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Senior Views: Egyptian protests trigger memories

Isn’t this an amazing age in which live?

We’re able to watch in real time the largely peaceful congregation of thousands of Egyptian citizens, a substantial percentage of whom are young people, who have declared that they will not leave Cairo’s Tahrir Square until Egypt’s dictator, Hosni Mubarik, completely relinquishes his reign of power.

Isn’t it likely that the transparency provided to the world by the television cameras, has been a factor in the safety of those peaceful demonstrators?

Isn’t it wonderful to see that ordinary people can be heard when they demand democracy?

Speaking for myself, I sometimes think that I watch too much television that has little lasting value. But then, I think that we all need some mindless recreation as a relief from much of the news that is truly frightening – and we are free to make the choices about what we allow into our homes. Nobody forces us to watch anything we prefer not to view.

Sometimes, I think, when we are exposed to things we would rather ignore, it is a good thing because it may help us realize how fortunate we really are to live in the USA.

However, while watching the Egyptians in Cairo, I’ve come to think that it has been this amazing window on the world that has been waking me up at 3 a.m. the last few mornings.

Perhaps having spent some time in Cairo in July 1964 makes the news of Egypt more personal to me.

Our landing in our private aircraft, a Beechcraft D-18, at Cairo Airport, with the whole family aboard, was a favorite stop in our trek across the North Atlantic through Europe and the Middle East. Ours was the first such family flight, crossing the Atlantic both ways.

As we pulled into the airport parking area, we were met by two friendly ramp attendants,  who fueled our aircraft and then bowed toward the East.

We were truly surprised to later read in international newspaper releases that our family had been greeted by cheering thousands at the Cairo Airport.

Our fond memories of Egypt include visits to many interesting and historical sites including the pyramids, where we met a very friendly camel named Canada Dry and his loquacious owner who insisted that we each experience a short camel ride across the desert.

We had a good time in Cairo.

Four years earlier, my husband’s friend Tom Kendall  embarked on a more ambitious worldly venture with his family. The remains of his amphibian aircraft can still be seen on Google Earth on the shore of the Bay of Aqaba.

After visiting Cairo and Luxor, Kendall experienced engine problems and made a forced landing on the waters of the bay.

While he and his grown son were working on the aircraft, and the younger children were swimming in the bay, a small Saudi militia of ragtag troops began shooting at the family, leaving a bullet in Tom’s spine that he carried for the rest of his life.

Tom’s wife, Miriam, recently recounted the frightening experience, including their rescue by a Saudi prince, who set up his elaborate tent in the desert to interview the family before transporting them to the capital in Riyadh.

Miriam said about the prince, “He said we would be reimbursed for our loss and more, but we never were.”

Again, I say, we are living in an amazing time. I have a hard time believing the changes that have occurred just during my life, including the moon landing and commercial space flights. I don’t think I’m quite ready for that, though. Are you? Maybe it’s a good thing I feel that way because we couldn’t afford a flight into space anyway.

I maintain that life can be glorious, even at 86, if we just look around and count our blessings. The blessings include family, friends, a generous community, opportunities to serve others, affordable education with scholarships available, a new community college campus in Brookings, organizations busily collecting cans, producing fashion shows, and sponsoring auctions to raise money to help those in need, plus an extremely well-functioning food bank.

We even have free gourmet meals available twice a week, and a free clinic for the uninsured, run by volunteers such as doctors, nurses and record-keepers.

We have art and music, with varied entertainment, much of it without charge, including  concerts led by Charlotte Heatherly, plus smaller musical groups. We have art galleries galore, with owners who generously provide entertainment and refreshments at the Second Saturday Art Walks each month, plus the limerists, (or is it the limericists) to provide a few laughs.

Even our weather, though it’s been quite cold lately, is mild compared to the rest of the country.

I’m glad to see and hear news that indicates democracy may come to Egypt, and I’m glad I live in Brookings. Aren’t you?

Currently, those who claim to be in the know are saying that this is the most dangerous time for the apparent leaders of the peaceful demonstrations. Will those in power, with the money and the guns, really give it all up without massive bloodshed?

The world is watching.

~~~

P.S. Brookings Oscar-winning movie producer Elmo Williams purchased the PBY Navy surplus aircraft that he blew up in Hawaii for his film, “Tora, Tora, Tora,” from Tom Kendall.

It is truly a small world.

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