This column is in today's local newspaper, and I think it's well-written and should have a larger audience:2,000 lives lost in war weigh down our heartsThursday, October 27, 2005by Nancy Eshelman, columnist for The Patriot News
If I collected 2,000 pennies, I'd have $20.
From there, it's all about perspective.
If you're in kindergarten with a $20 bill, you're queen of the world.
If you're the average working stiff, you know that $20 won't even fill up the gas tank anymore.
It's that way with our losses in this maddening war in Iraq.
For many of us, 2,000 represents a tragic number.
Although it was splashed across the fronts of newspapers yesterday, it's a silly milestone, really.
Aren't 1,999 or 2,001 just as horrifying?
While he shares the nation's pain, a World War II veteran reminded me the other day that 2,000 pales in comparison with the 405,399 who died in his war.
Likewise, for my contemporaries who fought in Vietnam, the numbers in this most recent war don't come near the loss of 58,209 from our generation.
Still, for someone like me, who bends to pluck a penny in a parking lot, every one is valuable. Conversely, the loss of even one is unacceptable.
We need to dwell on the number, to put it in perspective, to feel it.
If we collected 2,000 pennies and rolled them in coin wrappers, we'd fill 40 wrappers.
You can pick up a coin wrapper and feel the weight.
Put one in each hand. Feel the weight double.
Try to scoop up five or six in each hand. Or dump all 40 in a sack and pick it up. It's a heavy load to carry.
Maybe you'd prefer to place the 40 coin wrappers on a table. You could roll them around. Try to stack them. Watch them tumble.
Or maybe you'd rather not wrap your pennies at all. Just dump all 2,000 on the table top and run your fingers through them. So many. Each worth something.
Visualize yourself driving down Route 15.
Eventually you arrive in Dillsburg, a pleasant little community. In the last census, the population of Dillsburg was 2,063.
Imagine tomorrow that everyone in Dillsburg just vaporized, disappeared.
Imagine how horrified we'd be. Imagine the headlines.
But if the people of Dillsburg disappeared one at a time, like pennies rolling off a table, the loss would be less noticeable.
Soldiers die day after day in Iraq.
We notice the local guys we lose. We grieve and we mourn and we splash our loss across the front page.
Proximity makes them more valuable, like wheat pennies from the early part of the 20th century that people collect.
We pay less attention to the fellows from Pittsburgh, maybe even less to guys who call Wyoming or Nevada or Florida home.
But they have just as much value.
What scares me is the vast supply of pennies.
May we never reach numbers like those in Vietnam or World War II.
But our pennies will keep dropping off the table until folks across the country count up the loss and scream, "Enough!"
NANCY ESHELMAN: 717-255-8163 or email@example.com