This is an occasion of mixed feelings for me. At one hand, I am happy to have the opportunity to play some small part in the remarkable history of this railcar. But, as Julia reminded us when she first came to the museum several months ago, the backdrop and need for this car is a cause for sadness. That world conditions brought us to a point where such measures needed to be taken, where lives were laid down, that this program was needed, is sobering.
However I must admit, that in learning about the "Charles O. Sweetwood", in studying about its travels and the young man who inspired it, I find something extraordinary. The purpose of the blood program, the goal of the men and women of the Western Pacific Railroad who conceived it, and the volunteers of the Red Cross who worked it, is quite powerful to think about. That goal was to bring as many people as possible together for a simple and profound reason: to help save lives.
The railroad and the Red Cross could have just held some publicity event in a big city and attracted folks to come give blood, but their intent went farther. This car pushed the state of the art of blood collection in 1951 to its limit for the purpose of giving as many people as possible, no matter how remote or small their communities were, the chance to come together and contribute to something that united them in care for their fellow citizens. Read the news clippings from the "Sweetwood's" travels and you will see people of this nation reaching across lines of race, age, gender, philosophy and economics to give of themselves so that others might be saved. The Western Pacific and the Red Cross united to create a unique and unprecedented opportunity. Community and veterans groups came forward to facilitate it. And the people responded in numbers no one anticipated.
This is a humbling and uplifting message. And I think it is just as powerful, just as important and just as needed today as it was then.
Together, they achieved something amazing. Together, we can remember that inspiration, restore it to life and share it with our country and her people once again, in a time when perhaps we need some reminding of what we can achieve when we come together and believe in the goodness in each other.
- Eugene Vicknair
Secretary, Director FRRS