Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog


Nana Kwuku Danso; Missing Sept 11, 2001

The lone sentinel makes his rounds, his march slow and steady. Each step falls in a metronomic rhythm, almost mechanical yet organically smooth. His back ramrod straight, his rifle ever facing outward, his face shows utter focus; his full attention is on where he is, and the task he fills.

We know little about him; there are no tribute pages for him, no family or friends posting stories about his life. We don't even know if he's alive or dead; no remains have been identified. All we know is "Nana Kwuku Danso, delivery man, 47 years old, from Ghana"

His path is constant, unvarying. Rain, wind, thunder, lightening, bitter cold or searing heat does not affect his devotion to his duty. His uniform is flawless, without spot or speck, wrinkle or wayward crease. His body is honed from exercise, approaching the human ideal, and reflecting hours of hard work and training. His mind is sharp, filled with knowledge of the special role he plays, and the history of the place he guards. Such dedication cannot be taught or impressed upon the sentry; it can only come from within.

The demographics are dry and dusty; they reveal nothing about the man, who he was, how he felt, what his dreams were, and whether they were coming true for him. We don't know if he was a good man, loved by his family and friends, or if he was not. We don't know if he was married or single, a father or not. We don't know if he was a brother, or an uncle, or a cousin. All we know is "Nana Kwuku Danso, delivery man, 47 years old, from Ghana"

21 steps along the path. He executes a crisp right face, and holds for 21 seconds, gazing upon the subject of his watch, then he executes another right face. With inhuman precision, he performs a complex, ritualized series of motions that results in transferring his rifle to stand between his charge, and any threat that may come. He holds for another 21 seconds, paying tribute to all who came before him, and then retraces his 21 steps, where the turn is repeated.

But there is a subtle power in not knowing these things. His anonymity in death allows his life to take on a symbolic meaning far greater than if we knew all about him. His face becomes any face; it becomes our face. We assign to this unknown person all that is best inside us, our hopes, our dreams, our noblest ideas and aspirations. He comes to represent all that we cherish about ourselves and our nation, and we honor him. Not knowing his life, we give him the best parts of our lives, and we honor him accordingly. We create in this unknown soul an idealized version of ourselves, and then try to live up to that ideal; and in this we honor him.

The cycle continues endlessly, day in, day out, without break or interruption. When his watch is done, another takes his place, equally dedicated, equally strong, equally honored to be chosen for this duty. It is their proud privilege to stand watch over the remains of soldiers "Known only to God" from WWI, WWII, and Korea. These are the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery.

It has been my proud privilege to honor Nana Kwuku Danso, 47 years old, a deliveryman from Ghana who went missing at the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001. May his family find peace.
Posted by Rich
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I knew a man named Nana who was from Ghana when I was in college. He was a regular at the UT Wesley Foundation at the time... I hope and pray this wasn't the same man. The age was about right...
Posted by Barry  on  09/11  at  10:08 AM

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