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A Night to Remember

By: Douglas R. Johnson
© 2006 by Douglas R. Johnson.

Tonight is Sunday evening, the first day of daylight savings time. My wife is in bed sleeping now, but what I am relating was what I felt earlier this evening. We were watching Jewel of the Nile together, me on the floor and Peg on the couch. She never made it to the end but I was wide awake.

Next was Criminal Intent on one station and A Night to Remember on another. I kept going back and forth while Peg continued to cut z's.

But I really could not watch them sink again. It is just too emotional for me. I have already come up with two or three ways to have saved the souls that were lost.

They could have steamed back to the iceberg rather than just stopping. That way they could ferry survivors to the berg as it was big enough to support many.

They could have steamed towards the Californian which was just some ten miles away but could not tell they were in trouble.

They could have flashed the total lights on the ship from the main switch in to code to contact the Californian as they could see the signal lantern nor understand the flares.

But what could have happened did not happen and so many perished. I guess that started me thinking in a misty way. I have seen the program a number of times so I know what happens and when.

But then when I was back at Criminal Intent, even though it was just a made-up story, something stirred me. There was a couple of children at risk from a deranged parent and the cops had to speed across northern New Jersey to rescue them.

But now I have to back up some or you won't understand what I felt.

Here I am in my 60's living in the woods of Central Virginia for the past seven or so years. But I grew up in northern New Jersey, Kearny to be exact. When they said a motel in Newark, that was just a half hour or so from Kearny.

When I was a teenager, before I drove, I lived on Kearny Avenue, 504 to be exact. I remember an incident where an ambulance from North Arlington ran into a milk truck on the corner of Kearny and Oakwood Avenues. This happened because the ambulance was running with just the emergency lights going slowly through a red light. The milk truck had the green so it just pulled across. Obviously neither saw each other and thus a minor fender bender. Not really a big deal because each was proceeding cautiously.

I remember another experience when I was in grade school. A UPS truck overturned on a corner and the driver was pinned inside. I ran to the next corner and pulled the fire alarm. I was really nervous about it because in my mind I was not sure about it because it was actually not a fire. Kids think that way sometimes. When the trucks came, I directed them to the fire. I realized then that what I did was appropriate.

I guess that is enough set up. Let me get to this "Night to Remember". I was living with my mom and dad at the time at 216 Laurel Avenue, Kearny. It was warm so it must have been summer. I had a new 1965 black Mustang convertible with a white top and black interior. It had a 260 engine with a 3 on the floor manual transmission. But I cannot figure out if it was 1964 or 1965.

We lived on the second floor, My sister and brother were both living on their own. Dad, I believe was asleep. I was asleep in my room. Mom was up late. She normally read her Bible late at night and prayed then when no one was around. It must have been about 2:00 AM, most likely some time between 1:00 AM and 3:00 AM.

What I remember is that my mother came in my room and woke me saying she heard glass breaking outside. I was a little groggy trying to grasp what she was saying. Then I heard it too. It was like a window breaking and the glass falling to the ground. It was real obvious that something was very wrong.

I quickly dressed; jeans, tee shirt, and tennis sneakers with no socks. I hurried down stairs. There was already a cop car down the street and lots of smoke in the air. The fire trucks were still coming.

The cops were all by the fire, along with the firemen and fire trucks. Traffic was getting confused at the corner of Chestnut and Laurel, so I jumped in and directed traffic. There were no police available for that duty at the time. I could see fire trucks coming down Laurel so I held up traffic on Chestnut from pulling out. My house was between Chestnut and Devon Streets. The fire was just about five houses down just on the other side of Devon on the same side as my house.

From what I understood, there were kids in the house and they got trapped behind the door somehow. The fireman got them out and the ambulance raced up the street. First one, then another.

Each one had their sirens on full force as they went about as fast as they could. You could only see them as they raced up Laurel Avenue past Devon, past Chestnut, past Argyle right to Kearny Avenue. They then turned left and sped over the railroad tracks bridge, past Midland Avenue, past Oakwood Avenue, all the way to Bergen Avenue. Then left on Bergen and just a couple of blocks to the hospital.

What I remember most vividly is the sound of those sirens all the way. They were screaming as they passed me. But they kept screaming all the way. They don't really get softer but just obviously distant. These were more of an old type siren rather than the computerized sounds of today. You could tell if they were being turned off or down. These were screaming all the way.

I am proud of the way the Kearny police, firemen, and ambulance staff performed. (They were not called EMT's back then.) They did every thing that could have been done.

I wish my remembrance had a happy ending but it did not go well all the way around. We can just ask for God's mercy.

Douglas R. Johnson.

Doug currently resides with his wife of 38 years in rural Central Virginia. He enjoys having his three daughters live nearby along with his six grandchildren. He has a successful internet wallpaper business and retail store, and has been active in local politics for the past several years.

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