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Tear Jerker: Real Life aka: Prominent Deaths
There are times when it's okay to cry. When real tragedy strikes, when heroes need to be remembered, or when someone does something a little special to let us know that there is still beauty and kindness in the world, then it belongs here. And there's no shame in that.
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"The view from my apartment was the World Trade Center, and now it's gone. [....] But you know what the view is now? The Statue of Liberty. And you can't beat that."
Conan O'Brien's post 9/11 monologue. He never cried or even got choked up, but there were several moments when he paused to take a deep breath and it was obvious that he was trying not to lose it. He bluntly stated that he had no idea how they were going to go back to doing shows the way they used and then got very personal and discussed his Catholic upbringing and mentioned that he so desperately needed help to deal with the horror of what had happened that he did something he hadn't done in 8 years—went to church and prayed. He described sitting in St. Patrick's Cathedral and suddenly realizing that although the towers had been knocked down, that this beautiful building was still standing and there was still a lot of beauty in the world. It was during this speech that he first urged his young viewers to shun cynicism. Seven years later, on June 13, 2008, he simply walked onto the stage without any music or intro and informed his audience that he had just learned of the death of his friend Tim Russert. After talking about him for several minutes, he played several clips from Russert's appearances on the show.
Jay Leno stayed off for about a week, then returned with a very quiet show. He said America would have to change, that we needed to become inclusive. He questioned whether he could even continue his show, but that everyone needs a good laugh, including the firefighters and responders. Crosby, Stills and Nash appeared alongside John Mc_Cain, and later sang "My Country 'Tis Of Thee" to recorded guitar by the late Michael Hedges. There wasn't a dry eye in the house.
NJ Burkett was the reporter who, famously, witnessed and narrowly escaped the collapse of the South Tower. It's still hard for him to talk about. He gave a riveting keynote speech at a memorial in 2012.
Muhammad Ali gave a brief interview a few days later with a plea for understanding, saying "This is not Islam," and trying to explain his faith. He also spoke on America: A Tribute To Heroes alongside Will Smith.
This video. A large group of New Yorkers, including a great-grandfather and a young woman who both picked up body parts in the aftermath of 9/11, argue about the attacks. Suddenly, this happens.
Several years after 9/11, a US Air force Pilot summed up the events of United Flight 93 with the following words:
They took care of it.
Thisdrawing. 9/11 seen by the eyes of a child: the Two Towers hugging each other while crying...
This message: It is September 11th, 2011. I am speaking to those of my generation, those who began life in the late 20th century, and saw, through the eyes of a child, the beginnings of a new millennium. We saw 9/11. Our parents sent us to play in another room, and we walked away, wondering why they had tears in their eyes, what we had seen on the screen that we so often watched a yellow sponge prancing around on, what was throwing up those pillars of blackest smoke and flickering fire so huge our minds could not comprehend their size, so young were we. And even when we learned what it was, the wreckage of two skyscrapers who bad men had flown planes into, we did not realize until later: we had been attacked. As clearly as Pearl Harbor so many years before, we had been attacked. But what was Pearl Harbor to us? Something of the past, something we hardly thought about, something, even now, we regard as just another set of facts we have to slave over for our history tests. This is the bottom of the Tearjerker page. Look up at all the entries recorded. We don't have Phoebe Prince in our history books. Nor the girl who got to watch Up right before she died of cancer. Nor Genie, the feral child. Nor the too many other personal instances of tragedy: suicide, kidnappings, torture, murder. No, we have World War I and II, George Washington, Martin Luther King. What do they mean to us, though? Only facts to be forgotten when we get that A or B. That is a tearjerker: we have forgotten our past. So many things newsworthy in our time will be forgotten in the wake of tomorrow's news. Our children will forget Columbine, because they'll have their own school shootings. They'll forget 9/11, because they'll have their own wars. So, to those of my generation, I have a favor to ask: Never Forget. Keep your own history books. Remember those you have lost. Tell your children of that guy in 10th grade, who was killed by a drunk driver. Of your cousin, who died fighting terrorists in a faraway country. Of 9/11, the greatest tragedy of our childhood. Teach them of the pain, the sorrow, the loss. But... but, my friends, most of all, most imperative of all, teach them of what we learned from those tragedies. From your friend, don't drink and drive. From your cousin, that dying to protect one's family and friends may be the greatest sacrifice of all. And from 9/11... that, when the stone and metal that we have built up in our lifetime comes crashing down as molten rain, when the blood of our friends and family flows through the streets, and the cries of the mourners echo on every block, that is when we pick each other up, and, not as Americans, but as good humans who wish to see an end to war and death, and we stand, shoulder to shoulder, and face the twisting, black storm before us, not with hesitation or fear, but with squared jaws and clenched fists, and we shout out in one voice, brothers and sisters, children of God, to those who would tear us apart, "Our light will not be extinguished!" And then it will be them who quake with fear, who hide in their holes and avert their eyes from the glory and strength of those who march into the fight armed with love, honor, and memory. So I ask you: remember. Remember this page. Remember every page. Remember every friend. Remember every life. Because, as surely as the sun will set, there will be another 9/11, another school shooting... another World War. So do not let our children go unprepared to face that same storm. Because that would end in the worst tearjerker imaginable.
Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, and Billy Mays. What do they have in common? They all died in the same week.
December 8th 1980; sports commentator Howard Cosell is commentating on a football game between the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football, when suddenly the mood of the commentary changes: "Yes, we have to say it. Remember this is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses. An unspeakable tragedy confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City: John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City, the most famous, perhaps, of all of The Beatles, shot twice in the back, rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, dead on arrival."
Furthermore, the rest of The Beatles' reactions, most notably Paul, who said that it was "a drag". You can just tell that he was a little bit dead inside when he'd said that.
Even though George's death was expected for Ringo and Paul, it came as a surprise for many fans who didn't know the extent of his illness.
The stories about Emmett Till's death:
Eyes on the Prize leads off with this story. Emmett's great-uncle, Rev. Moses Wright, was asked to identify the man who took Emmett away. Wright actually stood up, pointed and said "Dar he" (there he is), risking his own life to do so. Some reporter took a picture◊. At the very end of the series, narrator Julian Bond says They had the courage to stand up and point out the road all of us must travel. Brothers, sisters, children, all the colors of the earth, standing up. Still standing up. Amen. They again show the photo of the old man whose courage started the whole thing.
Phil Ochs' song Too Many Martyrs, about the deaths of both Medgar Evers and Emmett Till, is a real Tear Jerker.
"Too many martyrs and too many dead Too many lies too many empty words were said Too many times for too many angry men Oh let it never be again
And they laid him in his grave while the bugle sounded clear laid him in his grave when the victory was near While we waited for the future, for freedom through the land The country gained a killer and the country lost a man"
Here's to you Nicola and Bart Rest forever here in our hearts The last and final moment is yours This agony is your triumph
Amy Winehouse, who passed away at the age of only 27 from alcohol poisoning.
This video. A twelve-year old boy is infected with HIV, has a 1 in 3 chance of survival and because of where he lives, he can't even be told. His name had to be changed to protect his identity, because of the sort of persecution people with HIV in Swaziland undergo. Listen closely to Thabo introducing himself and you can hear where his name is censored.
The New York Times recently published an article analyzing the new trend of YouTube videos of parents (usually fathers) surprising their young children returning home from the war.
There is a similar collection of videos on YouTube that has soldier being greeted by their dogs. The sheer joy and exuberance evident in every fiber of the animal's body is just so touching.
Ma Li and Zhai Xiaowe's ballet performance ''Hand in Hand'', the dancers were missing their arm and leg respectively.
I had a hell of a journey ahead of me, but at least I wasn't going to die right HERE.
Last year, something eerily similar happened to a man named Jonathan Metz. While cleaning out his basement, his arm became trapped behind his boiler. For three days he struggled to break loose, and aside from himself, was worried sick about his dog Portia, who he could hear barking frantically, locked in upstairs. As time went on, he noticed her barking spells becoming fainter and less frequent, coinciding with his own weakening state, and finally resolved to cut his arm off in order to get free. His story was featured on the TV show I Survived. At the end of the episode, the viewer was given an update on his condition, and this final footnote was included:
"Jonathan's dog Portia also survived."
This quote from Robert A. Heinlein. One of the most inspirational quotes on the potential of the human race ever written:
"And finally, I believe in my whole race. Yellow, white, black, red, brown ó in the honesty, courage, intelligence, durability Ö and goodness Ö .of the overwhelming majority of my brothers and sisters everywhere on this planet. I am proud to be a human being. I believe that we have come this far by the skin of our teeth, that we always make it just by the skin of our teeth ó but that we will always make it Ö survive Ö endure. I believe that this hairless embryo with the aching, oversize brain case and the opposable thumb, this animal barely up from the apes, will endure ó will endure longer than his home planet, will spread out to the other planets, to the stars, and beyond, carrying with him his honesty, his insatiable curiosity, his unlimited courage ó and his noble essential decency. This I believe with all my heart."
Elizabeth I of England was responsible for at least one, while waiting for the Armada with her troops on the shore. Can also be considered a Crowning Moment of Awesome:
My loving people, we have been persuaded by some, that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit ourselves to armed multitudes, for fear of treachery; but I assure you, I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear; I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good will of my subjects. And therefore I am come amongst you at this time, not as for my recreation or sport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you all; to lay down, for my God, and for my kingdom, and for my people, my honor and my blood, even the dust. I know I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England, too; and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realms: to which, rather than any dishonor should grow by me, I myself will take up arms; I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field. I know already, by your forwardness, that you have deserved rewards and crowns; and we do assure you, on the word of a prince, they shall be duly paid you. In the mean my lieutenant general shall be in my stead, than whom never prince commanded a more noble and worthy subject; not doubting by your obedience to my general, by your concord in the camp, and by your valor in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over the enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people.
In Redcoat a social history of the eighteenth century British army by Richard Holmes, a soldier is quoted describing his return. He finds all his childhood playmates have forgotten him. He invites his father to the pub and when his father comes he has given up his son for lost and sees only an amiable stranger buying him a drink until the soldier tells him. Then the mother comes. When she sees her son she goes into a faint out of shock and joy. The whole story goes double for Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
This video captures Pope John Paul II's last "hello" to the world. Have tissues ready when you realize he was doing this while suffering Parkinson's and lacking a voice.
The story of Monster Truck on rathergood.com. May as well copy-paste it.
Monster Truck was a beautiful little cat with a beautiful little soul. We chose him from his litter because he was both the prettiest and most vivacious kitten we could find. The kids loved him immediately. He settled in straight away, with none of the hiding and fright that Vlad suffered from when we first brought him home.
Despite the enthusiastic love he received from Zak and Bliss, Monsty never got upset or afraid. He always played along, and always had a great deal of love to give. We took delight in his rapidly growing skills as he developed from a kitten in to a small cat.
He was always desperate to get out. We kept him in as we had been told, and recaptured him on the occasions he slipped out of the back door with the kids (after a bit of a creep around the garden). He was very unhappy about this, and made it clear his natural habitat was pouncing in the wild undergrowth, being a very dangerous predator.
Eventually the day came when he had his final jabs at the vet (which he was very brave about of course). We got him microchipped so that he would never be lost, and we bought him a very fetching red collar with his name, address and phone number so that if he was found he would be helped home. Finally Monster Truck was ready to go out in to the world!
A few weeks prior to this a new family had moved in two doors down. They seemed nice and have two kids the same age as ours, so we were looking forward to having new people to play with. They had been re-housed from a one-bed flat, which must have been pretty cramped.
What we did not know was that they were planning on moving a killer dog in as well.
It turns out they own a mastiff. A mastiff which had spent its life in a one-bed flat with 4 people. A mastiff which is never walked. A mastiff which hates cats.
A couple of days in to Monster Truck's new-found freedom we were all playing in the garden. Monsty climbed the tree, got on to the roof of the shed, wondered in to next door's garden, all of which we now felt was his right as an officially sorted-out cat. I even took my eyes off him to play with the kids. I noticed the new guy was sitting in the garden with his huge dog- the first time I had seen it- but thought no harm could come of it as he was right there.
There was a cat screech- the kind of noise you hear when cats fight. No barking. I thought a bigger cat must have had a pop at Monsty so went to have a look, but no, two gardens down the psycho dog had mauled Monsty! No barking, no aggression, no reason for Monsty to run away. He had gone to say hello and the dog had simply chomped him without warning.
I ran round to the front and rang the doorbell. The guy tried to make out Monster was OK, but he was clearly very badly hurt. There was blood in his mouth and he was gasping. I asked Jacqui to phone the emergency vet while I tried to comfort him, but the poor little guy passed away in my arms.
I simply couldn't believe it. That such a beautiful little soul could be so quickly and so cruelly snuffed out by a psycho dog, as soon as he was ready to go out in to the world! We got the new neighbour back out, I was distraught, the guy apologised and offered to buy a new kitten as if Monster had been a piece of property, and as if there was any point when he had just brought a killer dog in to our street to murder our pets. Jacqui is now worried about the kids. The dog is massive and clearly dangerous. The guy ended up promising to get rid of the dog.
After warning the neighbour on the other side to keep an eye on his cats we went in to the garden to dig Monster Truck a grave, under the tree, by the shed. We buried him there with his favourite toy giraffe. The kids said goodbye, and gave him a last kiss and a last stroke. They wanted to know why he wasn't moving, when he would be better, why he had blood on him. It's all very difficult to explain and very sad.
I've been genuinely surprised at how sad I am for that poor little cat. I just wish we could turn back the clock and keep him in, or could have done something to stop the new neighbours bringing a dangerous dog in to our street. But there isn't anything we can do and all those years of fun that he should have had, growing old as the kids grew up, have been cancelled now. He isn't going to get any of that. His shot at the world is over nearly as soon as it began. That poor, poor, beautiful little cat, who died in my arms, looking at me wondering what had happened to him and probably trusting me to make it ok. I'm sorry I couldn't make it ok, little cat.
We love you Monster Truck. We love you very very much. Goodbye, I hope Vlad is looking after you in Kitty Valhalla.
UPDATE: I got a call to say the dog is gone. PHEW! Hopefully we can all be friends now.
Most British memorials from the First World War include the words "Their name liveth for evermore" (from Ecclesiasticus) and, for the unidentified dead "A Soldier of the Great War Known Unto God." The words are particularly poignant when you realize that the words were chosen by Rudyard Kipling, whose son was also killed during the war.
Kipling himself would write a rather poignant poem about this own son's death: "If any question why we died; Tell them, because our fathers lied."
Even worse still when you hear the story behind the poem. Kipling's son was near-sighted, however Kipling pressured the Army into taking him on, to be patriotic. In one battle, his glasses were knocked off and, while searching for them, he was shot. Kipling never forgave himself.
"Have you news of my boy Jack?" Not this tide. "When d'you think that he'll come back?" Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
Almost all French memorials from the First World War include the word "Un Enfant De (town)...Mort Pour La France". Villages that are no more than wide places in the road will have such a memorial with a dozen names.
In the same vein that the Trope image in Reims, France there is a memorial that ends with these sentence.
For the next generations for them to know and to remember
Memorial of the 1914-1918, built in 1924 rebuilt in 2005 after its destruction in 1945
There is a poem written by a poet known only as W.E.K. He died in April 1917.
"At Last Post" Come home!óCome home! The winds are at rest in the restful trees: At rest are the waves of the sundown seas: And homeóthey're homeó At home! At ease!
Many towns destroyed in WWI were never rebuilt, but the map wasn't updated. Where there used to be villages, now are only piles of rocks as memorials for the town and people living there.
The Devonshire Cemetry in Mametz seems today oddly positioned in a small patch of woods, however on the 1st of July 1916 it was the front line of the Battle of the Somme. An entire unit from the Devonshire Regiment was killed in the trenches and they were buried where they fell. One of their comrades left a wooden sign that simply stated "The Devonshires Held This Trench, The Devonshires Hold It Still." They still hold it to this very day, and those words have been imortalised as the memorial to their sacrifice.
The first Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was established in Westminster Abbey for all the unrecovered British dead from WWI. The inscription reads like a national So Proud of You:
BENEATH THIS STONE RESTS THE BODY OF A BRITISH WARRIOR UNKNOWN BY NAME OR RANK BROUGHT FROM FRANCE TO LIE AMONG THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS OF THE LAND AND BURIED HERE ON ARMISTICE DAY 11 NOV: 1920, IN THE PRESENCE OF HIS MAJESTY KING GEORGE V HIS MINISTERS OF STATE THE CHIEFS OF HIS FORCES AND A VAST CONCOURSE OF THE NATION
THUS ARE COMMEMORATED THE MANY MULTITUDES WHO DURING THE GREAT WAR OF 1914 Ė 1918 GAVE THE MOST THAT MAN CAN GIVE LIFE ITSELF FOR GOD FOR KING AND COUNTRY FOR LOVED ONES HOME AND EMPIRE FOR THE SACRED CAUSE OF JUSTICE AND THE FREEDOM OF THE WORLD
THEY BURIED HIM AMONG THE KINGS BECAUSE HE HAD DONE GOOD TOWARD GOD AND TOWARD HIS HOUSE
The inscription is framed by four Bible quotes:
THE LORD KNOWETH THEM THAT ARE HIS (top) UNKNOWN AND YET WELL KNOWN, DYING AND BEHOLD WE LIVE (side) GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS (side) IN CHRIST SHALL ALL BE MADE ALIVE (base)
This is the only grave in the entirety of the abbey people are forbidden to walk over.
In 1969, when Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin were preparing to go to the moon, Bill Safire wrote a speech called "In Event of Moon Disaster" that was to be read by President Nixon in case the astronauts died or were stranded on the moon due to a mission disaster. With gut-wrenching lines such as "These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice," it is a relief that the Apollo 11 mission to the moon was a success.
The crew of Apollo 11 would instead leave a plaque that read: Here Men From The Planet Earth First Set Foot Upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We Came in Peace For All Mankind.
The Menin Gate ceremony in Ypres (Ieper), the official memorial to all British soldiers without graves killed in Belgium. Especially the playing of the Last Post at this ceremony. And even more so when remembering that this has been done every single evening since 1928, with the exception of 4 years of occupation during World War 2. In fact the very evening it was liberated, the practice resumed... while there was still fighting elsewhere in the town. They restarted the ceremony as soon as the Gate was in friendly hands.
Field Marshal Herbert Plummer - a respected general from the First World War who cared deeply for his men - was the one who unveiled the Menin Gate memorial. Speaking to the families of the missing soldiers, he ended his speech with the words "At last, it can be said: He is not missing. He is here!"
And the search for the missing never really ended. Ninety years after their deaths, and fifty years since the last Commonwealth War Cemetery was opened, two hundred and fifty British and Australian soldiers will finally have a dignified grave. They will no longer be among the "missing". They will be here.
It's even more sobering when you look at the Menin Gate, and similarly the Thiepval Memorial and others, and you see them plastered with names, and realize that's just the ones that aren't commemorated with a grave of their own, and fell on only part of the front, and only for part of the war.
The sheer scale of the loss and suffering of the First World War is best illustrated by this story: Mrs Rosie Reader's son Alec was killed during the war, and was listed among the "missing". She made several trips to France, hoping to find his grave, or at least his name on one of the many memorials. She never found any trace of him, and died thinking that his sacrifice had been forgotten. The family would finally get closure over eighty years after the war. Rosie's grandchildren had made one last trip to France, and they finally found Alec. His name was at Thiepval.
The poem "In Flanders Fields" written by Canadian Army surgeon John McRae in WWI, after the death of his friend. He died a few days after he wrote it.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved, and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields."
If that needs to be sadder, consider that the poppies were only growing because the artillery fire was so intense that it had turned up lower levels of dirt, and thus the poppies only grew there during (and shortly after) the war.
In the Essex Farm Cemetery by the dressing station where 'In Flanders Fields' was written there is a grave for 15-year-old Valentine Strudwick. He probably wasn't the only teenager who enlisted underage and got killed
The "Murambi Genocide Memorial""in Rwanda" (graphic images warning) is chilling in its simplicity. It consist of a school where the classrooms are full of the mummified bodies of the massacred and heartbreakingly some rooms full of dead children. The worst was seeing the faces frozen mid scream with visible wounds and still sporting hair and clothes... The fact the guide witnessed his entire family murdered on the site and has a hole from a bullet in his head turned really brings the horror even further home.
This. It's so heartbreaking to watch this poor dying dog who was rescued from the streets spending his last moments having love and comfort for the first time in his life. It's incredibly hard not to feel bad for the other dog sniffing the body. He had just made a new friend, and he is gone before they can get to know each other. It seems that he knows that his new friend is gone, and he is saying goodbye to a friend that he never really got to know. It's impossible not to cry while watching this. It's so sad.
Tears for Sarah Jane, a fan-made video memorial to Elisabeth Sladen in tribute to the late actress and her tremendous impact on the Doctor Who legacy and community. The quality is so high that the video was endorsed by the BBC itself, recommended in Doctor Who Magazine.
Many animals mourn. Elephants are the most well known, but even crows and magpies have anecdotal sightings of "funerary rites".
Finches also mourn - in a much more deprssing way. They mate for life, and if their partner dies, the other one won't be long for the world. Many a pet owner have had their hearts broken when they had a pair of finches, one of them died, and the other one just huddled in a corner until they died too.
Same thing can happen with goldfish. Goldfish can do fine alone, but as you typically find them with tankmates, chances are that unless you get a second goldfish, they can get rather lonely. It's more sad, however, when you get two at the same time at a young age.
Even sadder: this young boy died just days after the wedding ceremony. *sniff*
Toward the end of the 1996 Robert D. Kaplan book The Ends of the Earth, he talks about going around Cambodia and witnessing the work of the NG Os trying to make life better for the average Cambodian villager. Reading about the dedication of some of these volunteers (e.g. the young, idealistic, vegetarian woman who kept on going into villages to help villagers in spite of having received death threats from the Khmer Rouge, who were still very much active in the jungle) is enough to bring tears to one's eyes, but the saddest part was reading about a ramshackle hospital (which was highly valued because it simply existed) and a young Cambodian girl, maybe four or five years old, struggling the breathe because she was dying of tuberculosis and the only medical technology available to her in this desperately poor country was an oxygen tank.
For that matter, Cambodian history from the 1970s is heartbreaking in and of itself. The Khmer Rouge and their murderous Year Zero-related campaign where they slaughtered their own kind because of arbitrary reasons (in The Ends of the Earth Kaplan points out that at least the Rwandan civil war/genocide made a little sense because it was one tribe vs. another, whereas in Cambodia no such "excuses" could be made for what the Khmer Rouge did) did a lot of damage in the country, both physical and psychological. Especially heartbreaking relating to the plight of that poor dying child was the fact that between 1975 and 1979, the Khmer Rouge killed off 90% of the country's doctors and similar numbers of scholars and intellectuals.