Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Fire & Ice

FF George C. Cain earned his living battling the forces of heat and fire.  His passion, however, was in the cold and on the snow.  FF Cain, a member of Engine 7 in Manhattan, was only thirty-five years old when he was killed in the line of duty on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center.  He joined the FDNY in 1994.  

At the time that he got the call to join the department, he was living and working in Telluride, Colorado - where he spent five years earning his living as a carpenter in the off-season and enjoyed himself skiing on some of the most beautiful and challenging terrain in these United States during the ski season.  His mother Rosemary Cain remarked that her son, "could ski like the wind."  

While his return to New York City and its environs might have put a damper on his downhill skiing exploits, the change of scenery did little to stifle FF Cain's love of the outdoors and his pursuit to challenge himself.  He took up running as an activity.  Not only was he so incredibly fit that his brothers at Engine 7 remarked at how much better he was than any of the rest of them at running up the stairs, he participated in the 1999 New York City Marathon.  He finished the race in 4:33:43, which was a 10:56 per mile pace.  He had registered for the 2001 New York City Marathon, which is run in early November annually, and was deep into his marathon training on the day of his death. 

Rosemary Cain - feeling a mother's need to do something to ease the feeling of helplessness that followed the death of her son - signed up to be a volunteer at Ground Zero with the Salvation Army.  The first day she was on site in her capacity as a volunteer, New Year's Eve 2002 - FF Cain's remains were identified.  She continued to volunteer her time there for the six months or so thereafter until the Salvation Army's mission there was completed.     

On May 6, 2012 the George C. Cain Memorial at the Caiaola Conservation Area in Putnam County, New York, which is located near FF Cain's home in Patterson, New York, was dedicated.  

Fire and Ice. Heat and Cold.  Life and Death.  

Always connected.  

Never separated.


Monday, September 1, 2014

A Man of Many Talents

When eyes meet in silence,
A pact can be made.
A lifelong alliance
That won't be betrayed.
- Pete Townshend

Patrick Joseph Driscoll was killed on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, when United Flight 93 crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, following the intense effort by the passengers of the hijacked jet to wrest control of it from its hijackers.  "Joe" Driscoll (as his friends called him), 70 years old and retired from his career as the Executive Director of Software Development for Bell Communications, was traveling west that morning. He did so accompanied not by his wife of forty-two years, Maureen, or any of the couple's four children (Stephen, Patrick, Chris and Pam) but by one of his closest and dearest friends, William Cashman.  

At first glance, it might be hard to fathom the connection between a blue-collar guy such as Bill Cashman and a white-collar, college-educated (holder of a Master's degree in fact) guy such as Joe Driscoll.  It was there.  And it was solid.  Mr. Driscoll earned his living - and made his mark - in the white-collar world but he never lost his connection with the childhood friends with whom he grew up in the Yorkville section of New York City.  A friend, John Linner, noted just how seamlessly Mr. Driscoll moved between the two seemingly disparate worlds and noted, as well, how good Mr. Driscoll was with his hands and his willingness to use them.  "In those days, if you have an argument in a bar, if you had fight, then you used your hands.  He probably had 100 wins and nine losses.  He mixed it up with a lot of guys." 

Mr. Driscoll served in the United States Navy on a destroyer during the Korean War.  Upon his discharge from the Navy, he went to college, securing a Bachelor's degree in Engineering from New York University and a Master's degree in Computer Science from Rutgers University.   

He loved the outdoors.  He was a relentless hiker.  For the final fifteen years of his life, he and several close friends would travel out West for their annual hiking expedition.  He and Mr. Cashman were flying into San Francisco but their ultimate destination in California was Yosemite National Park.  

A promise is a promise, a handshake will seal it.
No amount of discussion can ever repeal it.
Commitment forever, to borrow or lend,
Deliver your future into the hands of your friend.
- Pete Townshend


Sunday, August 31, 2014

One Last Time...With Feeling

When a man becomes a fireman
His greatest act of bravery has been accomplished.
What he does after that is all in the line of work.
- Edward F. Croker

This morning I shall participate in one of my favorite events, which is the Jimmy D Memorial 5K race in New Brunswick.  This is the 10th and final edition of the Jimmy D, which for the past decade has been a daughter's labor of love and homage to her father.  Erin Vargas is the daughter of James D'heron, Deputy Chief of the New Brunswick, New Jersey Fire Department.   On September 3, 2004, while responding to a fire at a home in New Brunswick, a fire from which Deputy Chief D'heron and his firefighters safely rescued all fifteen residents of the home, Deputy Chief D'heron was killed.  A propane tank that had been located on the first floor of the residence ignited.  When it did, it sent a fireball up the stairs to the second floor.  Deputy Chief D'heron, who was on the second floor landing, was killed instantly.  In the decade since his death, the ceaseless efforts of his daughter and his family to help others, through the great work of the James D'heron Memorial Foundation, have been nothing short of extraordinary.  The Foundation's work shall continue although today marks the final running of its signature race.  It has been my pleasure and privilege to have participated, as of today, in exactly half of them.  http://jimmydfoundation.org/.  

FF Timothy Matthew Welty was a member of Squad 288 in Maspeth, Queens.  As was the case with so many other of his brothers in the FDNY, he died on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 while responding to an event that occurred while he was off-duty.   His twelve-hour shift had just ended and he was getting ready to head home to Yonkers, to his wife Delia and to their two small children, when the flames from the World Trade Center became visible from his firehouse.  He immediately telephoned Delia to tell her he would not be coming home right away, put his gear back on, hopped upon a Hazmat truck and rode off headlong into Hell.   http://www.legacy.com/sept11/story.aspx?personid=146596.

Thirty-four years young, FF Welty was the son of Adele and Bill Welty.  His dad was a college professor who, after his son's death, remarked that when he came one evening to see his then fifteen-year-old son (with no automotive training whatsoever) performing a brake job on a junk car he had bought for himself realized, "He has a kind of intelligence that I don't have."  It was an intelligence wedded to an artistic vision (he was also a carpenter) and what Delia referred to as "a philosopher's soul". 

FF Welty and Delia had two children:  Jake, who lived a little boy's dream of getting to hang out with his dad and his dad's friends at the firehouse whenever possible; and Julia.  Julia was only one month old when FF Welty died on September 11, 2001.  Due to the venomous cowardice of others, she has grown up knowing her daddy only through the stories shared with her by her mom and other members of her family as well as by looking at photographs and reading about him. 

Squad 288/Hazmat 1 in Maspeth, Queens lost nineteen men on September 11, 2001.  Together, the two lost more men on that terrible day than any other firehouse in the City.  

I can think of no more stirring symbol
of Man's humanity to Man than a fire engine.
- Kurt Vonnegut


Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Pied Piper

Children are always like wet cement.
Whatever falls on them makes an impression.
- Haim Ginott

Port Authority of New York/New Jersey Police Officer Michael T. Wholey and his wife Jennifer were the proud parents of three very enthusiastic little balls of wet cement when, on Tuesday September 11, 2001, Police Officer Wholey was killed in the line of duty at the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan.

A graduate of SUNY-Albany, he had been a member of the Department for eight years.  At thirty-four years of age, he was already looking forward to retiring once his three children had completed their respective educations.  Jennifer Wholey said it beautifully, "He was an excellent police officer.  But it didn't define him."  http://www.legacy.com/sept11/story.aspx?personid=146602.

Rather, what defined him was his love of his wife and of their three children, Meagan, Erin and Patrick.  Meagan, the oldest of the three, was born in 1993.  His sister Bernadette called him "The Pied Piper" and described how his children would race out of the house to greet him when he returned from work, knowing that Dad was always up for a trip to the park or some other activity that permitted him to share time and space with them.

Three little innocents, each an apple of their Daddy's eye, deprived of the opportunity of sharing their lives with him.  Not one of them had even reached the age of ten when he was taken from them.  His oldest two are now in college.  His hoped-for, yet never-able-to-be-realized retirement date would have been, by this time, tantalizingly close. 

Sadly, Police Officer Wholey's body was not recovered from the place that became known as Ground Zero.   Sadder still is that he is but one of a number of fallen members of the Port Authority Police Department who died that terrible morning whose body was never recovered. 

There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children.
One is roots. 
The other is wings.
- Stephen Covey


Friday, August 29, 2014

The Iron Man

One of my favorite parts of the time I spent - a lifetime ago - working for my older brother Kelly as he built one structure or another (aside from acquiring the nickname "Little Dano", which made sense only in the context that years earlier a number of his friends had hung the sobriquet "Dano" on him) was listening to him talk about the history of building.  New York City was always a great source of information and inspiration for him and these tutorials with its endless number of magnificent skyscrapers and - of course - its bridges and tunnels.  Perhaps it is that passion for it which has given him the innate ability to build absolutely anything.  Me?  I consider it a victory when I stack the dishes in the cabinet and they do not fall over.  One of us has skills.  The other one is a lawyer...

Among the passengers on United Flight 93 on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 was William Joseph Cashman.  Mr. Cashman was a Jersey guy - albeit one who had been born in Hell's Kitchen in New York City - who lived in West New York, New Jersey with Maggie, to whom he had been married for thirty-one years.  Mr. Cashman was an ironworker and a member of Local 46.  He spent forty years as an ironworker, helping erect some of the great structures that occupy the New York City skyline.  Among them was the World Trade Center.  http://www.flight93memorialsfb.com/Heros-Of-Flight-93/pages/William-Cashman_jpg.htm.

Although he served the people of the City of New York for four decades in helping build the buildings that help make New York City what it is, prior to doing that he served all of the people of the United States.  Mr. Cashman was a United States Army Veteran, serving in the early 1960's as a member of "The Screaming Eagles" of the 101st Airborne Division.  

He also took it upon himself - this man known for his quiet demeanor - to give back, which is why he taught classes at night to apprentice members of Local 46, teaching the next generation of ironworkers and ensuring that both they and the city in which they would ply their craft would long benefit from their labor.

None of the ironworkers depicted in this iconic photograph is William Joseph Callahan as it was taken years before he joined their ranks.  Yet, he is in every one of them.  As they are in him.  

And as we should be as well.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Life of Honor

It is not Length of Life,
But Depth of Life.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson died on April 30, 1882.   He had been gone from this Earth slightly less than a century by the time the wonderfully-named Honor Elizabeth Wainio had arrived on the scene in early October, 1973.  Yet Emerson's words applied with such force and effect to young Ms. Wainio that one might be forgiven for thinking that she had served as his muse. 

On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, Honor Elizabeth Wainio left her home in Watchung, New Jersey and drove to Newark Airport.  Just twenty-seven, she was a District Manager for Discovery Channel Stores and had to fly from Newark Airport that morning to a company-wide meeting in San Franscisco, California.   The flight she boarded to take her from coast-to-coast, tragically, was United Airlines Flight 93.  

Ms. Wainio was one of the passengers on Flight 93 who had the opportunity to telephone a loved one and speak to them.  She called her parents' home in Maryland and talked to her stepmother, Esther Heymann, who remarked afterwards that what struck her most of all about this final conversation was that Ms. Wainio's concern was not for herself - but for her family - and all that they were going to have to deal with in the aftermath of her death.  She was survived not only by her stepmother, Esther, but also by her father, Ben Wainio, her mother, Mary White, her stepfather, Jay White, her brother, Wainio and her sister, Sarah Wainio.  http://old.post-gazette.com/headlines/20011028flt93wainiobiop8.asp.  

In honor of the life she lived and the person she was, Ms. Wainio's colleagues at Discovery Communications, Inc., created the Honor Elizabeth Wainio Memorial Communications Scholarship at Ms. Wainio's Alma mater, Towson University.  She was a member of the Towson University Class of '95, a Communications major.  Recipients of the scholarship are determined by GPA and by the applicant's essay on the topic, "The Responsibility of the Media in Today's World".   This year's Annual Fundraiser shall be held on Saturday, October 25, 2014, from 2-6 PM, at Ropewalk, A Federal Hill Tavern, which is located at 1209 S. Charles Street in Baltimore.   http://elizabethwainio.com/main/events.cfm.  If you shall be in the area that afternoon, you might want to check it out.  

I cannot help but feel that if you do so, you shall be happy that you did. 


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

In Honor of the Mighty Max

Success is never final;
Failure is never fatal.
It's courage that counts.
- John Wooden

I know not how many of the people who worked at the Pentagon in 2001 knew that the quiet, older, white-haired gentleman - a civilian employee working on Veterans' issues - was a bit of a celebrity.   Based upon his demeanor, if they did not come upon that information from an independent, third-party then they likely never learned it.  Not from him. 

(Retired) Master Sgt. Max Beilke was sixty-nine years old when he was killed where he worked - at the Pentagon - on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, when a small group of terrorist cowards crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon.   Sgt. Beilke had retired from the United States Army in 1974, having been drafted into the service to fight in the Korean War in 1952, and after having served this nation and its people honorably for more than two decades. 

Then Sgt. Major Beilke had arrived in Vietnam in July, 1972, by which time the United States had already begun to flesh out the particulars of its withdrawal.  His assignment was to help process the departing American service personnel.  On March 29, 1973, he was - as per the United States Army - the last American combat soldier to leave Vietnam:

Although he retired from the United States Army in 1974, he most assuredly did not retire.  He became a tireless advocate for - and champion of - Veterans' rights.   On December 11, 2001, he was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.  http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/maxbielke.htm.

On your way out of this space today - and if not today then perhaps some other day when you pay a return visit - invest the four minutes and thirty-nine seconds necessary to watch the video below, appropriately entitled, "A Tribute To Max Beilke".  

It never hurts to be reminded just what a hero looks like...

"A Tribute to Max Beilke"