I step slowly, deliberately over the large rocks below the Manchester floodwall, moving haltingly to the biggest and flattest within reach. It takes forever to cover a significant distance this way, but it’s also the safest. Occasionally, a stone rocks forward as I shift my weight onto it, demanding quick recalibration of balance.

My body doesn’t obey fast enough when one of the stones tilts a full 90 degrees. I watch my foot slide off and down into the darkened crevices between the rocks, and I bend at the waist to catch myself before falling.

How the artists traversed this terrain in the dark of night without twisting their ankles – carrying cans of paint, no less – I’ll never know. Eventually, I get where I’m going.

Though the paint is nearly a decade old, the 7-foot tall lettering is still dark, bold. I take a few photos and wonder how many people have seen the message since its appearance overlooking the river.

My thoughts are interrupted by the sound of a helicopter. I look around and see that it is a black, unmarked military helicopter flying the length of the James. I imagine that I must appear a small, insignificant creature from such a height.

I turn and look up directly at the helicopter and its occupants, extending my arm toward the message and pointing. I am still. I am insisting – to myself, to the pilot, to the city – that we have not forgotten. That we still care.

I hold the pose until the helicopter passes, then begin the long, awkward path back to solid ground.


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