We were 20 minutes from landing at the Louisville airport when the pilot announced there was a Marine onboard bringing home the remains of a fallen soldier.
We were asked to all remain seated upon landing to let him off first. And so we did, clapping as he deplaned and watching quietly once we saw there was a committee of soldiers, family, police and funeral directors beside the plane, waiting for these soldiers. We had to get off the plane before the remains were lifted and we soon realized that this scene was also unfolding within the airport. It was oddly silent as we walked inside. Many people were struck by this scene, lining the windows of the terminal to see what was happening. My co-worker and I stopped, too, when the casket finally came down from the plane. It was draped in an American flag and carried by 6 Marines.
It felt a bit odd to be witnessing something so personal for this family. We were all staring at their grief, perhaps making something already terribly painful even worse. At the same time, it also felt right to stop for this ceremonial passage. We were collectively honoring someone who fought for us all. We were stopping our rushing around for just a few moments to recognize his contributions as a soldier to our country and as a person to this world - even if we didn't know him. Furthermore, we were pausing to support this family's grief and we were respecting that someone's life had been lost. It was very moving to feel this energy and see the common acknowledgement of what we happened to be part of.
I am grateful I got to see this unfold today. It reminds me to appreciate those fighting to defend our country, and it makes me think about how precious life is. I am going to say a prayer tonight for this family, this man and those who helped bring him home today.