I never learned the details of why Leon's dad remained so homicidal 20 years after the war was over. I didn't want to. It was scary enough just knowing he was not kidding around.
Mr. Krygowski's attitude was a mystery to me then. Later, I passed it off as contemptible bigotry. But I was just a kid. What did I know? I hadn't lived through Pearl Harbor or even heard of places such as Peleliu and Tarawa.
I got a glimpse at the inside of Mr. Krygowski's heart the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
Having worked late the night before, I was still asleep when my wife burst into the room and turned on the TV. I sat up just in time to see United Flight 175 punch a hole through South Tower.
Just like Pearl Harbor in Mr. Krygowski's generation, I was watching an attack on America in mine. And it changed me.
Everyone has his or her own 9/11 story; where they were when it happened, how they heard about it, what they thought as they watched. Most of the ones I've heard are similar to mine.
I was stunned, then I was appalled and then mindlessly furious. For a long, ugly moment, I wanted every single person from Casablanca to Karachi dead. Anyone remotely Muslim should pay for the attack.
Yeah, I got dumb in a hurry. The disturbing part was how easily the feeling came over me, and just how justifiable I felt having it. There was real righteousness in wanting other people dead.
The thing is that I wasn't personally injured in the attack. I didn't know anyone who died at the Pentagon or the Twin Towers. I didn't have to go fight. Hell, I wasn't even all that inconvenienced by what had happened.
I didn't know any Muslims, either. This is Utah. Hell, we barely have any non-Mormons in my neighborhood, never mind real Muslims.
When the planes struck, the only Muslims I knew ABOUT were terrorists. And for a moment there, everyone who even remotely resembled a Muslim became in my mind the enemy.
Fortunately the moment passed. I took the time to sort things out and actually get to know some Muslims and along the way some of the other people I just assumed were Muslim because I was stupid.
I scared myself during 9/11. I didn't want to be like Mr. Krygowski, nursing a blind hatred for the rest of my life, sitting in front of a TV years later pointing my finger at who I thought I had figured out but didn't really.
Any victory in a conflict has to include the resolve that you don't end up becoming what you're fighting.
Eleven years after 9/11, I like to think I'm a slightly smarter, more informed member of the human race. We all ought to come away from 9/11 better people for everything we lost that morning.
Robert Kirby can be reached at email@example.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.