The Long Blue Line

Lorraine Cookson Sundays, Londonderry Hometown Online News

Same title as we had when originally published this in April of 2008, the line waiting to climb on board the World War II aircraft parked outside the original Grenier Field Terminal helped to remember this article. Even the thought of this story as we watched the B-24 Liberator touch down on runway 35 at the airfield Friday at 2pm brought a remembrance of how those that defended our nation care for the local community they serve in too.

When you have finished your Sunday morning coffee with Loraine, step outside and take a short drive to the airfield. If you can not afford the admission fee, just hang on the fence and dream. That’s what Alan Shepard did and look what happened to him.

Today it is called the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. When I roamed the parcel of land, where the airport stands today, it was a small Air Force Base.

My parents took us many times to watch the small planes take-off and other planes coming in for a landing. This base offered an inexpensive way to give the many children in my family some entertainment.

Not only did we enjoy seeing a set of wings highlighted by the rays of the sun, we basked under the sun’s warmth during many day trips on our own.

My favorite place to hang out was by the edges of a small pond. There I would pick seasonal berries then rush home hoping my mom would bake a pie within a few minutes of arriving with my bounty. Some days she did and on others she washed the berries under cold running, water and put them in the ice box for safe keeping.

In fall my siblings and I would walk within the woodlands surrounding the base to find and gather pig-nuts, in reality they were hazel nuts. Squirrels could not possibly gather all of the nuts that grew in such number and we were grateful for the sharing hearts of the furry rascals.

Airmen passed us by in their military vehicles and always offered us a wave of greeting. I was about to find out how friendly and kind these men were in a very short time.

One of my sisters had to be brought to the hospital for treatment of an illness called Leukemia. She had a rare type of blood and the medical staff set up a time for my parents to meet and speak with the people from the Red Cross. They had little supply for type O neg. blood. Somehow, a story about my sister appeared in The Manchester daily paper and also listed a telephone number that would allow donors to set up an appointment with the Red Cross.

As sick as she was, my sister was overwhelmed at the response from the Airmen station at Grenier air base. She wanted to meet each one to thank them for their kindness. Hospital administrators gave her special consideration, informed the nurses who were in charge of her health and set a date for the “Men in Blue” to meet with her.

I was old enough to understand the seriousness of my older sister’s condition and did not know that sharing this time with her was to be the last time we talked and smiled at each other.

Sitting against a stack of pillows, dressed in a hand made bed jacket and a blue ribbon in her hair with her nurse by her side, my sister smiled through her pain as the first of over a dozen Airman walked to her bedside.

Out in the hallway other Airmen waited their turn to see the pretty blond haired girl with twilight blue eyes. Being one with too much curiosity I stood by the door to the room and stuck my head out as far as the door frame would allow.

Men in their dress blues talking in hushed tone, some were smiling while others had a sad faces waited their turn for a visit. There was one thing that they had in common, a heart as big as the wild blue skies they protected every day.

When I make a trip to the airport I always take the back road as it offers me a glimpse into my past. A scattering of white buildings still stand alongside the road. The old barracks are gray with age while others have been renovated to house offices for many businesses. The road to Manchester-Boston Regional airport is more than a road to me. It is a path that reminds me the military men not only fight our county’s battles but they are also called upon to help during natural disasters. Just think, the men do this voluntarily. Even more heartwarming is the knowledge that these men took it upon themselves to help, go above and beyond their duties to give a seriously ill girl another year of life; one that she treasured and would treasure from the heavens above us.

To the kind people who supported my parents during this sad time, I thank them. To the military men of our country; I salute you. To the Airmen I say, thankfully, my sister must be smiling down at you from the wild, blue yonder.

“Lorraine”

The aircraft will be open for tours and on the ramp for free viewing through noon Monday September 28th. Wings Of Freedom Roar into Londonderry

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