Most of the time in Northern Virginia, you can tell when a storm is coming. It’s summer, and a thunderstorm usually comes when humidity is heavy in the air. It feels almost like the air is about to burst open. Then the winds come in, and the trees sway. The black clouds come in with the winds, and then the rain starts.
But I was visiting Arlington Cemetery in late November, well after summer and nearing the end of fall. I’d just gotten my new tennis shoes that were made for flat feet, so I was partially trying out how well they work. But I was also doing research for a writing project. The very striking thing about the cemetery is that the graves all identical. Go to a church cemetery and the graves are all different shapes and size. But at Arlington Cemetery, it’s an overwhelming number of rows of white grave markers.
Because I was so early, workers were out spraying down the graves with a high powered hose. All the grave stones are white, and all but the oldest are a pristine white from all this cleaning. Another worker was using a leaf blower to clean the many two lane roads throughout the grounds.
I visited John F. Kennedy’s grave, and then watched the soldiers standing their watch at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This is a very special duty for the soldiers, and they’re out there no matter what the weather is. Only three of the sentinels have been women, the first in 2001.
The sharp clear notes of a bugle drew me to a military funeral for an enlisted soldier. The bugle has a certain kind of lonely, mourning quality to it.
As the ceremony ended, I noticed that, in the distance, the clouds had gone black, contrasting with the sharp blue of the autumn sky. It hadn’t been like that when I’d arrived, but now it looked like something evil was coming in over the land.
I started back, but I’d really walked further than I thought (the shoes were very comfortable). While I had a jacket on, suited for the cooler temperatures of autumn in Virginia, I didn’t have an umbrella. I walked quickly, but the storm clouds loomed overhead, and then it started to pour. All I could really do was keep walking. It was a cemetery. There wasn’t exactly places to duck under to wait the storm out. By the time I got back to my car, I was a soggy mess.
And then the storm disappeared, like it had never happened.
A behind the scenes of the sentries for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier:
From The Daily Post prompt:
You’re at the beach with some friends and/or family, enjoying the sun, nibbling on some watermelon. All of a sudden, within seconds, the weather shifts and hale starts descending form the sky. Write a post about what happens next.