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Pompeii, Italy Remembered

I first read about Pompeii in a National Geographic Magazine as a teenager. Mt. Vesuvius buried the city of 20,000 with ash and lava in AD 79. Of all the photos in the article, it was the photos of body casts that struck me most. They were so detailed, showing faces and bodies of people of all ages. One young woman lying on her side revealed a swollen stomach of an early pregnancy. Residents of Pompeii were overcome by ash and suffocated, then buried by lava.

Archeologists had a hard time finding the lost city. It had been a seaside community but the lava flow had extended the shore several miles into the sea. During excavation of the site, hollows were found in the ground. Plaster was poured into these hollows which revealed perfect representations of the victims of the disaster.

At 40, then, I walked the city ruins and saw all of the sights everyone sees. There were store fronts, the large square, and homes. I took a great photo of a frontless shop, the ground inside completely covered with red poppies. I took a baggie out of my daypack and gathered up some ash - still covering the ground - for a souvenir.

The whole excursion was really interesting, but a little unreal. It was hard for me to comprehend that this town, the same size as my home town, had been completely buried by lava. Much of the city was yet to be excavated.

The tour ended at a storage area for artifacts. It reminded me of a lumber yard—big open wooden shelves with a half roof. That's where I saw the body casts: the pregnant young woman, a dog in agony, a couple lying together, and a mother holding her child. The casts were beautiful. I looked closely at the souls represented. These casts on the shelves and on the ash ground were very personal, hiding nothing about unfortunate people and the death they experienced. The expressions on their faces, and even their wrinkles were easy to see. I was transported back in time to that terrible day. I didn't take pictures, feeling the need to express my respect and not intrude any further than I already had.

We take lots of pictures and videos during the special moments in our lives. Sometimes I wonder if our most important memories are experienced through a lens instead of by a naked eye. When a child takes his first step and when he graduates, mom and dad fumble with the camera.

There are some moments that I'll never forget; I don't need a camera. Those moments would be ruined if a camera were between my eye and my life. My memory tells me more about my experiences than photos ever could. Some memories demand our respectful attention, and reward us with something more than a photo.

Paths began to beckon Theresa when she was 12, visiting the Bridger Wilderness in Wyoming. Walking, dancing, and movement are a part of her, nourished by John Denver's musical challenge for her to "fly." Join her "walking with women" Life Discovery Tours. Learn more about Theresa Gabriel -- Women Summit LLC - Life Discovery Tours - Women's Retreats

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