I want to thank everyone who came out to the World premier of Above and Beyond at the Providence Performing Arts Center last week. More than 1000 people came to watch the story of how my father, former RI Governor Bruce Sundlun was shot down in his b-17 over Belgium and lived to tell about it. The Jewish bomber hid in Catholic churches and stole bicycles to make his way to Switzerland.
My deepest gratitude goes to The World War Two Foundation, especially its founder Tim Gray who produced and directed the film, and Jim Karpeichik the photographer who captured one emotional moment after the other when I retraced my father’s steps in Jabbeke, Belgium. Now my whole family can pass down the story because of this film. Here we are under the marquee!
I even made special popcorn bags at Hartford Prints.
The man who made this movie possible is Luc Packo, a Belgian has been collecting pieces of my father’s plan since he was 12 years old and has spent his life researching the story of what happened to everyone aboard the crew of The Damn Yankee. His son Jens Packo played my father in the movie.
My father, the pilot, was the only one who was not killed or captured and my heart goes out to the other children of the crew who have a different story to tell. Barbara Cologne lost her father the ball turret gunner Harry Cologne when she was only a toddler. Thanks to Luc and the World War Two Foundation she now knows what happened to her Dad, and at the age of 72 drove from Oklahoma to see the movie.
The Jewish film festival will screen Above and Beyond on March 15th in Hartford, CT. The venue has yet to be announced, but I will keep you posted.
Here is the trailer
Walking in my father’s footsteps helped me to understand how he became the tough as nails fighter he was in life. Facing death weighs on a human heart, and my father learned to build walls around his. I am so grateful I was able to unlock them when I met him as a teenager and it’s a story I tell in my memoir Finding Dad From Love Child to Daughter
that comes out this fall on 11.11 which is also Veteran’s Day.
On this Memorial Day I take a moment to thank my father and all of the heroes like him who looked death in the face so we could all enjoy parades and bar-b-ques today.
My father Bruce Sundlun was a World War II bomber pilot, who was shot down over Belgium. He was the only one in his crew to not be killed or captured. When he was only 23 years old, an age when I was worried about breaking into TV or living in a cool city, my father was stealing bicycles to stay alive as he rode across Europe trying to find neutral Switzerland without being taken prisoner by the Nazis. By the way he was Jewish. His stories all seemed like fantasy hero tales at the dinner table, when he shared even the slightest detail. I, like many today, just couldn’t grasp all he did to fight for not only our freedom, but for the people in Europe that Americans like him helped to liberate. I couldn’t understand the depth of his strength and sacrifice until I walked a day in his footsteps.
I traveled with the World War II foundation last year to retrace my father’s steps in Jabbekke, Belgium for the documentary they are doing on his heroic escape. It’s called Above and Beyond, and Dad was that. He was a hero to Luc Packo, the Belgian man who has spent his life preserving the legacy of my father’s crew from the Damn Yankee, and who thanks my father, and all the Americans who fought with him, for driving out the Nazis and freeing him to live in his beautiful village and create his own dreams with his loving family. Luc told me American veterans are like Mick Jagger over there, and that when my father came over hundreds turned out to meet him and thank him at the dedication of a memorial to him and his crew. On this day may we all remember the true rock stars like my Dad who helped create a new harmony on earth. Have fun at your cook out, but don’t forget to thank a veteran for your life of liberty. I feel so lucky my father lived to tell his story, and today I send prayers for those who did not.
Here is a link to the clip we ran on Better Connecticut of my trip to retrace my father’s steps.
Above and Beyond will premier August 21st at the Providence Performing Arts Center. You can find out more below about the amazing World War Two Foundation and its mission to teach us about the veterans who fought so we could live freely. It’s a non-profit organization I’m proud to support.