In honor of this weekís 19th
International AIDS Conference held in
Washington, D.C., along with the inspirational
AIDS quilt presentations across the mall, please
allow me to repeat a column I wrote (also in the
Fearless Caregiver book) after my trip
to the first presentation of the AIDS quilt in
Washington D.C. in 1996.
We came from everywhere. From across the
nation, across the continent, around the world.
It seemed like we were millions. We came not
only to mourn the too early deaths of friends
and colleagues and loved ones. We came, all of
us, to celebrate life. To celebrate the lives
that have fallen to AIDS and to those who
survive. We came to celebrate the lives of those
fighting just to stay alive, and of those who
fight for every life.
And we came to honor love. We came to honor
the love embodied in The Quilt, which puts our
hearts and thoughts and pain and joy on display.
The Quilt puts all of humanity touched by AIDS
on display. The Quilt may never be seen this way
again. It has grown too large to be contained in
one place. Its size, the size of its meaning,
the enormity of its impact on the hearts and
minds of those in its presence has become too
large, too vast to be contained in one place.
Not even the grandeur of our nationís capital
will be able to contain The Quilt in its
entirety. The magnitude of it was accentuated by
the continuous stream of celebrities and sports
figures, politicians, and ordinary citizens, the
people reciting an endless list of those who
died from AIDS. They read the names every day,
morning ítil night. And still, they ran out of
time before they ran out of names.
We held our candles high: thousands of
candles and hearts, burning brightly in the dark
of night, as we marched from The Quilt, which
covered the Mall. We marched behind grand
marshal Elizabeth Taylor, who led us to the
steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Surrounding the
Reflecting Pool, we stood, an endless sea of
lights. Shining lights, twinkling lights, like a
sea of distant stars come to earth to share the
love and try to understand.
We stood side by side, and we listened, in
the shadow of the Memorial chiseled with words
that brought our nation together once before. We
listened to speakers, famous and unknown.
People who spoke of living with AIDS. One by
one, they walked out to the podium set high on
the steps of the monument, each starting with
the phrase, ďI am the face of AIDS.Ē White,
black, brown, yellow, and red, young and old,
male and female, they spoke.