All had been still on that dreadful day in 1863. Not a single leaf fluttered, not a single bird chirped, and the chatter that once engulfed Georgia was silenced. Hushed, grim and expectant, the crowds flooded the streets. The malicious expectancy seemed to cover the bright gaze of the sun, until people looked up into the sky, incredulous that it was clear instead of covered with dark clouds. No one dared to speak, unless to support and comfort the other or to remind that those dead would be martyrs for The Cause.
“Casualty lists, casualty lists, casualty lists” a loud voice repeated. The crowd turned its heads to a young man who hurriedly threw newspapers, freshly smeared with ink, to those nearest in the crowd. There was a scuffling, as people craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the list, in the hope that their loved one had not been enlisted. The silence was broken with loud wails, cries and soft, relieved laughter, as each person became aware of the fate of their beloved. I waited for my mother to bring the list, fright and curiosity gnawing at my stomach. I felt my body go cold, iron fingers strangle my neck as I stared, stunned with shock, at the sight of my mother crying. Something was wrong. I ran, shrugging past people, not caring who I pushed. I had to check the list.
“Mama!” I cried out. She thrust the list into my hand, tears streaming down her helpless face. Hurriedly, with quivering hands, I scanned the list. The name stood out, as white does on black, ‘Joseph Gartner – Killed in action’. It was father. ‘But no… he’d written to us last week…he’d said he’d be home soon…surely nothing could have happened to him…it had to be a misprint…’ My mind flooded with the memories I had of my father. I clung on to them desperately, as though, grabbing fleeting birds, afraid to lose what was left of him. Beads of emotion slipped rapidly from my eyes, staining my face, each tear, an ode to the love that I possessed for him.
As I heard the shrill chirping of a bird, my thoughts were brought back to the present. Feeling aware of the hot Georgia sun underneath which I was basking, I wiped my tears with my paint-stained hands. Even after thirty years, the grief of loss had not left me. It would never leave. The memory would always be accompanied by the sinister color of death; white.