Getting to Washington D.C. from Abilene, TX, is not easy for anyone, and can be more tedious with physical challenges. Flying in the puddle-jumpers from our two-gate airport only begins the adventure. Flights from Abilene de-board in the basement of DFW Airport, and making your way to civilized levels for connecting flights can the utterly delightful on wheels, especially with an hour to do it! Most travelers may think how great it is to board the aircraft first, not realizing that first-on means last-off, too, not to mention the long wait while your wheelchair has to be retrieved from cargo, leaving you only hoping it will be whole and not in parts when you next see it!
It was early December of 1995, and I was much more in the mood to be home decorating for Christmas than headed to Boling AFB for a training conference, but I always loved my work, and was willing to do whatever it demanded. The conferences were a wonderful chance to see other Air Force programs firsthand, and catch up with colleagues, too, but by the time all of us arrived, we were exhausted and ready to drop! I arrived at Reagan National around 7 PM after leaving Abilene at 6:30 AM. We were told the host base would be sending Air Force “bluebird” buses to shuttle us to our quarters in shifts, and to go to a predetermined gate area to be met and escorted to transport.
I noticed a quiet redhead holding a sign with “Mr. Jones” written in nondescript red marker as soon as I settled for the wait. She actually could have fit very well in our group, with her light blue eyes and pretty smile complementing her business suit, and like us, she kept checking her watch! So I can be out of the way, I always position my wheelchair at the end of those long chair rows, and this usually means not being with the middle huddles most prefer. Now it was almost 9 PM, and we were utilizing all our telepathic prowess to somehow maneuver any vehicle possible from the outskirts of D. C. to our rescue! Mr. Jones’ welcome waiter shared our desperate look, too, until it was announced that a flight was about to arrive. She put on her calm smile again, and lifted her sign. I look ahead to see the distinguished, unmistakable profile of James Earl Jones! Not only were Field of Dreams and Roots in regular rotation of my viewing repertoire for years, but my mother was a CNN junkie from the network’s birth! He smiled broadly, and brushed against my arm in his dark gray overcoat! I look up at him, and he says, “Hello, there, my lady!” in those deep, resonate tones that have brought reassurance and comfort from their first utterance. I only smiled back as Mr. Jones rushed to his erstwhile escort, as I continued the wait for mine.
Later that night, eating cheese crackers in the Boling AFB Inn, I shared the delight of this encounter by phone with my husband, and later learned that James Earl Jones was participating in a Kennedy Center Honors production. No doubt he was having far better cuisine than me, but he left me with a memory to savor always.
James Earl Jones career on stage, screen, and television has spanned over 4 decades. His voice is one of the most recognizable in all of history. He is still the voice of CNN, and was the voice of Darth Vader in the Star Wars film sagas.