Why Ed Koch Doesn’t Fear Death
Ed Koch was the 105th Mayor of New York City, serving 3 terms, from 1978 to 1989. During his time as Mayor, Koch oversaw the city’s resurgence from a severe recession, helped to develop low-income housing, and created legislation that prohibited discrimination by the government based on sexual orientation in the areas of employment, housing and education, among many other achievements. The author of 8 books, including “Citizen Koch” and “My Fight Against Anti-Semitism,” he hosts a show on Bloomberg Radio, was recently a judge for “The People’s Court,“ and writes columns for a variety of publications. Born in the Bronx, Koch achieved the rank of Sergeant while fighting in World War II, before completing his law degree at NYU. He lives in Manhattan.
Question: Describe your outlook while serving in WWII?
Ed Koch: Well, I don't know if it was there that I decided that even if I was going to die, and obviously I didn't, I'm not afraid of death. Death is a part of life. Most people I have met, particularly Americans, just are so afraid of death. I don't look forward to it. At 85, I know it's just a few years away, but I don't fear it. I believe in the after-life, I believe in reward and punishment; and I hope I'll be rewarded.
I think some of all of that comes from having served in the war. And I think serving in a war and seeing people die also impacts on how you think about other wars. So, I believe that this country has to be defended and there are just wars and certainly World War II was such a just war, but the Vietnam War was not. And I thought that we shouldn't be in it and I marched in various demonstrations against it. I believed it was wrong and ultimately a huge majority of people in this country thought it was wrong, and they stopped it with their marches.
Question: How did you feel when you were first drafted into the war?
Ed Koch: Well, I think like most soldiers at the time, I served in the European theater of operations and I served in two campaigns, one for Northern France and the other for the Rhineland and I fought in Holland, Belgium and Germany. I saw people killed, I was very frightened and often thought I would probably die in Europe on the battlefield somewhere. But I didn't. I came out alive and I as discharged as a Sergeant and I think that being in a war has an effect on your character and your outlook on life. I don't recommend it, there are certainly other ways to build character, but it's part of who you are and what you are.
After serving in the Battle of the Bulge, in which 19,000 of his fellow Americans were killed, he had a hardened attitude: "I’m not afraid of death. Death is a part of life."
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