Today is 9-11, as a native New Yorker this is always a tough day for me. I grew up going to the world trade center, even going up to its roof, when it was open. this is the day my city had its heart ripped out. That alone would make this a rough week for me. However the week had the additional sadness with the death of my step father on Monday. My step father Norman Ross was what would today be considered a renaissance man. he grew up in the 20’s and 30’s. His father(my step grandfather) fought in WW1. After returning from WW1 Normans Father had both legs and one arm amputated, instead of pity, his father took up painting.
Norman went to war in WW2 when he was 18, joining the Navy. he served in both the Pacific and Atlantic theaters as a radioman/gunner. He served in VB-110 which flew PB4Y-1’s which were a Navalized version of the B-24 bomber used to hunt U-boats. VB-110 was based in Dunkswell, UK. this was the only permanent US Navy base in England during the war. Norman became and Ace(shooting down 5 enemy aircraft), and flying a total of 60 combat missions. At the end of the war, Norman was admitted to the Hospital with “battle fatigue” which is known as PTSD now. He was considered 100% disabled. While in the hospital he wrote poetry, one of which caught the eye of a social worker, who submitted it to the Saturday Review of Literature. this was the most prestigious literary magazine at the time. The editor/Founder Pulitzer Prize-winning poet William Rose Benét, wanted to publish the poem in a collection titled “the best poems to come out of WW2”.
Serendipitously, the magazine’s cover was to feature another Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Leonora Speyer, a professor Columbia University. When she saw the poem that would be in her issue, she took it to Columbia University and demanded that the author be admitted as a full-time student. He was offered a full scholarship.
Norman was released from the hospital, and went on to receive 3 degrees from Columbia University, including a doctorate in education. He married his childhood sweetheart, and had 4 children. Norman was a sucessful teacher, soccer coach, and even ran the New York City marathon. After Norman and his first wife divorced, he met my mother, and entered my life when i was in my early teens. He and my mother married and began a 30 year marriage that included his retirement from teaching and subsequent relocation to Florida.
In 2003 after reading about WW2 veterans getting long overdue medals, he submitted his log book to the navy, and was Awarded 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 10 Air Medals. In 2005, he worked with Congressman Bob Nelson and received his Fathers long overdue medals, which included a Silver Star, Purple Heart and victory Medal with 5 Bars. In 2013 Norman Ross was awarded the French Legion of Honour Medal, which is only given to living recipients who go to exemplary heights in the defense of France.( France had begun awarding it to living WW2 veterans in appreciation of their defense and liberation of the country from German invaders).
My world was made a bit smaller this week. but i will cherish the memories i have moving forward.