By Elizabeth Normen
(c) Connecticut Explored Inc. Fall 2020
We salute our veterans this Veterans Day, November 11, with the Fall 2020 issue marking the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. In these pages we bring you personal stories—stories of ordinary Connecticans who did extraordinary things: acts brave, selfless, and heroic. In some cases, circumstances meant they were not adequately trained or prepared for that call of history. State Historian Walt Woodward brings us the story of West Hartford’s Gordon H. Sterling Jr.’s death in a dogfight over Pearl Harbor—a dogfight he jumped into knowing he probably wouldn’t come back, and Leon Chameides brings us the story of his boyhood escape from likely extermination at the hands of the Nazis.
In a story we published in the Spring 2010 issue, Thomas J. Gworek of Wethersfield, who grew from an eight-year-old to a young teen during the war, wrote about his feeling that even as a young boy he was called by world events to be his best self, to contribute to a larger good. At war’s end, he recalled:
The last thing I remember about the war … was the story of the freeing of the concentration camps. … In my mind I can still see those pictures in Life magazine of people so thin I wondered how they were held together, and their sad, searching eyes seemed to be too big for their heads, which were shrunken from starvation. I knew then, more surely than I did from the first, that this was a war we had to fight, that we were the good guys and winning it was very important. I miss that feeling and that feeling that we were all pulling together.
As we are called anew by national and international events today to pull together and to work for the greater good (however we each might define that), history has a great deal to teach us. History, too, has a great deal to teach the next generation, which is why CT Explored is making Connecticut history accessible to students and educators via print books and online websites that support the Connecticut Board of Education’s Social Studies Frameworks.
Please support us with a gift to the 2020-2021 Friends of Connecticut Explored to continue this important work. Your support is everything to us. No other funder comes close to the support of our subscriber-members and Friends! Every gift counts both financially and as a vote of confidence that what we do as the state’s magazine of Connecticut history is valued by you.
And it’s valued by educators, too. Across the state, use of WhereILiveCT.org increased 193 percent between March and early June over the prior year—to 61,000 page views—as education moved online during Covid-19 stay-at-home orders. We’ve also created an easily accessible landing page for all of our stories and podcasts about Connecticut’s African American history to support the forthcoming state mandated high-school elective and we hope it will attract similar use. One teacher on Facebook shared the information saying, “Teachers, please share. A fascinating and extremely valuable archive of CT stories—diplomats to opera singers to pharmacists.” You’ll find these resources at ctexplored.org/teach.
Together, we can do something extraordinary. Thank you for your support.