In the annuls of a family’s oral history there are wonderful nuggets of stories. You know all of the players. The good stories are the ones where the hero (whichever relative that is) acts just as you’d expect and reaffirms all that you know about them. The great ones are where the person acts NOT as you’d expect and is part of the journey that made them who you know they came to be.
He was an exceptionally rational man. His life had been spent learning science, logic and reason. The times were tough and he and his young wife struggled, like most people did. Never the less, it was a safe, small house in suburban NJ on the edge of farm country. Solid job and a brand new one year old child (their first).
Then a panic hit. The news reports were troubling to downright scary and getting worse as the situation unfolded. This rationally minded man was not afraid of the news reports. He knew there was a deep misunderstanding. But he also knew fear was gripping his neighbors and the surrounding area.
That’s how it is in hard times. People already carry a low-level fear around all of the time. When some new element of fear is introduced it causes a panic, and panicked people are dangerous.
He was afraid of people and their panic. He was afraid of rational minds given over to their fear.
At the worst of it, he hid his 13 month old infant in a corn field, just for a few hours, until the whole thing blew over. Thankfully, it did within less than a day.
The year was 1938. The great depression was still in full swing, there was outright warfare in Asia, and looming war in Europe. The place was Plainfield NJ (can you imagine now that there were once corn fields in Plainfield NJ?). The man was my grandfather. The infant was my mother. The situation was …
The October 30th radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds.