A Window Into America's Soul
April 10, 2003
I'm writing this from my District Office, located at 13 West Potomac Street, in downtown Brunswick. Jeanette Cincotta, a wonderful landlord and a good friend, owns the building.
This building is one of those special structures that define this marvelous old railroad town. Tall, majestic, and yet only a shadow of its former glory. The inside features a high ceiling with the most beautiful pressed tin pattern I've seen in a long time.
The best feature is what first caught my eye back during my campaign for the House of Delegates. The front of this building is covered with a floor to ceiling bay window that juts out proudly over Potomac Street.
As an aspiring politico, the idea of filling this big window with my campaign propaganda was too much to resist. The building has seen its share of uses and occupants, from a State Highway engineering office (with lots of phone jacks), to an insurance office (Bruce Finch, another great guy), to a used bookstore (I spent many days wandering through those shelves).
The building made a great campaign office, with furniture loaned by friends and desks filled with bumper stickers, buttons, and those little train whistles that parents are probably still mad about.
We spent many long nights in here plotting, strategizing, and worrying. The best night was November 5, when my wife Amy and I got back here after visiting Frederick to celebrate with the hardest working volunteers anyone ever had.
That night, the big bay window was filled with my 4'x 8' vinyl banner (Frederick Sign and Banner's great work). The window looked great, with Amy's red, white, and blue floral bouquets and flag patterned cloth floor covering.
The whole time I was in Annapolis, I was contemplating what to do with that big, wonderful window. I thought about getting a large Maryland State seal made, along with lettering designating the District Office.
A few weeks ago, Tina Hoopengardner called Amy and asked if I would mind if she and a group of Brunswick area parents used the window. They envisioned a display honoring their sons and daughters, all of whom are currently serving in the Armed Forces, most of them forward deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
This took no thought, and frankly I was honored that they even asked me. Tina and her family live in my neighborhood. Her son, PJ, graduated from Brunswick High with my oldest daughter, Morgan. In fact, I know most of the young people who would be honored in the window personally, or I know their parents.
Tina, her family, and other parents got together over several nights to create this display. For me to try to describe it to you would never give it the credit it deserves, so let me just say it is simple, dignified, and a most fitting recognition of the bravery, courage, and commitment being made by these young people. You owe it to yourself to come see it! Much is written and argued about the future of our country. We speculate about great generations, and Tom Brokaw has written a series of excellent books describing how the World War II generation is credited with building our country, creating a work ethic, and perpetuating freedom around the world.
Last Saturday night, a few hundred people gathered in front of this window to pay tribute to those faces in the window, the men and women of this area who are risking everything for total strangers, suffering under a brutal and repressive regime. The City of Brunswick had closed the street earlier in the day, so the crowd could fill the space in front of those faces in that window.
Moms and Dads, not savvy media types, organized the candlelight vigil. No politicians were invited to speak, only the close friends and families of those faces in the window. The strong and steady wind played havoc with the flickering candles, and a technical glitch prevented the playing of Lee Greenwood's modern patriotic anthem.
A single voice in the crowd started singing "America", and one by one, every voice in that street was singing, and the sound reverberated up and down the street, bouncing off the wall with those faces in that window.
After another song, this one a lovely hymn, Rev. Clark Carr (himself a National Guardsman), led the crowd in a closing prayer. His words exhorted the crowd to remember those faces in that window, to remember who they are, what they're doing, and why they're doing it.
It dawned on me, as I stood in the back of that crowd, that only those in the very front were there because of a familial connection. Most of the crowd was there because they chose to be there, because they wanted their being there to send a message to those faces in that window.
My window on West Potomac Street is now much more important than it would have been if I had done the decorating.
My window on West Potomac Street is about the best that America is and will be. My window is the reflection of the birth of a baby, the changing of a diaper, the first steps, the first bike ride, the first little league game, the first day of school, the high school prom, the graduation ceremony, and seeing that little boy off to take an oath to defend his country.
My window on West Potomac Street is about America's best young men and women. My window is window into the soul of America, and this window glows with the hopes, dreams, aspirations, and challenges facing these wonderful young men and women for the rest of their lives.
I've always thought that downtown Brunswick is a beautiful place, but it has never been so beautiful as it is when the light reflects off of those faces in the window. We are rightly humbled to call them our neighbors, and the party we'll throw when they come home will be one for the record books!