I don't know about you, but Memorial Day has always been a puzzling holiday for me. I know it's primarily supposed to commemorate those who have died in war. My mother's family always gathered at the cemetery along with all the other families in their small Eastern Oregon town and decorated the graves of relatives.
They told stories about Uncle This and Grandma That and remember the time that our aunt's house burned down and someone was seen jumping out a window stark naked? Since my mother married and settled down with her husband and children in a town far away, that tradition wasn't carried on in our family. It was, of course, a day off from school and usually involved a picnic or a barbecue.
Nancy Hiss, an instructor at Marylhurst University here in Portland, has decided to commemorate the holiday by writing on sidewalks in sidewalk chalk the names of the more than 3,500 Americans who have died in Iraq since the beginning of the war, in chronological order. She was planning to start at sunrise on Memorial Day in front of the Federal Building downtown and go until sunset. She plans to continue the project through the downtown area, eventually heading over the Steel Bridge to the Peace Park on the east side and then through the neighborhoods. The project will continue from there as the names continue to be added to the list of casualties.
We'll keep you updated on her progress and, hopefully, get a chance to talk with her and find out more about why she was moved to take on a project like this, so stay tuned.