Thank You Brian Williams

 

 

Thank you Brian Williams for reminding me (and the MSNBC world at large) about the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on April 12, 1945 at the height of World War II. As a child, I heard this news when it happened from the bigger kids on the street, where I got most of my secret information. The news shook my world and, to this day,  I have an indelible picture in my mind’s photo album of that street scene … along with pictures of the twin towers bursting into flames and the assassination of President Kennedy.

Why relive these scariest of times? It the same reason we retell the Story of Passover and the Story of Easter. To remember and to inform the future.

During those war years, my parents sat close to the huge mahogany radio in our living room listening intensely for any possible victory. Mother was one of the few ladies in our neighborhood who went to work every day. That’s why we had a nanny.  The nanny was of German background. We called her, as she wished, “Fraulein.”  In hushed tones, “Fraulein” would daily assure my mother that when (not if) the Germans came to America, she would hide my brother and me on her upstate farm. Our home was in the Rockaways, blocks away from the Atlantic Ocean, which was rumored to be the arrival port for Hitler’s submarines. My father was an Air Raid Warden. He and the other men would roam the beaches at night to signal any arriving armies.  Sadly, the beaches we loved to play on had new and terrible meaning. Children were issued dog tags and they learned to hide under their desks in case of a bombing.

Some believe that Roosevelt hid his illness from the public for many years as the war raged on. He was the guy who told us that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” But our fears became urgent when he died. He was the man who was supposed to make the world safe for democracy. Those of us who grew up frightened about the death of a president understood the need to know about Hillary’s and The Donald’s health records. Had we known about FDR’s health, would it have changed history? We will never know, but thank you MSNBC for reminding us.

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5 Responses to “Thank You Brian Williams”

  1. Renee Marks Cohen April 14, 2017 at 2:51 pm #

    And, let’s not forget Eleanor Roosevelt. Her birthday is October 11.
    Renee Marks Cohen

  2. Paul Schwarz April 14, 2017 at 10:36 pm #

    That day is one of the clearest childhood memories. It is traumatic for a five-year-old to see a parent cry. I remember a neighbor rushing in with the news and my mother in tears. And BTW – we had a German nanny – “Lolly” – and Dad was an air raid warden. We were in White Plains then, but Mom’s family was in the Rockaways.

  3. Dennis Bell April 15, 2017 at 11:44 am #

    Hi Janet
    Hope all is good..I remember that day well…it was my fourth Birthday…
    Best
    Dennis

  4. dymanoid April 22, 2017 at 4:38 am #

    While Williams’ misremembrances may or may not be a career-ender for the long-time journalist, misremembering is a trap door that almost every person over 50 has likely fallen through at one time or another. My mother used to misremember that she didn’t actually go to college because she wanted to be thought of as smart, which she was — albeit degree-less. An old friend still tells people he hitchhiked around the world in the 19 when in fact he backpacked through Europe, never stepping foot on several continents. But he misremembers this so that people will think he was adventurous in his youth; it’s also probably how he’d like to remember his youth. But we all have our misremembrances, most of them harmless. We misremember our son’s amazing soccer goal scored against four defenders when in fact he got lucky and was unguarded. We misremember the brilliance of our daughter when we tell people she’s on the honor roll, forgetting that she dropped to the merit roll this semester because of her struggles with math. We lavish praise on the nursing home we had to put Mom in when we describe it to our friends, but misremember how much we hated its medicinal smell that permeated our clothing whenever we visited. We want to be thought of as good children, after all.

  5. Milt Ellenbogen April 27, 2017 at 2:29 pm #

    Dear Janet:

    I always read your column and enjoy what you write. However, one correction:
    It wasn’t Roosevelt who vowed to keep America safe for Democracy, but Woodrow Wilson with regard to sending American troops to Europe in WW1. However, we’re still safe although with Trump our future cannot be assured.
    Best regards, –Milt

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