At ten to four, a father raises his camera to make a portrait of his family: his wife and four children, his father, a brother, maybe. I watch them pose, only later noticing the pterodactyl overhead, frozen in flight. For a moment, the clamorous lobby of the Field Museum is unnaturally quiet.
The youngest boy wriggles against the affectionate hold of his mother and sister, while the upturned face of the patriarch in his chair is unruffled and serene. His hands clasp a white cane.
The skeleton of Sue, and her dramatic portrait, fittingly round out a poignant tableau. Her bones have given her a second life, living with the moderns as a museum piece. A destiny more wild, even, than that fantastically remote world that she roamed while alive.
Sixty-seven million years her bones lay at rest, her burial not a secret, not even an event, yet her resurrection a great ‘discovery.’ To be dusted up and hauled off from that profound South Dakota silence, subjected to the gaze and glare of the big city: is it an honor or an indignity? As in Plato’s cave, the mural overhead is probably a very feeble representation of the world she knew, of the true dinosaur she used to be. Its errors would probably drive her crazy, if she could still see.
Her brief twenty-eight years of life are being analyzed still. The ironies of time, of fame and affection, furnish meditation to her corpse.