I’m Not Supposed To Be Here
In the Summer of 1971, Richard and his pal Bud, we’re getting teased by their friends for getting a little too pudgy and easy to tire out on their group of friends’ trips. So Richard & Bud joined the YMCA and started swimming.
At first, they couldn’t even a swim lap. But they knew they had let them selves go a bit too much so they kept at it. 7 months later, the two friends were racing end to end, over and over, again and again and even seeing who could swim the most laps.
Not only did they get back to their ‘fighting weight’ but they were actually getting back into shape and were able to do things again. If only they had known how that would save their lives.
In May of 1972, Richard, Bud, and 3 other men were flying over Lake Erie in a single engine air craft. They were from a trip to Washington DC. They were on approach to Cleveland for a quick refueling stop before they continued home.
The plane crashed into Lake Erie. Only 2 of the 5 men aboard survived the fiery crash. Richard and Bud were able to swim under the flames to fishing boats who saw the crash and came to help.
Had Richard and Bud not been swimming at he Y they too would have died. They were able to swim under the water that was covered in burning aviation fuel to get to safety. Bud suffered burns but no broken bones. Richard broke an arm, leg, and pelvis in the crash but was still able to swim to safety.
A guy called Big Red in one of the boats threw Richard a line, but he was so badly injured that he waited for the Coast Guard to arrive with a sling and crane to lift him out of the water.
The 2 spent months in Cleveland hospitals recovering. They were lucky to survive and see their families again. Had they not gotten back in to shape, conveniently enough by swimming, they too would have perished in the crash. Its
Richard’s part in this story that has me interested.
Richard was my Father. He would have been 90 today.
Last week my mom came across the scrapbook of photos and news stories about the crash. I don’t remember seeing it before. He never really talked about it when I was growing up but I remember his friends Big Red from Cleveland and Bud. I remember parts of the story but never put the timeline together in my head…. it was seeing the date on the news story that startled me.
That scrapbook found me this week for some reason and that picture of the mangled plane hit me. Written on it was the date.
I’ve always believed everything happens for a reason. Good or bad. That if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger.
Some people get a flat tire and are late so they aren’t at the store when it gets robbed. Others stay a little longer than they should have at a friends’ BBQ and meet the love of their life.
Some people are taken from us too early and watch over and inspire us from above, others somehow survive unimaginable situations and continue on with their lives for some reason.
Somehow my Dad made it through that crash, the fiery water. Somehow he was able to return home to a normal life. And somehow, in his fifties, he fathered his 6th child with his wife.
I was born 3 years AFTER the crash.
It hit me hard this week that I shouldn’t be here. That it was by chance, luck, or fate that my father survived the crash and that I am here.
It really makes you take stock of your life. What you’ve done, what you are working on, and what you have in the hopper.
I still remember the last real conversation I had with my dad vividly. We were watching the Superbowl in his hospital room. We were just chatting about the family business and I asked him, “Is there anything else I need to know?” He responded that I knew everything I needed to.