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Reflections on Tragedy

Listen with RealAudio: Reflections from Washington D.C.

About a week ago -- and one day apart -- two men were laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery...the first two officers of the United States Capitol Police to lay down their lives in the line of duty. Before they were buried, 58-year-old Jacob Chestnut and 42-year-old Michael Gibson lay in state, their flag-draped coffins underneath the dome in the Capitol Building in Washington, DC...just yards away from where they died, in a shoot out with an apparently deranged gunman.

We decided to join the thousands of visitors who have been descending on the Capitol to pay tribute to officer Chestnut and detective Gibson.

"Well we came here to pay respects to our heros. And, this is a national tragedy. And, we feel that we are also victims. This has been a source of pride for all immigrants, and I'm an immigrant. This is where decisions were made to allow immigrants to come several hundred years ago and I think we owe it to America to come and pray and to give our respects to these people."

"We feel that they died and gave their life to protect those other people that come to visit as well as people that live here. So, it's in honor of them."

With the memory of that deadly gun battle inside the Capitol Building still fresh...we asked Louise Kersey of West Babylon, New York if she feared for her safety, as she walked the halls where blood was shed so recently.

Louise: "No, actually, we feel more safe because we feel there's probably extra security here since this happened. We did not change our plans at all about coming to Washington or coming to visit the Capitol. We feel that we're practically safe."

"Well, we decided it was a sad event and the children were here anyway, so we wanted to show them what history is being made here today, about the attack on the Capitol. And, it's a unique experience. And, we just want to show our support for the slain officers' families."

"I'm thankful that I'm able to be here at the Capitol of our United States. I'm just really sorry about what happened to those two men. And, I guess we came here to pay our respects and I'm sorry. I hope something happens to whoever did that."

The common feeling among all, was that these two Capitol Police Officers were heroes, who gave their lives for their country. The visitors who mourned them came from as nearby as Maryland, and as far away as California and Europe.

"We're just tourists from Holland and we heard on Friday when we arrived in America what was happening to the cops and it's terrible. It's a huge sight to see. And it's tragedy all over."

"For sure, times have changed. No question about that. I never imagined anything like this could happen. I don't know, maybe that's the way the country is now. There's violence everywhere. People seem to have low respect. We notice the place is a little dirty since the last time we were here. I suppose it's the mood of the country that things are changing."

Or maybe...just...maybe...the sacrifices of Capitol police officers Jacob Chestnut and Michael Gibson will hallow the halls of Congress...and, by touching the hearts and minds of all who visit the Capitol, the gift of these two men may -- in whatever measure -- serve to ennoble us all, and help elevate the mood of America."

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What do you think? Tell us your views on this recent tragedy by posting your thoughts in our recently launched bulletin board.


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