A thank you to Maya Lin

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.

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