Thursday, December 18, 2014

Reunions and Remembering

The holiday season traditionally brings family reunions, and the New Year will bring others, including high school class reunions. (My 50th is two-plus years in the past!) But these “Friday Five” reunions are particularly poignant because they came at the eleventh hour in some lives—and might not have happened at all!

Everyone is familiar with The Diary of Anne Frank which chronicles the lives of two Jewish families who went into hiding to escape the fate planned for the entire Jewish population in Europe. Their protectors certainly qualify as heroes, and there were many, many more who risked their very lives to keep Jewish men, women, and children out of the hands of the Gestapo.

In this story, two Polish women—the younger (age 76) alive because of the older (age 85) reunited by chance 70 years after they had last seen each other.

World War II separated families, especially those forced into concentration camps (where many died) or who found themselves refuges after their homes were destroyed. Despite numerous organizations who tried to reunite families torn apart by the Holocaust, these sisters did not find each other for 65 years.

Adoption separated another set of sisters for 70 years. With some help from a local newspaper reporter, they shared an embrace and the promise of more to come

On April 18, 1942, only a few months after Pearl Harbor, a fleet of B-25s took off from the deck of the aircraft carrier Hornet and struck a blow at the seeming invulnerability of Tokyo, Japan. Led by Lt. Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, these “raiders” gave the hope of victory to a nation still stunned by the attack on their air and naval fleet in  Hawaii. 

Three of the four surviving crew members were able to attend the annual reunion in 2013 and toast their fallen comrades.

Military reunions have been common occurrences since the Civil War. Men who wore the blue of the North and the gray of the South came together on the battlefield at Gettysburg one last time in 1938. About 2000 ex-soldiers with the average age of 94 attended the event. 

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