During the course of writing for this book I found myself in a
very reflective mood. Those reflections continue as the book is drawing to a close...thus this, chapter.
What an unforgettable journey it has been and oh, what memories! I thought of the things I have lived through as far
as history is concerned, as well as my personal
experiences. There have been high and low points in
I recall John Glenn's memorable journey into space
in 1962...a short three orbit flight, but oh, what a
flight! At age 77, he gave us all hope as we grow older, by going up once again in the space shuttle.
The hope and joy the nation had with the
election of a new president in 1960, was to be shattered with the
assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. I was in seventh grade science class when the news came over the loudspeaker that President Kennedy had been shot. Those of us in the class sat in stunned silence. Not long afterward, we heard the words, "President Kennedy is dead."
Class was dismissed, but rather than returning to the dormitories or cottages at Boys Town, there was a steady stream of boys making their way to the chapel to pray.
Throughout the three days that followed, small black and white televisions continually aired the various events from Washington, DC. Also, special masses were held each day in the chapel, which was full to overflowing for each one.
It was a very somber Thanksgiving Day at Boys Town, as it was just three days after President Kennedy was buried. I have been able to go to Arlington National Cemetery and visit his quite simple grave.
Would the country have taken a different course if he had survived? Unfortunately, this is a question that will go unanswered.
A brief five years later, Dr. Martin Luther King and Senator Robert Kennedy were assassinated. I had met Senator Kennedy just a few weeks earlier at Boys Town, as he campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination...now he, like his brother, was gone. It seemed the nation had gone crazy.
The Civil Rights movement of the mid-sixties, continues in many ways, since racisim and discrimination still exist today in many forms.
The Vietnam conflict, which divided our nation and
cost us over 56,000 young lives, including some of my
friends and classmates, also drove a president not to
seek reelection. After all these years since the war ended, we still await full accounting of those brave men that have not come home!
America's race to the moon. I still remember vividly,
being glued to the television set on that hot, sticky Sunday
night in July 1969, as the lunar lander touched down
and Neal Armstrong took his historic first step...
"a small step for man...a giant step for
mankind." That night, I felt that as a nation, we could do anything!
Watergate, the disgrace that Richard Nixon brought
to the presidency by his actions and his thankful resignation.
The Bicentennial Celebration of 1976. I was among
the millions on the shores of the New York harbor as the
tall ships sailed into port, followed by the gigantic
fireworks display that night...it made one proud
again to be an American.
There was the disaster of the Challenger space shuttle
exploding shortly after liftoff with the first "teacher" aboard; the slaughter in Waco, Texas by a madman in the name of God, watched on television across the country.
Then there was the
horrific bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma
City by one of our own, that took the lives 168 men, women and yes, even children. I think these events brought us closer together
in a small way as a nation...but soon we
We as a nation, were stopped in our tracks the in past few years by hate crimes. James Byrd was murdered in Jasper, Texas because he was black. Matthew Shepard murdered in Laramie, Wyoming because he was gay. Who will ever forget the tragedy of Columbine High School? We have even seen children attacked due to hatred at a Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles, as well as Christians shot while in church in Texas. Of course, we continue to see the Israelis and Palestinians butchering each other in the name of peace and security.
September 11, 2001, we saw the greatest attack of hate upon our country when in the supposed name of a God, men turned planes into bombs as they crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. On that day, we also saw our first victory over this evil, as brave souls gave their lives by crashing the last hijacked plane into the quiet countryside of Pennsylvania to save others the hijackers had been aiming at...with the simple words..."Let's Roll!''
When will we ever learn hate solves nothing...but it creates a never ending circle of hate.
I have lived through the presidencies of Truman,
Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter,
Reagan, Bush, Sr., Clinton and now George W. Bush.
The discovery of the Internet...we are only just
beginning to realize its potential. It will change
the way our children and grandchildren live in ways we can now only imagine. Yes, I still remember a simpler day...those early years of life when one had but a radio for music or news from the outside world...now many of us have rooms full of electronic equipment. To me the best way still to enjoy the World Series is on radio and let the imagination run wild picturing the actual game in your mind.
History has taken may turns in my lifetime.
Great achievements were accomplished, while at the
same time, our nation saw eras of strife and great
national grief. We have in some cases learned from
our experiences, while in others, we have not and
seemed destined to repeat some of our mistakes unless
we make changes as a society.
Just as in our nation's history, so too has my personal life seen the same roller coaster of
highs and lows.
I started life as a bastard child.
The son of an unwed mother of 19 and a father who
wanted no part of her or me. She decided long before
she would give me up for adoption, though I was never
adopted, it was the best decision she ever made. I
searched for, discovered and was rejected by her yet again...but it's an experience
I would go through again, as it made me whole and I am the better for it.
I went to BOYS TOWN, NEBRASKA which I still call home
today. I got my college degree and have been able to lead a
productive life, as well as hopefully helping a few
others along the way.
I discovered my roots, my real heritage; not the heritage of others. I know now that I am Polish & German and very proud of it. I have discovered, though too late to have met many of them, my great grandparents, aunt, uncles and cousins. Today I can no longer say I do not have a family or I belong to no one. I've, however, met: Dorothy, Steve, Florence, David, Ann, Roger, Jerry & Carol. I have thus far also been able to write to Jon, Bill & Sue. I have been truly blessed and my heart is full.
I discovered at a young age that I may be gay. I
struggled for years with it and attempted suicide.
Then I met a partner with whom I was
blessed to share my life for 22 years. He taught
me how to love and accept love, which I had never
experienced before. He taught me to live my life to
the fullest of my potential. Though we are no longer
together today...I will always cherish those 22
years I spent with him as my partner.
The tragedy of AIDS struck my life in 1980 and
remains a part of my life today. 140 of my friends
from over the years have died, including 22 of my
closest. I still remember and think of every one of
them every day.
I have lived through the verbal abuse and physical assaults
only because I am gay. I felt the horror, anguish and
pain at the murder of a young gay man named Matthew
Shepard and realized it could have been me. It made
me only more determined to fight to end hate and
discrimination...not only against gays/lesbians, but
for all, no matter who they are.
Yes, life, despite it's ups and downs, has been good to
me...I have been blessed with much. I have had a
circle of close friends over the years, good health
overall, despite 3 heart attacks, a good
home and fairly comfortable life. Knowing how my life
began, I can't help but be thankful each night to God
for all of it.