On many mornings, I wake up and ask the Lord to give me something to write about that day. Roughly seventeen hours ago, I woke up at sometime before 6 AM and decided to use the bathroom before hitting the sack for another 45 minutes or so. Some of you will scoff at this connection but as I walked into my small facility, the name Paul 'Crash' Critchlow popped into my head. To 99.99% of you, that will mean nothing. But to long-time Nebraska Cornhusker fans, it might ring a bell. He played for the Big Red in the latter part of the 1960s and I loved it when Lyle Bremser, the voice of the Huskers on KFAB/Omaha would call him by his unique nickname which he invariably did. Here is the bizarre thing, especially for skeptics. I am positive I have not heard of or thought about that name for decades. So why today?
When I officially got up and downed my first cup of coffee, I turned on my laptop and googled Paul Critchlow. All I had known about him came from Saturday afternoon radio broadcasts, back in the time when if your team made it to TV more than once, you were blessed.....or Notre Dame! What I found was a fascinating story that runs so much deeper than just a guy who for several years wore #35 for the Scarlet And Cream, the official Cornhusker colors. Breaking his leg in his third year, Paul found himself mentally demoralized and walked away from the gridiron with a year of remaining eligibility. He enlisted in the ARMY, was trained in recon in the Pathfinder's school, and spent six months in Vietnam where he was seriously wounded in heavy combat. That proved to be the turning point of his life but not as you might expect, even though he was awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for heroism. You see, also killed that day in a helicopter that was shot down only 500 meters away coming to the same battle were eight American GIs and photojournalist, Oliver Noonan. In fact, the fight became a rescue mission for the downed chopper, which was when Paul was hit and medevaced out. While recovering from his wounds, Paul read about the battle and more importantly, about Noonan. He wondered why a civilian would risk his life for his job, reporting on far away battles on foreign soil. When Paul recovered and returned to the US, he enrolled in school at the University of Nebraska/Omaha School of Communications which led to a career in journalism which led to a career in politics as a press secretary which led to a career with Merrill Lynch. Which led to September 11, 2001 where his 31st floor office faced the World Trade Center. Witnessing the horror, Paul immediately believed it was a hostile act and not just a horrific accident. Undoubtedly falling back on his military training, he helped coordinate the evacuation of 9,000 ML employees. Three were tragically killed but the death count might have been staggering without Paul's quick thinking.
So, that's what I learned today about Paul 'Crash' Critchlow. Oh, and he was the first Vietnam vet to graduate with a Masters from Columbia, the hotbed of anti-war sentiment in the 1970s. And that he was in the middle of the Three Mile Island decision making team as the liaison for the governor of Pennsylvania. That's what I learned. (What I didn't learn was how he picked up the Crash moniker. My guess it might have been something Lyle Bremser, as legendary in Nebraska as many terrific players, tagged him with.) But I also learned this. That broken legs and combat scars can redirect a life to be even more productive. That the death of one stranger (Paul and Noonan never met) can alter the course of one's destiny. And in my own spiritual existence, I was reminded of what I taught my 8th graders last week; that Jesus' testing and tempting from Satan prepared Him for His ministry which would lead many to the gates of heaven. And that's why today, Paul Critchlow mattered to me. Go Big Red.
Applicable quote of the day:
'Life belongs to the living and he who lives must be prepared for changes.'
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org