The central theme of these letters, which were often long and always generous, was the suffering and handling of adversity. "Everything from striking out in the last inning of a Pony League baseball game to captains and admirals losing men in war," Bucchianeri says. "They shared some very personal things with me. A lot of people said I taught them a lesson—that we can fail, that we can mess up sometimes, and it's O.K."
Bucchianeri was left, of course, to write his own endings to the days that followed. One night during the week after the Army-Navy game, when one memorial service seemed to blur into another, he fled the sadness of the faces and the walls to be alone again. He went to the auditorium in Mitscher Hall, turned off all the lights and sat down at the piano in the dark. "I was thinking about everything." he says. "How fragile life is at times...the kick wide...Lisa Winslow dancing in the halls...how larger-than-life Alton Grizzard was...."
He made the keys sound like wind, and he made them sound like rain.