I Have a Gripe

September 11, 2017

9/11 – 16 Years Later

Filed under: New York,Shanksville,Terrorism — alvb1227 @ 10:10 pm
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So today is that sad day in American history – the anniversary of the attacks of 9/11. This year the word “history” seems even more real to me.

For those of us who were adults, we remember exactly where we were that day. Just like our parents remembered where they were when JFK was killed and our grandparents remembered where they were during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

History.

Now, there is a new generation and for them it is exactly that – history. They don’t remember where they were. They don’t have that personal feeling adults had on that day.

I can tell you that I was just about at the office and the DJ on 104.3 cut in and said there was some kind of “fire or accident at the World Trade Center.” It was believed it was a small personal plane that had some kind of failure.

Within the next 10 minutes it took for me to park my car and get inside, it learned it was definitely something more.

I remember people crowding into my cubicle while my mother put the phone up to the television so we could listen to the news. The Internet couldn’t keep up with all the traffic and we couldn’t get a good connection.

I remember several of us frantically looking for flight information for two of our managers flying out of Newark.

I remember running upstairs to tell our division president our manager’s information and leaving to go to the mother of a best friend from high school because her father worked in the World Trade Center. Thankfully, he made it home safe.

I remember my husband calling me from school to find out what was being said on the news.

I remember crying. A lot.

I remember the smell of the smoke that wafted over from New York into New Jersey.

I remember my friends from our Chicago office calling me to check and make sure I was safe.

WaterfallJust like our parents and grandparents with the “day” of their generations, I can tell you every minute of that day.

Last winter I went to Ground Zero for the first time since it was fully opened to the public. The enormity was the space is simply overwhelming. I was brought to the space after “The Pile” became “The Hole” shortly after Pope John Paul II came to the location to pray by the parents of that same friend that left us sick with worry on that day. At that time it was literally that – a hole. A giant empty space. The only way I can describe the feeling I had was heavy and sad. Profoundly sad. But I felt honored to be given the opportunity to be there and say a prayer.

Now, the space is still sad, but it is a dignified reminder of the people who were killed, the people that survived, and the stories of triumph. Seeing it on the television simply doesn’t do it justice.

While I stood there in quiet thought and prayer, I watched the commuters who passed by in the usual New York speed-walking fashion and wondered how they felt passing that space every day. I thought again of a story I’ve told before. Several years after the first World Trade Center bombing, I went on an interview in one of the towers. The person I met with wanted me to make sure I understood that the job would be at that location. He explained that people were concerned about working in the Towers because of the attack. My answer? I told him I wasn’t worried. “Lightening doesn’t strike twice.”

Boy was I wrong.

I don’t remember the name of the man I met with or even the name of the company. I think about him each year and wonder if he was still working there and if he made it home that day.

For us, this is all history now. And we have a responsibility to share that history with the next generation.

It isn’t enough to say “never forget.” It is “I remember.”

 

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September 11, 2016

15 Years Ago… Gone but not Forgotten

Filed under: New Jersey,New York,Shanksville,Terrorism,Washington D.C. — alvb1227 @ 4:13 pm
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Here we are again, fifteen years later. I sit and listen to the names, the memories from family members, and the music. It seems like it gets harder every year. I didn’t know anyone personally who lost their lives on that terrible day, but I feel like we all lost someone on that day. I feel like all the people lost became part of all our families. I was lucky, the father of one of my best friends from high school, who I have called “Papa Kane” since I was a young teenager, came home that day. He was my first thought after I heard what was

9-11-morrisplains

The 9-11 Memorial in Morris Plains, NJ that remembers two of our Cahners colleagues and the sister of a Cahners colleague.

happening. My other thought was for my two colleagues who were on a plane to Cleveland for business. As soon as we found their flight information and made sure they were safe, I immediately drove to the elementary school where my Momma Kane taught to be with her. I tried to get her to leave and come to my mother’s house, but she wouldn’t budge.

 

As I watch those who read the names, I am struck by all the children. I think about the generation that is growing up now who either weren’t old event to remember, or weren’t even born yet. For those of us who do remember, we are now entrusted with an important task; to help those children understand what happened that day and share our experiences.

When I was in high school and learning about the Vietnam War, one of our teachers invited in two veterans that were former students of Belleville High School. They told us stories and their experiences. I was struck by how different they viewed their service. One was proud. The other, I could still feel his anger. That time became real to me, rather than just facts in a history book. Maybe that’s what teachers should do today. Not talk about the politics of the time, but what we all felt and went through. Help make it a real event for the next generation instead of just facts in their textbooks.

9-11-memorial

My visit to the 9-11 Memorial in February, 2016.

In February, I went to Ground Zero for the first time since shortly after that terrible day. My Momma and Pappa Kane brought me to Ground Zero after The Pile became The Hole, shortly after Pope John Paul II came to visit and pray. I had been there countless times before the attacks, but it was hard to orient myself and imagine where the streets were and where the buildings stood. I saw the tower lights up close. It was overwhelming. I am forever grateful that they brought me to that sacred place so I could pray for those who didn’t come home and be thankful that Pappa did come home. The sheer size of the space the Memorial was overwhelming. While it sits in the middle of the city that  never sleeps, it is quiet there. People spoke in hushed tones and were caring and respectful.

 

I wonder what will happen as time marches on. Will the names stop being read? Every December 7th, I think about Pearl Harbor, but that generation is quickly leaving this world. We remember as Americans, but do we really remember? Will 9-11 face the same fate? I pray not. I pray we always remember. Not just the events of the day, but the people we lost and the people who came home.

June 18, 2016

My Take on the Gun Debate

An Orlando club was attacked this week by another radical Islamic terrorist. He gunned down 49 patrons at a gay club before the police shot and killed him. It was a terrible tragedy that has brought the country together to grieve and pray for the victims and their families.

It has also kicked up the gun debate and what should be done to curb violent acts in this country. Everyone seems to have an opinion on what should be done and they vary widely. Well, of course I felt the need to add my two cents. Here is my solution for federal gun legislation.

  1. No fly, no buy: If someone is on the terror watch list (no fly list), then you shouldn’t be allowed to purchase a gun of any kind. If someone is on the no fly list and it is incorrect, they need to follow up with the FBI to resolve the issue.
  2. Required training: When applying for a permit to purchase a weapon, the applicant should be required to complete a safety course. Gun ownership is serious and should be treated as such.
  3. Safety lock with every weapon purchase: When a weapon is purchased, the purchaser also needs to buy an appropriate gun lock at the same time. Before they leave the store, the gun lock must be in place.
  4. Waiting period: Some people want to make a gun purchase out of fear or anger. Maybe they were attacked and are scared. Maybe they are angry and want revenge. Whatever the reason, there should be a three-day waiting period between the time that a purchase is made and when the weapon is picked up.
  5. Background check: This point goes hand-in-hand with my previous suggestion. During the three-day waiting period, the gun shop can complete a background check on the person. This gives them enough time to collect any necessary information to make an informed decision as to whether or not an individual should own a gun.
  6. Mental-health assessment: This is a touchy one. Everything else so far has been based on “hard data.” This definitely falls under “soft data.”  I would never want a government bureaucrat to make a decision about someone’s mental health and if they are able to understand the seriousness of owning a gun and how to properly store and use it. I believe there should be some kind of check as to mental competence, but it needs to be in line with HIPPA law and not further stigmatizing “mental illness.”
  7. Ban the sale of “auto” kits: Many Americans are not aware that it is already illegal to ar-15own an automatic (“full auto”) weapon. In 1934 Congress passed the National Firearms Act, making it illegal for Americans to manufacture fully automatic weapons for personal use. In 1986, it became illegal for civilians to own newly made machine guns. When the media shows a weapon, such as an AR-15, after one of these horrible events there is an insinuation that it is an automatic weapon. It isn’t. And I think it is inflammatory for the media to do so. What needs to be outlawed are kits that allow someone to make their weapon an automatic weapon.
  8. Knowledge sharing: Every time one of these horrific acts takes place, I always hear from at least one professional, “if I had seen xyz information from such-and-such organization (FBI, local police, etc.), I wouldn’t have sold him the gun.” There needs to be better sharing of information between businesses and the government.

Obviously this is just the beginning of a larger issue, but when it comes to complex issues with high-charged emotions, it is easy to muddy the waters. My suggestion to politicians has always the same: take big issues bit-by-bit. Don’t handle a huge issue all at once. Let your constituents see you working and gain their trust. As you continue to move forward, cooperation will continue as long as everyone checks their ego at the door. By taking a common-sense approach to big issues, we can start to move forward.

September 11, 2013

Are we Forgetting?

Filed under: New Jersey,New York,Terrorism — alvb1227 @ 8:00 am
Tags: , ,

As we as a nation face another anniversary of 9-11, I have an overwhelming feeling of sadness and worry. And unlike previous years, they go hand-in-hand for a different reason. I worry that we are forgetting and that makes me incredibly sad.

Living in north Jersey and having seen the smoke rise from the pile, I remember every previous year there was a lot of coverage leading up to the anniversary. This year? I have hardly seen anything about planned events or how they will be covered on the news. I hate going to work on 9-11. I would much rather stay home and watch the coverage on television or go to a local memorial service. I am sure just like many others, I play that day’s events over and over in my mind.

I first heard about it from a confused report on 104.3 as I was just reaching my office that there was some kind of “fire or accident at the World Trade Center.” By the time I parked the car, made it inside, and launched the Internet, I saw a still of the second plane just before it crashed into the South Tower. My head was full of confusion and stunned silence.

The President of our division came over the PA system and said “it is obvious something is going on today, if anyone needs to leave, just go.” I immediately thought of two colleagues who were flying out of Newark that morning. We all scrambled to find their flight information and find out if they were safe.

The Internet was painfully slow and we had no television access. I went up to the local Radio Shack to see if I could get some cables to rig up a local television channel. No luck. We drove up the hill from my office to see if we could see anything. I was stunned by the amount of smoke you could see all the way to Morris Plains, NJ. We went back to the office and I called my mother and she held the phone up to the television. I put my office phone on speaker and people crowded into my cube to listen. I suddenly thought of my best friend from high school. Her father worked at the WTC. Her mother was a teacher in my hometown. I could feel the blood drain from my face. I asked my mother if she heard anything yet and she said no. I grabbed my purse, ran up to the division president’s office. Gave him my colleague’s flight information, told him no one had heard from my friend’s father and that I was leaving for the day.

9-11 memorial

Plaque from the Reed Business Information 9-11 Memorial, Morris Plains, New Jersey

I drove straight to the school where my friend’s mother worked. When I approached the school and rang the bell, I heard the familiar voice of the principal. I told him that it was me and who I was there to see. He buzzed me in and I ran to his office. I found my friend’s mother clutching a paper plate with a phone number scribbled across it. I knelt down next to her and asked how she was doing. She looked truly frightened. I will never forget the look on her face. She just said “this is where he is supposed to be today, but there’s no answer.” I asked her to come to my house and sit with my mother, but she didn’t want to leave. The principal also suggested she go with me, but she refused. I just went home and sat in stunned silence. I really didn’t know what to do.

Well, thankfully for us, my two colleagues and my friend’s father were all safe. But that wasn’t the case for two employees from a different division and the sister of a colleague. They all perished at the WTC site.

I remember every minute of that day. I play it in my head like a video. And I am sure I am not the only one. Sadness doesn’t even describe…

But I am also worried.

I am worried as time passes, the dragon will once again return to slumber. I worry that the politics related to this horrific event are beginning to overshadow the event itself. And what truly disgusts me is that there are some trying to profit from it – like a golf course in Wisconsin.

Does the “Day of Service” help us remember? I honestly don’t know. I understand the idea behind it, but I am not sure about the correlation between thousands of innocent civilians being murdered with cleaning up a local park. Maybe I am looking for something too deep or something that just isn’t there.

I pray we never forget.

I have a friend who is working with her small band of loyal New Jerseyans to identify and clean up small cemeteries where Revolutionary War Veterans are buried. Over the hundreds of years since their sacrifice, their final resting places have often become overgrown, forgotten, and lost to time. That is, until she found them and reminded everyone of their sacrifice.

I hope the memory of that horrible day and those souls that were lost do not become forgotten like an overgrown cemetery.

September 11, 2012

September 11th – 11 Years Later

Filed under: New Jersey,New York,Politics,Security,Terrorism — alvb1227 @ 1:58 am
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Tomorrow is the 11th anniversary of the day that changed America. Last year, on the 10th anniversary, the New York City memorial opened. It was an amazing structure and a beautiful way to remember so many on such a heart breaking day.

Well, since then, many have equated the memorial to an amusement park. People have been seen leaving their Starbucks cups, letting their children throw stuff in the reflecting pool, and my personal favorite, seating toddlers on top of the plaques holding the names of the fallen. To me that is like someone standing on a headstone in a cemetery. While I am sure this poor behavior is a minority, I think it is important for visitors to remember this isn’t a tourist spot. It is where 3,000 lost their lives and to treat it with the proper respect it deserves.

I think it is also important that during this year’s ceremonies politicians aren’t going to speak. I believe these events shouldn’t be politicized. No matter what a person’s political affiliation, this is an American event. Politics should stay out of it. When Usama Bin Laden was killed and the President, the New York and New Jersey Governors, and the New York City Mayor went to lay a wreath at the memorial, before the event began, and I am sure they didn’t know they were on camera, they were laughing and joking. The moment they realized they were on camera, they became serious. It left me feeling icky.

Many worry – and I am one of them – that as time progresses and people move forward, people may forget. I hope that isn’t the case. The moment we start to forget, the dragon goes back to sleep and we are vulnerable.

I pray we never forget.

 

September 11, 2011

9-11: Ten Years Later

Today is a cool, cloudy morning here in New Jersey, much different from that fateful day 10 years ago. Each year on this day I have tried to provide stories and impressions of that dark day and the light that came of it. As I sit here watching the reading of the names, I am reminded of every moment of that day. As a friend on Facebook said the other day, I can’t remember what I had for lunch two days ago, but I remember every minute of that day.

I am reminded of the acts of heroism by everyday people at I am sure they never expected to do. They are people who went to work, got on a plane, committed their lives to protect us as fire fighters, police officers and members of the military. They never expected to be tested to that extent.

Last night I saw a television program about two men who worked at the World Trade Center who could have easily survived, but they chose to continue to go up the steps of the North Tower, saving the lives of 77 individuals. Architect Frank De Martini and construction inspector Pablo Ortiz are true heroes that came out of that dark day, showing what the American spirit is all about. What those animals could never take.

Yesterday was the dedication of the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA. Those 40 people took the information they collected, took a vote, knowing full well they would perish, and thwarted the plans of the fourth hijacked plane that was likely headed to the United States Capitol. Again, people put in a position they never expected became heroes and are a shining example of what the American spirit is all about.

These are only a few examples of the heroic actions taken by many on that day and the days following. There are many more we will all come to know as time progresses.

We can all learn from those who lived through – and those who did not – on that day. We can make sure to stay alert, help our service members, fire fighters, police officers, EMS, and other first responders whenever possible.  Most importantly, we can never forget. Never forget what those animals took from us. And what we have gained.

May God continue to bless the United State of America.

September 8, 2011

American Atheists and the World Trade Center Cross

As we move closer to the 10th anniversary of one of the darkest days in American history, the organization American Atheists have filed a lawsuit to exclude what has become known as the “World Trade Center Cross” from the National September 11th Memorial and Museum, claiming separation of church and state.

I had an opportunity to review the American Atheists’ website and they are what I call an “equal opportunity offender.” They have quite a high opinion of themselves and belittle those of any faith – Christian, Judaism, Muslims (or as they refer to Muslims as “Mohammedans”), Mormonism – the list goes on and on.

According to an article about the lawsuit on their site, the buildings of the World Trade Center were made of steel girders, so it would make sense that “in the rubble some Christians found a pair of girders still welded that closely (not exactly, but closely enough) resemble a Christian Roman Cross.”

They continue to say that this Cross had been blessed several times by “so-called Holy Men” and “presented as a reminder that God, in his infinite power of goodness, who couldn’t be bothered to stop the Muslim terrorists, or stop the fire, or hold up the buildings to stop 3000 people from being crushed, cared enough to bestow upon us some rubble that resembles a cross. Ridiculous.”

Now, I don’t begrudge anyone who has a belief in anything – Jew, Pagan, Christian, or Muslim. As long as your belief is pure and not “warped” (a.k.a. terrorists), that is fine with me. But for these people to not only belittle someone else’s belief system, but claim separation of church and state on this issue is shameful and plain wrong.

Over time, the concept of separation of church and state has been molded into whatever a specific group is trying to push; when in reality, it is not what our founding fathers had intended. The original plan of separation of church and state was based on a letter from Thomas Jefferson to a Baptist organization in Danbury, CT in 1802 (from which the First Amendment was based). The letter notes the government shall “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

In the instance of the World Trade Center Cross, the government is not creating a law or prohibiting the exercise of religion. Therefore, their lawsuit is unfounded.

Ultimately, the World Trade Center Cross is more than a cross; it is a symbol – an artifact from a horrible day that brought comfort to many who toiled on that pile of rubble for months on end to try and bring some closure to the families that lost a loved on that day we will never forget. It is that reason alone why it should be included. It is more about  hope than a specific faith.

May 3, 2011

Two Words: Thank You

Less than 24 hours ago we heard of the death of Usama bin Laden by special ops, including Seal Team Six. This is something Americans, as well as many around the world, have wait to hear for a long time.

First, I want to thank…

The Intel community for their relentless pursuit of this piece of trash.

Presidents Obama and Bush for continuing to support this pursuit and for President Obama having the guts to give the OK to proceed.

Our military, and our special forces for taking on this mission and carrying out it flawlessly. We will never know who you are because of the type of work you do, but I hope you know you have the profound thanks of a grateful nation.

To those who have suffered at the hand of this monster, you have my profound sympathies. I know this will never bring your loved one back, but I hope this helps you move forward a little.

What I would really like to know is how this piece of dung could be hiding in plain sight in Pakistan less than 50 miles from this nation’s capital? Anyone want to riddle me that Batman? And why are we giving them aid? I say it is time to cut them loose. The Pakistani government has been talking out of both sides of their collective mouth for years. Oh yeah, that’s how an ally works.

Time for us to stop being everyone’s sucker and be the great nation we are!

January 26, 2011

2011 State of the Union Address

So last night was the 2011 State of the Union Address. I will admit that my eye wasn’t twitching quite as much as last year, but I still have issues with a number of the items that were discussed.

I think the President started out well by acknowledging the empty chair for Gabby Giffords. The ribbons everyone wore I thought was a nice touch. He also discussed a new level of civility in light of the shooting in Arizona. Call it the Jersey cynic in me, but the “date night” and new bipartisan effort just felt fake to me. I still get the feeling of a “hand slap” by the left and blaming the Tea Party movement, even though the nut job in Arizona didn’t appear to have a political affiliation. I find it funny that now the President wants to not think about winning an election, but doing what is necessary to pull the nation together.

I liked what the President said about simplifying the tax code, but fell short of calling for a flat tax, which would ultimately save billions by either cutting or completely eliminating the IRS. I really believe that moving away from the current complicated tax code will both save money on the federal level while making sure everyone pays their fair share.

He cited a quote from President Kennedy that “The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.” Well, I disagree with that sentiment. The future is a responsibility; first and foremost. I think we as a nation have really lost the concept of personal responsibility. Should we take care of those who need assistance? Yes. Should there be a level of personal responsibility associated along with that? Absolutely!

I found his more business-friendly tone encouraging. Again, I hope it isn’t just rhetoric and real action will follow. This means getting the government out of the way of private industry and let them do what they do best; innovate and create jobs. Remember, it is not the job of the federal government to create jobs. It is the job of the federal government to create conditions that are favorable for private industry to create jobs.

The President is still pushing green technologies, which is certainly laudable, however, I again wonder if this should be the business of the federal government. I point to California’s recent light bulb issue as the exact type of government intervention that while positive in concept can be negative in the long run.

From an education standpoint, I was very encouraged to finally hear someone (and I mean anyone) acknowledge that parents need to take a more positive role in the education of our nation’s children. For far too long, schools have been trying to be both educator and parent. Ultimately, they will fail as both. I also ask that while math and science are incredibly important, that the arts and music are not left on the side of the road. There has been study after study citing the importance of music and the arts in fostering a child’s creativity and improving math, science and language skills. I am the adult I am because of my involvement in the music program in my public school system.

It was also nice to hear there should be more respect for teachers. As someone who is married to a public school teacher, I say it is not as easy as many may think. We should be encouraging our teachers, not putting them down. Otherwise, no young individual will want to become a teacher. And that will be truly sad and detrimental to our future.

I almost fell off the couch when the President actually used the term “illegal immigrant” and not “undocumented” or other term. Whether the individual is a child or an adult, they are here illegally and thus breaking the law. They shouldn’t be here sucking up resources like locusts they have no right to access. And these aren’t all the wonderful young individuals looking to better themselves the President mentioned. They are often gang members trying to sneak people and drugs into our country. This is the single issue that will kill us as a nation if it is not dealt with, and I mean NOW.

Infrastructure “investments.” OK, moving on…

Social Security? Well, let’s just say I believe that Area 51 exists. I don’t believe the money I have been paying, and will continue to pay, into Social Security will ever come back to me. My eye is starting to twitch, so moving on…

I also agree the federal government should reorganize and streamline, however, again, call me a cynic, I really don’t see this happening. I hope I am wrong.

I found it interesting that the President is open to make some of the very healthcare bill changes the GOP suggested originally and he wouldn’t he even consider. Amazing what a shellacking can do for bipartisanship. And by the way, I hadn’t heard that word since I was a kid and my Uncle Sonny would threaten us with a shellacking that would never appear. If anything, he was the one to protect us all from the shellacking.

Of course, no State of the Union would be complete without a discussion of our military. Again, I refer back to my previous thoughts about illegal immigration. These two issues go hand-in-hand in my opinion. Illegal immigration is a serious national security issue.

So, as usual, I am hopeful, but not betting the house on it. The only reason the President has moved to the middle, I believe, is because he got beat and I mean seriously beat. I would like to see him not spend on infrastructure and instead let private industry develop tomorrow’s high speed railways. Again, just allow for private industry to do what they do best and get out of their way.

Only time will tell…

January 4, 2011

I’m Sorry Mr. Steyn, You’re Wrong

Filed under: Healthcare,Terrorism — alvb1227 @ 1:47 pm
Tags: , ,

Yesterday I was listening to Mark Steyn who was subbing for Rush Limbaugh and I feel I need to verbalize my objection to some comments he made yesterday regarding the 9-11 health care bill passed during the lame duck session of Congress.

Mr. Steyn is claiming that because these 9-11 first responders, emergency personnel and construction workers who are part of this coverage shouldn’t get more money from the government. Why you ask? Well, according to Mr. Steyn, since they are more than likely part of a union, they already have a great union-negotiated health plan, so we as tax payers shouldn’t have to give them more money. I’m sorry Mr. Steyn, but you couldn’t be more wrong.

This really burned me. First of all, I believe these heroes should be taken care of like our soldiers and get whatever is needed to care for their health issues that are a result of working on the pile, looking for survivors, recovering those who were killed and clearing debris. They were there on Thanksgiving. They were there on Christmas. They took this job seriously and were both determined and respectful of their duties.

I am guessing you, Mr. Steyn, have never lost someone due to catastrophic illness. It can financially and emotionally devastate a family, often ending in the loss of homes or the need to declare bankruptcy. There are often lifetime limits that are paid and benefits can quickly run out when individuals so young are struck with illnesses like lung cancer, mesothelioma,  thyroid cancer and other horrible illnesses that often end in death.

I know it is fashionable right now to “union-bash,” and trust me, there are a number of things unions do that I do not agree with, however, this shouldn’t be labeled as a “union issue.” As I have said in a previous post about the need to pass the 9-11 health care bill, it is simply the right thing to do. Period. I do not appreciate your attempt to turn this into another way to “union-bash.”

As I said earlier, I’m sorry Mr. Steyn, but you are wrong.

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