Old English flEogan to fly -- more at FLY
Monday, November 5, 2007
Capable of more than flying
I like flying and I like airplanes. Have I ever mentioned that before? Well, I do. As close as I come to the magnificent machines these days is volunteering at the local museum of flight. There was a grand fly-in this weekend. Warbirds from the area came to the local airport. The sound of a WWII movie filled the air.
On this day, I had the great pleasure and privilege to be present for some living legends: D-Day veterans, ace pilots and the remarkable Mr. Louis Zamperini. Lucky Louie’s personal history is enough to fill five or six autobiographies. First, there’s Mr. Zamperini’s story of a troubled youth, who found his way back on the right track by running track. Then there’s the story of that star athlete finishing first in the 5000 meter run in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, impressing der Führer such, that Adolf Hilter demanded an audience with the California youth. Louie shook hands with Hilter and then promptly stole the flag out of the Third Reich Chancellery. And then there’s the story of a WWII ace bombardier, who managed to destroy many strategic South Pacific targets while dodging all those wily zeros. And there’s also the story of the airman shot down and adrift at sea for 47 days and nights, who had to have the strength of body and mind to survive at sea, while watching his crewmates die. And there’s the story of his rescue, but subsequent imprisonment in a Japanese POW camp and his suffering at the hands of his sadistic captors. And there’s the story of his rescue of his body, but the unrelenting torment of his memories. And then there’s the story of the power of reconciliation, redemption and faith that allowed Mr. Zamperini to look his captors in the eye and forgive each of these men, expect one, personally. Still not impressed? Mr. Zamperini, 91, until four years ago was regularly skateboarding. And the man is always smiling. His autobiography, Devil at My Heels, is an excellent and powerful read and written much the way he speaks in person.
Because of the sacrifices of men and women like Lucky Louie, my own Dad included, I have been the truly lucky one. I have lived in peace and prosperity. I have always been able to pursue my happiness, even in the land of our nation’s former enemy, Germany. This week, I have been summoned for Jury Duty. This will require quite a bit of coordination with getting the kids to school and looked after in the afternoons. It will mean my emails will likely go unanswered. It will require turning my cell phone off. It means I will have to decline meeting with friends, who happen to be in town this week. It will mean disappointing the kids by missing soccer and ballet and playdates. It may require me to think about human nature in ways I prefer not to think. It may require me to consider the laws of my country and how they intersect with a specific individual’s acts and that person's future. These are things that make me uncomfortable and I would much prefer not to do these things. But I will do my tiny part as best I can. I owe that much to guys like Mr. Zamperini. And I owe it to my own little ace balsa wood pilot, as well. I am capable of that much.