Sixty years ago today - Dec. 13, 1953
A wisp of life
Brings forth a surge of living.
A silent gift
Inspires a life of giving.
A perfect gift
A life so lived
As to give
Life to life,
______© Nellieanna H. Hay
march.1954 - Written in memory of Harriet
I was in Houston, where I'd gone following my graduation from SMU in Dallas the previous June. I left Dallas on poor terms with Harriet and there had been no resolution, nor even any discussion. She did not wish to hear "why" or to forgive my rash action, which, to me, had been life-saving.
That Sunday, my roommate, Patty, and I were celebrating our "Charlie Brown" Christmas tree with our two Air Force cadet guests, her fiancé and the young man who, in the unsettled aftermath of the accident, would become my husband in 1954.
That day, nothing was further from our minds than tragedy, which I would learn about when a special bulletin broke into the early evening music program on the radio, as Patty and I were listening and preparing our clothes for the next day's work. The full names of the victims were announced. It was mentioned that one sister, (Nellieanna) was in Houston and had not been contacted. If anyone knew how to let me know, that was requested. Patty and I had just moved, had no phone and our new address had not yet reached our kinfolks via snail-mail.
It nearly undid me. Patty alerted the two cadets, who were quick to extend help, letting my family know I'd heard so they could send a private plane for me. Were it not for them managing to get me to the plane which would take me to Dallas the next morning, so I'd be there with the family and for the funeral, I do not know what I'd have done. It's all a blur. It was my first plane ride. I recall the kindness of the private pilot.
I didn't drive, neither Patty nor I had cars, family or close friends in Houston, and - most significantly, I was completely beyond lucid thought to plan in the immediate aftermath of learning about the incomprehensible accident. I'd been so sure that Harriet and I would mend our fences and be close again. It was not to be.
This song, "Stranger In Paradise" from the movie, Kismet, was current at the time. Its haunting melody and words permeated my black cloud semi-awake dreams all that night in that apartment. I always associate this song, in its ethereal ambience, with that experience, to this day. It is a slight relief from memories of suffocating black clouds descending around me the duration of that excruciating night and it seemed somehow a promise of hope for my loved ones.
Stranger In Paradise (sung by Tony Bennett)
This will be the first time I've ever shared any of the explicit newspaper coverage of that dreadful night's accident. There were coverages in several newspapers. These photos and summaries are from the Dallas Daily Times-Herald - Dec. 14, 1953.
The paper is old, delicate, and yellowed. Seems high time I scan it while I can. I've wanted to continue my hub "Harriet's Odyssey" but I must admit I didn't know how to continue it, knowing this was how it ended. Today seemed a signal to just show this, not as a morbid memory, but as truth, - one of the most significant affecting occurences of my entire life, which happened when I was 21, nearly 22.
I've referred to it briefly to friends in private conversations, in various comments on Hubpages, and on my own Webpage series, "The Attic". Now, I'm sharing it more fully with you on this 60th anniversary of the tragedy. Thank you for your love and understanding.
Many years later, while standing in line to get my car registration renewal, I fell into conversation with an individual from Royse City, who was there that evening of the accident, who gingerly described the horror and clamor of it when it occurred. He had never forgotten it, even 45 or so years later.
It had been dusk in early winter. The RR crossing was diagonal; there was no light indicating an approaching train, just the train's own whistle. Vic was hard of hearing. One can only imagine the noise in the car generated by three small boys after a weekend of running freely on the farm, as they were returning to the confines of the city. There would have been voices from Harriet and the maid, attempting to calm them down; perhaps Vic's own strong voice of censure had added to the cacophony inside their station wagon. It was surely an accident ready to happen, as they say.
It happened most tragically. Mercifully, it must have been instantaneous.
Harriet and Vic had purchased a farm out beyond Royse City so their boys could know country life, as well as their life in the city. They'd also purchased a home on the east side of Dallas, to make the journey to the farm easier, and were just moving into it. They were spending weekends renovating a log cabin they'd had shipped from the Smoky Mountains to become their getaway dwelling there. They had their family maid along to help with the boys so Harriet and Vic could work on the project. I know beyond a doubt that if I'd stayed in Dallas, as Harriet had planned I would, I'd have been with them to help with the project or the boys. This has given the tragedy a very personal meaning, as one might imagine.
Not only had she not forgiven my leaving Dallas, but had I stayed, I would not be writing about this now, nor would any of the happenings of my last 60 years have happened. It's quite mind-blowing, even now.
Thank you, my friends, for allowing me to share some of the beautiful, bitter-sweet memories of a sister I loved dearly and still miss.
When I see a rose,
I am reminded ~
There are those
Whose every glance and touch,
Whose very beings mean so much.
They were those
Who - even passing -
Still cast longer shadows
'Pon us who yet survive;
Those they were
Who, having passed,
Left larger, gaping,
Vacant spaces, -
Imprinted indelible traces, -
Upon the passing lives
______© Nellieanna H. Hay
My own life had switched tracks dramatically, though that was far from my concern as it was happening. I'd simply been rescued with the same stroke in which my brave show of independence had been clipped and left dangling in shreds. All I could feel then was helpless loss of someone I loved who'd been my mentor and - sadly - my almost complete controller for several years.
In my frazzled state of mind, I returned to Houston and my job as a Bridal Consultant but was in no shape to perform it. In spite of my future husband's strong objections to my leaving Houston, I quit my job and returned to San Angelo to be with my parents, who were suffering a state of shock themselves, and where I went further into a state of semi-shock in the month or so to follow.
But then my future husband would reach out on my birthday, Feb. 2, sending roses, which offered me a glimmer of hope, though it was to be rather short-lived hope in the bigger scheme of things. But at that moment, I smelled the roses, raised my eyes from the gloom and embraced life again, little knowing that he would quickly begin assuming the control role while I was still too numb to notice effectively, much less to realize it was not motivated with the loving, though misguided, desire to help me as Harriet's had been.
Of course, this next chapter is not what this account concerns, though it's difficult to separate it completely. That my life had certainly run into its own poorly signaled upcoming tracks, was the immediate result of the chain of events begun that December Sunday, from which my own odyssey commenced, partly as its extended result.
Yet I wouldn't be who I am otherwise. Events fell into place in each one's wake and led on into the life I've led. One cannot - or need not - second-guess these matters, but it is beneficial to better understand them, and, perhaps, to share them from the perspective of having assimilated them oneself.
To the top
Expressing Into words.
______© Nellieanna H. Hay
On December 13, 1953, and for many months following, my bitter loss of Harriet and her family, with whom I'd lived part of my years at SMU, overshadowed all else, and continued to affect my life for many years to follow, needless to say. She had taught me many valuable things; and even though her designs for my life were not my own, her influence has enriched my own. Perhaps any appearance of grace I show can be partly traced to her influence. She certainly pulsated with it!
She was born in 1918 and became a product of the 1920s, in which a successful lady underplayed her intelligence and 'won' at the game by her charm and grace. She used her smarts to create a world around her of security and comfort, social approval and domesticity. I wasn't opposed so much as just unsuited to many of her ideas of who and how I would have to be to 'fit in'. I'd never considered fitting in especially important. I was more interested in BEING. She wouldn't have accepted what I meant and would have redoubled her efforts to rid me of such notions!
I'd thought I'd be ready to strike out on my own after graduation, but she'd already designed my next steps, in precise detail. Non-negotiable. So I simply fled without consulting her. Of course, she was angry. Of course she referred to me in a letter to our parents as "the most ungrateful child she ever knew"! She inferred they should disown me, in fact. She didn't want them to tell her about how well I was doing in Houston. She truly had no idea I was anything more than 'an ungrateful child' or that I knew what I was doing and had to do; and - sadly - now she never could know.
Who can say what destiny was in charge? Not I. Whatever it may have been, though, it took over. I continued to grow and find my way. As many of you have said, she would have been pleased, probably. Perhaps even she would have learned more and become more tolerant and accepting, accompanied by generous amounts of impressive aplomb and dignity, no doubt. She was born with those.
No doubt much of my poetic inspiration over the years stemmed from some of these experiences, though. I'm quite happy to say I'm at peace, and actually have never been not at peace or bitter, at least not for very long. Life is good. Thank you, Harriet, and all who have contributed to mine. I hope I've also contributed to yours.
Perhaps being assigned a role of an eternal child affords some perks! :-)
© 2013 Nellieanna Hay