“He had worn this bracelet for a year or two and happened to shove it through my window,” he said.
Two weeks later, Norrington experienced the second “miracle.”
He was attending a large POW reception on the South Lawn of the White House hosted by President Richard Nixon. The singer Vic Damone was performing under a circus tent. Damone suddenly stopped in the middle of his show and announced that he wanted to return a POW bracelet worn for two years by the daughter of his arranger.
Then Damone read the name on the bracelet: “Giles Norrington.”
The third “miracle” happened last Saturday night in an Elks hall in Florida. Coincidentally, the dinner was held just two days after the 40th anniversary of Norrington’s release.
At the end of the program, the scholarship committee president, Bill Jefferson, presented Norrington with a bracelet, a different bracelet, that had arrived in the mail. It was one of dozens he has received over the years.
After reading a letter from the sender and waiting for the applause to die down, Jefferson looked out at the audience, which was already overflowing with emotion.
“But it gets better,” he told the crowd.
Cornacchio is not sure exactly what happened after that. She remembers rising from her chair and walking toward the front of the hall. Norrington said he saw a woman out of the corner of his eye and rose to meet her.
“A lot of it seriously is a fog because it was so emotional,” she said. “I remember just hugging him. And we were both crying, sobbing.”
After all he has been through in his life, all he has endured, Norrington said he was moved to tears by a woman who flew all the way from Massachusetts to Florida to hand a stainless steel bracelet to an old Navy pilot she had never met.
For Cornacchio, it was a gift of love and the end of a quest, the fulfillment of a mission started decades ago by a little girl who wore a stainless steel POW bracelet on her wrist.
Tom Dalton can be reached at email@example.com.