Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, May 04, 2007

Let Freedom Ring

by Julie Coulter Bellon

There is an amazing patriotic program in our area that involves all the students in grades 1-5 for our school district. The students wear different colored shirts to make an enormous American flag and they sing and dance through an incredibly patriotic program that is sent to the troops overseas. This year 7000 students participated and the flag took up one whole side of the Marriott Center stadium. As you can imagine, with 15,000 family members to see the program, the stadium was very full.

We were supposed to have our children to the stadium by 6:00 p.m. and from past experience we knew traffic was especially heavy so we left an hour early. It took us forty-five minutes to get there in what is normally a fifteen minute drive. I tried to be practical and parked near an entrance for easy getaway when the program was over. We got inside and I helped my two boys find their places (my third grader was performing a dance on the floor of the Marriott and my fifth grader was in the flag) and then we found ourselves some really good seats and settled in. I was so glad to have seats because if you’ve ever been to the Marriott Center you know that the benches in the nosebleed section are not very comfortable to sit in and we were going to be there for several hours since it didn’t start until 7:30 p.m. and is somewhat of a lengthy program.

As people filed in, I was increasingly glad we had come when we did to get the really great seats. I was watching the flag take shape as more and more students came, when I suddenly noticed a hole in one of the red stripes. People were sort of rushing around and upon closer inspection, we realized that a child had thrown up, creating a large hole in the red stripe section. Luckily, it was early enough that they could clean everything up and have the red stripe smooth and ready to go in no time. Still, it was some nice drama to entertain us while we waited.

More and more people were pouring in from every entrance, everyone jockeying for seats and I was still grateful we’d come early and gotten great seats that had backs to them. But then it happened.

Someone pulled the fire alarm.

I have never heard the fire alarm go off in the Marriott Center. Ever. It’s very loud and there’s flashing lights with a calm lady’s voice instructing everyone to exit the building calmly and not to run. But the thing was, no one moved, especially those of us who had come early to get good seats. Some people on the floor were running around, officials were talking into their radios, and we were grasping onto our seats, not willing to move until we saw smoke. It didn’t help that people from the nosebleed section came down the stairs and it looked like they were waiting in case any of us moved.

It struck me at the time, though, isn’t that sort of like life? We have warnings that go on all around us, flashing lights, others’ voices perhaps, but sometimes, until we actually see the danger we don’t remove ourselves from the situation and it could be too late by that time. We sit there, grasping on to something that may not be worth our life either here or into the eternities.

Luckily we weren’t roasted to death in the Marriott center holding on to our really great seats and the alarms and flashing lights and calm lady’s voice finally stopped. The program went on as planned to showcase all the patriotic things the students had learned through song and dance complete with videos. It was very moving as we all listened to songs about America, heroes in our military, freedom, and the blessings we enjoy living here in this land.

When it was over, the mad rush began to collect the children who had been performing. After going up and down the Marriott Center stairs four times, my legs were killing me, my little four year old was crying because it was late and his legs hurt so I hefted him onto my hip and we started the hike to our car along with the other 15,000 people who were there. We finally made it out of the parking lot and joined the mess of people trying to get home. As I waited patiently at a light, I tried to stretch my aching legs and looked back at my sleeping children. It was in that small moment, in a darkened car, watching their sweet faces in slumber that my heart swelled with gratitude. Even with all the hardships I face, not only do we live in a country that values the ideals of freedom including personal freedom and religious freedom, but we live in a place that celebrates and honors it with children who will be the future of this country someday.

And for that, I am very grateful.


At 5/04/2007 10:55 AM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

I just love your slice-of-life blogs and am amazed at the meaning you glean from everything. You're truly an inspiration, Julie!

I hope my son is among the troops that sees the video. I know he'd love it. Happy Armed Forces Day (tomorrow) everyone!

At 5/04/2007 3:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kerry do you know how much I truly adore you?

Julie (anonymous because blogger hates me)

At 5/04/2007 7:56 PM, Blogger Erin said...

I love finding those moments of peace and gratitude in our busy lives. Thank you for sharing that story, and I am glad you didn't burn to death...I would miss you.

At 5/05/2007 11:47 AM, Anonymous kerry said...

I adore you too! Does this mean you'll FINALLY tell me where I can go to read your fanfic? I'm still dying to join the fan club!

And what's up with Blogger anyway? I couldn't post for about a week last month. Now sometimes I can and sometimes I can't. And sometimes I can, but I have to be anonymous to do it. Cheri Crane can't get in either and she's tried two or three different doors and windows. Sheesh.

Any ideas from you computer whizzes would be greatly appreciated!


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