Posted by: wrmcnutt | April 18, 2009

The Sound of Freedom

I’m listening to the sound of freedom. 

I’m in Lexington Kentucky this weekend at the Commission on Adult Basic Education (COABE) 2009 Conference.  It’s a moderately dry gathering of people who teach adults to read.  Or people who teach people to teach adults to read.  Or, in my case, people who provide distance education and technical resources to people who teach people to teach adults to read.  This year, our gathering overlaps an annual Louisville event they call Thunder Road.  (Or maybe it’s “Thunder over Kentucky.  Or Thunder Over Louisville.)  The thunder part, I’m sure of.   UPDATE:  It’s “Thunder over Louisville.”  But the locals just call it “Thunder.”  And with with good reason.

It appears to be a combination of Loud Things.  Tonight we’re supposed to see a fireworks show that’s going to cap off more ordinance than MacArthur did when he landed on Corregidor. But this afternoon.  It’s the air show.  And not Fokker triplanes or Sopwith Camels, either.  The current display is of a squadron of F-15 Eagles.  And I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. 

In my experience as a fighter in toy war with the Society for Creative Anachronism, I flatter myself that I have a tiny, theoretical concept of what it’s like when men fight.  (It’s really more like football with clubs than real war.  Don’t worry, I have no illusions.)  But I can appreciate the concept of facing these things from the ground boggles me.    The Galt House is a giant mass of re-bar-reinforced concrete on the banks of the Ohio River here in Lexington.  It’s around two city blocks long and twenty five stories tall.  As buildings go, “large” applies.  We get a warning from the announcer that they’re coming around again.  And we hear nothing.  Then, the building starts to gently vibrate.  But then in less time than it takes to read this sentence, the vibration starts to become shaking, and then the windows rattle in their frames like an aspen leaf in a gale.  Conversation becomes impossible as they pass by.  And they’re still half a mile up.  And then, before you can react, they’re gone.

If they were coming for me, it would take everything I have in me, just to stand in the face of it.  Let alone try to shoot back.

The pilots have given me pause for thought as well.  They’re staying here at the Gault House, so we run into them in the elevators, restaurants, and, of course, the bars.  They are spotlessly groomed, immaculately dressed and also very, very . . . young.  It’s a grave responsibility these young men have undertaken, and one that I can only barely comprehend.  And I feel something else, very deeply.  I made a few phone calls back on 9/12/2001. The Army, Navy, and Marine Corps all very gently, very professionally told me that I was too fat, too old, and too cockeyed to do any damn good.  They would keep me in mind, they said.  And when they’d used up everone under thirty who could stand up, see lightning, and hear thunder, they’d give me a call.  So as these young men pack up thier gear and head to Iraq or Afghanistan, they’re not just doing thier duty.  They’re doing mine, too. 

And for that I will be forever grateful, and a little ashamed.

When the little girl runs to me from the loud noise and shaking building, I tell her not to be afraid.  It’s just the sound of freedom.*

Despite the noise, she’s sleeping now, sleeping safely in the shadow of their wings.

In the Credit Where Credit Is Due Department, the phrase “the sound of freedom” was coined by Bill Whittle

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  1. Amen.

  2. Hear, hear!

  3. Buy a serviceman their meal (or coffee). I routinely do this when I travel. I tell them that it is only small thanks for their service.

    • Oh – I do. That just seems so small, y’know?

  4. […] And, when thinking about the price of freedom, it’s worth re-considering the Sound of Freedom. […]

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