Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday the 13th

For some, the number 13 portends challenge--there are many tall buildings which do not have a 13 floor, or at least do not CALL the 13th floor by that name; many go from #12 to #14 in the hope of averting what is sometimes termed as "bad luck." There are others who profess faith in the good luck brought by that number. In my view, it all comes down to circumstance, vision and attitude.

On February 13, 1944, a sunny Sunday morning, my father's B-17 was shot down on the way back from a "milk run" [beware, always, those words!] as he returned from what was supposed to be an easy mission. Hit by three German Folke-wolfe 190s, one of his crew was killed instantly as the plane plummeted toward the of the English Channel, sinking so fast that they were unable to ditch before it hit the water. My father, an officer and a gentleman to the end, was the last man out of the sinking ship and the lifeboat did not work. He held up two of the men who couldn't swim until they were rescued, first by a seaplane that blew its engines trying to carry so many people and then by a minesweeper. My dad and the other 8 survivors continued to fly until the end of the war.

Last year I made contact with someone who saw my dad's plane get shot down that day. He said, " We were flying over the Channel and it was a bright, beautiful, sunny day. The mission was over and the guys (from other planes) had all got out of their ball turrets. I didn't. I was in mine looking back at France. All of a sudden three Folke-wolfe 190s come right at us and fired 20 mm cannons. They went right underneath me and hit the plane below."

Now, the odds of finding someone who saw that plane go down, and is still alive to tell the story are small indeed. My father always celebrated that day; he called it his "real" birthday, the day he was given the rest of his life. Many years later, he joined an organization that was formed on that same day in 1913--The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. For him, the number 13 held significance indeed.

The point is, we don't always know whether an event is good or bad, for ultimately each series of events unfolds to reveal the next. So, even though things may look bad for our country today...keep the faith...never give up...keep treading to stay afloat in that cold Channel water of Challenge...and know that the rest of the story has yet to unfold!

Thank you Dad, for being you...may you be at peace among the true angels among us. I love you.

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