Everyone has songs, sounds, and background noise that make up their own personal “soundtrack” — an audio connection to one’s memory bank.
I have lived on or near an airbase for my entire life. Different ones at different times, but the sounds are the same–or similar enough–and for the past 20 years, I’ve lived here. Here is about 2 miles, as the crow flies, from an Air National Guard base that until a few years ago was home to F-16s. When they left, part of my soundtrack disappeared, too, although I quickly adjusted, and didn’t even miss the sound. Until last week… Last week, as I was driving home from an appointment, I saw 4 F-16s in formation cruising across the sky. Now, I knew they were in town–it was in the news a couple weeks ago because their own base is repairing the landing strips, and they’re hanging out at the local AFB until the work is done (p.s. I’m also about 6-7 miles from an Air Force Base).
But the point is, I saw the jets, and then heard them, and wow, memories just came flooding back. And I’ve taken notice this week of how, even from miles away, I hear the roar of those engines, and it’s different from the dull drone of the cargo planes I see and hear most of the time anymore. And I realized that I missed the sound. I don’t see them so much – in the not-so-long-ago days, the flight paths took them directly over my house (often flying low!), and every day I would see them. When my kids were really young they would wave to the pilots! And we couldn’t help but hear them–a constant roar, sometimes distant, and sometimes deafening. But as I listen to them now, I remember.
On a day like today, I remember that for a few hours all planes were grounded, and our skies were silent. Highly unusual in our neck of the woods, making the day just that much more surreal. And then, as I was taking my girl to her first day of pre-school, I heard them – F-16s scrambling, patrolling our skies and keeping us safe. And that is exactly how I felt – Safe. Perhaps those who aren’t used to hearing jets as a constant part of their soundtrack might have felt differently, but I know that I am not alone when I express how relieved I was to hear that comforting roar. I grew up with this. The pilots and all those on whom the pilots depend were a part of the fabric of base life, my schoolmates’ parents, and eventually some of them were – and are – my friends. And the roar and reverberation of jets is like an aural security blanket to me – as a friend quoted to me, “Jet noise: The sound of Freedom.”
When the fighters head back home, I will miss them again for a day or two, then I will adjust and forget. But it’s good to have that part of my soundtrack back, for a while anyway.
As a side-note, while I was in town today (a stone’s throw from the base) I took a call and stepped out of the store, trying to be polite to fellow shoppers. And I had to laugh, because I had spent all morning trying to finish this blog, trying to remember and put into words this abstract…feeling and memory…. and there it was, plain as day and impossible to ignore–the deafening roar of jet engines, the unmistakable swoop of takeoff, and the thrum in my chest. The sound–and feel–of the soundtrack of my life.