Unusual Day

Today was an unusual day in my town. Five blocks down the street from where I live, there was a funeral for a former President of the United States. Lucy got out of school in time to walk to the Episcopal church with Sara and see the honor guard and the secret service and the hundreds of onlookers. They also caught a fleeting glimpse of Dick Cheney. Apparently Jimmy Carter was there, too.

As I was about to leave work, I heard a loud roar from above. I gathered at one of the large windows with a few of my co-workers, and we watched as 21 fighter jets soared overhead, very close to the ground. As the last of the formations flew by, a single jet peeled off from the group and shot straight up at a blistering pace. Then it stopped. It hung motionless in the air. It began to drift to the left and down, down before gathering speed once more and flying away in the opposite direction from the others. It was a moving sight to behold.

I learned tonight that the planes were flying in the “missing man” formation. Just before they did their thing, there was an artillery salute and a 21-gun rifle salute, neither of which I heard — maybe because the office has good sound insulation or maybe because I had my iPod’s volume up too loud.

As I walked out the door of my office building and looked to my left, I saw a huge swell of people coming towards me like a tidal wave. I sprinted to the parking lot and hopped in my car just as the first of those who watched Ford’s burial started evacuating the city. Two minutes later and there would have been little chance of my getting to karate class before it was nearly over.

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10 Responses to Unusual Day

  1. Karin says:

    What an unusual day… thanks for sharing your perspective on things from out there… Karin Hampel

  2. Carolyn Van Mersbergen says:

    Thank you for a personal note on this important day in the lives of the American people. I was glued to the TV today. I was so thankful to be an American….to live in a land where God’s name is still honored. I was thankful for the faith of President Ford and the testimony he gave us.
    For many years Sherwin and I have spent some time in Palm Desert and have attended many concerts in the St. Margaret’s Episcapol church where the Ford’s attended. (we did not have knowledge of that fact until his service was held in that church)
    I hope Lucia always keeps this memory with her. Sara, what a special thing to do with your daughter!
    Love you……………Carolyn

  3. nicole says:

    A moving entry, Karl. My aunt waited nearly five hours just to glimpse the casket at the museum. Despite the circumstances, Julian and I enjoyed seeing shots of GR flash across our screen here in NYC. I am sure Lucy will remember this day, perhaps telling her own children aboput it. Events like this deserve retelling.

  4. Jonathan Chaffer says:

    From the office to Plainfield and 5 Mile (normally a 15 minute drive): 1 hour, 30 minutes.
    You were very lucky.

  5. Cynthia DeBoer says:

    Karl, that was a great description of the missing man formation. We were sorry to have to leave Holland for Tampa Wednesday morning, because we missed all the news coverage, and the opportunity to walk with Sara and Lucy to pay our respects. That last week in Michigan, listening, reading, and watching, was rich in history – – not to mention delightful because we were in the midst of loving family. It would be interesting to hear what Lucy recalls from her experience.

  6. Diane says:

    Just for your personal interest, Karl, I thought I’d share my family’s midwestern version of the jet peeling away. My uncle, who lived in farm country Illinois all his life, died in October. he was the oldest sibling in his family, and the first to die. at the funeral was the traditional flower arrangement for this scenario, a wagon wheel made of flowers, with one chink in the circle, between one set of spokes, missing.
    i thought it was depressing; my mother (whose opinion matters since it’s her brother) liked it.

  7. camille says:

    I’m glad you saw that, Karl. It’s always impressive, especially with that many planes. We experienced some of the events as well. I stood in the line for the repose with 1 good friend and 56,999 strangers for (what seemed like a very short) 4 1/2 hours. The honor guard is really a sight to see. Andrew and the kids went to the 131 overpasses to get the best view of the flyover they could find outside of downtown. The kids all watched ceremonies at school, though Andrew Henry spent most of the day referring to the motorcade as the “barricade.” It was a memorable couple of days.

  8. Dad says:

    Somehow, the occasion of President Gerald R. Ford’s funeral made me think back to our witnessing the pomp and ceremony surrounding President John F, Kennedy’s funeral in 1963. The J.F.K. funeral was in dramatically different circumstances, but both had in common the respect and honor our country demonstrates toward our leaders when they leave us, whether through tragedy or because of old age. I think the people of Grand Rapids were fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in some small but immediate way in such an historic event. I think that such participation makes for lasting memories, although Lucia might be a little too young to remember hers.

  9. Fred and I also walked down to the church and waited to see the casket carried in. We stood by our doctor and then saw Sara and Lucy. The military band and honor guard were very impressive. We came home and saw the funeral on TV and at the time of the plane formation could see it in the sky out our window and on TV simultaneously. We could see the flame of the afterburner in the sky as the missing man peeled off. Yes, it was a memorable day in honor of a good man.

  10. nicole says:

    Hi there, Nicole again…
    After reading Andy DeBoer’s comment about Lucia possibly not remembering this event, I thought an anecdote regarding the twins I nanny for. Max and Hannah, now three and a half, constantly surprise me with their ability to recollect events. When, for example, we recently were passing by the U.N, Max commented on the flags. He sid, “They’re like the orange flags.” When I asked him what he meant, he continued, “Like the ones in a row at Central Park.”
    He, barely 2 at the time we saw them, was recalling our outing February of 05 to view the Christo Flags. I was shocked. How could he possibly remember that? Then again, my memory from my toddler years stretches far too.
    Just thought I’d toss that out into the blogosphere!

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