A Visible and Visceral Reaction

Earlier this week, I witnessed an amazing moment. In the span of a few seconds, 151 years disappeared. Gone. I was there to see it happen.

This was the scene. Seven people, not counting me, were seated around a table. We were re-experiencing the four days Abraham Lincoln spent with the Army of the Potomac in early October 1862. A little over half-way done, I had the group take the real-life role of a guy who had talked with Lincoln at dawn one morning during the four-day visit.

Lincoln and his companion stand on a ridge. They look out over the Army of the Potomac. Lincoln asks a question. The companion answers. Lincoln reacts to the answer with a short sentence. He adds a second, equally short sentence. Then…and here is where I stopped the presentation, with Lincoln having spoken two sentences and the next one hanging in the air, not yet uttered. Lincoln’s companion listened for the rest of Lincoln’s remarks.

My group, the group 151 years removed from the actual event, waited for me to share the next sentence from Lincoln. They waited, I was silent. They were silent, I waited more. And then, I said it. I said what Lincoln said. They heard what Lincoln said, just like the companion heard it on the ridge as the first light of the day crept over the valley below.



“Man, oh man!”

This is their reaction. The reaction of the companion. Together. The same. No time or space between except for 151 years, five generations, hundreds of miles, millions and billions of lives lived and lives lost, all of which, in this moment, totally disappeared.

I’m goose-bumped as I write and retell this story to you.