And that is where this story really begins.
For the past three months, Cornacchio, 52, a child development specialist, wife and mother has been on a quest, a search for the man whose name was scrawled on the bracelet she started wearing as a sixth-grader at the old Bowditch School.
After a lot of Google searches and phone calls, she spotted an announcement about a scholarship dinner in St. Augustine, Fla., in memory of two U.S. servicemen, one of whom died in Vietnam, the other at the World Trade Center on 9/11 after leading more than 2,000 people to safety.
The banquet’s keynote speaker was Capt. Giles R. Norrington, whom the program described as “a former POW at the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ in Vietnam.”
When Cornacchio contacted the banquet organizer and told him about the bracelet she wanted to return, he asked her to come to the dinner. She hesitated at first, and then called back and said she would.
She wanted to hand Norrington the bracelet, but, first, had to get it fixed, so she took it to Phil Potvin at Bernard’s Jewelers.
“He fixed the bracelet for free when I told him the story,” she said.
So last Saturday morning, Cornacchio and a friend boarded a plane for Florida. In her pocketbook was a little red gift box with a bracelet inside.
The banquet at an Elks hall was packed with men and women who had served in the military, from World War II to Korea to Vietnam to Bosnia to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Cornacchio and two friends were given seats at a table near the front. When a veteran seated next to her asked what her connection was to the banquet, all she could say was, “It’s a surprise.”
It was an emotion-packed evening, culminating with a moving speech by Norrington, now 77 and a little unsteady on his feet.