrying two small children who were absolutely sacked out. They laid the sleeping children on a mat on the asphalt and proceeded to unload their food, then were told they had to move, the path had to be clear for emergency vehicles. Since they were only one foot from us, I felt sorry for them. Note to Wolftrap: a gallon of paint and a line could solve this problem.

After we ate, we decided to check for seats under the roof and were able to find some great ones. There was barely a hint of breeze, but if there were one, we could catch it.

The President’s Own came on stage and we listened to a fabulous program. The music is so varied, from John Phillips Souza to Tchaikovsky to swing. There was an amazing euphonium solo during “Napoli”. When was the last time you heard a euphonium solo? Such a mellifluous sound, running up and down and all around. The speaker quipped, “There are more starting quarterbacks in the NFL than there are professional euphonium players in the United States.”

My favorite was a suite from the “Band of Brothers.” I noticed that the birds were making an unusual amount of noise during it. I thought, “Do the birds like this piece? Are they competing?” I don’t remember the birds being noticeable during other concerts.

The next number was “A White House Cantata” by Leonard Bernstein which featured soloists playing the part of presidents, really great stuff. They were singing away when there was a great rush of noise from behind us. Rain had begun. We felt it at the same time as we heard it, the whole sound was a kind of gasp of surprise. Water whooshed in under the roof and of course all the people on the lawn ran for cover. Through it all, the President’s Own just kept playing and singing.

I realized why the birds had been so noisy. They knew the rain was coming.

The program ended with a wonderful string of standards: The 1812 Overture, God of Our Fathers, Stars & Stripes Forever, and a medley called the Salute to the Armed Forces, where veterans of the various branches stand up during their song. They unfurl an enormous flag on the stage during the Stars & Stripes.

You’d have to be a robot not to feel patriotic!

We all wondered if they would do the fireworks, but they did. There were 4 or 5 songs with the explosions choreographed. Breath-taking. Between the smoke from the fireworks and the falling rain, we were surrounded by smoke and mist. It looked like a battlefield scene a la Hollywood.

We were right beneath the explosions, and during the finale, I felt absolutely helpless, like every sense I had was consumed by the experience of being there. I couldn’t stop laughing.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

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Reasons I Love DC

The Jefferson Memorial

Yesterday evening my husband and I went for a walk around the tidal basin, stopping for a while at the Jefferson Memorial. I loved seeing:

~ The cherry blossoms in the early stages. They are not only iconic, but also beautiful.

~ Groups of high schoolers in their spirit-wear, walking along in constantly re-forming groups.

~ Families, especially the one with a grouchy kid, a tired mom, and a bored-looking teen, all pulled along by an enthusiastic dad.

~ A pair of loons. They are the Minnesota state bird. Who doesn’t love a diving duck?

~ Rowing teams on the Potomac, with somebody yelling from a megaphone.

~ Quotations chiseled on a wall. Almighty God hath created the mind free. All attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens . . . are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion . . . No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship or ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion. I know but one code of morality for men whether acting singly or collectively.

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