24 Hours in Crawford

Last week I decided, on the spur of the moment, to travel with
my mother to Crawford, Texas to join Cindy Sheehan at her vigil.
I’ll never forget what I saw there. Hundreds of people converged
from all over the US, bustling about Camp Casey, each doing their
part to help. Some directed incoming cars, some made signs to hang
on the enormous tent (which was recently used for a Bush
fundraiser). Others worked the phones or posted on their blogs. The
volunteer kitchen staff prepared the evening’s meal, which included
buffalo stew donated by a rancher from just down the road.

As soon as I stepped out of the car and into the sweltering
camp, someone handed me a cold bottle of water, then crossed the
road and made sure the counter-demonstrating Bush supporters had
ample hydration too. I was amazed by this gesture of generosity and
concern.

Like my mother and me, everyone there simply felt they had to be
there, each wanting to help in whatever way possible. Later in the
afternoon, I met a 17-year-old from rural Minnesota who had never
been on a commercial airplane until he and his dad took the flight
to Texas. I met soldiers, just back from the war, who barely had
time to visit their families at home before coming to join
Cindy.

Everyone chipped in at Camp Casey, so I volunteered for security
from midnight until 2:00AM Wearing an orange vest, I walked up and
down the dusty road for a couple hours, stopping occasionally to
eat hot dogs with a bartender down from Dallas for the night. When
my shift was over, I joined a small group of night owls hanging out
under the tent. Ten minutes after I sat down, Cindy came slowly out
of her trailer and announced she couldn’t sleep. She sat with us
and talked until 6:00AM She told stories about how kind and loving
Casey was and about how he tried to join the military as a chaplain
but that didn’t work out. She chuckled about the latest rumors
being tossed around about her by the news media: ‘Apparently
they’re saying I’m a lesbian now, which is fine, except that I’m
not.’ It was inspiring to see how such a normal woman, just like
anybody you might meet on the street, could make such a difference
in the world by honoring the grief she feels for her lost son.

The next morning I awoke in my sauna of a tent to the sound of
trucks rumbling. Looking out I saw CNN, Fox, NBC, and many other
news teams setting up. The news conference was about to begin. I
raced past the rows and rows of white crosses, each bearing the
name of a soldier killed in the war. Most of them were between my
brother’s age (23) and mine (19) when they died. I thought, ‘How
lucky am I, living a comfortable life, while they fight and
die?’

I arrived at the chaos of cameras, microphones, journalists and
producers in time to see a few of the other mothers of soldiers
speak to the press. Then, it was Cindy’s turn. The cameras zoomed
in, the voices subsided, and everyone watched as America’s newest
media sensation spoke. It was a circus, but I had gotten a close up
view of what it is so easy to miss in all this: that a grieving
mother is trying to save others from experiencing the pain that
torments her. I can’t speak for Casey and I don’t think anyone can,
but I know that if this were my mother, I’d be honored.

UTNE
UTNE
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