A Railroad Thank-You 30 Years Overdue
OpinionEditor's Notebook

A Railroad Thank-You 30 Years Overdue

I missed my high school reunion, but at least I can give Norfolk Southern credit for its generosity.

Michael Jacobs

Atlanta Jewish Times Editor Michael Jacobs is on his second stint leading the AJT's editorial operations. He previously served as managing editor from 2005 to 2008.

It’s a sign of how rarely this OTPer walks around Midtown that I noticed the Norfolk Southern building on Peachtree Street just south of 14th Street for the first time Sunday, Oct. 15, while making my way from the Arts Center MARTA station to Piedmont Park.

If the stoplights hadn’t turned at just the right time, I would have kept walking up 14th instead of turning onto Peachtree. I guess that’s a nonromantic example of something being beshert (destined).

It just happened that my 30th high school reunion came and went without me the night before. That made me a perfect zero-for-three in reuniting with the South Lakes High School Class of 1987, thanks to previous conflicts with a friend’s wedding (a fellow member of the class) and my first son’s bar mitzvah celebration.

The big change since the 10th and 20th reunions is that almost everybody is on Facebook now, so not only did the organizing, connecting and recruiting occur through a private Facebook group, but video and photos were posted and shared as the festivities were happening. No one can accuse us Gen Xers of being social media Luddites.

So I had high school in mind when the Norfolk Southern horse-head logo rose in front of me that Sunday morning, and I was reminded of a long-overdue debt.

When I was a senior in high school, I won a $2,000 National Merit Scholarship (I was good at multiple-choice tests). The scholarship was funded by Norfolk Southern.

The National Merit people asked that I write a thank-you note to Norfolk Southern, no doubt as a way to ensure the railroad company kept contributing to scholarships. But, as anyone who gave me a bar mitzvah or wedding gift knows, thank-you notes aren’t my writing specialty.

Many times in the spring of 1987 I meant to write that note, but it never happened.

I figured after the first semester at college, then the second, I could write a note not only thanking the good people at Norfolk Southern, but also explaining how their contribution to my education had helped me learn about the history of Southern music or ancient Greece. Again, it never happened.

So there I was, standing outside the company’s Atlanta offices the weekend of my 30th high school reunion, and it hit me again that I still owed a thank-you to Norfolk Southern for paying for my books and a few pitchers of beer over my four years in college.

We’re a few weeks past Yom Kippur’s urgent reminder of the need to seek forgiveness from people, and I still haven’t put pen to paper and dropped a note in the mail. But I’m sure someone at Norfolk Southern is monitoring media mentions of the company, so I hope this message makes it up the chain of command.

Thank you, Norfolk Southern, for making college expenses a little easier for hardworking students to handle. It took 30 years longer than it should have, but that doesn’t mean this thank-you is any less sincere. In fact, with time and with the expense of sending my own sons to college, I appreciate your gift even more.

It probably wasn’t your goal to help produce a newspaperman, but that’s what happened. I hope that the AJT every week justifies your investment and that you continue to contribute to the National Merit program and the futures of its beneficiaries and this country.

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