Just another Thursday, and the morning mix includes leather-vested bikers from New Jersey, Amish visitors from Pennsylvania and a few children adjusting to a park not intended for play. They settle onto benches for the 11 o’clock retelling.
A ranger in the green and gray of the United States National Park Service tucks his peanut-butter-and-jelly lunch on a shelf and walks out to face his audience. A field of wildflowers undulates behind him; the pewter-bellied clouds seem nearly within reach. He begins:
“Remember how bad the weather was that morning?”
Hesitant nods turn quickly to head shakes. No. On that particular September morning, you could see forever.
This is just the ranger’s way of buckling you in. Helping some to remember what we already know. Helping others, especially those who were not yet born, to envision a beautiful, calamitous day now nearly 15 years in the past.
His name is Robert Franz, he is 61, and his title is “interpretive park ranger,” which means that his job is to tell the story of what happened in that color-dappled field behind him, again and again and again.