The eagle, the courageous and the blind.
How’s your vision?
You can see clearly if you know what you’re looking for. And you’d have to know what you’re looking for to see the most significant thing in this picture.
It’s a light post, right? Just a big old light stanchion, in this case, on the ramp in the gate area at Orlando International Airport. Is that it?
Look again. Hard to see, but on top of that light post, patiently, quietly and with silent dedication to his task: a bald eagle.
He’s pretty well known among the ground staff and many of the flight crews who pass through the airport. I look for him when we taxi in; he’s usually perched there between flights, something I can relate to, but most folks at the airport don’t know he’s there.
Probably they don’t know because they’re too busy attending to their own travel, their own vacation or business or whatever reason they’ve come to the airport. Not surprising, really.
Unlike the solitary eagle, this is hard to miss and in fact this is mostly what you see in the Orlando airport. But more important than the overweight sunburned vacationers is what makes the magnificent eagle so difficult to spot: quiet pride, dedication, deadly strength, deliberate discretion, maybe even a camoflauged exterior that blends in with the surroundings. Qualities that like the perch on top of a light stanchion are difficult to see unless you know they’re there and are willing to look hard to see them.
But I do. Maybe because I look with different eyes, because I care about what the solitary dedication and quiet pride in an obscure picture can show you if your eyes are open and focused.
Maybe since unlike most travelers, I’m not there for my own purposes, and as with the Orlando airport, I’m there a lot and so I see things, I take time to look for things others passing through don’t consider. Like the eagle.
A light stanchion, a pay phone, saying goodbye to families–you just have to look, and care. But I have to say, it’s more than just seeing what’s in front of your face. What you don’t see, but which if you care, you know is even more important.
I see this too. On our airline ramp, as one of our fallen eagles makes his way home. Not from vacation, or business, or whatever reason most people fly these days. But from sacrificing everything in the world for you, me and the unseeing regardless. Whether or not we care, or see, or know. The price is paid daily, by our best, brightest, youngest, most courageous and dedicated.
I don’t have a picture of this, but I can’t forget the image of our ground crews as reverently as humanly possible, removing a soldier’s coffin from my jet’s cargo hold, then solemnly placing it on a special, curtained cart to proceed to a waiting, devastated family downline. I don’t have a picture, because I’m usually standing in reverent silence near the cargo hold.
I stand on the ramp, escorting the military escort who stays faithfully with the remains in transit. Then, after paying my respects, I go upstairs into the terminal once again. And that’s the part I hate.
Because there in the terminal, no one knows what’s going on below, on the ramp. No one sees the eagle, no one looks; everyone’s about their own vacation or business or trip. If it were up to me, the flag draped caskets would be raised into the terminal and solemnly carried through while every unseeing self-absorbed passenger in the lounge put down their cell phone or iPod or laptop and stood in quiet respect for the best and strongest among us sacrificing all so that we might go about our travel, our lives, our future. But that’s just me.
I guess it all comes down to what you see, and what you look for. Anyone can see the eagle, and everyone should. Thank God, it’s there regardless.
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