BOWEN COLUMN: A flame still burns on Washington Hill

Published 10:30 am Tuesday, April 12, 2022

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With all that’s going on — and has been going on for a long time — I thought about our country, its old-time values from three hundred years ago, and its steady decline. The flame even flickers dim, sometimes. We’ll have to keep it fanned.

Those recent thoughts took me back to the summer of 2003, when we wrote these words, read by many, many LDN friends decades ago. But they’re as true now as then. Read on:

The amazin’ blonde and I took in a good part of our country’s history this summer, the summer of 2003. Our first order of business was to visit our son, Malachi, who was working in that part of the world at the time.

Seeing him far from home — then having to leave him more than a thousand miles from your home — is more than enough to make you nostalgic.

On top of that, however, we also were able to take in some of America’s rich history. Before we left, those powerful sights would grip us and change us, just a bit, forever.

There were so many great sights to behold on this northern tour, sights and scenes that still float through my mind on a quiet day:

We saw the hills of Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley, Delaware, and New Jersey.

We saw New York City, and the Statue of Liberty standing proudly in the fog.

And we saw the emptiness of a place called Ground Zero.

But I think the most gripping scenes from this historical tour were those in Washington D.C.

We stood in front of Mr. Lincoln, sitting every bit as tall and proud as the lady in the Hudson Bay. His famous speech is engraved on a huge nearby wall: Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty …”

You know the occasion.

Standing where Abraham Lincoln sat, and looking out as he looked, we saw the Washington Monument stretching up 550 towering feet. It’s not much more than a couple of stone throws from the majestic White House tucked away nicely in the middle of the city, like a child in a blanket.

Those scenes were inspiring, but it would be the next scene that was the most awe-inspiring of all. And the most convicting, too.

About a mile from Mr. Lincoln, just across the Potomac River, is a cemetery where men who lived serving their country and many who died doing the same now rest.

Crossing the Potomac — as our first president did in time of war — and heading uphill amidst a thousand white markers, you soon find yourself up at the peak of Arlington.

It is there that we saw the scene that brought a little lump to my throat.

I don’t know exactly what it was about it.

It could have been the quiet respect of those dozens of Americans milling around viewing the scene at the top.

It could have been the marble boulders around the area with words of some of the greatest orations in this country’s history, including “Ask not what your country can do for you …”

Maybe it was that two of the four graves marked at the top of Arlington were two children who never had a chance to live their lives.

Or perhaps it was the grave of the wife who rode alongside her husband when his life abruptly ended ‘down in Dallas.’

And, certainly, it was the grave of that husband resting beside those two small children and his wife, the president whose work ended not far from where I write today.

But I think something else added to the moment.

There beside these four graves, in the nation’s most renowned cemetery, a flame burns.

The flame always burns, night and day.

It is a flame of love, a flame of dedication and allegiance, a flame of faith.

And it could not, cannot, will not be put out! Not by an assassin’s bullet.

Not by a terroristic movement.

Not by a foreign power.

And not by liberal dogma.

The only power that could ever extinguish this flame, if only for a moment, is ourselves — by our own carelessness, by a loss of values, by faded memories in both high and low places. We must make sure our memories stay strong, our values firm. The flame, you see, must keep burning. — August 9, 2003