The sun has long since set – but in the darkened, borrowed office I notice little beyond the pale circle of light on the desk in front of me.  Before me is  list of names, some scratched out, many not.  The hand that just hung up the phone is now cradling my head – throbbing with the beginnings of a headache, but I hardly notice.  My clothes still smell of the smoke and sweat from earlier in the day – but I barely notice, because the words in the last call are still echoing in my head…

“He’s not coming home – is he?”  was the quiet voice that stifled a sudden sob.  “What am I gong to do?”

How do you answer?  What can you possibly say?  No stranger to death and the violence that often surrounds it – friends and shipmates lost in mishaps at sea or on the flightdeck, the question still hammers at you, hanging accusingly in the air in front of you…

“What am I gong to do?”

Nine years later that day and the the long night that followed lives with me still.  Of lost friends and shipmates, of courage, honor and commitment applied in real time, of duty to and honor for the fallen and their families.  And of another time that gave rise to another cry — ‘Never Again’.

In preparation for this weekend I was over at the Project 2996 site, an organization this site has been associated with since it’s inception, and there found a wonderful way that each of us may give recognition.  A prominent feature of Project 2996’s coat of arms is a red and white zinnia.  Zoe Falkenberg was the youngest of the victims that day – she was onboard American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon that in turn, destroyed the Navy Command Center where the Navy’s losses were incurred – including most of my N513 branch.  Zoe’s favorite flower is the Zinnia and her surviving family has asked that folks plant zinnias as a remembrance.  In floral mythology, zinnias stand for constancy (scarlet) and goodness (white) while mixed zinnias remember an absent friend…

This coming spring, I’m planting zinnias.  Lots of zinnias…


  1. Jonathan Musser

    Zoe Falkenberg was not the youngest victim that day. Her little sister Dana was on the plane as well. Dana is mentioned at a special memorial as one of the victims of whom they were unable to find remains.

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