We have all had those moments: a bump in the night and a search of the house reveals nothing; you look out a window as you travel and you have a revelation——I have seen this place before, only you hadn’t—the deja-vu thing. A crossover, a message—or not. make of this story what you will.
It was early April 1990. Carlisle, PA—in the last months of the Army War College. Our routine started with early rising: Dick off to class, Sallie off to work, Nate to school. We have always been info junkies.1990 was before the ubiquitous IPad, IPhone, PC so we got our daily infusion of news the old-fashioned way: TV for quick headlines but the newspaper for in depth details. As soon as we were up and moving, we headed to the front door for the daily paper.
We lived in a brownstone in downtown Carlisle, a property owned by a retired general who leased it to students at the War College. Time of occupancy was less than a year, changing every August. There was no paper box, common to the suburbs.
The delivery of the paper came in the form of a folded up, rubber banded, sometimes plastic bagged paper “missile” pitched at the front door. We could find the paper anywhere left or right of the front stoop or tumbled on the sidewalk—however it landed in the vicinity after being pitched out a car window.
That morning, we opened the front door to find the paper on the stoop, placed flat and perfectly on the mat at the front door. It was in the most immaculate condition of a paper we had ever seen as if the English butler had gently pressed it with a warm iron to present it flawless to the lord of the manor. We were taken aback: we paused and stared and then gently lifted it (with some reverence I might add; it was that impressive).
Now, I know newspapers (this is Sallie speaking). My family had paper routes for years. Not your “Leave It to Beaver” bicycle through the neighborhood type either. We had routes of over 400 deliveries in various areas. Papers never got to the carrier in any condition even remotely resembling this one. Once off the presses, the papers were bound in certain quantities, thrown from a delivery truck on certain designated street corners (this was called “spotting “) and left for the carrier to complete the final leg. The carrier then “clips” the metal bands around the papers, the papers spill out and the inserting of ads, etc. begins and the papers are restacked in the car for delivery. Before the papers even make it to this point, they universally have small tears, wrinkles, fluting, and maybe a few smudges from so much handling. I have NEVER seen a paper in this condition, even straight off the presses.
Ok, so the paper’s condition was astonishing. In fact, in the annals of “paper deliveries” (if there were such a thing), it would have been a legend.
But its condition is not what took our breath away. After marveling over its presentation, we finally looked at the headlines. Our first reaction was, “What! How could this have happened again—in the same place, same result——- “. You see, the headline and picture and most of the front page read, “Devastating Plane Crash at Sioux City Airport”. Terrible news—-only this crash had occurred the previous year 1989. We looked closer. The date on this pristine newspaper was July 20, 1989—-the day after the actual crash on the 19th. But this was April 1990. The newspaper was almost 9 months old.
Remember school paper sales? Every few months, we would bring our old papers to the school to be weighed and recycled. The schools would get a few bucks. The papers all looked “their age”. No newspaper lasted more than a week without yellowing and wrinkling, especially in a humid climate. Where had this paper come from? Who had kept this paper in this condition and how? Why had they kept it? Why bring it to this house? Why now? It wasn’t even the anniversary or in recognition of some special memorial of the event. The occupants of the house during the crash had been the Argentine exchange student and family-no one remotely connected to a summer flight to Iowa.
We checked the front door again, looked up and down the street, saw no perfect papers on any other stoop. Just as we started back in, we found the “real” paper in the gutter to the left of the door, rolled, banded and in a plastic bag. By then, we were running late for our daily obligations. We put the mystery paper on the piano and life moved on. Soon we would be off to our next assignment. We kept the paper for some time and, yes, it did start to yellow and curl. Finally, we could find no good reason to keep it and it was discarded. But the “happening” never left us and we have often talked about it. When we play question games, it is always the event that comes to mind for, “What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?”
We never knew the significance of this “traveled through time” paper——-until now. Maybe. What do you think?
After we retired finally, we came back to the state where we were born and grew up. There was a reason for this. In the time just prior to our retirement, we had noticed a recurring theme in our experiences and associations: the importance of validating the people and their sacrifices and choices that had contributed so many positives to us directly and indirectly. We wanted to “Leave Nothing Unsaid” before it was too late to say it. We made a list of those we needed to acknowledge. This exercise in itself was a life review and made us humbled by our many blessings in the form of people who lived above the common level of life. We especially wanted to go beyond the “Thank you for your service” to our fellow “patriots”. Our country is one of the most incredible blessings anyone can imagine. Those who sacrifice to defend it are the greatest heroes. They deserve the deepest admiration.
So, maybe you call it “karma”, “what goes around comes around”, but in recent days, we have had similar feedback—-assurances that some of our choices and sacrifices mattered, even if we were unsure at the time we were living these out. Now, what does all of that musing have to do with a supernatural newspaper 29 years ago? Funny, you should ask! Recently, (July 19th in fact) we opened our newspaper. Yes, we still get one— and lo and behold, the headline article in the business section was about the Sioux City crash that had occurred 30 years earlier. What has that got to do with business? Well, the characteristic of a leader they were highlighting first was incredible reasoning and “cool headedness” under impossible odds. The example was the pilot of the Sioux City plane. Over a 100 people died in that crash but far more survived. Despite the loss of some, the saving of so many was considered a miracle under the circumstances. The pilot’s goal: save lives. Where did he get his “cool”? His time in the marines. Like Sully, his service became not only his salvation, but that of many under his care.
The “maybe” of the newspaper—both of them – MAY BE – you all need to know that the hard and difficult choice you made to serve your country mattered in ways you may not know and may be yet to realize. Could that have been it? Who knows? A Stranger Thing.