On Friday, Karen and I took Paul Moeller to see a movie, UNBROKEN, after the book by Laura Hillenbrand. I became familiar with the story of Louis Zamperini’s amazing life when my cousin Gary, from Chatsworth, met Zamperini, signing books in a book store. He said “…at age 94 the guy exuded energy and moved around like he was a young man.” He died July 2, 2014 at 97.
I rarely go to movies, but I knew if I didn’t take time-out and go on the last day it showed in nearby Angels Camp, I’d probably never see it on the “big screen”.
Paul is a similar character in ways. He can no longer drive, he’s had several strokes, he is impaired but he continues to haul wood, paint the deck, travel to Germany alone, since his wife died, whatever it takes to carry on. His attitude is always, positive, can do.
But fortitude beyond measure embodied Zamperini. It is the story of a kid who fought to grow up when attitudes against “Wops” , or any immigrant, was ugly. His hero brother encouraged him to get revenge by being successful. He did that by becoming a track star at his high school and going on to medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He enlisted in 1941 and showed himself, his fellow prisoners and through Hillenbrand’s book, the world, about enduring unspeakable torture. His is not only a story of torture, but survival, resilience, and redemption.
Hillenbrand felt she had to do justice to his and his fellow POW’s most searing memories. After the war, he drank, he was full of rage, shame and suffered flashbacks and constant nightmares. And, once again, he persevered, changed his life and became a virtuoso of optimism. He quit drinking, repaired his marriage and his life and went on to open a boys camp and become an inspiration to others. Hellenbrand got thousands of letters and emails from people saying the same thing. ‘I never understood my father, my husband or grandfather, what they went through. Why he was in so much pain, why he drank.’
Understanding and forgiveness heal. He wanted his suffering to be meaningful, and it was. The movie was about his survival and torture, and it was great to see it acted out, but read the book for the full story.