A whole new layer of reality

Life is full of ironies. In many ways, yesterday's game against Idaho was a forgettable experience. Washington won in a 53-3 blowout. They featured a vanilla game plan.

The youth-laden Huskies made several mistakes, dumb penalties, and missed blocks. With all due respect, Idaho wasn't exactly a marquee opponent. With the game out of reach early, much of the Washington crowd left early. In the end, it had all the atmosphere and feeling of a scrimmage. The game had all the pizzazz of an opened can of Pepsi that had been sitting for a week.

Yet, ironically, yesterday's game was something all of us who were there will never forget.

I have watched countless games in Husky Stadium over the years. This all started for me almost back to when I learned to walk. Many times I have seen the Husky band stand in formation to create a symbolic flagpole, then have an actual gigantic flag unfurl before us and spread across the field, to the polite applause and appreciation of the crowd.

Yesterday I saw that giant flag unfurl before us all, and I saw it in whole new way. All my life it has been merely a nametag of sorts. In the past we I have always seen those stars and stripes, and just knew that it was representative of America.

Now I see a whole new layer of reality.

I never experienced World War II. I never experienced the Cuban Missile Crisis. I never experienced Vietnam. I never experienced Watergate. I have never felt ill at ease with national security. I have never felt the need to rally around any symbol of America, for in my lifetime we have always been strong and invincible. It has been a fact of life.

While I was growing up, as a nation we got into a few international scrapes and a handful of tragedies. However, Ronald Reagan was always there to reassure us that it was "Morning in America" and that the bad guys were going to soon feel the wrath of American justice.

I have always felt that the aforementioned flag routine of the Husky band to be quaint, colorful and creative. I have always link it in my mind with the days of the wild and fun Bill Bissell running the band.

When that flag giant horizontal unfurled yesterday, carried and stretched out by members of the band, spontaneous elation and applause broke out amidst the crowd. It was very touching.

Following that, a grand gesture of symbolism. In a unifying sequence, the band members slowly lowered that majestic, horizontal flag to half-staff. The field was completely full of band members from both schools as well several high schools. Flanking the scene were the respective football teams along the sidelines, standing in solidarity. Field and grandstands alike stood together for a moment of silence.

At half time, Cam Cleeland's dad baritoned the "Battle Hymn of the Republic", then pictures of the Husky fans killed in the Mexican plane crash were shown on the Jumbo Tron. One after another, their jovial images smiled back at us, while we all mournfully and somberly sang "Bow Down to Washington".

Throughout the game, my mind wandered several times. Thinking about New York and Washington. Wondering if any military action was taking place at that moment. Thinking about the smiling picture of Mr. Zylstra, someone whom I had never met, yet someone who was a huge Husky fan and seemed from his jovial photos to have such a zest for life. I wondered why this had all had to happen.

On the flip side, I noticed in myself feelings of great elation at a Charles Frederick punt return for touchdown, or a blocked field goal, or a Larry Tripplett sack. And when we had that stupefying string of personal fouls, I turned to my Dad and quietly uttered "what the #$@#!"

I suppose, that this is as good a sign as any that the healing process is slowly beginning.

We were all certainly touched by those two tactful ceremonies. So beautifully and respectfully done by our university. Yesterday I was especially proud to be both a Husky, as well an American.

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