Interview with Paula Zwillinger
Can you describe what you were feeling the day (HBO's) Sheila Nevins called you while you were visiting your son in Section 60?
It was actually the second anniversary of Bob's death. I happened to be at Arlington Cemetery. And it was taking an emotional toll, saying goodbye, and I was quite emotional in the car before I headed home and that's when Sheila called. She said, hey, how are you, how are things? And I said I was spending time with Bob, and eventually I guess she put two and two together, that I was at Arlington Cemetery spending time with Bob. And I guess, realizing the emotional toll that it takes on a parent, even two years later, that's when the idea of doing a documentary on Arlington was born.
What does Section 60 mean to you?
Well, personally, from a parent perspective of losing a son in war, it's an honor. It's the highest honor that we could possibly give to him, to have him placed there. Because you want to do what's right for your child. You want to honor him, and you want to make sure that he's going to be taken care of no matter what. No matter when my day finally comes.
What is it about Section 60 that binds everyone who visits there?
The film is a story about people at various stages of grief who are opening their hearts and souls. It shows the struggles these people are going through. And the thing about Section 60 is that everyone there has a bond. And the bond is their grief. So no matter what state that they are in, and no matter what their opinions are on the war, or what their gender or race is. That's all put aside. We all bond together, the other families, whether they're moms or brothers or sisters or wives. And you get a feeling as to where they are in their grief, and who you can approach and who you can't. But it is a bond; it is a gathering of individuals and families that share one common thing. And that's that their heart has been ripped open and that their dreams have been shattered. And there's not a whole lot to help you in that realm. There's only one way to get the help, and that's to really talk to somebody who really feels that pain.
And that's what's so nice about Section 60. It's a gathering of families that have been through the exact same pain and emotional heartbreak. It's a place like none other. Because you know at any other cemetery, when you go and you visit, you lay flowers or you place a stone and you spend a couple quiet moments there, and then you get in the car and you drive away. But, that's not the case in Arlington. Here is a place where, for whatever reason, rules are broken, relative to Section 60. And the families are so thankful that that is done right now. This is like our own little Vietnam wall where you see all the mementos placed. And that's why I think part of it is the memory is so alive. Because of all the items that are placed there. It's our way of dealing with it and keeping the memory alive. Whether it's my son's stone, or I go down and place a flower on somebody else's stone. And I can tell you that when families go down, they respect everybody's stones, especially on the holidays. They'll go visit everybody. And the reason is because there's this uncanny bond that's there. That's what brings everybody together.