Fleet Week is underway in San Francisco, which means the next few days will be filled with the near constant sound of the Blue Angels and other military jets flying overhead.
Hearing the roar of the Blue Angels always reminds me of June, a resident at an assisted living retirement community where I worked in Chicago many years ago. As a personal care attendant I sometimes had less enjoyable duties to perform (like trying to convince residents to take medications or helping change soiled undergarments), but one of my other tasks was to simply accompany June during her doctor recommended walks. We’d chat a little if she wasn’t feeling out of breath, usually about family or some other lighthearted topic, and the walk was usually the favorite part of my work day.
One of our walks took place during a weekend when the Blue Angels were in town. At times we would have to pause our conversation as the planes flew overhead because it was hard to shout or be heard over their noise. At one point when the noise subsided, June set aside our usual light conversation and suddenly made this sad yet forceful statement:
“Only a country that has never gone through days of bombing could take pleasure in such a display.”
As I hear the jets this weekend, I will be thinking of the places in the world where the sight and sound of a military jet triggers fear and uncertainty. Places where civilians will not gather in crowds to “oooh” and “ah” at the planes overhead, but will instead run for cover and hope that they and their families will not be the next “collateral damage” statistics. I will remember June’s words, and the sadness in her voice as she spoke them. I feel a lot of that same sadness.