Have you ever wondered why anniversaries that are multiples of 5 or 10 are more significant milestones than those that are multiples of other numbers? I wonder if we had six fingers, instead of five, whether a 24th wedding anniversary might be a bigger deal than the 20th, and if we had seven fingers a 49th might be much more important than a 50th.
This week will mark 56 years since my parents’ executions on June 19th, 1953. I expect that unlike the 50th anniversary in 2003, the day will pass with very little public notice. But this week will resonate more powerfully for me because for the first time in 11 years the days of the week track the weekdays of 1953. In other words, my parents’ executions took place at sundown on Friday the 19th, and the 19th will also fall on a Friday this year.
To mark this echo, I’ll recall in daily posts to this blog, the events of the final five days of my parents’ lives and my feelings at the time.
56 years ago today, on Monday June 15th, 1953, the Supreme Court denied my parents’ request for a stay of execution by a 5 to 4 vote. This was the 8th time my parents had asked the Supreme Court to review their case and the Court had refused them all. With this denial the Supreme Court adjourned for the summer. The Federal Bureau of Prisons scheduled the executions for that Thursday, June 18th, on my parents’ 14th wedding anniversary.
My brother, Michael, and I were living with acquaintances of my parents, Ben and Sonia Bach, in Toms River, New Jersey. I had just turned 6 and my brother was 10. The previous Friday had been the last day of school, so our summer vacation had just started. I have no specific recollection of the Supreme Court’s denial that Monday, but I do remember attending a big demonstration to save my parents in Washington DC the day before. Here’s what I wrote in my memoir about that event:
“We went to New York or Philadelphia and got on a bus with many others going to Washington. I peered out the window as we drove south on Route 1 apparently racing a passenger train I believed was filled with people going to the same place; it was exciting to observe and imagine everyone rushing to a common destination. But once we got off the bus and became part of the commotion, it wasn’t fun anymore. Then I was a small person amid crowds of milling adult legs. I observed the process of getting to the demonstration so closely because I wanted so much to understand what was happening. I could see how we got there with my own eyes, but no one told me why we were doing this or what was happening once we got there, and incomprehension left me anxious.”
(Check back each day this week for a new posting leading up to Friday, June 19th, the 56th anniversary of my parents’ executions. To be notified whenever there is a new post to Out On a Limb Together, subscribe to the blog here.)