By Bill Ward
---- — With this year being the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination, it came to mind the big things in the world that I have been around when they occurred. President Kennedy was the one that I really did open mouth and put both feet in all the way up to the knee. At the time I was working at the Sears store in Omaha, Neb., and had recently finished the Executive Development course for new college graduates. I was assigned to my first real retail job, assistant manager of the toy department starting the week before Thanksgiving. I had been in the schooling for several months and had managed to make some friends in the area of the toy department.
One of those friends was a devout Kennedy disciple. And as we all are prone to do, I would do my best at times to aggravate her and rouse her Kennedy feelings. She and I liked each other and she did the same to me when the opportunity presented itself. I was walking toward the toy department when she ran me down, tears in her eyes, which should have told me something, and told me the President had been killed. My first and very wrong reaction was so what else is good news? She broke down and ran off crying and cussing me in particular. When I finally realized that the President had indeed been killed, I ran her down apologized profusely and asked for and received forgiveness. It was one of those things that pop out of our mouths without thinking and I learned a hard lesson from that episode.
The first huge event that I was around to remember was Dec. 7, 1941. My brother Gene was a freshman at Indiana University and had pledged Delta Upsilon Fraternity. The fraternity was having a parent’s weekend to show the new pledge parents all about the fraternity and to show them that they would take good care of their young ones. That Sunday we left Rushville for Bloomington early and got there around noon, about the time of the announcement of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Of course all the radio stations in the country had nothing but the attack on and then, as now, it was repeated over and over again all day. No one knew actually much about what had gone on other than it was a surprise attack and many young Americans had been killed and wounded. It would be several days before any one would have much of an idea about what it actually entailed.
I remember the somber mood of those young men knowing full well it would be up to them to fight this war and war it certainly was. The draft had already been put into effect so many there that day knew their names would be forth coming. Patriotism ran high that day and the days following the attack. None of those present students and parents had the least doubt that America would in the end win, but all knew the price would be high. My brother ended up in the Army Air Corp flying B-17’s for his term of service.
The third time something out of the ordinary occurred was 9/11. My wife and I were at Gatlinburg and getting ready to leave for home. As we got up and turned on the TV all we could see was the plane hitting the tower again and again. Then when the second one hit the other tower the announcers went wild and the recriminations were running rampant. Most everyone seemed to feel it was an Arab conceived and run thing, but just who was to blame? And blame was flying every where and at almost everyone.
As we were getting ready to leave, Patty wanted to stop in downtown to get a special T-shirt she had seen. I wanted to get home, but as usual Patty persevered and we went downtown. She told me later that the gentleman in the store was Arab and people were coming in from the street and yelling at him and asking what had your people done to us and why? Blame had to be placed and many innocent people were derided because of their heritage not their actions. We made it home, but did so with great concern as to what may happen next. Again no one was concerned about how the end result would be, after all we were Americans and we do not let things like this get us down, we fight back and win.
Possibly one might also think of the Oklahoma City bombing in this vein too. I was at work when word came about it. I could not believe something like that could happen and here in America and the heart land at that. Again at first, Arabs were blamed, but when it became clear it was not someone from another country that had done this dastardly deed but an American born and breed in our own country. As with all the other events, I was proud how we finally, after the event, had calmed down conducted ourselves. We did not allow any of them to put us down, we pick up the gauntlet and fought the good fight and in the end won the war. This is just one reason I am proud to be an American.