Friday, September 30, 2016

In Celebration of Open Season...

I run.  I run for pleasure and for exercise.  I run year-round.  There are certain times of the year, here in the State of Concrete Gardens, when our weather lends itself better to running outdoors than certain other times of the year.  Unless you are reading this from your home under a rock, or you are Libertarian Party Presidential candidate, Gary Johnson, you understand what times of the year in New Jersey fall under the heading of "less than ideal" conditions in which to run outdoors. 

As much as I love the summer, I must confess that the early autumn is my favorite time of the year. For the first time since early Spring, I drive around with my car's moon roof open and I sleep with my bedroom windows open.  I love fresh air.  I have no aversion to sweating - as long as I am doing so while working or exercising or engaging in some type of physical activity that gives rise to the perspiration.  On the other hand, I cannot stand sweating while doing something mundane, such as reading, watching television, driving my car, or sleeping.  Thus, once the temperature parks itself above a certain elevation, my windows are closed and my air conditioning is on non-stop. 

I hope each year, as we get into the second half of September and, thereafter, into October that we will be have the chance to enjoy at least a few weeks of "open window" season.  If the decision was solely mine to make, our bedroom windows would stay open all winter.  I am that asshole who - in the depths of January and February - runs outdoors in shorts.  As long as I wear a hat and gloves, I have all of the cold-weather gear I need.  The Missus, on the other hand, gets cold rather easily. She takes a decidedly dim view of hypothermia.   She may be little but on a certain level she terrifies me.  Thus, when she informs me that "open window" season is over, I assure you that it is over. 

I realize that the weather in these parts, for the next several days at least, is supposed to favor water fowl as opposed to bipeds.  Unless it starts raining horizontally and coming through our windows, we shall stand fast and enjoy the crisp, cool air that accompanies the precipitation.  For the "open window" season is far too short to sacrifice any of its days.  

To borrow a line from Tom Petty, "It's over before you know it. It all goes by so fast..."


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Hail to the Chief

Tuesday, September 27, 2016 served as a grim reminder of the danger that the men and women of the FDNY face in the performance of their day-to-day duties, whether responding to the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan or responding to a reported gas leak at an apparent marijuana grow house in the Bronx.  

Battalion Chief Michael Fahy of Battalion 19 in the Bronx died in the line-of-duty on Tuesday when the house to which his men had responded - answering the call of a reported gas leak - suddenly exploded and, in doing so, hurled debris everywhere.  Chief Fahy was positioned - directing operations - when portions of the debris struck him.  Although he was rushed to New York Presbyterian Hospital, the wounds he suffered proved to be fatal.  Chief Fahy was just forty-four years old. 

Michael Fahy was a seventeen-year veteran of the FDNY, following in the footsteps of his father, Thomas, who spent thirty-three years in the FDNY and retired, in November, 2011, as a Battalion Chief.  Chief Fahy lived in Yonkers with his wife, Fiona, and three children (two sons and a daughter), the oldest of whom is eleven, the youngest of whom is just six, and each of whom shall now live a life accompanied by only the memory of their father.  Battalion Chief Fahy shall be laid to rest on Saturday in Yonkers.  

The FDNY Foundation has established an Educational Fund for Chief Fahy's children.  If interested in making a contribution, you click on the link here and then click on the drop-down menu towards the bottom of the page (the default selection is "FDNY Foundation General Support") and select "Chief Michael J. Fahy Children's Educational Fund").

Michael J. Fahy, Battalion Chief, Battalion 19 - FDNY
End of Watch:  September 27, 2016


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Memory Jog

Sunday was the 15th Annual Tunnel to Towers Run in New York City.  This year marked the seventh consecutive time that the Missus and I have participated.  As has become our custom, we crossed the river from the Jersey side on Saturday afternoon so that we could enjoy T2T weekend in Lower Manhattan.  In addition to our regular traveling companions, Gidg and Jeff, we had the pleasure this year of the company of the Gonzalez family (Yvette, Pete, and Matthew) and Lisa.  Matt recently turned thirteen.  It was very interesting - to me - to see his reaction to all that he experienced this weekend, inasmuch as the terrible actions that gave rise to this extraordinary event happened almost two years before he was born. 

A quick, pictorial look back at the weekend that was in New York City - with one quick peek ahead. The Tunnel to Towers Run in New York City is held annually on September's final Sunday, which means that next year's T2T shall take place on September 24, 2017.  Whether you are a runner or a walker, it is an event that - once you participate in it - you shall never want to miss thereafter.  I heartily recommend it to everyone.  Similarly, whether you live in the New York metropolitan area or not, I recommend that everyone make at least one trip to the September 11 Memorial, the September 11 Museum, St. Paul's Chapel, Trinity Church, Ten House, and O'Hara's Pub - all of which have a story to tell about the events of that day, the lives lost, and the people who lived through the experience and what followed thereafter.  

Without further ado...

Saturday, September 24

 One World Trade Center

FF John Michael Collins - FDNY
(Immaculata High School Class of '76 &
Classmate of my older brother, Kelly) 

Antoinette Duger
(Cousin of my great friend, Gerard Gonnella)

Thomas Irwin Glasser - Westfield, NJ
(Wardlaw-Hartridge School) 

Thomas Edward Gorman - PANYNJ Police Dept.
(Middlesex, New Jersey) 

One World Trade Center 

Sunday, September 25

Margaret pre-race in Red Hook, Brooklyn

Engine Company 202/Ladder Company 101
(Red Hook, Brooklyn) 

T2T Starting Line
(Brooklyn, NY)

Squad 1, Brooklyn - FDNY
(FF Stephen Siller's Squad)

FDNY honoring their fallen brothers 
(Manhattan side, Brooklyn Battery Tunnel)

FDNY Fire Boat 

Margaret heading to the finish line

15th Anniversary T2T Sand Sculpture

One World Trade Center 


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Twenty-Eight Shall Have To Wait

2016 will not be the year that ends with a ticker tape parade up the Canyon of Heroes in celebration of the 28th World Series in the history of the New York Yankees.  Whether 2017 shall be I cannot pretend to know.  I nevertheless am excited for what the future appears to hold for the Yankees.  For the first time in twenty years they appear poised to begin a season with a core of young, homegrown talent.  

Then again one never knows whether the Silver Spoon Boys will stay the course and whether August 2016's action plan will bear any resemblance whatsoever to April 2017's action plan.  

Given what is on the national docket on the first Tuesday after the first Monday this November, maybe it will not make any difference what the hell the Yankees opt to do.  

Let's just hope we are all still here on Opening Day.  


Monday, September 26, 2016

Mencken's Last Laugh?

Democracy is the theory that the common people
Know what they want,
And deserve to get it good and hard.
-H.L. Mencken

Tune in tonight.  Let us hope that Mr. Mencken's observation turns out not to be accurate.  Whether either of these two is what we want, they are the two options available to us.  


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Long May We Run...

This morning, for the seventh consecutive time, I shall participate in the Tunnel to Towers Run in New York City.  Once again this year, the Missus is making the journey with me, as are Gidg and Jeff.  Joining us for the first time are Lisa and the Holy Trinity known as the Gonzalez family (Yvette, Pete, and Matt).  Annually, it is an extraordinary event and it is, for my money, as great an example of making something positive out of something overwhelmingly negative as I have ever known.

The Siller Family is remarkable.  They are a credit to the memory of their fallen brother, Stephen, to all of the heroes who died on September 11, 2001, and to each and every one of us.  It is an honor and a privilege to be a very small part of their event and the good works that it serves.  I hope that I am able to participate in it for as long as they hold it because if I am, I shall look forward to spending September's final Sunday exactly where I shall spend today...

...and where I have spent it every year since 2010   

T2T Sand Sculpture - 2010

The Wall at Ten House - 2011

T2T Sand Sculpture - 2012

FDNY on Manhattan side of 
Brooklyn Battery Tunnel - 2013

T2T Sand Sculpture - 2014

Margaret finishing strong - 2015


Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Dynamic Duo

Courage is resistance to fear,
Mastery of fear,
Not Absence of fear.
- Mark Twain

Frank DeMartini, 49, and Pablo Ortiz, 49, worked together for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey out of the agency's offices on the 88th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.  On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, Mr. DeMartini, the World Trade Center's Construction Manager, and Mr. Ortiz, Superintendent of Construction, were in their 88th floor offices - with approximately thirty or so of their co-workers and Mr. DeMartini's wife, Nicole, when the North Tower was struck at 8:46 am.  As chaos ensued all around them, Mr. DeMartini and Mr. Ortiz did what they seamlessly did every other day.  They went to work. 

When American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower, its impact point was between the 93rd and the 98th floors.  The effect of the impact, however, was felt profoundly and immediately on the several floors below the impact point, including the 88th floor.  Although the North Tower had three stairwells (A, B, and C), the force of the impact rendered A & B impassable.  Additionally, it produced so much debris - in addition to toxic smoke and fire - that it rendered the path from the Port Authority's offices to C almost impassable.  Almost.  

Frank DeMartini and Pablo Ortiz, after risking their own lives to do the reconnaissance necessary to confirm that the 88th floor could be evacuated by way of stairwell C, led their co-workers and Mrs. DeMartini to it.  At that point, had the two men simply followed the rest of the 88th floor occupants down the stairwell to safety, each would have been lauded for their heroism.  They did not.  Although logic certainly favored "down" as the direction to travel, they opted for "up".  

They opted for up - along with a third Port Authority employee, Mak Hanna, because they heard what sounded like banging on a door coming from the 89th floor.  There, Flight 11's impact had bent the door leading to stairwell C, thus trapping the occupants of the 89th floor.  DeMartini, Ortiz, and Hanna used a crowbar to punch through the drywall in the areas immediately adjacent to the door - and created a hole large enough for a person to fit through and out into the stairwell.  Now, the twenty-three people rescued from the 89th floor would join the 88th floor evacuees on the long trek down the stairs.  Mak Hanna accompanied the evacuees down the stairs.  

Frank DeMartini and Pablo Ortiz did not.  

Again, they headed up the stairs. On the 90th floor, in conditions that one might call "rapidly-deteriorating" if one was blessed with a historically-profound sense of understatement, they came to the assistance of more people who were trapped and who otherwise would have died.  All in all, Frank DeMartini and Pablo Ortiz rescued seventy-seven people from the North Tower.  Seventy-seven.  

Neither Frank nor Pablo made it out of the North Tower.  Radio records confirmed that their last known position in the building prior to its collapse was on the 78th floor - the Sky Lobby.  Neither man's body was recovered from the wreckage.  No remains of either man have yet been identified.

I would commend to your attention the 2011 documentary film, "9/11:  Heroes of the 88th Floor".   It tells the story of these two extraordinary, selfless men far better than I have done.  It will break your heart - and more than just a little.  

But in times like these, it might also serve as a reminder that even in our darkest hour, light may be found.  You may just have to work hard to find it. And when you do, the reward can be extraordinary.