Keeping a memory alive is not the same thing as being able to remember a piece of information.
I can recall what I had for breakfast last week, but that recollection does not have an impact on my life or my sense of purpose today. By contrast, to keep someone’s memory alive is to allow a person to continue to influence us.
Remembering as an active, transformative process is described in the Bible. Sacred Scripture frequently links God’s acts of remembering to God’s acting. In 1 Samuel 1:19-20, for example, the “Lord remembered” Hannah and her desperation, and soon thereafter she conceived Samuel.
Judaism preserves this idea in its custom for when a person dies. They say, “May his memory be a blessing.” Thinking about a person, his life and character, or his dream of becoming a commercial airline pilot – these are to be sources of encouragement and inspiration. And Christians remember that when they celebrate Communion, they are following Jesus’ statement in Luke 22:19 to “do this in remembrance of Me.”
Keeping a memory alive is part of the sacred work of being human.
As a chaplain, one of my roles is to help keep memories alive by sharing stories, particularly the stories that shape our community, the Daytona Beach campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. One of the ways we remember Zachary is through the work of his fellow pilot Ryan Miller of the class of 2019.
Like many of our pilots, Ryan felt Zachary’s death deeply. He had flown Riddle 106, the Piper Arrow in which Zachary died. It could have been him. In the summer of 2018, Ryan decided to keep Zachary’s memory alive by creating something truly special for our Jewish Prayer Room in our Center for Faith and Spirituality.
All of our Arrows had been grounded immediately the day of the crash, and one of them was later dismantled as part of a process of studying this kind of aircraft. When he found out that there were no plans for the parts afterwards, he asked if he could have a section of the wing. He wanted to keep a sacred memory alive by integrating a remnant of Riddle 104 – a plane just two serial numbers away from Zachary’s – into our campus devotional life.
He refashioned a wing section into a Torah ark, cutting portions of the metal into doors and adding hinges. In a synagogue, these arks typically are at the front of the sanctuary, and they house the sacred text of the community, the Torah. They are considered holy. Our Jewish Prayer Room is not a synagogue, and we do not have a rabbi overseeing it, but nevertheless, we recognize this ark and the memory it keeps alive as sacred.
Like you, we remember Zachary and his passion for aviation, and like you we keep his memory alive.
May his memory be a blessing.
- David Keck, Chaplain, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Please continue to check back monthly to gain insight from various members of Zachary's team sharing memories and topics close to our hearts.
See below in the Archive section to view letters from the past.