Wednesday, March 07, 2007

"THE DAY AMERICA'S FATHER DIED" by Steve Savage "King of the Beasts"

Thursday, April 12, 1945, sometime around 6 P.M., EST, it was announced that Franklin Delano Roosevelt had died at 3:45 P.M., EST, in Warm Springs, GA.

Though I was only 2 weeks into my 8th birthday, I remember that evening as clearly as though it were happening now. If the greatness of a president is measured in terms of how much he is loved by the people, I can't imagine anyone more loved than FDR.

Because school was called off for Friday, April 13th, I reported to our local newspaper, The Long Branch Daily Record, to "hawk" a special morning edition outside Newberry's 5 & Dime with the men who were either too old or physically or mentally unqualified to serve in the military. I paid my penny for my first paper which I would then sell for 2 cents. I checked the headlines to see what my "hawk" would be. The headlines read: "Our Father Has Died."

I was unable, because of my youth, to comprehend the unbelievable amount of anguish that held everyone in its grip. All about me, people were crying unashamedly, clinging to one another. Automobiles by the dozens were pulled over to the curbside, their drivers unable to negotiate the road through their tears. I sold more newspapers that Friday than all I had ever sold since I was 7 years old and first eligible to sell.

I don't know when the selling frenzy ended, or even if it had subsided, but it was nearly dark and time to go home. It was a strangely different world I experienced as I made the long trek home to 226 Edwards Avenue. My pockets were bulging with pennies; their bulk mimicking the weight of the grief that seemed to press down from some unseen place.

Flags everywhere were at half-mast. But what I remember most is the sound of deep sobs that surrounded me every step of the way, through a Valley of Tears, from Broadway to Seventh, to Joline, to home at Edwards Avenue where my heart broken mother cried alone. I remember wishing that my father could be there to comfort her, but he was fulfilling his role in the Greatest Generation, serving with General Patton's 3rd Army in Europe.

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