Friday, November 11, 2005

"...And then she saw the Spitfire"

A remarkable letter in today's Toronto Star: "I am here because of him."

Happy Remembrance Day.
Never forget.

1 comment:

Rick Spence said...

Because the link in this post no longer works, I have taken the liberty of including the original text in this comment. It was a letter to the Toronto Star on Nov. 11, 2005.

I am here because of him

There is a famous picture of a German bomber, flying over the city of London during World War II, that haunts me every time I see it. The reason is simple. One of the houses directly below that aircraft is my family home.
My mother is down there, barely 16 when this picture was taken. So is my beloved grandfather, a decorated veteran in two previous wars. Just up the road is the house where my uncle and aunt are huddled beneath the stairs — the safest place to be in an air raid — or so they were told...
Perhaps, this was the day my mother was cycling to school when the air raid sirens began to wail. Maybe this bomber's escorting fighter was the plane that suddenly appeared over the roof tops, strafing the street as mom peddled furiously for the safety of the nearest shelter. With nowhere to hide my mother threw herself to the ground and pulled the bicycle on top of her in a desperate attempt to escape the stream of bullets racing down the road. The deadly torrent of lead just missed her but a 9-year-old girl standing nearby was hit with such force, the bullets tore off the poor child's arm.
Despite the utter horror, my mother rushed to the girl's aid and was trying to stem the flow of blood when she realized the German plane had banked around and was about to attack again. It was at that moment — sitting unprotected in the middle of the street, covered in blood, with a hysterical 9-year-old in her arms — that my mother knew she was about to die.
And then she saw the Spitfire.
The RAF fighter appeared out of nowhere and flew head-on at the attacking German airplane. No shots were fired — perhaps for fear of striking those on the ground — perhaps because the pilot was out of ammunition. But that young RAF flier flew with such grim determination that the German pilot wavered in his deadly intent, then banked away to flee across the Channel.
I have no idea who that young RAF pilot was. I do know I am here because of him. My sister, my brothers, my nieces, my nephews, and all of their children, none of us would be here without that unknown flier's extraordinary act of courage.
That is why I will be at a cenotaph at 11 a.m. today — as I am every year — remembering that pilot and all the other brave young men and women to whom, quite simply, I owe my existence.
So to all veterans, with all my heart, thank you for my life. And please be assured, I will never forget.

Glenn Norman, Cedarville, Ont.