Recalling the Greatest Generation

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a book and some flags to bring us together

by bette dewing

happy birthday america?

"well, i didn't see one flag displayed this memorial day on the upper east side," said east end avenue doorman bob mcnicol, frowning. "in queens, far rockaway and other much more diverse places, flags are everywhere! after all, there's a war on!"

it's true that there aren't that many flag sightings anywhere in manhattan these days, so to remind us that the 4th of july is more than sun, games, food and fireworks, i recall this year's memorial day commemorative event at the soldiers and sailors monument.

i think of two photos that i took, which have high significance. in one, an elder man stands and waves his flag as a wreath from his regiment is placed on the monument steps. in the other, a world war ii veteran is unable to stand when recognized from the podium for his valor. on the side of this just-honored veteran were three boys of 12 or so, taking photos of the memorial, who never once aimed their cameras at him. get the picture?

his name, i later learned, was bill green, and he is also a 50-year queens college english professor veteran.

incidentally, and important, the father of one of my companions made the ultimate sacrifice in that war which so tragically didn't end all wars as it was intended to do. this son and all who lost cherished loved ones to warfare should also be honored.

but, ah, those young boys could learn a lot from bill green and also from lorraine diehl's new book: over here! new york city during world war ii.

so could all post-wwii americans, especially policy makers. a world ever more divided needs to learn how that war brought the nation and this city together. pbs documentary filmmaker ken burns found the diehl book to be "an evocative look at new york city? of a city joining together to overcome the greatest challenge of the 20th century." tv journalist and author of the greatest generation, tom brokaw "loved all the memories it captured." generations pulled together back then.

and for tv host regis philbin, the book brought it all back to him as a then pre-teener: "the scary but unforgettable times? nobody complained. everybody joined together?"

photos evoke a time to remember, to emulate in so many ways, including, especially, quite seriously, the general "g-ratedness" of the era.

but, and hear this! only the super-hardy will be able to manage the inside steps and various levels of the new articulated hybrid model bus bumping unmerrily along on first and second avenue.

social critic ellie sankey witnessed a woman fall as she stepped down from her seat. rep. carolyn maloney and council member jessica lappin said the complaints "are just pouring in" on this bus. changes can and must be made!

bus riders desperately need a tea party type movement. and westsiders, all new yorkers, you better join, because this monster bus is coming soon to your neighborhood!

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