I once rode shotgun on a cross-country flight (Van Nuys airport to La Guardia Airport) in a 4-seat Beechcraft Bonanza. The pilot was a Russian pediatrician named Vladimir. It was a two-day trip, and I’ll never forget flying blind through heavy fog as we approached St. Louis and having to be talked down by the air-traffic controller there. You couldn’t see a blessed thing for minutes on end, and all you had to go by was the voice of this kindly, intelligent and very comforting man on the radio speaker.

And then suddenly the air-strip lights appeared, and as anti-religion as I am today and was before, I nearly wept when it hit me that the lights really do form a crucifix. William Wellman knew whereof he spoke.