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Luminarias are lovingly placed at the graves in Fredericksburg National Cemetery.
PETER CIHELKA/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Visit the Photo Place
From the moment the gates swung open, National Park Service rangers and staff greeted a steady stream of visitors, inviting them to climb the terraced slope amid the illuminated graves of the Union dead. For anyone experiencing the scene for the first time, it is the ordered immensity and beauty of the thousands of graves, each lit by a single candle, spread across the open unbroken plain at the summit that surprises. If your breath wasn't taken away by the climb, a gasp accompanies this breathtaking scene.
For me, however, it was not the thousands of Civil War casualties who struck me, but the thousands of volunteers, scouts, friends, neighbors, and families who worked all day to set the candles and flags and arrived throughout the evening to take in this moving scene. On this unusually cool night, they came to hear the stories and to feel the deep emotions that accompany this sacred place in our midst. I was amazed not just by the numbers, but that every age--from tiny infants in parents' arms to elderly supported on children's arms--who walked up the hill in quiet goodwill.
If this was your first visit to your national park, commit to coming with your friends and families to experience all the units dotting the landscape in and around Fredericksburg and the surrounding counties. Each battlefield has equally moving stories and experiences that will stay with you for a lifetime. These are your stories, your history. Please come and visit again.
Ms. Lawliss is acting superintendent, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.