The Silent Halls Of Death

It is a cruel kind of sadness that the families of the dead at Fort Hood will have to endure. I would not want to see the story of the military gunman who opened fire on his fellow soldiers yesterday incessantly played and replayed on all the news stations for the next two weeks if I were a surviving family member.

Even as I write these words, there are news producers in studios across the country who are estimating how much of a ratings spike this horrific event will give them the next few days. There are Aryan brotherhoods who are incorporating Major Nidal Malik Hasan's name into their recruitment speeches. Muslim American soldiers who are steeling themselves for a potential backlash within the ranks of their own fellow troops.

These are the kind of real life things, real life but nonsensical, that will go on the next few weeks.

The blood has long stopped flowing from the bullet holes in those thirteen people who died yesterday. The eviscerated flesh around the edges of their wounds have begun to harden. Loved ones, still in shock, are having to scurry about, quietly digging up life insurance policies, forlornly selecting the last pieces of clothing their dead family members will ever wear in this world.

So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan which moves
To that mysterious realm where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged by his dungeon; but, sustain'd and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.


From Thanatopsis
William Cullen Bryant



I was required to memorize the phrases above by Bryant almost thirty years ago in high school. It is in times like this that it comes back to me, as clearly as if I had only committed it to memory yesterday.

Yesterday, as I turned the channel to get away from scenes of the chaos, in my mind's eye those thirteen people whose lives were so suddenly snatched from them took their own chambers in the silent halls of death.






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