Friday, September 15, 2006

Tonight's Dive Video


No comment, except read what Michael J. W. Stickings of The Reaction posted about these pictures (you'll need to click on the cover page to get the slideshow)...These are from the Italian Vogue/Vanity Fair.

(h/t Skippy)

Friday Music Blogging

It just seemed appropriate this week...

Friday Kitten Blogging

The Champ Is Here!

Hullo, Pot? Kettle Here....

China Rips U.S. Claims on Weapons Sales

BEIJING -- China on Friday denounced accusations by top U.S. officials that it was selling weapons to Iran and North Korea amid nuclear tensions with the two regimes. Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang called the criticism "groundless and irresponsible," the official Xinhua News Agency said. No other details were given.

Peter Rodman, assistant secretary of defense for international security, on Thursday urged China to re-evaluate its relationship with allies Iran and North Korea, two countries with which the United States is locked in tense nuclear standoffs.

He said Washington sees in China "a general willingness to transfer a wide variety of technologies to customers around the world."
(emphasis added)

Yes, naturally, after all, we're such a mature and discerning country ourselves...

Who gave Saddam his WMDs?

Or wanted the Taliban to make money off a gas pipeline?

Or made Osama what he is today?

Hmmmmmmmmmmmm, one begins to see a pattern here...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

If There Really Is "CIA Mind Control," Why Would They Need This?

Another Example Of Praying The Problem Will Go Away

What is it with Republicans that, anytime an issue raises its ugly, reality-based head, the Republicans try to defer, ignore, and delay action on it? People are dying here:
Clinton's push for WTC worker help thwarted
Newsday Washington Bureau

September 13, 2006, 10:47 PM EDT

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is calling for $1.9 billion in new medical aid for Ground Zero workers, saying it's needed because former Environmental Protection Administration chief Christie Todd Whitman failed to alert workers to health risks.

Clinton had hoped to get a Senate floor vote Wednesday on an amendment creating a five-year health screening and treatment program for World Trade Center workers sickened by toxic smoke and dust.

But she was thwarted by the Senate's GOP majority, who referred the measure to committee, where it will take months to be voted on -- if ever.
You might recall that Christie Todd Whitman told America that the air around Ground Zero was safe to breath and so it would be OK to work and even live near Ground Zero.

Guess what? Those were her very public, very highly reported comments. Turns out.....ehhhhhh...not so much. Whitman now blames the city for not enforcing the use of respirators, of course, since the EPA quietly issued recommendations that people actually ON the debris pile should be protected, that the air there was not safe.

Now...say I'm a cop and I'm volunteering for recovery work at the Trade Center. I watch the TV and there's a Federal official, the head of the EPA, telling me, "No worries. The air's safe." I get to Ground Zero and am offered a respirator.

The debris pile is hot. I get sweaty. That mask becomes uncomfortable and limits my ability to work effectively. I refuse the mask, because, well, Whitman told me it was safe!

Maybe Christie Whitman ought to revisit her words that day and remind herself that millions of people saw her say that, and then shut up about the city screwing up because some memo was stuck on the bottom of a filing cabinet in some office in DC in the basement.

But the big surprise of this story? Look who's opposing Senator Clinton's plan, and why:
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who chairs the Homeland Security committee, said she was concerned that Clinton's amendment "limits the nearly $2 billion in funding to only in New York, that just doesn't seem fair to me."
MEMO to Susan Collins: The Trade Center wasn't in Portland, ME!

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I Wrest Neptune's Waters

Invoking Goodwin's Law

Every so often, for a laugh, I read the OpEd pieces in the New York Daily News. The New York Daily News, for those of you who have the misfortune of living outside the Big Apple, is a sort of....well, neo-Murdochian attempt at being the middle-of-the-road, Joe Lunchbucket newspaper. Not as obviously partisan and fascist as the Murdoch-owned New York Post, it has even challenged Bush on such issues (mostly local) as the health of first responders and other emergency workers at Ground Zero.

This, despite the fact that its publisher, Mort Zuckerman, is so deeply in the pockets of Bush that Bush no longer needs to wear a jockstrap while jogging for all MZ's ball-fondling.

Ewwwww....there's an image I really didn't need to ponder...anyway...I ran across this today, and realized I have to get out of my post-9/11 commemoration depression:
W's firm stand has foes shaky

"Whatever mistakes have been made in Iraq, the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out, the terrorists would leave us alone. They will not leave us alone. They will follow us. The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad," he said.

If that wasn't clear enough, he added: "This struggle has been called a clash of civilizations. In truth, it is a struggle for civilization."

That's a great line and, coming after a day of commemorative events that still pack a powerful emotional punch, it had to give Dem strategists second thoughts. And then along came Al Qaeda.

Even as Bush was quoting Bin Laden as calling Iraq "the Third World War," Bin Laden's deputy released a video promising attacks against the U.S. and Israel. "The days are pregnant and giving birth to new events," Ayman al-Zawahiri vowed. He said our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are "doomed to defeat" and that we would be driven out of the Middle East.

His threats are like a sharp stick in the eye, especially for Democrats. Look at the scrambled dynamics this way: If Bush and Bin Laden agree that Iraq is a key front, can Democrats really argue it's not? Can their candidates for Congress still tell voters it's okay to pull out of Iraq? Do they even believe it themselves?
In a nutshell, there's the neo-con fallback option: when in doubt, drop back fifteen, punt the "terror" ball, and watch the Dems fumble it.

Hey, it worked in 2004. Had John Kerry spent even five minutes to say "I'd like to kill Osama bin Laden for exposing the weaknesses of this nation where Bush let him get away in Tora Bora," instead of grinding out policy paper after position paper detailing the many errors of the first Bush term, we'd be looking forward to the second Kerry term and how he'd have the luxury of picking up another dozen Senate seats this year.

So, is Iraq a key front? Yes. Because we made it so, and it's up to us to make it NOT so. I can't be any plainer than that, can I? If you sum up the future of the Iraq debacle in a sentence (which I maintain you can't since we fucked it up so royally), the words "civil war," "theocracy," and "Iran" are guaranteed to be in there. I can also promise you that "democracy" will not, except as in the phrase "In our failed attempts to ram democracy down the throats of a people who wanted it, but not at our price..."

Rather than write a piece about how we might even make a half-hearted attempt to fix the problem -- admittedly, this involves a certain amount of thinking and who can be bothered doing that? -- Goodwin immediate invokes the "Dems are going to loo-oose" chant, like a little girl on a playground swing set. Keep pumping, Sally, and maybe one day you'll make the Big Girl X Games.

I wonder if Goodwin has a sinus condition, because this opinion piece sure sounds like it was written by a mouth breather...

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A Much Anticipated Unveiling

Today marked the beginning of a new era at The Today Show:
Meredith Vieira debuts on 'Today'

Meredith Vieira debuted Wednesday as Matt Lauer's partner on NBC's "Today" show, saying she felt "like it's the first day of school and I'm sitting next to the cutest guy."

Television's most popular morning show also took the wraps off a rebuilt studio in Manhattan's Rockefeller Center, and began broadcasting in high definition.
Which was really odd, because I thought they had been broadcasting in HiDef for a while now, but what do I know, except I pick it up on my HiDef set, and today it did look different.

But back to Viera. Contrasting her to Katie Couric is a little like contrasting Baby Spice to Posh Spice, I think. Katie Couric was the kind of girl you'd take on a first date to a picnic, followed by a walk in the woods, where you'd steal a few kisses, with one eye out for someone else on the trail...maybe play with her boobs if she let you.

Meredith Viera is the type of girl you'd take to a smoky jazz club on the first date, where you'd sip bourbon with her, all the while making bedroom eyes at each other. By the end of the night, her dress would be slightly disheveled from the encounter by the restroom, with the promise of more to come as you poured yourselves into a cab.

But, there's the Spice Girl angle for both, which means, you ain't getting any from neither, because they're put there for your indulgence, not your attainment. And there's the rub.

A couple of comments regarding Viera's first day, which I caught some of. First, why is the Today Show adamant about turning her into Katie lite? I remember Viera form her stint on WBCS in NYC. She was a tough journalist in a time when tough journalists were still valued, even if that was gradually changing to Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry" horror story about bubbleheaded bleach blondes who can tell you about the plane crash with a gleam in her eye.

Trouble was, she hated reporting on the news.

I can't imagine why: you sit there and repeat what someone with an agenda has told you, and you can't express an opinion without getting a flood of letters from low-normals who think the world is only "one way" and it's not your way. Hell, you can't even let the other side of the story tell itself without getting that flood of letters.

She's a broad, if her comment about putting the "broad" in "broadcasting" is any indication, and they ought to play up that angle to its hilt. Katie was this little fluff bunny. I'd love to see Viera come out for the annual Halloween dress-up as Elvira, cleavage and all. She doesn't look like she'll try to be perfect, which is going to be a big relief, unless NBC decides to break her of the habit of making mistakes and then making a deal about them.

Watch highlights of her first morning here

Good luck, Meredith.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Two Friends I Lost

It seemed cheap to post a tribute to the buildings on September 11, when we were celebrating the lives of the heroes and victims of the attacks. I do want to talk about the two entities closest to me that I lost: the towers themselves. In the spirit of commemorating the lives of the victims, I will not discuss my experiences with either attack (you can read my 9/11 story elsewhere. I was on Wall Street in 1993.) but my joy at the buildings themselves.

Unless you had seen them in person, it's really hard to describe the dizzying heights. No other building in the world combined the height with a profile that had no setbacks: a sheer wall, more than a thousand feet high. It's not hard to imagine why George Willig felt the need to scale a tower. They were, in the world's of Edmund Hillary, there.

I grew up with those Towers. As I grew, they grew, taller and stronger. No longer was the Empire State Building to be the tallest tower in the world, indeed, even the Trade Center towers would soon lose that distinction. But for that brief moment, those two towers, as ugly as they were, gleamed with extra pride at the distinction.

January 2, in the early 80s, a young lady boarded the number 6 train at 59th Street, along with her mother, two brothers, and father. She wore white, a wedding gown that her mother wore nearly forty years earlier. Despite the odd glances, she was unabashed that she was riding a subway train to her wedding.

My sister was wed at City Hall (to be precise, the Municipal Building). The reception was at Windows On The World. We walked over after the ceremony, just before noon. It was raw and cold and the wind whipped off the World Trade Center plaza as it always seemed to do, even in the stillest, muggiest summer afternoon. We rode the elevators up, and were escorted to a private reception room as if we were royalty.

I think that was the moment that I truly fell in love with the buildings.

I would visit often, even just riding the subway to the shopping plaza underneath, and spend time wandering the lobby, the tall sky lobby, three stories high, beckoning and welcoming visitors about to ride an elevator faster and higher than they ever had before.

On a clear day, you could see all the way up the Hudson River to Bear Mountain, in Harriman (and vice versa, as I discovered). In a high wind, the floor swayed under you that you thought you were on a ferry or a plane.

The observation deck was wide and easily navigated even when crowded, unlike the Empire State Building which sacrificed space for commercial revenue. Along the windows were small wells that you could, if you snuck in and out quickly, stand in and pretend that you were standing outside the building.

Once you rode a short escalator, weather permitting, you could stand on the actual roof of the building, and gaze 360 degrees over a landscape that included planes taking off below you, as well as cargo ships entering the harbor past Lady Liberty. I imagine a medieval king would understand the impressiveness of surveying these lands from on high. It made one feel enlarged, emboldened. I don't think it was a coincidence that so many marriage proposals were made up there.

In the other tower was Windows On The World, a lovely restaurant in a quasi-Art Deco style that at night felt for all the world like you could touch the sky with your shrimp fork, and pluck a star to season your appetizer.

I dined here often. Sometimes as a lark, as young men and women filled with poetic notions are wont to do, my friends and I would dress up in our tuxedos and gowns and have a seven course dinner in the wine cellar, the Cellar In The Sky. The meal always ended up with a glass of champagne and a toast to the heavens for our happiness and long life.

Once in a while, we'd even coax a couple of our parents into coming along, on some pretext or other, only to celebrate an anniversary or birthday.

I would give much to have one last toast, roaring to the heavens about the immortality we believed these buildings conferred.

Goodbye, my old friends. A sweet rest awaits you in my memory.

Monday, September 11, 2006

My Hero, Billy

For September 11, I will turn over the blog to my friend and co-alumnus, Mike McGinn, to talk about his brother, Billy. Read on, and imagine "what if?"....

This is a collection of memories about my brother Billy McGinn. When he died Billy was a Lieutenant with Squad 18 of the F.D.N.Y. Since these are the fond remembrances of a doting older brother they are not meant to be a factual biography, but rather a celebration of the life Billy lived and an honor to his memory.

Billy was a skinny, small kid. Not one you would look at and think, “That kid will be a hero someday.” He could be noisy to the point of annoyance, and as a kid he had no problem being a real pest. We had a paper route delivering the Staten Island Advance along a stretch of Amboy Road in New Dorp where we grew up. We grew this route to over 100 customers from the 56 it had when we got it. The local Catholic high school (Monsignor Farrell) was down the street from our house and we had regular contact with the young men who attended this school. Billy in particular did not think much of the Farrell High School students. He would block their path as he delivered the Advance, taunting them with calls of “Farrell Faggott!” until they stuck his head in a nearby snowbank. Billy would pluck himself out of the snowbank and continue taunting them until he again got stuck into the snow. This would continue until Billy was done with his half of the paper route.

Billy and I were both members of the Altar Boy Society at Our lady Queen of Peace Church. Billy looked particularly angelic when vested in his cassock and surplice. With his blue eyes and blond hair many parishioners marveled at the boy angel on the altar. Of course these people did not actually know him.

After Billy survived the altar boys without getting excommunicated, and survived the Boy Scouts without getting burned or frozen to death – not to mention the construction in the neighborhood, high school loomed in his future. I had advised him against doing well on the Stuyvesant test, as our father taught there and he saw what happened when I got caught doing something often enough. So he threw the test and went to our local high school. Billy's career at New Dorp High School was notable for the number of absences for various classes as noted on his report cards never being the same. He could also joke his way out of it with my parents, while I was mentally doing some math and realizing that I would be grounded until I was well past eighty. Needless to say, I did not look kindly on him for this.

After graduating high school, Billy found himself with a conditional acceptance to the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. The condition was he had to go through a summer program to sharpen his math skills. It was during this summer that he realized maybe he should have gone to a math class once in a while and ditched Stevens for UCLA (University on the Corner of Lexington Avenue). Much to my surprise, Billy actually took school seriously at Hunter, he studied hard and earned good grades. It was at Hunter that a certain young Anne Golden caught his eye and he began spending more time with her, and less time carousing with the boys. I first met Anne when I got on a SIRT train one day and Billy introduced us. He later asked me not to say anything to our family about her, but when she showed up at a Sunday dinner, I knew it was serious. I was nice and did not torture her, as Billy and I did with great delight when ever one of our sisters showed up with an unwitting victim. For some reason many of them never came back.

For the rest of his life, it was always Billy and Anne. Billy went on in Hunter with a major in Physics. I had started taking night courses to meet a better class of women. Of course I was taking these courses at the expense of my employer. I would drive into Manhattan from New Jersey and Billy and I would ride home together. I would always let him drive, I had put in a full day at work and was tired. It was during these rides that Billy impressed me with his grasp of physics. He demonstrated many times that we could coast home from the highest point on Staten Island, True at one point you had to rock back and forth in your seats and you had to catch the lights just right. But this was Nobel grade stuff.

It was during this time that our Uncle Kevin (a fire lieutenant FDNY) bought a burned out building because he wanted to start a business selling head stones and flowers there. As was the tradition in our family, all men over the age of five were expected to help in the renovation. When I first saw this wreck of a building, I thought Kevin was nuts. When I got inside it this was only confirmed. After working there for a few hours with Billy, our dad and Uncles Kevin and Harry – along with several other characters a few cases of beer got me thinking maybe he was on to something. Many was the weekend we spent gutting and rebuilding that old house. Since Billy was in college and needed money Kevin hired him to do work on the place after school. This proved to be a life changing moment for Billy, though none of us realized it at the time.

It was around this time that Billy was getting ready to graduate as a physics major from Hunter College. During his last semester he decided to change his major to civil engineering and started classes at CCNY, where he was in walking distance of Kevin's firehouse. Billy was a regular visitor at the firehouse and he and Kevin were quickly becoming the best of friends.

Anne was working on her doctorate. Billy would often borrow my car on a Friday night so he could take Anne for dinner. Of course he would always promise it would be back by Saturday morning. Most times he really meant Sunday night, but he had the kind of personality where you just could not stay mad at him – so he did this to me a lot. Anne later told me that Billy always said he borrowed the car for the whole weekend. During this time Billy and Anne had gotten engaged. Billy finished his studies at CCNY, and when he could not get a job as an engineer, he heeded Kevin's advice and took the Fire Department test.

Billy was appointed the department in 1984 and got married in July of that year. Billy was sent to Ladder 11 and Engine 28 on East 2nd street in lower Manhattan as a probationary firefighter. I don't know if it was the Fire Department, Anne or both that changed Billy, but the Billy who walked out of the firehouse was not the same Billy that walked in. Where as I do not care if somebody likes me or not, Billy made an effort to win over all he came to know. John Salka who was a mentor of Billy's and is now a Battalion Chief worked with Billy in that first firehouse. He hated Billy, John told me he used to call Billy “college boy”. He thought Billy would never last. But Billy won him over and they became good friends.

Two days after Billy and Anne got married my parents became grandparents for the first time. This meant my dad would be spending a lot of his time at the firehouse with his new grandson, begetting an era of many pictures of Billy and our nephew Sean on the firetruck, behind the wheel of the firetruck, etc.

This also began the “firehouse stories”. Billy never talked about the dangers of the job, and spoke only in passing about the fires he helped put out. Most of what he said about the fires he went to was confined to how much fun he had playing on the roofs of burning buildings while chopping holes in them. If this did not make our mother sufficiently nervous he would start talking about the joys of leaping from roof to roof. These were not the best stories however. The best stories were about what took place when they were not fighting fires. The best action happened while waiting for the alarm bell to go off.

One of my favorites was about the firefighter who insisted somebody was going through the stuff in his locker. All the other firefighters told him he was crazy – nobody is going through your locker. He insisted however and would not stop his whining. Fortunately the lockers were arranged in a row so they shared a common back. Billy told us how they removed the common back between the locker of the paranoid firefighter and the locker behind it. When the hapless guy opened his locker, on after another his fellow firefighters stepped out of his locker and shook his hand. They then walked back for a second or third trip through the locker. Billy never said if that firefighters' suspicions about his belongings being rifled through were allayed – but you can be sure he never complained again.

It was not all fun and games being a firefighter though. Being a firefighter does not mean that your engineering education is wasted either. Billy was often asked if a structure was safe to enter, if it was safe to hit a brick wall with water, or would the combination of cold water and hot brick cause the wall to come down. Fire not only stresses men – it stresses wood steel and brick. Sometimes it stresses these beyond their specification. Fortunately the men seem to have no specification.

As the group of the grandchildren began to grow and become toddlers and little kids, Billy would give them noisy, out of control toys at every occasion possible. Billy gave the noisiest gifts to the kids at Christmas. Billy was the uncle who showed up at family barbecues with a trunk full of super squirters. Billy was the uncle who would wrestle with all the kids at once in the middle of the living room floor. If furniture and lamps got knocked over – it did not matter. Every body jump on Uncle Billy. Billy would jump up in the middle of a Sunday dinner – and much to the delight of the squealing children, yell “Poopies!” and run from the room. All the kids loved Uncle Billy.

When I married my lovely blue eyed Bernadette it was Billy and Anne who were our witnesses. When our son Abraham was born, I began to more fully appreciate the drums and other noisy toys my son got from his favorite uncle. Often the appreciative phrases were muttered under the breath of my wife and I. But even our shy Abraham squealed with delight when Uncle Billy picked him up and sat him on top of Grandma's refrigerator. Even when the kids were beating on drums graciously supplied by Billy, who could stay angry at a man so full of life and love, a man who seemed to live to delight children.

The gifts of noise stopped mysteriously about two years after my son Abraham was born. Coincidently, Billy and Anne became parents of a son who they named Liam. Billy was a kind and remarkably gentle father, Liam also fell asleep in his arms and Billy would hold him for hours. When Billy was not at the firehouse his life revolved around Liam. He would sometimes take Liam for a drive upstate for a surprise visit with his cousin Abe and his Uncle Mike. All four boys generally enjoyed these visits. Liam was accompanied two years later by his sister Cordelia. Billy lived for his children. Billy took them to the park, Billy tended the bumps and bruises of childhood. When Liam started school, Billy has quite a reputation in the neighborhood for his way with children. Many children in Liam and Delia's elementary school had “Fireman Billy” written on their blue emergency contact card. Billy was often called out at night to tend to a sick child who insisted that “Fireman Billy” could make him better.

“Fireman Billy” was not only the comforter of sick and injured children. He was the only man on the steering committee P.S. 81 where his children went. When Liam became a cub scout, Billy became a Den Leader, which caused me to tease him about being a Den Mother. There was not a child in the neighborhood who did not know him. On career day Billy would come to P.S. 81 in full turnout gear and talk to the children about fire safety. He would show them how to “Stop, drop and roll” should their clothing catch fire. He told them how they should leave a burning building immediately without stopping to save anything, not a favored toy, nothing. He told them that they were the most precious things their parents had, and the only thing that could not be replaced.

“Fireman Billy” was assigned to Squad 1 of the FDNY Special Operations Command when the truck bomb went off in the World Trade Center in 1993. Billy told me of finding bodies bent over double – backwards. He told me that they had parked the truck where they though it would take down the tower. Billy, a trained civil engineer scoffed at this. He told me those towers could not be brought down. The Fire Department had him studying the drawings of the Twin Towers, the Fire Department knew they were a target. At least someone was paying attention.

Billy got promoted to Lieutenant, and after drifting around as new FDNY lieutenants do finally got himself assigned to Squad 18 on West 10th Street – Special Operations Command of course. Billy loved being an officer, and he loved being assigned to a firehouse in the village. He lived for the action, the runs were not all big stuff. Occasionally a lingerie model would have a kitchen fire and it would be a delight to hear the story from Billy.

By this time our oldest nephew Sean was a young man nearing the end of his high school career. Sean was old enough to take the ferry to Manhattan and often spent his free time at the Squad when Billy was working. It soon became plain that Sean was getting the firefighter bug from his Uncle Billy – just as Billy had gotten it from his Uncle Kevin.

If you walked out of the firehouse on West 10th Street and walked to the right maybe 100 feet you would be on Greenwhich Avenue. The Twin Towers stood at the end of Greenwhich Avenue while Billy continue to study them. They stood as silent sentinels in the skyline as Squad 18 drilled there. There the stood in seeming omnipotence, buildings that Billy thought could not be made to fall.

On September 11th 2001 Squad 18 was in temporary quarters on Lafayette Street while repairs were being made to the firehouse on West 10th Street. They were scheduled to go to Randalls Island for training, but we all know what happened next.

Riverdale is a lot quieter without the shouts of “Fireman Billy”. Now someone else must tend to the sick and injured children. A bronze tablet with a picture of a fireman named Billy is mounted outside the auditorium of P.S. 81 in memory of someone who cared so much and did so much for the children of that school.

Sean is a cadet in the N.Y.P.D. Academy now. He is going to join another blue line while he waits for a firefighter test to come up. The niece and nephews who delighted in the noisy toys are mostly grown now, the drums and super soakers lie forlorn and forgotten in basements and garages. Our family gatherings are much too quiet now. The picture of a beloved young firefighter hangs on the wall telling us why.

Carl here.

It takes an act of God to unite Michelle Malkin and I on the same page, but it has happened.

I type this a full week ahead of the rememberance, and I cry typing it. As I read the list of tributes and read Mike's memories, I'm struck by two things.

First, how ordinary the people doing the tributes are. None of us are anybody special, there was no symposium of college professors or political heavyweights that assigned us the task. We are all volunteers. We have all asked for some small part (1/2,996th, to be precise) of this effort. Is it penance? Guilt? Patriotism?

No. It's love.

You see, the other thing I'm struck by is the ordinariness of the people we write about. Yes, some were heroes in the ultimate sense of the word, like Billy McGinn, rushing into buildings that sane people were rushing out of or trying to escape, or realizing they had no chance to get out and trying to make peace and offer comfort to those around them, or saving one building from one more plane. Many were not heroes in anyway than being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and we mourn them too, as heroes because like so many on this planet, they are merely for being there. All of them, all too human, with the flaws and foibles inherent in humanity. And all the grace, as Billy's life demonstrates.

All too mortal.

For my part, Lt. McGinn was about as close as I came to actually knowing someone who died that day. When I first found out about him, it was from Mike, who I proudly call my friend. As I searched the Net looking for information on his brother, Billy, I realized how heartbreaking the loss was. And then I multiplied this loss by the three thousand others.

Suddenly, the true weight, the truth of the tragedy, unfolded. As you scan the Net today, and read this and other tributes, I hope you too are overwhelmed by the fact that all these people had plans and hopes and dreams, families and friends, jobs, hobbies. They watched TV, ate lunch, attended parties and school plays, right alongside you and I, or people just like us.

They were, in fact, us. And it is in this spirit we write. Today, we do not mark their deaths. We celebrate the lives. Their lives, but also ours, because in these stories you're about to read (or have been reading), we see ourselves, our loved ones.

Our family.

And lest we forget, there are living victims, as well. The rescue workers who risked their lives and are now deathly sick for the risking. The men and women who stood on the debris pile to keep digging up bodies and body parts, who now cough and wheeze and wonder if it's a bad cold or asthma. Or worse. I know some of these people. As I've related in other pieces on this blog, I'm even friends with a few, people who were there, helping, even rescuing. Even getting caught in the collapses and finding safety and shelter.

The people who lived or worked (or both) down there, who now sit, sick with fear and wonder if they, too, might have life cut short.

We need to remember them, too. They're heroes, living among us.

My deepest thanks to Mike for writing such a beautiful story about his brother. I can picture Billy, and would like to have known him. Maybe had a beer with him.

You know, ordinary stuff.

You're Missing
Bruce Springsteen

Shirts in the closet, shoes in the hall
Mama's in the kitchen, baby and all
Everything is everything
Everything is everything
But you're missing

Coffee cups on the counter, jackets on the chair
Papers on the doorstep, you're not there
Everything is everything
Everything is everything
But you're missing

Pictures on the nightstand, TV's on in the den
Your house is waiting, your house is waiting
For you to walk in, for you to walk in
But you're missing, you're missing
You're missing when I shut out the lights
You're missing when I close my eyes
You're missing when I see the sun rise
You're missing

Children are asking if it's alright
Will you be in our arms tonight?

Morning is morning, the evening falls I have
Too much room in my bed, too many phone calls
How's everything, everything?
Everything, everything
You're missing, you're missing

God's drifting in heaven, devil's in the mailbox
I got dust on my shoes, nothing but teardrops

To read other tributes, click here

UPDATE: In bittersweet news, there have been so many hits to that the hosting service has pulled the site because we've exceeded bandwidth. I don't know who's hosting, but a few hundred angry emails ought to make them relent. Meanwhile, a new server is being rushed into service today, and the links should be automatically re-directed.

My Day, Five Years Ago

Some of you have either heard or read my story of September 11. It is not some glorious, heroic tale, unless you consider frozen in place in terror as heroic, compared to trying to escape a city under seige.

About a quarter to nine on September 11, 2001, I was answering some emails. A friend was travelling in from Staten Island for an audition, and I was giving her directions, and making arrangements to meet for either lunch or drinks afterwards.

I heard this high-pitched, soft whine go past my office window, which faces a side street just off Park Avenue. It didn't sound like much of anything, nothing like the F-111's that streamed past the windows one Veteran's Day, flying low over Fifth Avenue, rattling the furniture and my teeth.

My immediate thought was, "Oh no, not again!" You see, two weeks before, some numbnuts had parachuted onto the Statue of Liberty, managing to get hung up on the torch, and wreaking all sorts of havoc in the harbor (imagine that happening today!) My first assumption was that this jerk, who got a very light slap on the wrist for that stunt, was determined to try again, maybe with the Empire State Building, just a flew blocks away.

A few moments later, I heard a ruckus in the hallway, someone shouting the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane. I have a nice view of parts of lower Manhattan, but not that particular direction, but some of the floor does, so I wandered to the offices in the center of the floor, and gazed out.

"Hm, small hole," says I, not realizing the scale I was looking at. For all the fire and smoke and flames you see on TV, up close thru the camera lens, in real life, from five miles away, it looked like nothing more than a small Cessna had plunged into the building. A few flames licked the sides of the building facing me, more like the type of flame you see in a campfire that has collapsed to embers and coals. Some idiot got drunk or had a heart attack and hit the Trade Center. Kind of like Payne Stewart earlier, the plane continued in a nearly straight path and into the building.

It must have been some psychological defense mechanism, because I know the scale of those buildings. Each floor was an acre, easily, and in hindsight, I see now what my eyes and mind at the time couldn't accept.

When I watched this for a few minutes, I realized I had to make some phone calls: one to my friend to tell her not to bother coming in, since there's no way in the world the ferry was going to be bringing more congestion to what was clearly going to be a tight fit, rescuing people. Others to people who I knew were also going to have a tough commute later.

I worked on Wall Street for the first attack in 1993. I remember how the police shut down lower Manhattan that day in order to pack the area with emergency responders. I remember walking for miles until I found a subway that was still running. I figured it would be nearly as bad, if not worse.

As I was on the phone, I heard yet another commotion in the hall, this one louder, much more panicked. As soon as I could get off the phone, I charged down the hall to see what had happened. The second plane had hit. The second tower was on fire. Only this time, because I was on the exit side of the wound, I could see how bad it truly was. Flames licked the side of the building. Columns of smoke curled up and over the top, creating a smokestack effect.

I ran back to the phones: where's my daughter? Is the school answering? Is it under attack? I found an old radio that I got for free, and turned it on and started listening as I dialed her school frantically. Rumours flew faster than locusts in a swarm: another plane was headed for the Empire State Building; the subways were filled with cyanide gas; all bridges were shut down; the police were locking down all major venues. Some of these were true. Some were patently false.

Calls were blocked, lines were overburdened and that sickening bleating of a phone system gone awry filled my ear. I finally got an answering machine. The school was asking parents to pick up their children, or to please wait at their bus stops, if they took buses. Fortunately, mine took a bus to her home, and had someone home to wait for her. Her mom was stuck in Brooklyn, and had to take four buses to get home. The subways were shut down. I couldn't go get her.

As I hung up the phone, I heard a wail and cry in the hallway. I couldn't imagine what could have been worse than what we'd seen already.

As I wandered down the hall, I could see the smoke and dust filling lower Manhattan. As inconceivable as it was, the building had collapsed. In its place was a smoke ghost. The smoke had taken the general form of the building, a grey rectangular cylinder. I realized I had calls to make to let people know I was OK. See, I have lived in the city for all of my 48 years, barring some temporary detours, but my relatives still hadn't learned that Midtown was not downtown, even tho they grew up here or had lived a lifetime here.

I finally get through to enough relatives to know the word will be spread, when I hear a terrified scream of dozens of people. My heart sank, and I knew the second building had collapsed. It was over, even though it really had only begun.

Images of that day filter through my head as I think back: walking on Park Avenue at lunch time, trying to find an open restaurant, and seeing streams of people wandering, blank expressions, covered in dust: smoke ghosts of buildings, smoke ghosts of people. Finding an open restaurant and discovering the owner was a real estate lawyer who was supposed to attend a hearing in the Trade Center that very morning, serving a man whose dark grey suit had a coating of pale white ash on it. That man had been an adversary in a different hearing, and had found this the only bar open on his entire walk up from the Trade Center. Hearing the trains were running, and summoning up the courage to leave for home that afternoon, after having pulled some overtime, spent in blank contemplation of being and nothingness.

The awful emptiness of the sky, save for the occasional F-16 or F-15 flying overhead in a too-late defensive pattern. How blue the sky was all day, contrasting the billowing smoke and ash. How little rain we received until the following Spring, as if God was hiding his tears from us.

Staying up for three straight nights, watching the local newscasts, and thinking of the reporters, doctors, and nurses, all waiting for casualties outside the hospital in a makeshift triage. And none arriving.

Wondering if I knew anybody in the building. Wondering if I'd ever stop being scared.

The closest I came to knowing anyone was Lt. McGinn, whom I profiled here today.

And no, I never stopped being scared.

May God bless you, Father Mychal Judge