Get Tony a flypast to honour selfless heroes, and we will all reach the stars
- Credit: Archant
The beautiful story of Tony Foulds' lifelong devotion to the men who saved his life in 1944 has touched Britain. Let's hope Tony gets his fly past. It would be a fitting tribute to the 10 USAAF servicemen who died, and to Tony himself, says Liz Nice
No-one had heard of Tony Foulds before this weekend.
Maybe you still haven't, so I'm going to tell you about him.
Tony lives in Sheffield, where I gave birth to my sons and spent seven special years.
I might have walked past Tony in the street. I wouldn't have noticed him though. He is an 82-year-old man with Parkinson's disease. I wouldn't have seen for a moment who he also is.
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When Tony was eight years old, he was in Endcliffe Park in Sheffield, a place I know well, when a US aircraft crashed.
The year was 1944. All 10 men on board were killed.
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Later, it was established that the crew had done everything possible to avoid crashing into houses; saving lives until the last moment of their own.
Tony still feels guilty because he says that if he and his friends hadn't been in the park that day, the men might have landed safely. To avoid the playing children, they crashed into a hill.
That great moment of heroism has haunted Tony every day of the 75 years since. He still remembers all of the airmen's names.
'I owe them my life,' he told the BBC's Dan Walker, who happened upon him in the park at the weekend when out walking his dog. 'Their sacrifice gave me everything. I love them as much as my own children.'
There is a memorial to the airmen in the park, which Tony has tended lovingly ever since. Tony was planting fresh flowers and sweeping up leaves there when Dan found him.
Dan was so moved by the story, he starting telling his Twitter followers about it and suddenly the tale of Tony's beautiful, lifelong gesture took off.
People were turning up to see the memorial and pay their respects to the airmen.
They also felt something should be done to recognise Tony's 75 years of devotion. But Tony is from Sheffield. He's not one for fuss.
What he would like, however, is a flypast to mark the 75th anniversary of the crash on February 22. Maybe one of our local US air bases can help? I do hope so.
The beauty in life is there if you look for it. In the questions you ask; and the people you don't overlook.
Heroes walk among us unnoticed, while those who make the most fuss and noise about their messed-up lives miss out on the opportunity to open themselves up to how much can be gained from giving of themselves, rather than taking only what others have to give.
As always, a story of World War Two airmen makes me think of my grandfather, Cyril Cutting DFC, DSM who served in the RAF from 1939 to 1945.
He too was haunted by the past, the things he had seen and the things he had done – but he made a good life, devoting himself to the people he loved.
It strikes me that I know people who have suffered not a molecule by comparison, yet moan and complain about their lot and punish those around them to make themselves feel better for about a minute of a day.
When bad things happen, it seems to me that we have two choices.
We can be full of self-pity and guilt and hurt the people who love us, or we can ease the pain by giving something good back to the world.
Tony's choice, and the reaction to it thus far, shows how much the world values those who make the little things, like small acts of love, matter.
#GetTonyAFlypast. And we will all, as the RAF motto goes, Per Ardua ad Astra – through struggle, get to the stars.