Archive for May, 2019

The Poppy Wall of Honor

During today’s last lunchtime bike ride before Memorial Day, I was riding along the National Mall near The National World War II Memorial when I saw some sort of red display in the distance on the southwestern side of The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. So, naturally, I rode over to get a better look and find out about it. It turned out to be a new, temporary monument in honor of Memorial Day called The Poppy Wall of Honor.

Since World War I, more than 645,000 men and women have given their lives in combat to defend our freedom. And the poppy flower serves as a symbol of that sacrifice. Wearing a poppy flower, known as a Remembrance Poppy, is done on Memorial Day and Veterans Day as a way to honor these fallen heroes. I remember my Dad always had a remembrance poppy at both Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

My Dad would also recite a poem from memory entitled “In Flanders Fields,” written by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian Physician during the First World War. McCrae was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Lieutenant Alexis Helmer. According to legend, fellow soldiers retrieved the poem after McCrae, initially dissatisfied with his work, discarded it.

“In Flanders Fields” was first published on December 8th of 1915. And it became so popular that the poem and poppy became prominent Remembrance Day symbols throughout the Commonwealth of Nations, particularly in Canada. The poem is also widely known in the United States, where it is associated with Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Inspired by the poem, the poppy flower also became an American symbol of remembrance in 1920 when it was brought forward by Moina Michael, an American professor and volunteer for the American YWCA, during the National American Legion Conference.

Sponsored by the USAA Company in cooperation with the National Park Service, The Poppy Wall of Honor is a 133-foot-long, 8 1/2 foot-tall translucent structure filled with more than 645,000 synthetic Remembrance Poppy Flowers, one for each fallen American service member. This year the exhibit also honors the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

The Poppy Wall of Honor is open to the public daily for viewing from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., through Memorial Day. But if you can’t visit it in person, there’s also an online virtual reality experience for viewers to explore.

 

[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

The Poppy Wall of Honor

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you, from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow,
In Flanders fields.

Advertisements

Bike to Work Day 2019

Each year the month of May is National Bike Month.  This week, May 13 through 17, is Bike to Work Week.  And today is Bike to Work DayThe League of American Bicyclists began Bike to Work Day as part of Bike Month in 1956.  Over the years, the day has grown into a widespread event with countless bicyclists nationwide taking to streets and trails in an effort to get commuters to try bicycling to work as a healthy and safe alternative to driving a car.

In the greater D.C. region, Bike to Work Day has grown from a small group of just a few hundred participants in 2001 to more than 18,700 riders in 2017.  There was a slight dip in participation last year.  The event is always held rain or shine, and due to thunderstorms that occurred last year throughout the preceding week as well as on Bike to Work Day itself, fewer riders came out.  But this year’s 19th annual event, which was again coordinated locally by Commuter Connections and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), will hopefully top 19,000 and set a new record.

Although I am unable to commute on a bicycle, I celebrated Bike to Work Day by coming to work this morning, getting my bike out of my office building’s parking garage, and went out and rode around for a while on some of the main bike commuter routes in the city.

Each year WABA, along with a number of local bike shops and organizations, sponsor 115 pit stops along many of the commuter routes in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The pit stop which I signed up for was located at Freedom Plaza, the same pit stop where I’ve stopped for the last several years.  By being one of the first 20,000 people to sign up, I was able to pick up a free T-shirt at the pit stop.  And by signing up and stopping at the pit stop I was also entered into a raffle for a new bike.

I also rode by some of the other pit stops this morning.  They were a little less crowded than previous years’ pit stops have been, but I was able to pick up some free leftover T-shirts from previous years’ bike to Work Days.  I also enjoyed a nice breakfast consisting of one of the absolute best bagels I’ve had in a long time, courtesy of Bethesda Bagels, along with a fresh orange and a banana.  Fresh fruit juices, coffee or tea was also available, as well as some granola bars and other snack items, which I picked up for later.  I was also given a coupon for a free lunch at Nando’s, a restaurant that specializes in Portuguese flame-grilled PERi-PERi (also known as the African Bird’s Eye chili) chicken.

After filling up on food, and relaxing and listening to some of the music for a while, I then enjoyed a leisurely ride around the city.  And I filled up on “swag” along the way.  Various sponsors and promotors gave away free items like sunglasses, hats, water bottles, tire repair and changing kits, bike tools, bike lights and bells, bike reflectors and reflective arm bands to be seen better while riding, area maps, cell phone accessories, small bottles of hand sanitizer, and coupons for free bike and scooter rentals.  And at the pit stop in the courtyard of the National Geographic Museum they were giving away surplus items such as decks of cards, games, books, and DVDs.

But Bike to Work Day here in D.C. is more than just 20,000 cool people riding bikes and enjoying music, food and lots of free stuff.  (As if that wasn’t enough.)  The planners help newer riders by organizing bike convoys, which are led by experienced bicycle commuters and travel through popular employment centers.  They provide information about classes and seminars throughout the area for riders with a wide range of skill sets, from beginners to the more experienced.  They also set up online discussion groups to answer any questions people may have.  As I stated previously, Bike to Work Day provides more than just fun.  It provides valuable information and resources to people to help them ride safely in the city year-round.

 

[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

Note:  Despite it being Bike to Work Day, there were still plenty of drivers out there that think stopping or parking in the bike lanes is okay.  Like the driver of this car.  The city is trying to develop ways to address this, including hiring additional officers to increase enforcement.  But as of today, the problem is still out there.  

Mementos Left at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial

This week is National Police Week, and tomorrow is Peace Officers Memorial Day. And during this time there is no more meaningful place to visit than The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial (NLEOM), located at 450 F Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Judiciary Square neighborhood. And that’s where I went during today’s lunch break.

Engravers Jim Lee and Kirk Bockman are responsible for adding the names of fallen law enforcement officers to the walls of the NLEOM here in D.C. And this year, they are adding the names of 371 officers, including 158 who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty in 2018.

An additional 213 officers who died earlier in history, but whose sacrifice had not been previously documented, were also added to the NLEOM this year. Among them is Chesterfield County (Va.) Sheriff Benjamin Branch; whose end of watch on April 29, 1786, making him the oldest known officer death on the memorial. In total, there are 21,910 officers’ names engraved on the Memorial, representing all 50 states, D.C., U.S. territories, federal law enforcement, and military police agencies.

And as it always is during National Police Week, there are hundreds of personal mementos left at the Memorial. It’s these personal mementos that I find to be one of the most poignant parts of the week. They go beyond numbers and statistics, beyond names engraved on the NLEOM’s walls, and give a glimpse of the actual people represented by the names on the Memorial. The mementos show us that these people are missed by their collegues, families, and other loved ones they left behind.

Pay close attention to the details in these photographs. The mementos and the memorial are not just about how their lives ended, but about how these heroes lived their lives. And this is the true meaning of this week.

 

[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

Links to Previous Police Week Posts on this Blog

Today’s Blue Mass

On my lunchbreak at work today I attended the Blue Mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, located at 619 10th Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Penn Quarter neighborhood.  Celebrated annually, a Blue Mass is a service held to honor those in the “public safety field” (i.e. police officers, firefighters, correctional officers, 911 operators and EMS personnel), who died in the line of duty during the past year, and to pray for the safety in the coming year of those still serving.  And although held in a Catholic Church, the services are generally considered to be ecumenical or non-denominational.

Rev. Thomas Dade started the tradition as part of his duties with the Catholic Police and Fireman’s Society, and held the first ever Blue Mass on September 29, 1934, to coincide with Michaelmas, the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, the patron saint of police officers and military personnel.  And that first service was held in the very same church where today’s mass was celebrated.

Blue Masses are currently celebrated nationwide, with many of the services still being held in September.  But here in D.C., the service is now held each May, shortly before the beginning of National Police Week, which this year runs from this Sunday (May 12th) through the following Saturday (May 18th).

Before today’s Mass, hundreds of law enforcement officers and public safety officials gathered outside for a solemn processional into St. Patrick’s.  Units from various Federal, state, and local jurisdictions from across the country gathered in formation to pass under a huge American flag proudly hung over the street by two fire ladder trucks.  Also gathered outside were officers on horseback, in color guards, as well as in pipe and drum corps units. The Mass included an honor guard, bagpipers, and concluded with the solemn playing of “Taps” in memory of those who gave their lives in the past year.

The Mass was an opportunity for the community to show its gratitude to first responders and their families.  But that need not be limited to today’s service.  So when you see a first responder, especially this week or next week during National Police Week, let him or her know that you appreciate their service and sacrifice.  And say a prayer for their safety.

 

The Procession Into the Church

 

[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

Psalm 91:11, “For He will give His angels [especial] charge over you to accompany and defend and preserve you in all your ways [of obedience and service].”

Police Officers’ Prayer to St. Michael, the Archangel

Dear Saint Michael, Your name means, “Who is Like a God”, and it indicates that You remained faithful when others rebelled against God. Help the police officers of our day who strive to stem the rebellion and evil that are rampant on all sides. Keep them faithful to their God as well as to their country and their fellow human beings.  Amen.

Firefighters’ Prayer to Saint Florian

Dear God, through the intercession of our patron, Saint Florian, have mercy on the souls of our comrades who have made the supreme sacrifice in the performance of their duty, and on all who have gone before us after years of faithful discharge of their responsibilities which now rest on ourselves. Give us Grace to prepare each day for our own summons to Your tribunal of justice. Into Your hands O Lord, I commend my spirit. Whenever You call me, I am ready to go. Merciful Father of all men and women, save me from all bodily harm, if it be Your will, but above all, help me to be loyal and true, respectful and honorable, obedient and valiant. Thus fortified by virtue, I shall have no fear, for I shall then belong to You and shall never be separated from You.  Amen.