The last two weeks of December are traditionally slow in the Corvair movement with builders being focused on their families. We are no different, in a few hours I am driving North to NJ, as our family is gathering there in the 16th for my father’s 87th birthday. I will be out of the shop and away from the phone until after Christmas. I will be able to answer e-mail intermittently, and a have a few web updates planned. Grace will be here to fill a few last-minute orders before taking a break to be with her parents. We will be back in limited operation the week after Christmas and in full swing just after the first of the year. If you send us an email, please include your phone number and a good time to call, I can answer many of these questions from the road by phone.
The Holidays are a time to be thankful for the things we have received in life, and above all else, I am thankful for having my parents. What ever good qualities I may have, they are directly attributable to my parents, and the faults I have are the places where I have failed to be the type of person my parents deserved in all of their children. Below are a few notes on my father’s life and things he has done in 87 years on the planet and 63 years of marriage with my Mother. I hope that each of you take time to consider what we each have been blessed with and have a chance to share this with family and friends.
From The Family Photo Album, A Salute To the real William Wynne, my father. The photo above was taken by the U.S. Navy in early 1968. In my 5-year-old hand, I hold the Bronze Star awarded to my father during his 1967 tour in Vietnam. My father enlisted in the Navy during World War II, graduated from the Naval Academy with the Class of 1949, served in both Korea and Vietnam, and in the final total, spent 33 years on active duty. Between 1976 and 2001 he worked for the worlds largest engineering firm EBASCO, which later became Ratheon engineers and Constructors. He was the Manager of Advanced technology. For 24 years his office was a corner window on the 89th floor of World Trade Center tower two. On 9/11 he took a very rare day off. Below this are a few paragraphs of that story. In his life my father has had a number of close calls including being in Hong Kong for the opening phase of the “Cultural Revolution” in 1966 were the communist Chinese attacked the city before going on to kill millions of their own people. In each case my father has always said that the focus should be on those that were lost, and it is an egocentric and myopic view to think of these events personally. This philosophy started early, as 29 of my father’s high school friends who enlisted in the Navy were killed in a single day, November 13th 1942.
Family Notes from the 10th anniversary of 9/11
I took the photo above on 9/12/01. The letter is taped to Washington Rock, a 500′ ridge a few miles from my parents’ house in N.J. It has a direct view of lower Manhattan from 10 miles. Hundreds of people stood in silence there and watched the smoke pour out of the city. The letter was a note to a dead friend promising to take care of his children and to raise them as he would have. Below it is my Father’s business card. Note the address of World Trade Center #2. My father capped his 33 years on active duty in the U.S. Navy with 24 more years working on projects like the fusion reactor at Princeton and directing the construction of more secure U.S. embassies after Tehran. I often remind people that I am not a licensed engineer, but I do know exactly what one looks like.
This week it is well worth taking time to remember what happened 10 years ago. People who have known me for a long time know that my father worked on the 89th floor of World Trade Center Tower Number Two for more than 20 years. On 9/11/01 I was recovering from an accident at my parents’ house in New Jersey. My father took the day off from work after the eye doctor called to let us know they had time for me due to a cancellation. This turned out to be a fortunate twist of fate. My father’s original plan was that he and I would go to his office for a few hours and head uptown at noon to see some of his friends at the monthly Naval Academy alumni meeting. Although I could just barely hobble around, my father thought it would be good for me to get out of the hospital mode and say hello to his colleagues and friends.
We were in the doctor’s office about 15 miles away when news that a plane had struck Tower One came. It was a crystal clear blue day outside, which removed the possibility of a mistake, and when the news came a few minutes later that it had been an airliner, it was the first moment when we understood that something very ominous had happened.
About 250 people worked on my father’s floor. Many of them, like my father, had been trapped in the smoke-filled building for hours during the 1993 bombing. These people followed the evacuation order that came minutes after the first plane. The elevators were shut off and they began to walk down. A number of people, despite being able to see the other burning Tower 200 feet away, did not leave. None of them survived. The people who left later reported that they had walked down to the 44th floor when the building was rocked very hard. It was the second plane hitting 500 feet above them. They continued down and were able to walk 5 to 10 blocks away before it fell. Listening to the stories of my father’s coworkers, it was very hard to see how I would have hobbled down the stairs in my condition, and I know that my father would not have left me, even if I begged him to. Getting one call from the optometrist had given us a future.
At sundown we sat in the kitchen, as did people all over America. The telephone rang many times, people asking if Dad was O.K. I answered a long series of these quick calls which were punctuated by a number of people asking if my father had seen theirs leaving the building that day. I could offer them nothing but hope. They were searching for a shadow of doubt that they would not find. I gently hung up the phone each time and felt a palpable mixture of luck and guilt that I would keep my father and they would probably never see theirs again. Their voices contained a desperation that stays with you even 10 years later.
My opinion of things done in American foreign policy in the past ten years is no more valid nor enlightened than any one else’s. I am in the 97% of my countrymen that have never set foot in the places we have sent people. If you are in the other 3%, please know that you have the profound respect of both Grace and myself. My Father is a WWII, Korea and Vietnam veteran. By observation and understanding, all of the members of my family came to know that warriors have never set America’s foreign policy, they just paid for it. If you are reading this from a deployed position somewhere in the world, it is our most profound wish that you and the members of your unit safely return. I say this with the understanding that my life would have added up to very little had my father not returned from Vietnam in 1967. Both Grace and I wish you many rewarding years ahead.