AFSC's Eyes Wide Open project
used pairs of boots -- one for each US service member killed in the Iraq
war -- to try to help people visualize the real human costs of the war.
As expected, some of the survivors of killed soldiers requested their loved ones' names not be included, and their wishes were honored. However, most found it a meaningful part of their mourning process. Visitors experienced the exhibit as a beautiful memorial honoring those service members' contributions to our nation and to our communities. Photographs, letters, funeral programs, news clippings, and many other items were left by friends and family when they visited the boots that represented their lost loved ones. Each pair of boots acquired an assortment of memorabilia that continued to accompany it as the exhibit traveled.
Sadly, the number of dead in Iraq continued to climb. By 2007 when Eyes Wide Open came to Merion Meeting, an exhibit with one pair of boots for each service person had become too large for any but the most expansive exhibit spaces. The exhibit was split up by region, and Eyes Wide Open Across Pennsylvania became an exhibit by itself.
Merion Meeting hosted the exhibit in its activity building. The next spring, the exhibit returned to nearby Friends Central School, where the beautiful weather and the heartfelt and spontaneous contributions of the students created an unforgettable experience at the exhibit.
Sadly, two additional pairs of boots left with the exhibit by the end of that day.
(Photo by Todd Kimmel)