This American Life

many dc tourists

When he went to the movies, once it was going and the crowd had pretty much stopped eating snacks and popcorn and slurping their sweetened drinks, he’d turn around in the movie-theater darkness and look at the people. There, they were all still, all the same. They could be old people. They could be Chinese people. They could be kids. They could be men. They could be little or big. They could be white people. They could be Cuban, or Slavic. They could be any people. They all faced the same way, quiet and all together. It was all very peaceful like that. He’d been sitting once on the Fourth of July in the grass outside. A Vermont band was playing Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. To get the best seat, he had come early enough to be able to sit in the front row. The cannon went off. It aimed at the Green Mountains. The whole thing was over. When he stood up to leave, he saw the whole crowd of people, half of them with their right hands over their hearts, had been standing. It could have been 200 people, it could have been 500. He was the only person who’d sat through the whole thing and never risen. It had never occurred to him to stand, to salute, to honor the fallen, to commemorate the heroes, to have become part of the sea of patriots on their feet for who knows how long now in the soft country grass. He had not seen them and what they were doing, when they rose together like a sudden tide.

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