I just ordered my proof copy of “Death By Darwin”. Soon, you will be able to get your hands on my next book. By December 15th, the ebook will be available and hopefully, the printed version. More on that soon.
But, today, I want to focus on what took place on this day 75 years ago. Yes, December 7 1941 is a day that will live in “infamy”. In 2005 our drama group at Brookwood Baptist Church performed my last written play, “The Homecoming Tree”. The play was set in the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas 1941. I based the story on my parents’ experiences living in Shreveport, Louisiana during World War II. The play has a very special place in my heart and I have rewritten it over the past 11 years. I am now working on the conversion of the play to a novel.
My hopes are to see the play performed again in its new form and also to possibly add musical numbers to the play. But, for now, I am settling for finishing up the novel. Today, in the honor of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the brave men and women who died that day and the Generation that took upon themselves to defeat the greatest evil in modern history I want to post an excerpt from my upcoming book, “The Homecoming Tree”.
Stop for a moment. Be very still. Shut out the sights and sounds of the world around you. Are you there? Now, recall where you were when the planes hit the World Trade Center. How did you feel? Afraid? Shocked?
Almost thirty years ago, I remember my wife screaming for me to come out of the bathroom to the living room. “They’ve blown it all up!” she said. I watched in horror as that bifurcated plume of rocket exhaust proved the Challenger space shuttle had exploded shortly after take off with a school teacher on board.
Some of us can recall an even more shocking moment. I confess that I was but a small child, but talk to anyone over the age of 65 and they can tell you exactly what they were doing and where they were the moment President John F. Kennedy was shot. Fifty years have passed and still the grim and horrifying jerky images of the Zapruder film signaled an end to Camelot; an end to America at its greatest.
But, sadly, there are fewer and fewer Americans alive today who recall when they heard the news that Pearl Harbor had been attacked on December 7, 1941. My parents lived through the Great Depression and moved to a large city from a failing farm in the early 1940’s. They are both passed on now, but their stories of the fear and dread they felt when they learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor eclipsed any fear I have experienced since then.
Today, now 72 years later, our memories of that attack have faded and have suffered from the reconstruction of history. Japan is no longer our enemy. Hawaii is no longer a territory and has become the default tourist destination for many Americans. It is difficult for us to fathom the enormity of the defeat of the American fleet on that day. In our day of drones and laser tagged missile attacks and cyber warfare, this kind of attack is unthinkable.
So, pause for a moment and remember the men and women who died that day in a sudden, underserved attack by the Empire of Japan. Stop and recall whatever tiny bit of shock and awe you may have felt in the past few years at other attacks on our country. Be still and say a prayer for our country; say a word of thanks for the men and women who daily put their lives on the line for our freedom.
You see we are free. Freedom and liberty have driven the metamorphosis of our country into what it has become today. Most of those men and women who died that day in Pearl Harbor would not recognize modern America. It would be more foreign to them than any of the enemy countries they fought to defeat. But, there is no dispute in the fact that they would lay down those lives again if it meant protecting the freedom and liberty that has allowed us to grow into the country we are today, good or bad. Let us not take that liberty for granted. For, tomorrow, there could very well be an attack on our country more heinous and more devastating than Pearl Harbor. The question we must ask ourselves:
Do we have what it takes to face such a challenge as did those who fought the Great War against a world filled with evil and death? Let us hope that we do not forget these lessons of history. As Ravi Zacharias once said, “the only thing worse than nostalgia is amnesia.”
To the World War II veterans who have gone on to their reward and to the veterans who still live with those bitter memories, we salute you. Thank you for fighting and dying for our liberty. May we NEVER forget!
Four elderly men stood before me. They had asked to talk to me and I was very, very nervous. One of them was shaking with emotion and all I could think of was somehow I had offended them with something I had written in the play they had just seen.
Let me explain.
In 1993, I was the director of the drama ministry at Brookwood Baptist Church. We produced four dinner theaters a year and my staff liaison requested we sell season tickets for the 1994 season. I was growing tired of writing, directing, and producing plays with a rural flair. I wanted something more modern and urban. I decided on the three plays leading up to our holiday dinner theater for 1994. Then, I wrote down a simple explanation for the fourth play, “The Night Gift”. It would take place in an urban setting, a newly constructed high rise in downtown with a penthouse office. The members of that office would find themselves stuck in the penthouse office on Christmas Eve and in the process discover they didn’t get along as well as they thought. That was it. A simple story. I would worry about the details later and write the play sometime during the summer of 1994 in time for the holiday dinner theater.
My good friend and our best actor, Larry Robison, asked me to write him a bit part as an old curmudgeonly gentlemen like Waldorf and Statler of the Muppets. You know, the two old men who sit in the theater box seats and insult the cast of the Muppets show. I created four elderly founders of the company that built the high rise. Larry would play Mr. Collinbird (the others were Mrs. Partridge, Mrs. Turtledove, and Mr. Frenchhen). At a pivotal point in the play, I wanted to change the mood from humorous to serious. Up to that moment, Mr. Collinbird had been hilarious and frankly, senile. The members of the office began to share their most memorable Christmases. When it came to Mr. Collinbird, everyone was expecting another silly story. Instead, he began to tell a very moving story about his childhood.
Mr. Collinbird told the story of Christmas,1941 when his father did not return from Pearl Harbor. The young boy went out into the woods and cut down the family Christmas tree on his own. During the tale, Larry became the young Collinbird and I came out on the stage dressed as his father with blood on my chest. I told my “son” he was now the man of the house and I would not be coming home for Christmas.
It was a simple five minute scene meant to change the tone of the play and to catch the audience off guard. They would be expecting Collinbird to be silly but instead they got a very poignant moving story of the child who became the man. After the first night’s play, Larry came up to me and said there were four men who wanted to talk to the author of the play. These were the four men who now stood before me. The trembling man wiped at his eyes and this is what he said:
“I wanted to thank you for honoring the men who fought in World War II. We are World War II veterans and I was at Pearl Harbor. Thank you for honoring us on Veteran’s Day.”
I was stunned! It suddenly hit me that this was Friday, November 11th, the original date for Veteran’s Day! I never intended to honor WWII veterans but God had different plans. God knew who would be there that night and God knew they needed to be honored by the simple scene in this play. The play was performed for two nights only and as impressive and shocking as the first night’s response was, I was not prepared for what happened the second night.
After the play, Larry escorted an elderly woman up to me and introduced us. She also wanted to meet the author of the play. This is what she said:
“My brother died at Pearl Harbor and I have been mad at him and mad at God ever since. Tonight, you helped me to say goodbye to my brother and to find peace with my Maker. Thank you!”
Later, Larry and I spoke about these people and their testimonies. Larry encouraged me to write the story of that young boy in 1941. He asked me where the idea of cutting down the tree as a rite of passage to manhood had come from. I shall share that tomorrow! For now, I want you to stop for a moment and think of someone you know who has fought in our military.
This coming Monday is Veteran’s day and 19 years ago, I realized how truly important it is to honor and remember the sacrifice of our men and women in the armed forces. Much has happened in the world since then and the number of war veterans has exploded. It would be a number of years before I fulfilled my dream to take that boy’s story and tell it in its entirety. In 2005, I wrote and produced “The Homecoming Tree” telling the story of the young Mr. Collinbird. The story was based on my parents’ lives during WWII. They lived in a boarding house atmosphere and their relatives came to stay with them as the war unfolded. I hope to soon complete the novel based on that play and to fully honor the memories of my now deceased parents. But, for now, I want to encourage you to honor our veterans this coming Monday. Thank them for their sacrifice to give us the opportunity to live in freedom!