Last week in Latin 2 class, we took a break from translating and instead had the opportunity to hear Mr. O’Donnell talk about his recent trip to France. While abroad, he commemorated the 75th anniversary of his grandfather’s plane crash during WWII.
In 1943, his grandfather was a pilot who had recently flown to Germany on a mission. However, on the flight home, his plane was struck by the Germans and crash-landed in a French field. All ten of the crew members survived, and his grandfather managed to escape the oncoming German army by sleeping in haystacks by day and running by night across the farmland of France. He eventually made his way to a church whose minister connected him with other families, who then assisted him on his journey home. Three months later, on Christmas day, he arrived back in Britain, only to have go to through multiple tests to prove his identity.
As a child, Mr. O’Donnell had the opportunity to spend time with his grandfather, although he rarely told his grandson (or anyone) about his experience. As a result, Mr. O’Donnell’s mother had to research and contact people who were associated with the plane crash, such as witnesses or families who had helped her father; her efforts culminated in this trip to France, where the family was met by French citizens who graciously shared the complete, physical history of Mr. O’Donnell’s heroic grandfather. The family was able to visit the site of the crash, stop by the first church that assisted their grandfather, and meet many families who risked their lives helping an American soldier. Mr. O’Donnell’s family even appeared in the local French newspaper!
It was a fascinating story to hear, and although we had to sacrifice our time as Latin scholars, it was refreshing and inspiring to step back and learn about the history of one of our teachers.