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He looked out over the gathered crowd. Here and there, he could see red eyes, handkerchiefs held up, heads rested on friendly shoulders for support and comfort.

“We are here today,” he said slowly, looking down at the card in his hand, “Because of the sacrifice of others.”

There was no coffin. They had not found enough to bury. Instead there was a statue, hastily carved, with a large piece of material draped over it.

“Our city still stands,” he carried on. “Because a few brave souls dared to stand up and fight for it. Because of them, although we are damaged, we are not broken. And though we may have lost many things, we have not-”

He gripped the podium with both hands, trying to regain control over his voice.

“We have not lost hope,” he finished.

Someone in the audience started to clap, and others joined in. He bowed his head. This was not what he had expected victory to be like.

© Kari Fay

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