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Remembered smiles

I know this day well; I never forget it; it invariably sneaks up on me and grabs me unaware; and when I pause for a moment to reflect, I remember why things feel so raw. After all these years. And then I smile.

People have been posting on Facebook about remembering this day because of the Challenger disaster. I remember that. 

But I remember this day for an event that took place twelve years before the Challenger. An event that also claimed the lives of educators.

Forty years ago this day,  on January 28, 1974, William Koenig climbed into a small plane with another educator from Grove City. They planned a trip to Harrisburg, the state capitol, where they were to advocate for funds for the Grove City Public School system. At the time of his death, Bill worked as the assistant superintendent for the Grove City Public School system. But he was a musician. He played string bass in the pit orchestra for the high school musicals. He directed the town band. He was a tennis player. He was a photographer. He was also a private pilot. Though they had tickets on a commercial airline, the two colleagues decided Bill would fly. The plane went down near Emlenton, Pennsylvania, the crash site only located the next day. When I arrived at JFK a day later, after a college choir trip to Europe, family members met me and broke the news and shattered my heart.

Because grief lasts, I raise a glass to remember loses and acknowledge pains. And because love never ends, I raise a glass to give thanks and to celebrate love shared past, present, and future.  On this anniversary, I raise a glass to William Koenig, to his life, to the time, the far too short time, we shared. To all I learned. To laughter and tears. To music made well and badly. To a multitude of remembered smiles.

Goodnight and joy be with you, Dad.

Goodnight and joy be with us all.

See you along the Trail.

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To my father

JamesonHe drank Scotch.

He worked as the assistant superintendent for the Grove City Public School system. But he was a musician. He played string bass in the pit orchestra for the high school musicals. He directed the Scots Fusilers – a town band. He was a tennis player. He was a photographer. He was a private pilot.

On January 28, 1974, he climbed into a small plane with another educator from Grove City. Their destination was Harrisburg where they would advocate for funds for the school system. They had tickets on a commercial airline, but decided that he would fly.

They did not arrive.

The plane went down near Emlenton. The crash site was not located until the next day.

When he died, I was in Europe with the Westminster College Choir. I could no more sing then than I can now. But my family appreciated the value of travel and found the funds for me to go.

I arrived at JFK on Wednesday of that week where family members met me and broke the news and broke my heart.

Tonight, 39 years later, I raise a glass to his memory … to the time, the far too short time, we shared. To all I learned. To laughter and to tears. To music made well and badly. To tennis matches. To a trip to Philmont.

I raise a glass … to my father.

Goodnight and joy be with you, dad. Goodnight and joy be with us all.

Mine is Jameson.

See you along the Trail.

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