On October 14, 2017, a headline on a news website caught my attention: “As everything around him burned, one Napa man’s house somehow survived.” The headline — and the article that followed — was published on the SFGATE.com website, a sister-site of the San Francisco Chronicle. Here’s how the article began:
Last week, I wrote about an experience I had during the summer of 1974. At that time, I was 17 years old. I had a part-time job at the Ramada Inn in downtown Peoria, and one Saturday night after work, I drove to the Shrine Mosque in downtown Peoria to see if I could catch the second half of a show that featured a professional barbershop quartet. The quartet had won the previous year’s international competition of barbershop quartets.
You may have heard about the incident a couple of weeks ago (October 22) in Ottawa, Canada, when a Canadian soldier was gunned down by a homegrown terrorist, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. The soldier’s name was Corporal Nathan Cirillo, and at the time of the incident he was on duty as a ceremonial guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Canadian National War Memorial.
I was born on the same day that my grandfather, Harry LaHood, was buried. My grandfather died on May 17, 1957. My mom and dad attended his funeral Mass on May 20, and then went to the cemetery for the burial service. Mom’s contractions had started earlier in the day and became more intense while she and Dad were at the cemetery. After the burial service was finished, Mom told Dad that she needed to go to the hospital. I was born later that day, and Mom gave me the same name as her father.
When I was 13 years old, a cousin of mine died as a result of a tragic accident. He was 11 years old at the time of his death. The day after he died, my parents and I went over to his parents’ house to visit his family. I went with my parents because I had been a good friend of my cousin and still was a good friend of his older brother.
About 15 years ago, I met a couple whose 20-year-old daughter was instantly killed when her car was hit by a train. She died five minutes after she walked out of her parents’ home. She was on her way to class at Illinois Central College. When she left the house, her mother told her goodbye and told her that she looked beautiful.
I’ve written before about how I broke my leg when I was a boy. The events leading up to my broken leg began during the summer of 1967, when I was 10 years old. While holding onto the end of an old rubber garden hose, I climbed the weeping willow tree in the back yard of my parents’ home. When I got about 20 feet high, I climbed out onto a thick branch and tied the end of the hose to the branch.