Friday was a very emotional day in New York City, especially if you’ve lived here for a while or grew up in the city or on Long Island, as I did.
In 1986 a 29-year-old police officer named Steven McDonald, whose wife was pregnant with their son Conor, was shot and paralyzed by a teenage robber in Central Park. McDonald instantly became a tragic hero, not just because he was a quadriplegic, but because a year after the shooting McDonald forgave the shooter.
“I’m sometimes angry at the teen-age boy who shot me,” McDonald’s wife Patti Ann said then, reading a letter Steven had dictated. “But more often I feel sorry for him. I only hope that he can turn his life into helping and not hurting people. I forgive him and hope that he can find peace and purpose in his life.”
McDonald spent the rest of his life preaching peace and forgiveness all over the world. He became an inspiration to millions, and each year appeared on the ice at the penultimate New York Rangers game of the year to give out the “Steven McDonald Courage Award.”
He made public appearances, his son grew up to be an NYPD officer, and he stood for so much that was good, and just, in the world. If Steven McDonald could forgive the man who took away his legs, and his ability to breathe on his own, what right did any of the rest of us have to hold grudges?
Twelve thousand police officers came to McDonald’s funeral Friday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan.
Twelve. Thousand. I was at the Rangers game Friday night and the team made several tributes to McDonald, including a beautiful video honoring him during the game.
At the end of it, Conor and Patti Ann were given a standing ovation, they embraced and cried after what must have been an incredibly difficult day. The crowd stayed on their feet and chanted Steven McDonald’s name, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one at the rink with goosebumps.
A great man was lost. But he will always, always be remembered.
**I’ve written here before about my love for the fantastic NPR story-telling series “The Moth,” which I listen to on its podcast regularly.
Actually, check that: What I usually end up doing is let a bunch of stories pile up, then listen to them all at once when I need a lift. Every once in a while I’m gobsmacked by one of these fantastic tales, as I was last week when I heard this phenomenal tale by Clifton Truman Daniel.
Clifton Daniel is the oldest grandson of Harry Truman (I think I actually met Clifton, a distinguished journalist, when I first started working at the Wilmington (N.C.) Star-News in 1997), and as such has had to live his life dealing with his grandfather’s complicated legacy.
On no issue is that legacy more complicated than the President’s decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, 1945. Clifton Daniel has had varying feelings about the historic attack, and in this moving story he tells of how Japanese people in America have approached him to discuss it.
But it’s only when he goes to Japan as an invited guest, to a memorial service about the bombings, that true understanding comes. Listen to this beautiful story, about forgiveness, age-old memories, and how strong people can be. This one really knocked my socks off.
**Finally today, the NFL playoffs finally gave us some decent games after a dreadful opening weekend.
OK, they gave us three decent games and one great game, starring Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packer quarterback who is pretty freaking unstoppable right now.
The Dallas Cowboys had a terrific season, and their defense has been great, but the Packers and Rodgers just picked ’em apart Sunday. Rodgers just waited, waited, waited and then hit an open receiver time and again. I have no idea how he’ll be stopped, by Atlanta next week or in the Super Bowl.
Green Bay jumped way ahead 21-3, the Cowboys and their fabulous rookie QB Dak Prescott came all the way back to tie the game at 28, then the kickers took over. Mason Crosby of Green Bay nailed a 56-yarder, then a minute later after one of the most clutch catches you’ll ever see (Jared Cook, pictured above) he nailed a 51-yarder.
The game was terrific, Rodgers is raising his “all-time NFL QB” ranking a few notches every week, and I’m just glad the Cowboys got beat.
Couple other NFL playoff notes…
— Oh, Andy Reid. Andy, Andy, Andy. Once again, your team has a great regular season, a playoff bye, a raucous home crowd… and yet once again you come up short. All credit to the Steelers, who have a terrific team peaking at the right time. But boy did the Chiefs lay an egg. From Travis Kelce’s drops to so many stupid penalties to (wait for it) clock and timeout mismanagement from Reid, Kansas City gave this one away.
As I said on Twitter after the game: “It’s stunning to see a favored Andy Reid team lose in the playoffs.” — said no one, ever.
— I briefly got excited when, while at a birthday party Saturday night at a restaurant, I checked my phone and saw “Pats 14, Texans 13.” But then I realized there’s no way Tom Brady is losing a playoff game to Brock Osweiler. Patriots are going to the Super Bowl.
— Atlanta looked great on offense, but I have no idea how their defense will stop Rodgers next week. We’re looking at a Packers-Patriots Super Bowl and man oh man that will be fun.