It seems the word hero is thrown around in the media pretty regularly lately. Often I don't think it really applies. I think I know what a hero is, and it's my friend, Dan
On September 11 as I sat watching the horrific scene in New York City on my computer, Dan walked by my office. I knew that he had been in the service during World War II but I didn't know where he served. When he stopped at my door, I asked, "Dan, where were you on December 7, 1941?" "Pearl Harbor" was his answer. Even as I sit here now, I get goose bumps when I write that as I did at that moment.
Before I could ask another question he said "I was a Navy flyer. It was my job to fly officers around and I wasn't on the ground when it happened." I was stunned. My mouth literally dropped open. To think that the man standing there, my friend Dan, had been at Pearl Harbor that day was unbelievable. Had I not asked that question, I'm certain he would never have told me.
A few weeks ago another friend sent me this link to a site about the 1940's. I thought he'd appreciate it so I sent it on to Dan. I got this back: "The PBY seaplane you see being towed out of the water during the attack is my squadron. I was only 19 at the time. The PBY is a patrol bomber, looks small now but at the time was a huge plane equal to the flying fortress. Most of our planes were on the ramp but we had 6 at anchor on alert. All were destroyed."
I never hear anything about Pearl Harbor without thinking of Dan telling me that he had been there. It’s still incredible to me that I know a man who was there. Now in his 80's and still dabbling in the business, real estate is Dan's third career. After the war he worked for the FAA testing the equipment used for instrumental landings until his eyes kept him from passing the necessary physical exams. He still gets together with some of his old flying buddies for lunch when I imagine they share stories about flying and aviation in general.
Years ago after a scary, bumpy airplane flight that I told him about, Dan said..."no plane ever crashes from turbulence." Now whenever we're on a flight and it gets bumpy and I'm digging my fingernails into Paul's leg, he always leans toward me and says "Remember what Dan said." I'm sure I'll always remember that and many other things my hero Dan told me.