The aforementioned WWI Exhibit was visited on this beautiful, sunny day here in Hartford, CT. There were long-ish lines but I did wait until nearly 1:00pm to go; there were school buses lining the streets and I know the kids were in the actual Old State House and Museum after going thru the WWI Exhibit.
Which was – breathtaking. Small, tasteful and humbling … incredibly humbling. At right is a true-to-life recreation of a Foxhole and you had to walk thru it. I found it to be almost claustrophobic and they had sound effects to go with it – planes flying overhead, bombs exploding, gunfire.
There was a tremendous amount of information in a small-ish space however none of it felt crammed and I never felt rushed. In fact I was struck by the – silence – inside. Except for the 2 women in front of me where one was translating a few things for the other not many people were talking. It was – reverent.
As to the information – I never considered the task of moving 2 million people to Europe in the days before passenger air travel. Freighters were converted and the practice of “hot racking” was born thru the sharing of berths to conserve space.
Also did not know that Britian adopted a non-repatriation ruling where personalized funeral monuments were forbidden – despite the fact that the public was clamoring for them. As a consequence, families were unable to bring home their dead.
Contrast with the Americans who promptly told all families who had loved ones die during WWI that they would all be brought home and buried in this country should the family wish it. Even so, the creation of burial grounds on former battlefields took on new significance in the face of the sheer numbers of dead.
The exhibit is nearing the end of its tour. It started in Kansas in May of last year. From CT it goes back to Kansas, heads thru Oklahoma and ends in Missouri in mid-June. I am so glad it made a stop here and that I got to be part of it even if only for 30 minutes.
They had a guestbook at the end which I dutifully signed with this comment:
“Honoring our warriors is the single greatest thing we can do as a country and as individuals.”
I truly believe that with all my heart and I’m starting to wonder if the next phase of my career is going to be working with the military in some way.