On our recent trip to D.C., Bill bought me a new pair of shoes. Black ones — simple, beautiful.
In them, I walked.
I walked the spacious grounds of Mount Vernon — strolling in my shoes where George and Martha Washington once walked in theirs. George’s were likely war-weary with dirt, Martha’s dancing in anticipation of a returning husband.
I walked through our Capitol building and stood silent before a memorial to all those from North Carolina who’ve fallen in the line of duty since 2003.
I stood where Rep. Steve Scalise recently made his return walk, on crutches, to take his place on Capitol Hill after months of physical therapy — having been shot by a deranged man at a baseball field last June.
My shoes took me to the Pentagon where I was moved to tears at a memorial for those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attack. I wrote a note in a journal for the remaining loved ones — promising to NEVER forget, though I’ve never traveled their path.
In my shoes, I somberly walked through the National Holocaust Memorial Museum — standing silent in a boxcar that had, many years ago, transported men, women and children to concentration camps where, sadly, many of them perished at the hands of heartless Nazis.
And then my shoes held me, though my legs felt as though they might buckle, as I stood before thousands and thousands of dusty, dirty, worn out shoes — their emptiness echoes of each of those who once wore them. Hollow shoes, most separated from mates — much like husbands separated from wives, mothers and fathers from children, brothers and sisters from siblings.
One shoe — a dancing shoe. And I wondered what lovely lady once wore it. Did she waltz in this shoe — her toenails painted red?
My shoes held me there as my heart cried.
In my shoes, I walked into a memorial room where candles were lit in remembrance. Where Old Testament scripture lined the walls and where an eternal flame burned — shining light in the recollection of such darkness.
And as we left the museum, my shoes stood me before the photograph of a man who, some years ago, had been shot as he guarded the Holocaust Memorial against perpetuating evil. The irony made me shiver, shaking me in my shoes.
And then, my shoes returned me home — to my children who I hugged tightly. For whom I give thanks.
And the next morning, I sat in slippered feet in front of my TV and watched the image of empty boots and heard stories of those who lost their shoes as they fled, climbing over fences in their attempt to escape the flying bullets of a madman.
And, in the days since, I’ve seen the faces of some of the fallen 58 — sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, friends.
And I ask myself — why?
And yet, despite my despair… my disillusionment… my disdain for this evil, I am compelled to choose for myself how I might live. How I might walk.
And so, I put on my shoes —
To walk in light.
To walk in kindness.
To walk in love.
And in my shoes, I will walk with countless others — each of us desiring to never allow the atrocities of this broken, messed up, fallen world to destroy our compassion…
Silence our voice —
Together, in our shoes, we will stomp out evil the best we know how.
We will sing in our sorrow.
Dance despite despair.
And we’ll never… NEVER… let darkness extinguish light —
As we shine on…
Yes — walk on.