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

-AK 


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

-AK  

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 Cashman 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.

-AK      

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. 

-AK     

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"
   
-AK

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

One Head, Many Hats

A firehouse runs on its stomach.  Firefighting is tough business.  The men and women of the FDNY not only work together, they live together.  And that means - of course - that they eat meals together. 

In such an organization, food is important.  No one joins the FDNY to get rich.  There is not therefore a lot of "extra money" laying around.  The goal is twofold:  waste zero dollars and make every dollar stretch as far as it can.  

There are any number of talented cooks in the firehouses of the five boroughs.  Necessity demands it.  There are - however - not a lot of members of the FDNY who are accomplished chefs.  

Daniel Libretti was the exception that proved the rule.   FF Libretti, 43 years old when he was killed in the line of duty at the World Trade Center on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, was a member of one of the FDNY's elite Rescue Units, Rescue 2 of Brooklyn.  However, when he was not doing his firefighting thing as a member of Rescue 2 he was working as the Assistant Pastry Chef at La Caravelle, which was an upscale French restaurant in Manhattan.  For good measure, FF Libretti also worked as an independent contractor in his spare time. 

FF Libretti spent nineteen years in the FDNY.  He had been part of Rescue 2 since 1999.  Prior to that he had been a member of Ladder 103 in East New York, Brooklyn.  The first fifteen years of his career he had spent as part of Ladder 1 / Engine 7 in Manhattan. 

FF Libretti was survived by his wife, Dolores, his father, Frank, his two brothers (Frank and Joseph), and a sister, Maureen Gambino.  

-AK 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Fearless

James Pappageorge  drove a Mustang with a "No Fear" sticker affixed to its rear bumper.  It was no idle statement.  FF Pappageorge had been on the job for only six weeks when he was killed in the line of duty on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center.  He had responded to the World Trade Center as a member of Engine 23 in Manhattan.  

FF Pappageorge may have only spent the final six weeks of his twenty-nine years as a member of the FDNY but he had in fact spent years in the business of helping others.  He had been an EMT since 1993, working at a number of hospitals.  After he earned his EMT-B he continued to hone his skills and advance his training until he became a paramedic, working at Cornell Medical Center and Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. 

Raised by his mother, Olga, and with his sister, Helen, an NYPD Detective, FF Pappageorge was engaged to be married at the time of his death.  He and his fiance, Gina Pinos, parents to a young son, Justin, were scheduled to marry in September, 2002.  

It took almost seven months but on April 5, 2002 the Medical Examiner of the City of New York announced that FF Pappageorge's remains had been identified.  He was buried on April 13, 2002 following a funeral mass at Christ Greek Orthodox Church in Corona, Queens.  

As noted above, the Pappageorge family was a family in which public service was Job #1.  In 2008 his sister Helen, the NYPD Detective, gave birth to a son.  She is now retired from the NYPD, having given years to the service of the City she loves...

...the city that her brother James gave his life to serve and to protect. 

-AK 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Ride To Heaven On a Gyroscope

The Daily News asked her for the dope.
She said, "Man the dope is that there's still hope."
- Bruce Springsteen

On September 11, 2001, thirty-seven members of the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey Police Department died in the line of duty at the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan.

Among the thirty-seven members of the PANYNJ Police Department who died that morning was Police Officer Steven Huczko.  Officer Huczko, a fifteen-year veteran of the Department, was forty-four years of age at the time of his death.   He was survived by his wife, Kate, and their four children, Kaitlyn, Liam, Cullen and Aiden.  http://www.papba.org/memorials/bios/huczko.aspx.  

PANYNJ Police Officer Thomas Gorman was killed that morning too.  Thomas Gorman is the only resident of the tiny town that I call home, Middlesex Borough, whose life was taken from him on September 11, 2001.  Every Saturday and Sunday, when I go for my long runs through town, I make a point of running through Victor Crowell Park and paying my respects to him at the Memorial erected there in his memory approximately ten years ago.  Officer Gorman, only forty-one years old, was a member of the Department's ESU and was among the first PANYNJ officers to respond to the Twin Towers.  He was survived by his wife, Barbara, and their three children, Patrick, Laura and Bridget.   http://www.papba.org/memorials/bios/gorman.aspx.

Superintendent of Police Fred Morrone, sixty-three years old, began Tuesday, September 11, 2001 not in Lower Manhattan but across the river on the Jersey side.  However, in the immediate aftermath of the first plane striking the North Tower at 8:46 am, Superintendent Morrone traveled into Lower Manhattan.  He was last seen up and around the forty-fifth floor of the North Tower trying to help lead people to safety.  Superintendent Morrone was survived by his wife, Linda, their three grown children, Fred, Alyssa and Gregrory, and two grandchildren.  http://www.papba.org/memorials/bios/morrone.aspx.

On August 22, 2014, less than one month shy of the thirteeth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the PANYNJ Police Department graduated its largest-ever class of rookies.  Two hundred and forty-nine new officers joined the department. 

Among their number - for the first time in the Department's history -were three "09/11 Legacy" cadets, including Jennifer Morrone.  Officer Morrone, twenty-seven years old, is the second cousin of Superintendent Fred Morrone.  

The two other "09/11 Legacy" cadets in the 2014 Rookie class are sons of fallen officers.  Liam Huczko, was a boy of only twelve or thirteen when his father was taken from him.  On Friday he joined the same service his dad had proudly called home for fifteen years.

PA NY/NJ Police Officer Liam Huczko

And Patrick Gorman, a little boy of just ten or eleven who loved it when his dad would take him to work with him who was only ten or eleven on the day his father died, joined the ranks of the PA NY/NJ Police Department on Friday as well.  Once again, after an absence of just less than thirteen years, there shall be an Officer Gorman in the ranks of the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey Police Department.


PA NY/NJ Police Officer Patrick Gorman
 
When one speaks of "following in the footsteps", one speaks of young men and women such as Officer Morrone, Officer Huczko and Officer Gorman.  May they walk well and walk strong, bringing honor to their profession and to the memory of the men who inspired them to it.  

-AK

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Footsteps and Basepaths

On Sunday, September 28, 2014, Margaret and I - along with Gidg and Jeff and thousands of others - shall participate in the Annual Tunnel To Towers Run, which begins on the Brooklyn side of the Battery Tunnel and finishes in Lower Manhattan in the shadow of the new World Trade Center.   The Tunnel to Towers Run is a labor of love for the family of Stephen Siller, one of the 343 members of the FDNY who was killed on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 while saving as many people as possible in the Twin Towers of the original World Trade Center.  http://tunnel2towers.org/.

Today, we shall spend a significant portion of our afternoon at Yankee Stadium.  This year, when we signed up for the T2T Run we each received, as part of our entry fee, a ticket to today's Yankees game.  As luck would have it, months after we registered for the T2T Run, the Yankees declared today to be "Joe Torre Day".  Mr. Torre's #6 shall be retired and both he and his number shall be enshrined in Monument Park.

The fall of 2001 was an extraordinary time in the history of this country.  In signficant part, no doubt, due to the murderous actions of cowards.  But in greater part due to the heroic actions of countless others.  The first responders who died that day, disregarding the obvious danger to run towards harm in the hope of extricating others - to whom they were strangers - from its clutches, set the tone.  And in the days and weeks that followed thereafter, countless others followed suit.  Not on a grand scale to be sure but in any number of small, subtle ways.  Too many in fact to ever properly calculate.  

In a very real sense, America was never better and never stronger than it was in the fall of 2001.  Far too many of us were forced to grieve for real, tangible loss whether a parent, a child, a sibling, a spouse or a partner.  And a great many of us - spared from that unfathomable pain - stepped into the breach to do all we could do to offer assistance or even simply comfort to those whose life had been fractured.  For a little while - and for far too goddamn short a while as it turned out - it was as if all of us resumed paddling the canoe in the same direction.  We renewed the promise we make to one another - the one we make without ever having to say it aloud - to do all that each of us is capable of doing in our never-ending effort to form that "more perfect Union" envisioned way back when in the summer heat of Philadelphia.  

The 2001 baseball season ended in a decidedly imperfect fashion for those of us who root for the Bronx's best apostles.  The Yankees lost Game Seven in Arizona in the bottom of the 9th inning.  Yet, while the result was not what had been hoped for, the journey that October - and early November - was one that shall remain embedded in my mind's eye for the remainder of my days.  And it shall remain so as much for all that transpired off of the field as for what took place between the white lines.  For just a little while today, watching Joe Torre accept his tribute and listening to him speak, I shall be transported back to that place and time. 

A journey that I look forward to taking.  Footsteps in which I am humbled to follow. 

-AK




       

Friday, August 22, 2014

Forever Young

Lisa L. Young spent the final fifteen years of her life working at the Pentagon.  In 1986, she took - and passed - a civil service exam and began a job that she loved as a Personnel Assistant.  Thirty-seven years old, born and raised in Washington, D.C., she felt more than a small measure of pride at having landed the position that she did.  http://pentagonmemorial.org/explore/biographies/lisa-l-young.

Almost as much pride as she did in the accomplishments and exploits of her daughter Chaquita, who was one month shy of her eighteenth birthday when her mom was murdered on the morning of September 11, 2001.    Chaquita had just started her freshman year in college when her Mom died.  The two were inseparable - each other's best friend.  It took authorities a little bit more than a month to identify Lisa Young's remains.  The official notification of her death was made to Chaquita on or about her 18th birthday.  If there is any crueler way in which to be officially welcomed to the adult world, I confess I am at a loss as to what it might be.  http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2002-08-20/news/0208200074_1_pentagon-personnel-policy-mom.

Donald McArthur Young was forty-one years old when he died at the Pentagon on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.  Chief of Naval Operations Information Systems Technician Young was one week shy of his forty-second birthday on the morning he was killed.  Chief Young served this nation with distinction in the Persian Gulf War.  During his time in the United States Navy he was awarded numerous medals.  http://pentagonmemorial.org/explore/biographies/itc-donald-m-young-usn.

Chief Young was survived by his wife of fourteen years, Felicia, as well as five sisters, a brother and countless nieces and nephews.  Chief Young is buried in the company of heroes at Arlington National Cemetery.  http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/dmyoung.htm.

Edmond G. Young, Jr. was only twenty-two years old when he was killed on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 at the Pentagon.  He was working that morning on a General's computer, which was something he did as part of his job as a Desktop Support Technician for BTG, Inc., which had transferred him to the Pentagon several months before the September 11 attacks to support the DCSPER Army Division.  He was the only son of Margaret and Edmond G. Young, Sr. and as if the loss of their only son was not more tragedy than his parents should have ever been called upon to bear, he was not the first of their children who they buried.  Edmond's sister Michele predeceased him.  http://pentagonmemorial.org/explore/biographies/edmond-g-young-jr.

In addition to being survived by his parents, all four grandparents, two sisters and countless aunts, uncles and cousins, Mr. Young was survived by his son.  His little boy, Stephan, was a little more than four years old at the time of Mr. Young's death.  

-AK    

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Men of Engine 40, Ladder 35 - Part IV

We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence then is not an act,
But a habit.
- Aristotle

FF Vincent Morello spent more than a dozen years as a mechanic, repairing rigs and other FDNY vehicles, before joining the FDNY.  He had been part of 40/35 for approximately eighteen months when he was killed in the line of duty at the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001.  His brother Marc, also a member of the FDNY, remarked that FF Morello took a pay cut of roughly $40,000 when he changed his profession from working under FDNY rigs to riding on them.  http://bravestmemorial.net/html/members/morello_vincent_fr_l035.html.  At the time of his death, FF Morello (an avid New York Rangers fan), was thirty-four years young.  He and his wife Debi had two children, Justin and Justin's little sister, Paige.  FF Morello was from a family of firefighters.  His father, John, was a 33-year member of the FDNY and retired as a Batallion Chief.  http://bravestmemorial.net/html/members_individual/morello_vincent/article_nytimes.html

FF Morello's body was recovered from the World Trade Center, along with the bodies of Lt. Ginley and FF Lynch, on March 21, 2012. 

FF Michael Otten of Ladder 35 was forty-two years old at the time of his death on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.  That morning, while in the company of his brothers from 40/35 with whom he spent the final sixteen years of his life, FF Otten died doing what he did best:  saving lives.  http://bravestmemorial.net/html/members/otten_michael_fr_l035.html.  He and his wife,  Marion, had three sons:  Christopher, Jonathan and Jason. 

On June 3, 2014, the oldest Otten son, Chistopher, became one of the FDNY's newest 286 probationary firefighters.  http://www.nyc.gov/html/fdny/html/events/2014/060314a.shtml.  FF Michael Otten's body was never recovered from the World Trade Center.  He is the only man who rode south that terrible morning on Ladder 35 whose body was never found.  

FF Michael Roberts joined the FDNY approximately three years prior to being one of the thirteen members of 40/35 who answered the call on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center.  He had been assigned to Ladder 35 for slightly less than a year at the time of his death.  http://bravestmemorial.net/html/members/roberts_michael_fr_l035.html

As it seems to be with so many FDNY families, firefighting was the family business for the Roberts family.  FF Roberts' father, Thomas, retired as a Captain from the FDNY.   FF Roberts was thirty-one years young. ttp://bravestmemorial.net/html/members_individual/roberts_michael/roberts_legacy_article.html.  

Thirteen men from 40/35 headed into Hell on the morning of September 11, 2001.  Twelve of them died.  As the song says, "This ain't no storybook story..." 

It is merely theirs.  And nothing else is necessary...


-AK     

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Men of Engine 40, Ladder 35 - Part III

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

FF Michael Lynch was the seventh born of the ten Lynch children.  Thirty-one years old at the time of his death on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, FF Lynch was engaged to Stephanie Luccioni.  Had he not been killed in the line of duty on that awful September morning, he and Stephanie would have married that November.  FF Lynch had rotated over to 40/35 only a couple of months prior to September 11, 2001.  He was a member of Engine 62/Ladder 32 from the Bronx (a/k/a "the Gun Hill Gang") since first joining the FDNY in 1999.  On the final morning of his life, FF Lynch and the other men of 40/35 were at the World Trade Center effecting rescues of men and women who had been trapped there - in their offices - when the terrorists attacked.  Irony or coincidence?  Prior to joining the FDNY, FF Lynch had worked for Dean Witter at the firm's World Trade Center office.  He left that job to pursue his dream of being a member of the FDNY.  http://bravestmemorial.net/html/members/lynch_michael_fr_e040.html

In honor of FF Lynch's life and in memory of his death, the Lynch Family established the Michael Lynch Memorial Foundation.  In the years since 2001, the Foundation has generated 137 college scholarships totaling more than $3.5 Million. http://www.mlynch.org/ml/index.htm.

FF John Daniel "Dan" Marshall rode south through Manhattan on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 with the men of Engine 40/Ladder 35 although he, himself, was not a member of the house.  http://firefightermemorial.net/html/Firefighter_John_Daniel_%20Marshall.html.  FF Marshall, thirty-five years young and the son of a member of the NYPD, was assigned to Engine 23 but on the morning of September 11, 2001 he had been assigned as a substitute to Engine 40. 

In David Halberstam's wonderful "Firehouse" he wrote of Marshall, "He was a stranger to the men there.  It is likely that he had been at 40/35 for all of five minute when he went out on the last run of his life.  He tossed a bag on the floor of the house and then jumped aboard the rig; later they found the bag, which contained his personal things, including his keys and his wallet."   FF Marshall was married and he and his wife Lori were the proud parents of two little ones at the time of his death, Paige and John.  http://bravestmemorial.net/html/members/marshall_john_fr_e023.html.

FF Steve Mercado (Engine 40) spent eleven years at 40/35 house.  FF Mercado, a thirty-eight-year-old husband to Joviana and father to two sons (Skylar and Austin) had three great passions:  His family, his job and stickball.  FF Mercado was the President of the New York Emperors Stickball League.  http://www.streetplay.com/stevemercado/

A Bronx boy, FF Mercado grew up playing and loving the game and, as an adult, was committed to preserving it and its place of significance in the history and the fabric of New York City.   Take a moment and read this, http://www.streetplay.com/stevemercado/ourgame.shtml, which he wrote about the game he loved, the father he loved and the connection between the two. 

FF Mercado is the only man who rode into harm's way that terrible morning on Engine 40 whose body was never recovered from the World Trade Center site.  

-AK  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Men of Engine 40, Ladder 35 - Part II

Bruce Gary was fifty-one years old when died in the line of duty on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.  FF Gary was a member of Engine 40.   In "Firehouse", David Halberstam wrote of FF Gary's incredible physical prowess and his recognized  place atop the food chain in the firehouse.  FF Gary, divorced several years prior to his death, was a hands on, involved presence in the lives of his three children.  He raised the three of them alone after his divorce from their mother in 1991.  FF Gary lived in Bellmore, Long Island. When he completed his tours at Engine 40, he would head out to Bellmore where he worked as a plumber. He was, at the time of his death, the vice-president of the Bellmore Little League, a position he held for the final twelve years of his life.  

Jimmy Giberson was a firefighter and a member of Engine 35.  Less than one week prior to his death on September 11, 2001, FF Giberson celebrated his twentieth anniversary as a member of the FDNY.  He spent his entire career at Engine 35.  FF Giberson was survived by his wife of seventeen years, Susan, and the couple's three daughters, Erika, Kari and Sara.  He was as comfortable at home as the lone man in a household that included four women as he was in the all-male domain of the firehouse.  It was well-known among his colleagues that the only reason why he ever missed an outing or event at the firehouse was to cheer on his girls at one of their swim meets.  The people who live in the neighborhood of the 40/35 firehouse knew him as the gentle giant who always appeared to have time to help repair a child's bike chain or some such thing.  

Lieutenant John Ginley was only thirty-seven years old when he died on September 11, 2001.  For Lt. Ginley, the FDNY was the family business.  His father had been a member of the FDNY.  Three of Lt. Ginley's brothers were too.  Lt. Ginley was the ranking officer of Engine 40 on scene that morning.  Lt. Ginley was survived by his wife, April, and his two young children, his daughter Taylor and his son Connor. Both of Lt. Ginley's children were ten years old and younger at the time of their father's death.  

A hero has faced it all:
he need not be undefeated,
but he must be undaunted.
- Andrew Bernstein

-AK 

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Men Of Engine 40, Ladder 35 - Part I

The firehouse that is home to Engine 40, Ladder 35 in Manhattan is located at Sixty-Sixth Street and Amsterdam Avenue.  On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 thirteen men from this firehouse headed south into the maelstrom that was the World Trade Center.  Twelve of the thirteen men died.  Beginning today - and over the course of the next three days thereafter - this space's purpose shall be to pay homage to those dozen heroes.  I might suggest that you might avail yourself of David Halberstam's beautiful work, "Firehouse", which tells their story far better and in far more detail than I could ever hope to do.  

Kevin Bracken was a Firefighter at Engine 40.  FF Bracken was thirty-seven years old when he died in the line of duty on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.  He had been a member of the FDNY for eight years at the time of his death.  His first house was Engine 23 in Manhattan.  He and his wife, Jennifer Liang, has been married for five years.  Tuesday, September 11, 2001 was Primary Election Day in the City of New York. Jennifer Liang and her husband said their goodbyes that morning at their local polling place, after having performed their civic duty and voted.  In addition to his wife Jennifer, FF Bracken was survived by his parents, one brother and three sisters.

Captain Frank Callahan  was a twenty-eight year veteran of the FDNY and the ranking officer of Engine 35 on scene at the World Trade Center on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.  One of Captain Callahan's four children, his twenty-year-old daughter Nora, worked part-time at the World Trade Center.  Prior to heading down that morning Captain Callahan called home to make sure that Nora was not in harm's way.  He was relieved to discover that she was not at work that morning.  Captain Callahan had been a member of the FDNY for twenty-four years when Callahan was promoted to the rank of Captain in 1997.  Shortly after he was promoted to the rank of Captain, he was assigned to Engine 35, the house he would call home for the remainder of his career.  Captain Callahan was survived by his wife Angela, their two sons, Harry and Peter, and their two daughters, Nora and Rosie.

Michael D'Auria was a new member of the FDNY.  FF D'Auria had only graduated from the Academy and joined Engine 40 on May 2, 2001.  A bright, physically capable young man, FF D'Auria scored perfect scores on the physical and written tests.  He was only twenty-five years young but in spite of his youth and his own relative lack of experience on the job, his firefighting pedigree was well-established.  He was one of nine firefighters on his mother's side of the family.  When he responded to the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001 he was responding to his second fire.

A hero is someone who has given his or her life
To something bigger than oneself. 
- Joseph Campbell 

-AK 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Young Lions

Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty.
Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.
- Franz Kafka

Death shall come for all of us.  It is a natural process.  It is a part of life.  But it is not supposed to come for a child.  The death of a child is nothing less than a disturbance in the natural order of the universe.  On September 11, 2001, the universe's natural order was disturbed multiple times.

Bernard C. Brown II  was eleven years young when he was murdered on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.  Bernard was a sixth-grade student who was a passenger on American Airlines Flight 77 that morning that had departed Dulles International Airport bound for Los Angeles only to be hijacked and flown into the Pentagon, where his father Bernard, Sr., was stationed as a member of the United States Navy.  He was on his way to California for a four-day National Geographic trip for which he had been chosen - along with other Washington, D.C. elementary school students - as a reward for academic excellence.  His two great passions were basketball and going to school.  According to his mother Sinita on a day that he woke up feeling sick or a little under the weather, rather than using that as an excuse to avoid school he would implore his mom to let him go, downplaying how he felt so that he would not be required to stay home.  

Asia S. Cottom was also eleven years young when she was one of the people aboard American Airlines Flight 77 who was killed when terrorists crashed the Los Angeles-bound flight out of Dulles into the Pentagon on the morning of September 11, 2001.  Asia was on the flight to California to participate in the four-day National Geographic Society Ecology Conference with her teacher.  She had just started the sixth grade - and had done so in a new school.  Fortunately for Asia, her father worked at her school - the Bertie Backus Middle School - and was very well-liked by students and staff alike, which made Asia's transition smoother than it otherwise might have been.  Asia was survived by her parents, Clifton and Michelle, and a little brother.  

Rodney Dickens was the second-oldest of his mother LaShawn's five children and the oldest of her three boys.  Rodney was a perpetual member of the honor roll at Ketcham Elementary School in Washington, D.C. and he, too, was aboard American Airlines Flight 77 when it was crashed into the Pentagon on September 11.  Rodney was an avid reader.  He also loved playing computer games and playing with his brothers and sisters but the thing about which he was most passionate was professional wrestling.  He would watch it wherever and whenever he could - and would hang out at his uncle's apartment to watch any pay-per-view events.   His friends from school described Rodney as a good friend who was always willing to help anyone with anything - including homework.  

It's never too late to have a happy childhood.
- Tom Robbins

-AK 


Saturday, August 16, 2014

From Here Inside My House Of Glass

Sometimes no Truth is more powerful
Than one expressed in Anger
By a melancholy Man.
- Pete Hamill

A departure from the regularly-scheduled programming today.  I do so, well because I use this space as I see fit and I see fit to do what I do and to write what I write here today.  I do so also in recognition of the fact that there may indeed be an interrelationship between what has occupied this space all week (and shall resume doing so, again, tomorrow) and what appears here today. 

Robin Williams died earlier this week.  He took his own life.  In the immediate aftermath of his suicide, not only did expressions of shock and sadness reverberate around the world, so did condolences for his children and his wife and, sadly but certainly not surprisingly, expressions of disappointment and even ridicule (Yes Rush Limbaugh you fat fuck and perpetual waste of oxygen that would otherwise be available for my yet-to-be-born grandchildren to breathe someday I am looking squarely at you) as to how one who seemingly had "everything" could commit suicide.  

The great facade of the age in which we live, the age of instant information, is that the more gadgetry and resources we have at our disposal the less connected to one another we sometimes become.  I point the accusatory finger not outward but inward.  For someone such as me, who has a day-to-day that the interruption of and deviation from is a cause of much consternation, the allure of social media can be intoxicating.  It requires little to no effort to maintain "friendships" via Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn or whatever hip service the kids are using today.  Ask yourself though whether these connections are actually contact or whether they are in fact something significantly less than that.  Now ask yourself these questions:  (a) How many of your Facebook friends have you never met; (b) For how many of them (without looking at their personal profile information) can you identify by name their spouse, their children and/or whether they have one or both of the above; and (c) When and where was the last time (presuming that you answered "Zero" to Question (a)) that you and this particular friend were somewhere together?  

Here in the age of instant information we know a little about a lot.  And not just "things" and "stuff" but each other too.  You cannot - as a matter of course - know what another is experiencing unless and until you put your feet into his or her shoes.  You cannot therefore - not without showing an absence of empathy that would make a sociopath blush - pretend to "know" what another is going through.  If you are sitting right now reading this and either mouthing to yourself of even saying aloud perhaps, "Yes I can" then do me a favor.  Stop reading right now.  Take your self-congratulatory, delusional bullshit someplace else.  Feel free to tell yourself whatever lies you need to get through your day-to-day.  You may not, however, do it here.   

Every day - for reasons that are exclusively their own - men and women of all colors, creeds, races and religious affiliations end their own lives.  Suffering is a human condition.  It belongs to all of us.  Life is inherently unfair.  If it was not, then we would not die at the end of it.  Inside each and every one of us there is a reservoir.  It, and it alone, serves to let us know just how much suffering we can withstand.  And much like us, the reservoir inside of us is not "one size fits all".    Maybe yours can hold a significantly greater amount of suffering than mine.  Maybe mine is bigger than yours and everyone else I have ever met.  I know not.  And neither do you.  We cannot. 

And it is because we cannot that we need to be a bit more judicious in our rush to judgment when things happen such as someone choosing to take his or her own life.  By the time I was eighteen years old, I had buried all four of my grandparents, a number of aunts and uncles and - the cherry atop the sundae of fun - my father.  Yet I had never been at a more somber, sullen funeral than the one I attended in the Summer of '85 for my friend and former classmate, Brian.  I did not know then - and I do not know now - what made a young man - hell a boy - of eighteen commit suicide.  And my understanding - or lack thereof - is as singularly unimportant today as it was twenty-nine years ago. 

Good people die by their own hand every day.  And a person's decision to end his or her own life makes that person neither a coward nor selfish.  It does however likely make the people who loved that person and whose lives have been directly affected by that person's decision profoundly sad.  And it is them - should we be among those who know them and can perhaps be of some comfort to them - for whom we should look to provide shelter and comfort.  We may not ever be able to understand.  But it does not mean that we cannot be there to listen and to offer support.  

Remember, the shoes you walk in are your own. 

Not mine. 

Not anyone else's. 

Not now. 

Not ever...  


-AK

Friday, August 15, 2014

Men of Honor

There is a Land of the Living
And a Land of the Dead,
And the Bridge is Love,
The only Survival,
The only Meaning.
- Thornton Wilder

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001 thirty of those who were murdered by the cowards who hijacked the four jet planes were at the Pentagon.  They died when hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, which crash killed all of the passengers and crew on the plane as well as thirty souls on the ground. 

Kris Romeo Bishundat was twenty-three years old when he died on September 11, 2001.  He was an Information Systems Technician, Second Class, in the United States Navy.  Bishundat was the eldest of three children.  He had been in the United States Navy for six years as of the time of his death.  In addition to serving our country, Bishundat had found the time to attend college - balancing the taking of classes as the University of Maryland's University College with his duties at his post at the Pentagon.  Bishundat had only been assigned to the Pentagon approximately three months before he died.  http://projects.washingtonpost.com/911victims/kris-romeo-bishundat/.   He was survived by his parents, Bhola and Basmattie, who had to endure every parent's worst nightmare in burying their child, and his two younger sisters, Danita and Devita.  On October 18, 2001 this young American hero was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  http://pentagonmemorial.org/explore/biographies/it2-kris-romeo-bishundat-usn.

Daniel M. Caballero was twenty-one years old when he was murdered on the morning of September 11, 2001.  He too was a member of the United States Navy.  He was a Petty Officer, Third Class.  Petty Officer Caballero had been in the United States Navy for three years at the time of his death.  His area of expertise was electronics.  http://projects.washingtonpost.com/911victims/daniel-martin-caballero/.  Petty Officer Caballero was a native Texan, born in Houston.  While posted at the Pentagon, he worked at the Chief of Operations Naval Communications Center.  During his relatively brief time in the Navy, he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal twice, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and a Purple Heart.  His parents, Andres and Carmen, were too tasked with the tragedy of having to bury their own child.  In addition to his parents, Petty Officer Caballero was survived by his sisters, Andrea and Claudia.  http://pentagonmemorial.org/explore/biographies/et3-daniel-m-caballero-usn.


So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near to God is Man, 
When Duty whispers low, "Thou must",
The Youth replies, "I can". 
-Ralph Waldo Emerson    

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Perseverance and Endurance

A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength
To persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.
- Christopher Reeve

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001 the Fire Department of the City of New York suffered the greatest, single-day loss of life in its history.  343 members of the FDNY, heroes all, died while trying to save those trapped in the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan.  This is the story of two of those 343 heroes...

Dennis Mojica had been on the job for twenty-eight years.  At the time of his death on September 11, 2001 he was a Lieutenant with the elite Rescue 1 unit, which unit he had been a member of since 1990.  Lieutenant Mojica was fifty years old at the time of his death.  He had dedicated more than one-half of his life to the service and protection of the people of New York City as a member of the FDNY.  Prior to joining the FDNY, Lt. Mojica served honorably in the United States Navy.  http://dev.firehero.org/firehero/firefighter/show/2483.  In the course of his duties as a member of Rescue 1, Lt. Mojica also lent his talents and his compassion to those beyond the geographical boundaries of New York City.  He went to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to assist the victims of the bombing of the Murrah federal building and, thereafter, to Atlanta, Georgia to assist those injured in the 1996 Summer Olympics bombing.  http://www.ufanyc.org/cms/contents/view/6823.  On the morning of September 11, 2001, he was among the first FDNY members that entered the stairwell of the North Tower to rescue those who were injured and trapped inside.  He was one of eleven members of Rescue 1 killed that morning when the North Tower collapsed. http://rescue1fdny.net/rescue_1/Home.html.  He died two months prior to his planned wedding to his fiance, Maria.    

Manuel Mojica, Jr.  Firefighter Manual Mojica, Jr. was a thirty-seven year-old husband to Anna Marie, father to Stephanie Ann and Manny Alexander and a member of Squad 18 of the FDNY when he was killed in the line of duty on September 11, 2001.  http://longisland.newsday.com/911-anniversary/victims/Manuel-MojicaJr.   He had a reputation for keeping calm even in the most stressful of situations and for doing whatever he could to insulate Anna Marie and his children from the often difficult and occasionally terrifying experiences he encountered in the course of his day-to-day.  Proof that everyone needs a good ritual to soothe them, FF Mojica was known for his end-of-shift/bedtime snack:  milk and cookies.  http://betterangels911.com/firefighter-manuel-mojica/.  Not the first thing one thinks of when thinking of a tattooed, Harley-riding, muscle-bound firefighter?   A reminder therefore that one cannot always judge the contents of a book by a simple perusal of its cover.  

Heroes are selfless people who perform extraordinary acts.
The mark of heroes is not necessarily the result of their actions
but what they are willing to do for others and for their chosen cause.
Even if they fail, their determination lives on for others to follow.
The glory lies not in the achievement, but in the sacrifice.
- Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

-AK 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Three Entries In the Book of John

The heart does not go backward.
Only the mind.
- Elizabeth Kostova

The 343 members of the FDNY who died saving others at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 were not the only first responders whose lives ended on that horrible day.  The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Police Department lost 37 members.  23 members of the NYPD died alongside their brothers and sisters in arms and fire axes too...

John Coughlin was a Sergeant in the NYPD when he died in the line of duty on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Sgt. Coughlin was a husband to his wife, Patricia, and a father to his three daughters, Erin, Patricia and Kayla.  Sgt. Coughlin had been on the job for eighteen years.  He was assigned to ESU Truck 4. http://www.odmp.org/officer/15823-sergeant-john-coughlin.  Sgt. Coughlin wore Badge #3751.  His oldest daughter Erin joined the NYPD upon graduating from the Academy on December 28, 2012.  Upon "Candidate" Erin Coughlin becoming "Police Officer" Erin Coughlin, her father's old badge number, 3751, was pinned to her uniform - with pride.  http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/daughter-died-9-11-takes-badge-number-article-1.1229415.

John J. Lennon was forty-four years old when he was killed on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.  http://www.9-11heroes.us/v/John_J_Lennon.php.  He did that morning what he spent more than half of his life doing:  working as a Police Officer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department.  He was saving lives.  Officer Lennon's post in September 2001 was as a court liaison in Jersey City but when he learned of the attacks in Lower Manhattan, he did what scores of police officers and firefighters did that morning.  He headed straight into the dragon's mouth.  His was the ultimate sacrifice.  His parents survived him.  So did his wife Patricia and their four children Melissa, John III, Katie and Christopher.   http://www.legacy.com/sept11/story.aspx?personid=140160.

John D. Levi.  Officer Levi was fifty years old when he became one of the thirty-seven members of the PANYNJ Police Department to die in the line of duty on September 11, 2001.  http://projects.washingtonpost.com/911victims/john-d-levi/.  Officer Levi was the father of two adult children, Jennifer and her younger brother Dennis.  Approximately five and one-half years before he was killed in the line of duty, he met and fell instantly in love with Debralee Scott, to whom he was engaged when he died.  http://www.heroportraits.org/Gallery/default.aspx?id=328.  He met Ms. Scott- an actress - at Hogs & Heifers, a Greenwich Village bar, in mid-December 1995.  Five years later - while the two of them were in Winslow, Arizona (Yep, the town where Glenn Frey is standing on a corner in "Take It Easy") he proposed.  Sadly, their love story had a tragic ending two times over.  Ms. Scott was reportedly heartbroken by his death and it proved to be an event from which she never recovered.  She herself died approximately three and one-half years later.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debralee_Scott.

Nothing is really lost
As long as you remember it.
- Ally Condie

-AK  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Those Who Shall Not Grow Old

One lives in the hope
Of becoming a memory.
- Antonio Porchia

Patrick Adams was a security officer at Fuji Bank - located on the 81st floor of 2 World Trade Center.  Mr. Adams was sixty-one years old.  At the time of his death he lived in Flatbush, Brooklyn with his daughter Balynda.  On the final morning of his life, recognizing the desperate, impossible nature of his situation, Mr. Adams telephoned his home.  He left a final message on the answering machine for Balynda, telling her that he was trapped in the World Trade Center.  Mr. Adams was a native of Guyana.  Prior to emigrating to the United States, he served in the Guyana Defence Force as a senior non-commissioned officer.  

Shannon Adams was a twenty-five-year-old fixed-income accountant at Cantor Fitzgerald, living his Wall Street dream with two friends in an apartment in Astoria, Queens.  He had come a long way from his hometown of Star Lake, New York, population 860.  He was murdered before he had made it as far as he could have.   Mr. Adams was survived by his dad, Lew, and his mom, Gwyn. 

Stephen Adams was the beverage manager at Windows on the World at the time he was killed on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001.   Mr. Adams, 51 years of age, had graduated from the French Culinary Institute.  According to his wife, Jessica Murrow, a musician, making money and work frustrated him.  He was - as per her description - an 18th-century man.  He loved Irish poetry, old English ballads and James Joyce.  "He had very old-fashioned values.  He believed in being honorable, honest and loyal.  He forgot to put himself first." 

They shall not grow old, as we who are left grow old; 
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, 
We will remember them. 
- Laurence Binyon

-AK 


Monday, August 11, 2014

Not to Die

To live in hearts we leave behind
Is not to die.
- Thomas Campbell

Gordy Aamoth was thirty-two years old when he was killed on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.  Aamoth was an investment banker at Sandler O'Neill & Partners and had - in fact - closed the biggest merger deal of his career only one day earlier.  Gordy Aamoth was a Minnesota boy.  He was the son of Mary and Dr. Gordon Aamoth.  He was one of three Aamoth sons, brother to Erik and Peter.  He was a star athlete at his high school, the Blake School in Hopkins, Minnesota.  He was the captain of the football team.  The Blake School renamed its stadium for him.  

Edelmiro Abad was the husband of Lorraine and the father of three daughters, Rebecca, Jennifer and Serena.  The Abads lived in Brooklyn.  Mr. Abad spent the final twenty-six years of his life working at Fiduciary Trust Company International.  At the time of his death he was a Senior Vice-President.  His wife Lorraine said that the thing that frightened him the most - as the father of three daughters - was the sound of a male voice on the telephone asking to speak to one of his girls.   As a man who raised only one daughter I can only begin to appreciate the level of his anxiety.

Alona Abraham was killed on September 11, 2001 while a passenger on United Airlines Flight 175, which was the flight that struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center.  Ms. Abraham was from Israel.  She had spent the first ten-plus days of September on her first-ever vacation to the United States.  She had spent her vacation in and around the Boston area, whale-watching, shopping and walking around in Cambridge. She had called home to tell her mother how wonderful a time she was having.   She was thirty years old and the oldest of three children.  In an ironic twist, Ms. Abraham had come to the United States for vacation - at the urging of a cousin who lived in Van Nuys, California - because it was somewhere where she could be safe - safer than she was at home in Israel. 

The living owe it to those who no longer can speak
To tell their story for them. 
-Czeslaw Milosz

-AK 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

When the Good Old Days Weren't So Good...

Remember when...




It was more than twenty-three years ago - May 23, 1991 to be exact - when five-year-old Timothy Wiltsey "disappeared".  As the story goes, young Timothy had accompanied his mom, Michelle Lodzinski (herself only twenty-three and a single mother), to a carnival at John F. Kennedy Park in Sayreville when she took her eyes off of him briefly in order to buy a soda.  When she looked back, Timothy was gone.

Almost nine months to the day - after an exhaustive search and after Michelle reportedly changed her story regarding what happened on the night she claims that he disappeared - authorities announced that they had found a skull in a creek located in the Raritan Center Industrial Park.  His family, including his mother, buried him at a funeral mass on May 12, 1992.  

In the two-plus decades since, Timothy's mother Michelle has two more children, gets herself in more than one legal predicament centered upon her seemingly innate inability or unwillingness to tell the truth, and ultimately relocates to Florida, where she finds a job as a paralegal at a law firm.  http://www.nj.com/middlesex/index.ssf/2014/08/timothy_wiltsey_murder_timeline_of_23-year-old_missing_boy_case.html#incart_maj-story-1.

Earlier this week, on August 6, 2014, authorities in Florida - acting upon a warrant that was executed following an indictment that was handed up by a Middlesex County Grand Jury one week earlier - arrested Michelle Lodzinski for the murder of her five-year-old son, Timothy Wiltsey.   http://www.nj.com/middlesex/index.ssf/2014/08/timothy_wiltseys_mom_arrested_on_his_birthday_faces_murder_charges_23_years_after_his_death.html#incart_m-rpt-1.

The plan now is to extradite her back to the State of Concrete Gardens to answer the charge of first-degree murder.  The first-degree murder of her own five-year-old son.  The first-degree murder of her first-born child.  The first-degree murder of a defenseless little boy.  http://www.nj.com/middlesex/index.ssf/2014/08/timothy_wiltseys_mom_arrested_on_his_birthday_faces_murder_charges_23_years_after_his_death.html#incart_m-rpt-1

I do not pretend to know whether Michelle Lodzinski murdered her own little boy twenty-three years ago.  I reckon that sooner rather than later that question shall be answered.  She is entitled to the same presumption of innocence as every other defendant in the American system of criminal justice.  If she did it, then I hope that almost a quarter-century after she did it, she is finally made to answer for it.     

Timothy Wiltsey's twenty-ninth birthday would have been August 6, 2014 - the very day on which his mother was arrested.  There is a name for that confluence of events I suppose.  I know not what it is.  I would wager that it is not serendipity...

...Somewhere far, far south of that in fact.  

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Scenes From One Damn Short Movie...

A programming note, which I write not because I suffer from any delusion of grandeur regarding the number of people who stop by here on at least a recurring basis - and in some cases a daily basis - but simply because I am aware that at least one person does.  One month from Monday shall be the thirteenth September 11 since September 11, 2001.  Beginning next week, and running through September 11, 2014 I shall use this space to pay a poor man's homage to those who lost their lives that day. 

If for whatever reason that is the sort of information you would rather not read and would prefer not to be exposed to, then feel free to step away.  I do it not because it is important to me, as an American and as a human being, to to whatever I can to ensure that those who died that day are (a) not forgotten; and (b) not marginalized by being reduced to a number or to a piece of statistical data.  Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins were murdered that day.  Each lived a life that impacted the lives of others.  

Thus endeth the programming note...

When I made it home from the day's wars on Thursday I found a nice piece of mail waiting for me.  


"The Letter"
Rudy Brandl

Saturday, October 18, 2014 is the annual Fall Fair/Homecoming/Alumni Awards Ceremony at Wardlaw-Hartridge, which is the Alma mater for the back half of the Kenny sextet, former employer of Joanie K and WPK, Sr. and the place where WPK, Sr. was undoubtedly the happiest over the final decade or so of his life.  For any and all W-H alums who stop by this space, whether you have not been on campus for a long time or you are a regular attendee at this event I would say (without even a hint of modesty as I am one of the members of the school's Athletic Hall-of-Fame Committee) that you really should try to make it to W-H for this year's ceremony. 

You shall note - no doubt - that among the members of the Athletic Hall of Fame's Class of 2014 is Tom Glasser, Class of 1978.  He is one of those fathers/husbands/sons to whom I referred in the paragraph above who was murdered on September 11, 2001.  To my knowledge, he is the only graduate of Wardlaw, Hartridge and/or Wardlaw-Hartridge who was murdered that day.  While at Wardlaw and thereafter Wardlaw-Hartridge (the '78 class was the first W-H graduating class) he was an extraordinary cross-country runner and track and field athlete.  It is our honor to honor Tom and, by extension, his wife, their children and their family.  

Similarly, it is our honor to pay tribute to all of the fine folks identified in Rudy's letter.  If you would like to attend and you have any questions or comments or whatever then contact Rudy directly.  I have heard rumors that the women who comprised the undefeated 1984 State Champion Softball Team are trying to organize an alumni game of some sort to be played that afternoon prior to the Awards Ceremony.  Let me say this - as someone who recalls seeing Patty Wysock pitch thirty years ago:  You are a far braver person than I am if you pick up a bat and stand in against her.  Three decades ago, no one could touch her.   

If you are forgetful - we are not kids any longer after all - or perhaps simply need a visual reminder, then might I suggest this nifty "SAVE THE DATE" magnet:


I suspect that the one I have affixed to the fridge in our kitchen has a tad more "sticktoitiveness" than the one here but that is a problem easily remedied.  Scotch tape, construction adhesive and gum all jump to the forefront of my mind as tools that would permit you to affix the "SAVE THE DATE" magnet I have provided here to your very own fridge at home.         

Hope to see you there.  We can all meet 'neath the vapor light...




-AK