It happened in an instant, a kiss in Times Square by a jubilant sailor that made Edith Shain a reluctant celebrity. That kiss from a stranger, captured in a photograph, became an icon of America's jubilation for the end of World War II.
"I didn't see it coming," Shain said Tuesday. "I was just walking along."
Shain, 91, was 27 at the time, a nurse at Doctor's Hospital in New York who, with a friend, went to Times Square to see the celebration as well as to verify what they heard on the radio, that the war was indeed over.
"Finally it was the end of the war," she said. "It was a war that everyone was involved in, whether you were in the service or not."
Shain is widely accepted as the nurse being kissed by a sailor in a famous photo taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt on Aug. 14, 1945, V-J Day, which marked the end of the war with Japan.
On Tuesday, Shain was at the Lodge at Paulin Creek in Santa Rosa talking with others who lived through World War II about her experience and theirs, a picture of the celebrated kiss serving as a centerpiece.
"It was memorable, it was a bright spot," said Connie Feibush, who just months earlier had married Martin Feibush, who had returned from three years in Africa and Italy. "Those were hard times."
The photograph still evokes strong emotions and vivid memories for Walter Davis, 95, who was in the Navy in both World War II and Korea, participating in the invasions of the Philippines and Okinawa.
"I thought it was good," said Davis, who was dressed Tuesday in his uniform, which still fits 55 years after he was discharged. "It gave a good feeling, that people were still human."
Shain was at the Santa Rosa lodge as part of a nationwide tour promoting Spirit of '45, a move to have Congress designate the second Sunday of August as a day of remembrance for World War II.
It is hoped Congress will act before Aug. 14, the 65th anniversary of the war's end, to honor the generation that went through the Great Depression and World War II, said Warren Hegg, a spokesman for the group.
Shain is an accidental celebrity who has agreed to become the movement's symbol.
"It has no meaning until you have a purpose for it. The reason that I am doing this has a purpose ... I want World War II to be remembered," said Shain, a Los Angeles school teacher for 30 years. "Children don't even know there was a World War II. I just can't believe it."
The Lodge at Paulin Creek invited Shain because it is owned by Brookdale Senior Living, which has 565 seniors' facilities nationwide, with a large number of residents who lived through World War II.
Shain, standing 4-foot-10, spent the morning talking to residents and recalling the famous picture, how it happened and what has transpired since.
There weren't too many people at Times Square yet, she remembered. The news was still fresh when she and her friend got off the subway to join the festivities.
"Everyone was kissing everyone else," Shain said. "I was kissed twice. If I'd stayed any longer, I would have been kissed more. They kissed any female they could find."