Thursday, September 8, 2011
yes, i only made a 2 on my AP u.s. history exam
my pastor told this story in church on sunday, and it just about blew me away. i'm probably the only person in the entire world who didn't know this.
john wilkes booth, the man who shot lincoln, had a brother, edwin booth. both were stage actors.
very shortly before lincoln's assassination, edwin was waiting for a train. he saw a man slip down between the station platform and the train car. edwin reached down and pulled the man out and up, into safety. edwin didn't know who the man was, only that he needed help.
The man who edwin saved wrote about the incident in a 1909 letter:
The incident occurred while a group of passengers were late at night purchasing their sleeping car places from the conductor who stood on the station platform at the entrance of the car. The platform was about the height of the car floor, and there was of course a narrow space between the platform and the car body. There was some crowding, and I happened to be pressed by it against the car body while waiting my turn. In this situation the train began to move, and by the motion I was twisted off my feet, and had dropped somewhat, with feet downward, into the open space, and was personally helpless, when my coat collar was vigorously seized and I was quickly pulled up and out to a secure footing on the platform. Upon turning to thank my rescuer I saw it was Edwin Booth, whose face was of course well known to me, and I expressed my gratitude to him, and in doing so, called him by name.
and here's the kicker:
months later, edwin received a letter from ulysses s. grant.
thanking him for saving robert lincon, abraham's son.
crazy, crazy, crazy. such a beautiful coincidence. that one brother can chose death, while the other life.
it blew my mind sitting in the pew and the irony of it all still hangs with me. this was probably a story we learned in middle school american history class, but at that point in my life i was highly, highly engrossed in accumulating as many accelerated reader points as i could, and spent my days nose deep in novels.
so now i'm playing catch-up on my history, and falling in love with the little touches of humanity woven into this great, big american quilt.