Touching the Ancient One–A True Story of Tragedy and Reunion went on sale on April 1, 2006. It can be ordered in local bookstores, and from the Wheatmark Bookstore, Amazon.com, Borders, Booksamillion, and Barnes & Noble.com.
Rather than trying to write another explanation about how the book came to be, I'm going to let the introduction do the job. Below, it is reproduced in its entirety:
I wanted my family, present members and those yet unborn, to have a true, detailed account. Call it egotism if you wish; I prefer to call it a sense of history. A modest booklet would be sufficient, I had thought.
I started writing soon after the first reunion in 1996. Not long into the project, I realized that my relatives would want to know more than the bare facts. They would want to know personal details, my thoughts, and ultimately the effect the incident had on my life. Moreover, I believed they would appreciate my trying to convey the spirit of the time and place. The modest booklet would have to be a little larger.
Even before the reunion year had ended, my thoughts centered on others who had been touched by the tragedy. Survivors, families, rescuers, and friends were, and continue to be, a part of my life. In addition, I considered the men who had died. They had become more to me than names on faded newsprint. I made two big decisions. The first was that I had to bring them all into the story. And second, the story had to come into the present. The project immediately took a colossal leap from a family history booklet to a full-fledged book.
I have divided the book into two parts, since it does deal with two different time periods. Part One contains the story of the crash and rescue, along with personal elements. Part Two details how the 1996 reunion came about and the relationships resulting from that. For the survivors, who had not seen one another for forty-two years, and for our families, the reunion was a significant event; the fact that we invited relatives of men who had died in the crash heightened emotions. The willingness and desire of those families to take part changed the complexion of the group in a positive way. There were other reunions beyond 1996 and there were trips back to Alaska and to the crash site on Kesugi Ridge. I have included those events.
I’m satisfied that I’ve given an accurate account of the accident. My memories are vivid, and I’ve used other primary sources to supplement my recollections. I’ve relied heavily on the memories of my fellow survivors and on the accident report, which contains our statements. That report also holds statements of other witnesses, rescue participants, and the official findings of the Air Force Board of Inquiry.
Another important and reliable source of information I credit to my mother, Glenna Morrison. She saved every letter I wrote to her while I was in the service. The letters, in addition to supplying personal detail, also brought to mind related events I might otherwise have forgotten.
Writing the book (or “memoirs” if you wish) has been beneficial for me. Being forced to examine my feelings has been a cleansing process. For years, I shoved thoughts of the crash to the back of my mind, telling the story to only a few close friends. Back in 1954, I had a “suck up my gut and get on with it” attitude, a point of view not discouraged in the armed forces of that day. I have since come to understand that such tragedies have far-reaching effects on many lives. I’m convinced that some change—dare I call it growth—in my life can be traced directly to the events that took place during my two years in Alaska.
For the most part, the book is written as a first person account. Nevertheless, in several places I have used other literary techniques to bring certain information to the story. Some people have been given fictitious names to prevent possible embarrassment. Where that is the case, the name is enclosed within quotes on the first use.
Throughout, I’ve been liberal with dialogue. Exact words from five decades ago do not easily spring to mind. Nevertheless, I do recall the essence of conversations. In some places, I’ve used dialogue between parties where I was not present. Those conversations are based on what the participants have told me. In some instances, they are a part of the historical record.
This book, though complete, doesn’t mean that the story is finished. Bonds formed during the past nine years will be long-lasting, extending to several generations of families involved. That is my hope—and my expectation.
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