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Tom Finneran: The Irishman Cried

Friday, August 03, 2012


The Irishman cried. And you will too. That’s a bet that I’m willing to make. And, you don’t have to be Irish to cry over words………..

The words are below.

I’m the Irishman in question and while my family and friends would quickly tell you that I am an emotional guy, very quick to laugh at myself and life’s inanities, I’m equally quick to tear up , at a movie or a memory, over a song or an injustice. In fact, my wife and my closest acquaintances and colleagues know that I’m a big softie, a pushover for any sad story about a child or a family, and they laughingly advise that I should not go anywhere without a big box of Kleenex.

Nonetheless, you’ll cry too.

All of this is said as a way of setting you up for the joyful month of August. Thirty one days of mostly summer weather stretch out before you. Meals of homegrown tomatoes and sweet corn, evenings of baseball games and early football practices, slower days at work because half the country is “away for a few days”, back to school shopping, preparing for sons and daughters heading off to college for the first time (you’ll cry once again), and planning your return to the real world of work, responsibilities, and schedules right around Labor Day. In August we bank memories that we draw upon when the winds of winter chill our bones.

Let me add to the list of August pleasures, the pleasure of good books. I’ll give you three that I have mightily enjoyed, at least two of which will bring tears to your eyes and inspiration to your heart. Thirty one days, three great books = one great August. Enjoy.

• Be sure to read Lauren Hillenbrand’s book Unbroken, A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. It’s an awesome book, well written and filled with the drama of life and death, of kindness and cruelty, and of the barbarity of war. You will not be able to put it down.

• GRANT, by Jean Edward Smith. The military and political genius and leadership of U.S. Grant is often ridiculed. This book came to my attention as a recommendation from an avid reader. I began the book with an admitted ignorance about Grant the person and Grant the President. I now hold Grant in the highest regard. History may not have been kind to President Grant but justice demands recognition of his gifts, his wisdom, and his leadership. This book will make you fall in love with Grant. One of our greatest Presidents.

• And, finally, the words----
“On the lower tip of the island of Manhattan, fires trapped deep beneath the twisted metal girders were still burning. In great cities around the globe, people gathered to express their outrage and their sympathy. Hundreds of Londoners stood in silence when Big Ben rang at noon. When the guard changed at Buckingham Palace, the band played a song about the American flag still waving after a failed British assault on Fort McHenry. In Beijing and Amman, bouquets and wreaths piled high at the gates of the American embassies. In Dublin, the stores closed in commemoration. Children in the West Bank held candlelight vigils. In Paris, the newspaper headline was “We Are All Americans.”

But nowhere was there a greater outpouring of humanity and emotion than in the German capital of Berlin. There, two hundred thousand people gathered along the broad avenue leading through the Tiergarten to the Brandenburg Gate. No one was quite sure why so many turned out.

The crowd felt young. Men and women in their twenties wore backpacks and shorts under the late summer sun. Parents pushed strollers and held children by the hand in the enormous throng.

One woman stood still, alone in the crowd, lost in her thoughts as families and couples marched past her. She was old and stooped. Her hair was wild and she wore a dark heavy coat even on the warm day. She was quietly sobbing.

Two young men approached her and asked why she was crying. She seemed startled as if roused from a slumber. “I love Americans” she said quickly, in a way that was so imploring they understand that it grabbed them and shook them by their lapels. She started to go on, to say more, to explain, but before the words came out, her gaze widened and warmed, the tears replaced by an ineffable joy. Her shoulders straightened just a bit. The wrinkles seemed to flee her face.

A distant happy memory danced across her eyes and she looked upward toward the sky. She began softly, in a whisper. “You see, I was a girl during the Airlift………….
From the Prologue of The Candy Bombers, The Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and America’s Finest Hour by Andrei Cherny.

Read it, and weep. Enjoy the blessings of August.


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