In 1989, on a trip to Washington, D.C., I decided - with some reluctance - to go see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.
I had read about it and seen pictures of it, but even though I had read about the effect that it had on many veterans, I did not know what to expect for myself.
I had seen memorials before. They have bronze or marble statues and polished stone bases.
The Vietnam War memorial has a V-shaped path that descends gently into the ground, flanked on both sides with highly polished granite walls carved with the names of the dead.
Just a few steps down the path, I stopped - weeping uncontrollably, unstoppably and unashamedly.
Walking through that open wound, surrounded by so many young lives cut short, overwhelmed me with a sense of loss and grief and remembrance and anger and wonder.
Friends with me - not veterans - stayed back as I bowed my head and soaked my gloves with tears.
Maya Lin, the creator of that memorial, was at the Henry Art Gallery last Thursday, April 20, leading a press preview through her new exhibit, Maya Lin: Systematic Landscapes.
She was on a tight schedule, and when she left us I hesitated, then literally ran after her.
"I am a Vietnam veteran," I told her as she stopped. She turned to me with a direct gaze and gave me her full attention.
"Visiting the memorial was a great, cathartic experience," I said.
This must happen to her often.
She said nothing, gave me a half-smile, reached out to take my hand and squeezed my fingers.
All I could say was, "Thank you."
Then she was gone.
It was a great, cathartic moment.
Freelancer Korte Brueckmann can be reached via e-mail at needitor@ nwlink.com.