As of noon Monday, the death toll of American soldiers killed in Iraq was at 1,122. A traveling exhibit called "Eyes Wide Open" has put that number into a somber perspective.
At Tallahassee's Lewis Park more than 1,100 pairs of empty combat boots were positioned as if standing at attention. The Eyes Wide Open exhibition has traveled to more than 40 cities with this tribute to fallen soldiers. When it began in January there were 534 sets of boots.
Mark Anderson, the national tour manager, says, “We are just about 15, 16 shy of 1,000 deaths since combat operations were declared over, which is something people should think about.”
Coordinators stress the display is non-partisan, non-political, but very powerful. Even some school children on a field trip were taken back.
Briana Garland, a sixth grader, says, “When I got here I was a little sad 'cuz there were so many boots.”
They are boots not just of American soldiers, but footwear representative of the reported 16,000 Iraqi civilians caught in crossfire as well as a wall with about 10,000 names. The intended message: war is costly.
Beth Cavano, a Tallahassee resident, says, “You know, we see things on the news but we are so far removed from it, and looking at all these boots, they may as well be coffins.”
Monday night a candlelight vigil supporting peace, security and democracy will be held as the exhibition packs up and heads to another city. The memorial was sponsored locally by the Tallahassee Friends meeting.