Sunday, July 3, 2022

Happy 4th of July, America!

I love posting this poem every Independence Day...

It's a great memory of my beloved late uncle.


My uncle, Frederick Leo Harris, July 4, 1984


In memory of Frederick Leo Harris


Uncle Fred was an unassuming kind of guy—

a master crane operator who ran

a long-necked crane for Canger, Inc.

He never boasted about it

didn’t speak of the special skills required

or dangers or the scope

of projects he was working on


nor did we even think to ask

except perhaps to inquire, conversationally

about where he was working

It could have been Jersey

or New York or sometimes Pennsylvania

He just put on his work clothes each morning

put in his eight hours, and came home

to their three-room apartment

in Paterson, every night for dinner


On the 4th of July in 1984

Uncle Fred was the engineer

chosen to remove the original torch

from the hand of Lady Liberty


That particular Independence Day

marked the start of restorations

on the Statue of Liberty, with completion

targeted for her 100th birthday, in 1986


I don’t recall our uncle telling us

about it in advance. If he had

we undoubtedly would’ve been there

with our young children

to witness his feat


He probably dressed for work that morning

just like every other day

had his coffee, drove into the city

got himself to Liberty Island

and quietly set about doing 

exactly what a master crane operator

would be expected to do


There was a special ceremony

that Independence Day

with pomp and circumstance

a brass band and dignitaries—


and in the cab of the tall crane

hunched over the controls

sat our Uncle Fred, confidently

doing what needed to be done

to expertly bring down the old torch


The honor bestowed upon him

was completely lost on our Aunt Carol—

She was at home and unhappy

because he had to work on the holiday

and therefore they had to miss out

on normal 4th of July festivities

like a parade or a cook-out or fireworks

When a news reporter called

to ask her some questions

she let him know exactly how she felt

and what she said was directly quoted

in the newspaper the following day


It wasn’t until she saw a picture of him

standing next to the old torch

on the front page of the Paterson News

that she realized the illustrious way

he spent the 4th. Suddenly

she became overcome with pride

and fussed over him to no end

even though, I’m certain, Uncle Fred

could easily have done without

anybody fussing over him, at all


The original torch is on permanent display

in the base of the Statue of Liberty

with a plaque telling of its removal

and the statue’s restoration that followed

It includes no mention of our uncle’s name

which, surely, would not have bothered him


but we know, and we’re proud

and this poem is written to keep

that special memory of him alive


Maude Carolan Pych

More poetry by Maude Carolan Pych...

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