New York

9/11 – 17 Years On

“No Day Shall Erase You from the Memory of Time”

Once the true horror of the attacks of September 11, 2001 became clear, once the magnitude of the attack, of the hate, of the vengeance against the West, had awakened us all, a true and gripping sense of community poured out. We saw it in the American flags so many in the States wore on their lapels, hung from poles, or secured magnetically to their bumpers. We saw it in the silence that followed, in the acceptance and warmth of neighbor to neighbor. In the support for our first responders, who had so much to lose and lost even more.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Sadly, what brought out the best in us, also brought out the worst. The acceptance and warmth of neighbors turned to suspicion and violence for some. For too many. Rather than truly pull together, some among us chose to wage their own attacks on people they deemed responsible. That suspicion and rage lingers still, all these years later, most noticeably from the people who are supposed to lead us, to assure us, but who have, of late, chosen to divide us.

Of course we can never assume 9/11 was an anomaly, a catastrophe the likes of which will never happen again. But neither was that sense of community, of a shared experience. That’s part of what America is about–an awareness and appreciation of our diversity, commonality in our unique experiences. That’s what has always been the secret to America’s “greatness”.

The 9/11 Memorial Museum displays, in rich profound detail, the many faces of NYC and her neighbors. People who worked here, lived here, protected here, came here to help in any way possible. During a recent tour of the museum, I was struck by the varied accents heard on recordings captured that day–of voice messages left for loved ones, of first responders calling out to their units, of reporters and witnesses.

I live here in NYC. I hear a wide variety of languages and accents daily, so much so that I no longer notice them. But while there, in the museum, listening to one account after another in full-throated and brusque New York-ese, in broken English, in Spanish, in a New England drawl and other accents not so easily identifiable, I felt at home. One among many. Sharing the same memories, the same pain, the same hope for a better future.


Scenes from The New York Memorial at Ground Zero:

Ladder 3

North Tower Antenna

 

The magnificent work of artist, Spencer Finch, titled: “Trying To Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning”. Each of the squares of Fabriano Italian paper that make up this piece is hand-painted a different shade of blue. There are 2,983 squares/shades in all–one for each person killed in the 1993 WTC bombing and on 9/11.

 

A 9/11 Memorial in New Paltz, New York – about 90 minutes north of the city:


Never Forget

Every year, on the anniversary of this heartbreaking day, we come together to remember those who perished. We remember their lives, their sacrifices and their humanity. In doing so, in standing together in remembrance, we’re reminded of the bond we have as citizens of this world. How I wish that understanding, that bond, held during our every-day existence and not just in times of tumult and pain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here There be Hornets

Beneficial…or Deadly?

Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a fan of creepy critters. Of course, I realize if they’re not in my home but rather somewhere outside, then they’re where they’re supposed to be, and I will, mostly, leave them alone.

However, about a week ago, I happened to look out my dining room window and noticed a nest of some sort in the city tree at the curb in front of my house. It was quite large – and quite active, with what I thought were bees or yellow jackets busily flying in and out of it non-stop.

Turns out, they weren’t bees or yellow jackets. They were hornets.

Yes. Hornets.

I would assume this would frighten most people. However, for someone like me, with allergic reactions to simple mosquito bites, this was an absolutely terrifying discovery.

I calmed myself, though, after realizing, again, that this nest was in a city tree. Naturally, I ASSumed, the city would be responsible for it. I figured they’d want to know about it right away so they could take care of the situation before someone got hurt.

Alas.

“Beneficial Pests”

NYC – and other cities, I’m sure – has a policy that hornets fall into the category of “beneficial pests”, which I find both oxymoronic and ridiculous. Yes, I get it. Hornets, as predators, rid us of other pesky flying insects. In fact, hornets are so adept at reducing the number of destructive garden pests that the agricultural industry voluntarily uses them as a natural weapon to protect crops.

Yes. You read that right; they voluntarily deploy hornets into their gardens/fields as a natural pesticide.

That’s all well and fine, I suppose, and I do feel a certain respect for them now that I’ve learned that they are, indeed, ‘beneficial pests’. But they can also kill someone like me –yes,  KILL – if provoked, agitated or otherwise disturbed. And hornets attack as a group, each releasing a chemical to alert the others of a rumble, and the others will swarm with a ‘one-for-all-all-for-one’ focus. They will die for the hive. As if that isn’t enough to fuel nightmares for weeks to come, each one of those things can sting repeatedly so…

Yeah.

Not my idea of beneficial…not when they’re as close as this colony is to my front door, and not when their nest is sitting above a very busy street/walkway where kids ride their bikes and neighbors walk their dogs.

You Can’t Fight City Hall

So back to my efforts to make some headway with City Hall…

Permits

I spent this past week on the phone hoping to find a way to get rid of this nest. While I now realize killing the colony isn’t the way to go, my first thought was just that. Destroy the damn thing. I truly believed the city would feel the same way and send someone to spray the nest with something that would completely destroy it and everything inside.

How adorable.

Upon calling the city, I was informed that to do anything with this nest, I would first need to apply for a “tree-work permit”. That permit would come from the city, and it would be free. However, I would then have to find someone, on my own, who would not destroy the nest but *relocate* it. And…all costs related to that would fall on me. Once I found someone who would indeed relocate the nest, I’d have to provide their name to the city…and hope for their approval. If they did approve, then I would have to wait for the permit to arrive before any work could be started.

Knowing how speedy the city can be, I figured all that might happen somewhere around the winter holidays. If I were lucky.

Well, after three days and several more phone calls to 311, I finally received the application for the permit that was supposed to have arrived in my inbox within 24 hours of my first call.

Step one – done.

Insect Relocators

Step two – ha. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find someone to relocate a hornet’s nest?

For me, it was impossible.

I called various city offices with no luck, and then I called the state. The state was surprisingly easy and pleasant to deal with, and they showed concern and interest regarding my plight. A lovely gentleman I managed to reach by phone even provided me with an email for a beekeepers association. Additionally, through the state’s website, I found emails for a local arborist and for the city’s Parks Department.

Unfortunately, after contacting each of these groups, showing pictures and explaining to them how large and active this (to-me) terrifying nest was, and how close it was to my house, they all said that it was too high for them to reach. It seems 25-30 feet – which is about the height of this nest – is the natural height for a hornet’s nest and, as such, is unlikely to be dangerous to passersby. Or so I was told. My personal jury is not buying that fact. I was also told, repeatedly, that I should realize – and be comforted by – how beneficial these insects are.

I do realize. I’m not comforted.

Used then Abandoned

And yet, it seems, I will need to wait until November, by which time the colony should die out, leaving only the queen to hibernate through the winter. Come spring, she’ll go to a new nest somewhere far from my tree.

And that is the only plus I see in this whole frightening scenario – that a hornet’s nest is built for single use. Once the colony abandons this one, no hornet will ever come back to it.

Until they leave, however, everyone will know where to find me – cowering behind the curtains in my dining room, counting off the days until those killer stinging machines have gone.

By the way – while the sight of this nest has me breaking into a fear-filled sweat, it seems these nests are often seen as works of art. It’s true, I suppose, they are magnificent structures – the one in front of my home is the size of a football and the external layers are indeed compelling to gaze upon.

But, apparently, once abandoned, there are some people who have actually taken hornets’ nests down from their trees – or eaves or wherever they happen to be hanging – slice them in half and display them as wall art.

FYI – I will not be doing that.

 

 

Blue Satin Sashes – a writing prompt

My muse has been known to take wrong turns now and then, wandering as it does in a never-ending search for something dark and mysterious or sparkley and fun to play with. Because of that never-ending quest, it’s not uncommon for my wandering muse to wind up caught in some murky, quick-sandy bit of gray matter. How do I lure it out? Exercise, coffee, daydreaming… and writing prompts. Bits of story fodder lie everywhere but when the muse is otherwise occupied, they can be hard to find, or, once found, impossible to develop.

A story prompt sits right in front of your eyes, luring the muse from that darkened corner, tempting it with just what it’s been seeking. A dark and mysterious idea or a fun playful place in which to frolic.

Today, my muse has been lured by Jon Nathanial Corres and Willow Raven and my thanks go to them for providing a beautiful and magical writing prompt. You should see it full size – and can find it here – Willow Raven – BLUE SATIN SASHES.

Along with the prompt came a challenge which was, actually, posted in June even though I’ve just found it now. The challenge is to write a short piece inspired by the Blue Satin Sashes image… and, of course, a short piece has the potential to grow into a larger piece… unless the muse steps into quicksand again.

I’ve accepted the much-needed challenge, and I have titled my short piece: His Again. This was fun to write and I hope you find it fun to read.

Here’s a small version of Willow’s stunning visual prompt:

Willow Raven - Blue Satin Sashes Visual Writing Prompt

His Again

Debora Dale

Snow filled the air like down from a pillow, softly floating in waves playful and billowy. White and innocent, it shimmered in the moonlight, unfazed by the cold and dark.

He held out his hand, palm up, to capture the beauty. It faded, wounded by his heat, writhing until only a single droplet remained. Cold, small. Gone.

A low rumble of hooves broke through the silence, and a golden light bobbed in the distance. Snow stirred from the ground as the carriage neared and falling flakes scattered as to clear a path far and wide.

With a small nod and a touch to the brim of his hat, he welcomed the bundled coachman. And then on he strode to the carriage door.

Through the small window, he saw her. Her white winter cloak, as innocent as snow. Her bonnet tied beneath her chin with a blue satin sash.

He met her gaze, and saw moisture there. It was from cold, he would believe, for despite the past, she had chosen to see him again.

She rose and he hesitated, not wishing to mar such exquisite beauty. She waited. Her eyes, blue as the satin, challenged.

He dared hold out his hand, palm up, to capture the beauty. And she laid her hand upon it. Cold. Small. It did not fade but remained. Solid and warming. His to hold once again.

 


 

What do you think? Did the image stir your muse? I loved writing this short and would love to read yours, too. If you write one, please let me know in the comments.

 

A HAUNTING WE WILL GO – Old Bethpage Village Restoration

You would think with the winter months upon us, I’d be home in front of the computer pounding away at posts for this blog. Well, this winter in New York has been so mild, so lovely, that I’ve been out and about for much of it.

OGHOST HUNTING - Old Bethpage Village Restoration - Conklin Dining/Sitting Roomne of my outings took me to Old Bethpage Village Restoration, a historically rich location that makes me think of Colonial Williamsburg and how it might have looked in its earliest planning stages.

Known as the Jewel of Long Island, Old Bethpage Village Restoration (OBVR) has been severely underfunded and budget cuts have cost it the “living history” part of its description since almost all of the full time costumed interpreters have been laid off. Fortunately, new management seems interested in revitalizing the Village and our hope is for a rebirth.

Meanwhile, as the Village stands cold and closed for the winter months, a skeleton crew – of sorts – is charged with maintaining and cleaning the buildings. Each house in the Village was brought there from another part of Long Island, each teaming with its own history. Some of the furnishings in the homes belong to the family that once lived there, other furnisOld Bethpage Village Restoration - Williams House Biblehings are mismatched.

All of this makes OBVR a prime location for paranormal activity. Because of that, one of the updates I would love to see in this village is a regularly scheduled lantern ghost tour. When I am in the Village, there is no question in my mind – Here, there be ghosts.

On a particularly sunny cleaning day, we brought our cameras and digital recorders. There wasn’t much activity that day, mostly personal experiences of cold spots, unease, dizziness and headaches. In each home, however, we captured whispered voices, barely audible. I will share four that seem the most vivid and urge you to use headphones for a fuller experience.

If I sound less than disappointed about our soft bits of audio evidence, it’s because of the phenomenal visual evidence we captured. At first, I was excited, then I became frightened. I don’t know what or who we captured in the pictures I’ll be sharing here, but as I considered it, I realized, we’ve never felt threatened in those homes so our perception of what ‘good’ and ‘bad’ looks like is just that, perception. We don’t know what’s on the other side and so we shouldn’t make judgments – can’t judge a book by its cover, right?

GHOST HUNTING - Old Bethpage Village Restoration - Schkank ParlourA word about the recordings on this page. For some reason, the player will play all of the recordings in succession. Just press pause to prevent if from continuing until you’re ready to hear the next track.

And so without further ado…

In the Schenck House – a home built in 1730 by a Dutch Farmer – We are standing at the front door having just walked into the house and locked the door behind us. I just noted the size of the floorboards and beams – HUGE gorgeous wood – when a light sing-songy female voice comes from the space immediately around us. We know it’s not us because it happens as I’m talking about the beautiful wood and my daughter laughs. We didn’t even hear this voice at the time.

SCHENCK HOUSE 2:06 Ghost Child – SCHKANK FOYER

The Williams House – build by a master house carpenter, Henry Williams, in 1820 – is known for its hautings and though presumption is its residual not intelligent, some of the otherworldly ‘comments’ tell us the opposite. Take for example this bit of recording while we stood in the parlour –

Listen hard for the whispers, there are two. The first is at 7 seconds, about two beats after I say, “You have a beautiful house”, the whisper sounds like, “What?” The second, at 11 seconds, sounds like a slow, drawn out, “They’re here.”.

WILLIAMS HOUSE – Parlour Ghost Hunting – WILLIAMS HOUSE PARLOUR

Eventually, we set the recorder in the family room and went about our work in the other rooms and upstairs. While the recorder remained alone on a table by a bible and spectacles, there were separate comments made – we, remember were in the other rooms or on the second floor and our voices, when heard, are distinctly ours.

Listen at 14 seconds. We hear “go”. At .21, .25 and .27, we hear, “That’s you.” “Go.” “Take them.”

WILLIAMS HOUSE BIBLE Ghost Voices – WILLIAMS HOUSE by Bible

At this point, we are upstairs, talking while we work. Listen at 4 seconds. We hear a frustrated – almost weary and bored of our presence – “Go home.” Just before the whisper, you’ll hear silence then us talking in the background.

WILLIAMS HOUSE “GO HOME” GHOST HUNTING – WILLIAMS HOUSE – GO HOME

And finally, at the Noon Inn, built in 1835, we climbed up to the attic. Well, I didn’t. I stood on the steps to the attic and had to come back down. I felt heavy, the air thick. Cold. My daughter followed me down and our friend remained on the stairs, feeling uncomfortable and asking me to take her picture at that moment because something did not feel right to her. The first picture you’ll see is the photo I took at that moment and cannot explain. Look to her left. Right there in black on the stairs.

BLACK MASS NOON INN

IMAGE DELETED

Please forgive me, but I’ve chosen to delete this image due to some ‘darker’ comments I’ve received (and also deleted) regarding it.

Not one of us ‘knows’ what is beyond this world. We can only judge by what we experience, what we believe and what we feel. In all my years visiting the Village, I have never felt that I or my family was in any type of danger and I would never want others to be turned off because of what they interpret from our experiences there. This image seemed too much of a hot button, and I thought it best to simply remove it.

This next photo is one I took once we were all down the stairs. I cannot explain this one either. Look toward the top right.

FACE NOON INN

Ghost Hunting - Face at Noon Inn

This last picture is one I took almost immediately after the one above.

NO FACE NOON INN

Ghost Hunting - Stairway without face Noon Inn

I’ll leave it to you to decide what these images mean. Your comments, opinions and/or personal experiences are VERY welcomed.

For more of my ghost experiences, check out my Ghosts of Gettysburg Posts – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

Planes, trains and automobiles

I live within the NYC limits so you can guess at the amount of noise I hear every day. All day. And night.

The police precinct is a few blocks away and the firehouse just past that. Three hospitals serve my area, too, so ambulance response time is quick. We have two airports nearby and a train practically next door. Add city buses, cars honking at the traffic light on one corner and stop sign at the other, and it’s a wonder people in my neighborhood stay sane.

However, think about that scene in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil where John is spending his first night in a beautiful and balmy Georgia. The windows are open. The curtains are blowing. But for John to sleep, he needs noise. A city boy through and through, he turns on a tape recording he’s made of NYC streets and the sounds become his lullaby.

So, I wonder, if I were to leave the city, and land in the center of a quiet oasis, would I be content or uneasy? Would I feel peaceful or paranoid?

I think it would be nice at first. Free space to breathe, stretch, lounge and soak up the quiet. But I also think the newness of that would wear off quickly, and I’d wind up looking over my shoulder way more often than I do here at home.

What about you? Are you where you are because you want to be or because it’s where you’ve landed? And, given the choice, would you stay in the quiet or hectic area you call home, or can you see yourself comfortable in the opposite atmosphere?

Wedding Mishaps, Laughs and Memories

Tomorrow is my 17th wedding anniversary, which means today marks 17 years since I frantically worked to finish the last of the silk floral centerpieces for our reception. We could have gotten them from the florist, but that’s what I did “on the side” at that time. Silk floral arranging. Poor hubby had to take them, five at a time, to the catering hall – which was about 30 minutes in each direction.

Weather the week prior to our wedding was about the same as it is now – typical NY July with a bit of elevated heat and pollen index thrown in for fun. Thermostats read 102 in the shade.

We’d planned a whole day of partying. Pre-wedding portraits and lunch with family and close friends at our house well before the 7pm ceremony. Neighbors stopped by and even our pets posed for some pictures.

Our grandmothers were there as well. One from each side. And we put those beautiful ladies to good use. We asked them to be our witnesses and they eagerly agreed, each taking a turn to sign our marriage certificate. Precious memories.

After lunch at our house, we headed out for our formal wedding portraits at the EAB Plaza – which was a corporate office with an amazing arboretum in the lobby where brides often went for a bit of the exotic. Our plan after that was to have our wedding ceremony on the grounds of the catering hall, overlooking the Long Island Sound where cool breezes would be welcome.

That didn’t happen.

Why? Because NY air doesn’t like to stay hot and heavy for long. It likes to cool itself off. On its terms. And so, as we left the house and headed out for the start of our festivities, the sky went black… and I mean black… and then the rain came down so hard we had to pull over several times on our way to the arboretum. When we finally got there, it took a bit of coaxing to get everyone out of the cars and into the place, but we did it and those are some of the best moments of the day. The pictures there still make me smile because when I look at them, I still hear the laughter and screams as we darted through driving rain into the place – in gowns and heels and tuxedos. Such fun. Messy. But fun.

And then we headed to the catering hall. At this point, the rain had ebbed to a mere monsoon and we were able to plod along at a safe and respectable pace. Until the lead car – our family car that held both sets up parents, siblings and spouses and our grandmothers – pulled over. It seems the rain found its way into the lounge area of the car and our families, holding champagne flutes above their heads, caught it before it fell into their laps. I guess they used the ice bucket, too, because somehow, we continued on and they were dry – mostly – when we arrived.

Once dry and inside we took some portraits – hubby is a wedding photographer after all.  For some photos, we looked out of a gorgeous wall of windows – toward the Sound. Toward row after row of decorated white chairs sitting empty. Wet. Lonely. We took a moment to mourn our lovely outdoor wedding, then shrugged it off. This was NY after all. On the Long Island Sound. Do you have any idea what kind of feast mosquitoes would have had on our guests?

It all worked out for the best. Lots of friends. Lots of fun. Lots of memories and lots of love.

What went wrong on your wedding day? And did it really matter much after all?

Socializing the Homeschooler

Homeschooling in New York City may seem like a rarity but it has become quite the movement. Even I, a native New Yorker, originally thought of homeschooling as something done in more rural areas. Instead, many New York families have chosen to pull their children from public school and use the vast wonders of the city as their classroom. There are museums, science labs, historical sites, various cultures and cuisines. So much, that years worth of curriculum could be covered without traveling beyond a few subway stops.

“Great. But what about socialization?”

That question is the first in everyone’s mind when I mention homeschooling my teen. It’s a logical concern and, before we started the process, we wondered about it ourselves.

Recently, I was speaking with some new friends about homeschooling when the issue came up. I answered, saying how there truly isn’t much socialization in school during school time. The comment was met with amusement and I found myself confused. Then I realized that, of course, there is interaction in school, but is it really socialization?

Socialization according to Answers.com is “(psychology) The process whereby a child learns to get along with and to behave similarly to other people in the group, largely through imitation as well as group pressure.

Hmm. “Learning to get along… though imitation as well as group pressure.” Not sure I like that definition.

Let’s try another… from the FreeDictionary.com: (Psychology) Psychol the modification from infancy of an individual’s behaviour to conform with the demands of social life

“conform”. Well. I’m not sure how I feel about that either.

One more… from Meriam-Webster.com: the process by which a human being beginning at infancy acquires the habits, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of society through education and training for adult status.

Ah. Now that works for me. “Acquiring… through accumulated knowledge of society through education and training.”

No “imitation”, no “group pressure” and no “conforming”.

For many homeschoolers the difference between the first two definitions of socialization and the final one is monumental and is, indeed, the difference between socialization through public school versus socialization through homeschooling.

Most often, children in school interact with children their own age. Occasionally, there is interaction between grades but it is usually limited. They pick up on each other’s habits – both good and bad – fashion trends and attitudes. Homeschooled children regularly interact with children of all ages as well as with adults. During spontaneous and/or organized activities, the older kids in the group will look out for the younger kids, engage them and play with them. Not all the time, of course. Just enough to give the young ones a sense of comfort and security and the older ones a sense of responsibility, belonging… and independence. The kids often hold conversations with adults as well – parents of other homeschoolers, or, as in the case of my daughter, customers in our family photography business.

The socialization aspect of a homeschooler in this new millennium is a wondrous thing. Here in the city, there are thousands of homeschoolers and many belong to local homeschool groups. Curriculum is recommended and shared. Activities are organized and varied. Interaction with others is part of life and learning.

Of course, homeschooling is not for everyone. Some children might find it restrictive and suffocating, while others might find it exhilarating and liberating.

For my family, the words “exhilarating” and “liberating” hardly begin to describe the wonder that the process of homeschooling has brought to our lives.

I’m curious. What are some of your first thoughts when you hear a family is homeshooling? Or… if you’re a homeschooler, what are some of the reactions/responses you’ve received from people when you discuss homeschooling?

Claustrophobic or Cozy

City living presents few opportunities for gardening or lounging in hammocks on balmy summer evenings. I often wish I had a yard with a swing-set and a gazebo. Willows to lie under. Vegetables to pick. Quiet space. Private space.

Space.

My yard is attached – on three sides – to other yards. One at each flank and one behind. And each of those yards is attached to three more the same way. Links in a chain forcing neighbors to be neighborly – and here neighborly means respecting the precious and limited space between us for the buffer it is.

I don’t always see my yard as small. I often peer down at it from my bedroom window and smile. It’s home. It’s cozy in its suburban way.

You make due with what you have. I have this:
Suburban Yard

When I could have this:

There are few secrets in my neighborhood and others similar to it. A quiet evening in this borough of New York includes the clamor of family conversations, radios with the volume at medium, piano practice, neighbor’s sneezes and more, flowing out open windows, mingling as they waft along on a breeze through the alley made up by our yards.

The rail is only feet away. It rumbles by on schedule, shaking the foundations. Planes crisscross overhead. Their roar is like a pause button for conversations. You get used to the noise. Sometimes only aware of its existence when another place offers silence. And then the silence is almost unnerving.

But here, as evenings progress to night, mockingbirds taunt us. Tease us. Keep us awake but smiling as they sing one song after another. Some seeming well off key. Others cheerful and carefree.

Listen here… this is precisely what can be heard through my open windows late at night and early in the morning:

I can complain about city life and the lack of elbowroom. Or I can embrace it for what it is. Take pleasure in the nearness of people, the tenacity of nature, and relish every moment for what it is rather than what it could be.

What’s in your space that you once wished were different but now appreciate as uniquely yours?

R.I.P. Buddy

For this Memorial Day, I planned to profile one of the uncountable heroes this great country has had. I hoped for some unknown who had achieved something personal, something wonderful in its own right. I wanted to share his or her story with the world to make our troops more real, more like the boy or girl next door rather than some GI Jane or Joe way over “there”.

I did some research. Looked for names and biographies of regular men and women who served this country in the ultimate way – by giving their lives. I came upon a list put out by the Wall Street Journal that included names and 1/2 inch square headshots. Click on a name and it takes you to that soldier’s page.

I thought I’d hit the jackpot. I’d find a plethora of information on those personal pages and be able to write up my story. Instead, the soldiers’ pages contained the same basic information as on the list from page one. The soldier’s name and birthplace, their photo – larger now, the location of their service and their rank. Sadly, there was no information about who these soldiers were as people. Regular stop-over-for-coffee people.

Though limited information was given, one name intrigued me. Sgt. Nicholas J. Aleman, 24, of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Brooklyn, New York. My hometown. Here was the boy I would profile. Look at me calling him a “Boy”. He was all of 24, still a cub and yet he’d trained, fought and died for his country. That’s a man. A hero.

But I could find out nothing about him except that he’d come from a military family. I did about a dozen searches and kept coming up with the same lines about this young man. He was a Marine Reservist, had been assigned to Camp Lejeune for deployment processing and then had been in Afghanistan, supporting combat operations when he was killed.

Not much of a bio for a hero.

Eventually, I did find a few local articles about this young man. Still, I couldn’t help wonder why it should be so hard to learn about the people who have sacrificed themselves for freedom.

I even went to YouTube and searched his name. There’s someone else out there with the same name. He’s a musician. I scrolled down and then I saw something that told me at a glance that this boy was loved. It was a home video taken as the casket of Sgt. Nicholas J. Aleman, 24, of Brooklyn, N.Y. arrived at church for his funeral. The title of the video was simply: R.I.P. Buddy

I cried for that young man and for the family and friends he left behind. He was loved. He laughed and teased just like the rest of us. He hurt, he cared, he shared. Unlike the rest of us, however, he dared. Sgt. Nicholas J. Aleman, 24, of Brooklyn, N.Y went into battle – knowing each moment could be his last – and all because he believed in his country.

R.I.P. Buddy. We cannot thank you enough. We cannot thank enough those who have gone before or who will go in the future.

And yet, something disturbing about the video has haunted me since I first located it. It was posted six months ago as of this writing. Check the number of views it’s had. Seven is the number I saw when I first clicked on it. Hopefully there are more now. Three minutes, and thirty-three seconds. It’s only a procession and a salute. There are no bells and whistles, no Hollywood celebrities or gyrating dancers. There’s just a soldier coming home.

Three minutes and thirty-three seconds. I watched. I ached for his mother. I cried for his buddies, for his military family and for those of us who too often fail to appreciate that which allows us to be who we are.

At least on this one day, we need to remember what it took for these brave men and women to leave their families, leave their homes and everything familiar to go wherever they were sent, without question, with ofttimes fair-weather support from their own countrymen to regularly risk and give their lives.

On this one day, can more than 7 of us view the video, R.I.P. Buddy and share the grief? Can we, just for a moment, consider the pain and pride of the family and friends of Sgt. Nicholas J. Aleman, 24, of Brooklyn, N.Y and those like him who we will never know?

R.I.P. Buddy. And thank you.

=======

Freedom Tower

The Freedom Tower is no more.

Apparently, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey feels the name is not marketable. Personally, I find that hard to understand. I mean, if they called it Satan’s Tower, well, then maybe I could see the problem. But a building in the heart of New York called the Freedom Tower is difficult to market?

What will the new name be? One World Trade Center. It’s not just the address, but the name. Because that’s so much easier to market? One and Two World Trade Center were destroyed on September 11th, and repeatedly on news channels throughout the following months. They retire numbers from baseball players who have made an impact and passed on yet they don’t see a need to retire these numbers but rather reuse them?

I know. It’s just a name. And yet it’s not. It’s a symbol. It’s our landscape. It’s our first responders and other innocents. It’s our community and we fought to survive its destruction. We pay tribute there annually as a way to insure we never forget the lives lost and destruction. The “Freedom Tower” was supposed to stand above the rest as a beacon of freedom over terror.

But the name is not marketable.

Interestingly, there’s only one tenant signed on at the moment. A Chinese firm. I wonder if the Freedom moniker would have been dropped if the first lease holder were not a company from a communist country. Can’t help it. I have to wonder because the name means everything to the average New Yorker.

Who, by the way, will continue to call this building The Freedom Tower the same as we call Avenue of the Americas, Sixth Avenue.

It’s not defiance, really. It’s not a New York flip-off. It’s just New York pride and sentiment. Freedom was threatened that beautiful September day. Freedom has struggled to survive around the world since. And for New York, at least, Freedom will soar high above the city once again in the Freedom Tower which stands, as a tribute, on the ground of One World Trade Center.

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