How a survivor escaped the World Trade Centers

We had a decent docent at the 9/11 World Trade Centers Memorial when we visited in October 2022. He might have been born before September 11, 2001, but probably not much before. He pointed out and explained many of the exhibits at Ground Zero (see below the videos).

Afterwards we visited the part of the exhibit where pictures of those who died are displayed with stories about them. A sad place. Then we came across a guide who was talking about the World Trade Centers on that day. In the video below, she details what happened: How much fuel the planes were carrying, how far into the buildings the jets penetrated, how long the towers stood until the beams melted and folded, allowing 15,000 people to escape, including herself. Then she asked for questions. First one: Tell us how you got out?

So then she told us about how thousands of New Yorkers left the buildings — not in the way you might imagine.

This was the best part of our tour that day, and there was only one question left to be asked, and I did not ask it: What was her name?

Here are some of the other exhibits at the Memorial:

The Vesey Street stairs, now known as the “Survivors Stairs,” were intact after the collapse of the World Trade Center. They were to be destroyed until a federal review process found evidence from survivors, preservationists and other advocates that the stairs should be saved.

Still standing, the Last Column, or Column 1001B, was near a spot where many first responders died. The remains of some missing members of Fire Department New York Squad 41 were found nearby, and “SQ41” was painted on the column, the first of many marking those who died.

Eleven members of FDNY Ladder Company 3, led by Capt. Patrick John Brown, entered the North Tower before it fell. They were among 343 fire fighters who died that day.

I now have a new bike I’m afraid to ride

It’s electric-assisted, goes 50 to 60 miles on a single charge and I can lift it. Another Trek — Domane+ AL5.

But I’m afraid to ride it anywhere — at least anywhere where it might get stolen, as my last bike was. So I ride it when I know I will not get off of it or if I know there is a bike rack I can chain it to. Which leaves out Edmonds College.

Not that chains do much good. I picked out a complicated bike lock, sections of steel that fold up into something I can carry on the bike. That might be enough weight that I cannot do what I am doing in the photo above. The bike locks at the store ranged from cables a Chihuahua could bite through to chains heavy enough to drag Marley to the ground, and way too expensive for Scrooge to buy. Andy, who was a great help, said that professional bike thieves (there are such people?) carry all the tools they need to cut through anything.

So I am staying on my bike.

How many bikes have been stolen from you?

Here is a wonderful bike that I had for almost two years before it was stolen on Tuesday. I rode it to a class on Shakespeare’s Sonnets at Edmonds College, part of its Creative Retirement Institute. Seven mile ride up, enrich my mind and seven miles back home, build my body. Wore my new Gorewear jacket that Kathy gave me for Christmas, a lime green so bright it scares scurvy away.

There was no bike rack at the classroom building so I used my wimpy chain to tether the bike to a telephone pole along a major street.

The clock on the classroom wall displayed 1:04 when I entered. Late because I, of course, got lost. At break just before 2 p.m., I walked out to get a drink from my water bottle — and the bike, water bottle, Timbuc2 carrying case, headlight, tail light and any faith I had in humanity were gone.

Among our family (three of us), that makes four bikes stolen. I don’t have pictures of the previous hijacked bicycles as I was not as deeply in love with them as I am now. And, they did not cost as much as the bike above did. But I remember them:

The Crescent: Bought when I worked at The Columbian in Vancouver, WA. I went looking for it on Google, and lo and behold, here is my bike, or at least one in orange that looks like it came right out of my garage here in Seattle in about 1979 or 1980. Sorry I can’t find the URL for this image, but you might check here if you are in line for a vintage bike.

Next came Kathy’s Sekai, that left the garage with the Crescent. Kathy might have become a cyclist if that thief had not interfered. But we did learn to keep the garage door shut.

Left unchained in front of a Seven-11 by someone who will not be named, the Kobe left the parking lot and never turned back despite the owner running after it and its rider.

Here is a piece worth reading on Japanese bikes. And since I stole this image from Classic Cycle Bainbridge Island, I should put in a plug for them. This place looks like it would be worth a ride to see — if I had a bike.

But it is only a mile from the ferry dock, a 20-minute walk and the weather on Sunday is forecast to be sunny. I could visit to buy a new bike to replace the No. 4 bike stolen from us, a Trek Checkpoint ALR4.

Or I could watch the Benegals football game and make this a stop on the upcoming Chilly Hilly — if I had a bike.

And as for bike thieves, Shakespeare had this to say:

“O, call me not to justify the wrong

That thy unkindness lays upon my heart.”

Sonnet 139

African American Museum: Creating whiteness

Now that it is 2023, it’s time to catch up on the travels of 2022. Let’s go back to October and the last of three museums we visited in Washington, D.C.: The National Museum of African American History and Culture.

         The path through the museum starts in Africa and takes the visitor through . . . actually, I’m not sure where it ends because we read, viewed and absorbed so much along the way that the museum keepers had to chase us out the exit doors – without even a visit to the bookstore or the gift shop. We made it past the civil-rights era of the 1960s and somewhat beyond.

         I mostly got stuck in Africa and the early years of slavery in American colonies. Took me forever to stop reading about Queen Nzingha, who “had fought against (Portuguese) colonial and slave raiding attacks for decades.” She “died on December 17, 1663 at the age of 80. Unfortunately, her death accelerated Portuguese colonial occupation, as well as their Atlantic slave trade activities in central west Africa.”

         Or, the slave trader Henry Laurens, who wrote to his son that he hated slavery while becoming rich from it. Now that I have been introduced to former slave Olaudah Equiano, I’d like to read his autobiography. I’d also like to read more about the 1808 law that prohibited importation of enslaved people to the United States but was a boon to the domestic slave trade as those slave already here and their progeny became more valuable.

         I was especially stuck on the narrative laid out in this video, which I returned to twice (people love it when you go backwards through a crowd going forward through a museum):

         Essentially, it says that when Africans arrived in the colonies, all of which held enslaved people, the system of slavery was not laid out. There were parts of the country where workers — Native Americans, European indentured servants and slaves – “labored, lived and rebelled together.” So new laws “defined who was enslaved and who was free. By 1750 the system of slavery was racialized and had become more uniform . . . The law based slavery on African descent and made it hereditary and lifelong. It took indentured servants out of slavery; it created whiteness.” (my italics)

         “It created whiteness.” That seemed an odd thing to me, something that did not need to be created. White is white, it’s a color, and anyone who can see has some vision of what white is and how it differs from other colors. On further thought, it seemed that those who brought slavery to this neck of the woods should have sorted out who would be slave and who would not be. You might have thought they’d have this all figured out before spending the time and money to round up thousands of people in Africa, send them across the Atlantic and expect them to do all the work. But no. Previous efforts at assembling labor hadn’t worked out very well: Native Americans kept dying from the diseases Europeans spread to them; the problem with indentured servants was that they were indentured, they left when their term was up. But Africans, who seemed to survive longer than your local Indians and had less voice in things than indentured servants did? That’s what makes way for “racializing” slavery. Make slavery hereditary and forever. If you’re a slave, so are your children, their children and so on.

And, give whites the privilege to get out of it. Best to create a new societal term for what “white” means: a segment of society that is exempt from slavery, from chains, whipping, sold away from your family, endless toil picking cotton to sell to England textile makers to build a strong, rich country in a place that used to be a land sparsely populated by people who had their own way of living.

One of them, Chief Black Hawk, had an answer to all this. I said in previous posts that museums we visited in October overlap, and this spillover comes from the National Museum of the American Indian, or at least from a book I bought there, “Black Hawk: Life of Black Hawk or Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak, dictated by Himself.”

Black Hawk was put in ball and chains, then dragged around the country and humiliated after he was captured while trying to protect his village and cornfields from the whites, defined above, who thought they had more right to them than the people who had lived there for hundreds of years. As he was paraded around the East Coast, his opinions were asked on many subjects, including what to do about the negroes, as he called them. He had a plan, which he hoped would be adopted:

“Let the free states remove all the male negroes (his italics) within their limits, to the slave states – then let our Great Father buy all the female negroes in the slave states, between the ages of twelve and twenty, and sell them to the people of the free states, for a term of years – say, those under fifteen until they are twenty-one – and those of, and over fifteen, for five years – and continue to buy all the females in the slave states, as soon as they arrive at the age of twelve, and take them to the free states, and dispose of them in the same way as the first – and it will not be long before the country is clear of black skins, about which, I am told, they have been talking, for a long time, and for which they have expended a large amount of money.”

His plan would clear the country of white skins, too, no matter the definition. He’d be called a pedophile today and put back in chains for sex trafficking. What he proposed seems impossible, maybe naive. But Black Hawk did not think this was beyond the capacity of whites. After all, they had dragged all these Africans to America and were in the process of removing all the Indian tribes from east of the Mississippi to the west of that river. If whites could do all that, why not turn everybody brown, much like me, said Chief Black Hawk.

American Indian museum says: We’re still here

        Let’s start with the National Museum of the American Indian, which was not the first museum we visited on our recent trip to Washington, D.C. In fact, it was the last one we saw and the least favorite of the three museums we visited: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Native American museum.

But some ideas came together there.

         The American Indian museum has a harder tale to tell than the other two. You can walk through the Holocaust museum tracing the antisemitism from ancient European pogroms to the death camps at Auschwitz. African-American museum starts in Africa and tells the degradation that have happened to black people from slave roundups in Africa, the Middle Passage, slavery in the Americas, Jim Crow, desegregation and the events that brought on the Black Lives Matter movement.

         The Native American museum tells the tale of many clans and tribes spread across the Americas. What those people believed, the stories they told and how they were treated by Europeans and colonists is hard to wrap up in a straight walk through the museum’s halls.

         I had expected our three-day, three-museum visit, which someone termed a “white liberal guilt trip,” to go this way: genocide, slavery and more genocide. But the word “genocide” was never heard or written in the exhibits I saw in the Native America museum. Instead, the theme seemed to be: “We’re still here!” Despite all that was done to us – disease, wars, massacres, reservations, boarding schools, restrictions on our languages – we’re still here.

         From all the products advertised with Indian names, you can’t deny their presence. The museum had everything from an Indian motorcycle to the maiden on the Land O’Lakes butter carton. There are several rooms telling how several tribes understand the universe. From duality to this wonderful story told through the glass art of Seattle’s Preston Singletary. (After January 29, 2023, the exhibit moves on to Chrysler Museum of Art, Virginia, where it will be from March 3, 2023, to June 20, 2023).

         “The Raven and the Box of Daylight” tells a Tlingit creation story about how light came to the world. Part of the introduction to the exhibit includes this: “Shdal’eiw Walter Porter (1944-2013), the eminent Tlingit American historian, mythologist, and storyteller, once stated. ‘The importance of mythology is that it’s universal. Every culture has the same information disguised in story.’ We hope you recognize some of your own story here.” The part about immaculate conception in the Raven story has a familiar ring.

         This video tells the story of a fallen star, who is much more friendly than Lucifer, who would rather “reign in Hell than serve in Heaven,” as Milton told us.

A star that wanders searching for the girl he loved

         The closest I saw where genocide got its due was in a room dedicated to the United States’ Indian Removal Act of 1830. Signed into law by President Andrew Jackson, it got its start from Thomas Jefferson, who said, “The end proposed should be their extermination, or their removal.” Encroaching colonists get Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas, and you get Oklahoma, after 4,000 of you die trekking there.

         While not aware of it, I first learned of the Indian Removal Act back in third grade when I read “Chief Black Hawk” by Frank L. Beals, part of the American Adventure series and I read them all. I’ve been trying to erase that glowing view of American history since about age 25. I’m still waiting for Chief Black Hawk to replace Andrew Jackson on the U.S. twenty-dollar bills.

         Jackson thought the act would “prevent annihilation, not cause it.” (“Andrew Jackson and his Indian Wars,” Robert V. Remini, Penguin Group, 2002, p. 228) Get away from us white folks so you can “perpetuate your race.” But Jackson’s tongue might have been “as forked as a chicken foot,” as Mastubbee, a Choctaw elder, said. (p. 248)

         My third-grade reading did not introduce me to those who had opposed the act: Jeremiah Evarts, Theodore Frelinghuysen or John Ross, a Cherokee chief. But they are there in the American Indian museum.

         This is where the museums start blending, where the ideas come together. The Indian Removal Act sounds an awful lot like Holocaust museum’s “Final Solution.” Where the horrible things that happened to Jews remind me of what has happened to African-Americans and Native Americans.

         Remini ends his book with this statement: “To his dying day on June 8, 1845, Andrew Jackson genuinely believed that what he accomplished rescued these people from inevitable annihilation.”

The American Indians are still here, as the museum attests. But I’m reminded of Seminoles begging at a roadside stand on a 1950s trip to Florida and then of children begging at the Wounded Knee site in 2015.

You’re still here, and I’m glad, but I hope the next 60 years are better for you than those that have passed between my visits to the Seminole stand and to Wounded Knee.

Best photo of the Trip Back East goes to . . .

Judging the photos Kathy and I took during our trip to Washington, D.C., and New York City, I’d have to give the top prize to Kathy for this view of the Washington Monument and the Capitol building. The light was just right, and she was quicker with her iPhone 8 than I was with my more expensive camera. We were standing on the terrace outside the Lincoln Monument when we noticed this view.

The walk to the Lincoln Monument has been on all my trips to Washington, D. C. I always start at the Vietnam Memorial and then start making the bend around the reflecting pool with a stop to visit Lincoln and read parts of his speeches craved on the walls there. With the sun going down, it was hard to read my favorite from his second inaugural speech. It’s the one that ends this way:

“With malice toward none with charity for all with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan ~ to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Despite not being able to read that speech, Lincoln was as impressive as ever and our walk was not done.

While we were visiting the Vietnam Memorial, we talked to a gentleman who was about our age (Remember the Sixties!). He remarked on it “being our war, whether we served over there or not.”

Certainly it had an influence on those of us growing up then. The draft. The draft lottery. Student deferments. Those who fought coming home and how they were treated. Those wounded or killed.

My only acquaintance with those names carved on the wall is a person who beat me up in the first grade. Still, I feel bad for him, and certainly bad for the 53,000 United States service people lost in a war that we as a nation can’t decide if it was worth it or not.

We were debating whether to walk past the Lincoln Monument to visit the Korean War Monument, which was not there the last time we had visited Washington. It seemed as though that monument got squeezed into a corner of the Mall and might not be worth visiting. Oh no, said our gentleman at the Vietnam wall. “Get there when it is raining and dark,” he said, “and you will think the soldiers there are alive and stalking their enemies. Don’t miss it.”

We did not, especially since it was getting dark and rain had started to fall.

The soldiers may not be alive, but your could almost feel the moisture seeping into their boots from the wet grass they were walking through. There is a list of those lost in the war, both U.S. and South Korean. The side panels that run along side the soldiers have an eerie feel to them depicting those who served in a war that is still going on. Would our nation decide to fight if one of Kim Jong-un‘s missiles did not quite reach the sea and fell on Seoul? That would be a decision for the nation.

That ended our evening walk. Earlier in the day, we had taken a bus to see the Jefferson Memorial, which I had not visited. Despite all the bad things said about Thomas Jefferson in Ron Chernow’s book “Hamilton” and the song the Jefferson character sings in the musical (“What’d I Miss”), I still hold Jefferson as a Founding Father who founded much of what formed our country, like “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” There’s also that master/slave matter of Sally Hemings. OK, he was a randy coward who skipped the fighting in the Revolutionary War, but I still like much of what he said, including this on the wall of the memorial:

“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in law and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

Setting aside whether human minds have progressed past our barbarous ancestors, there’s six people on the Supreme Court right now who should walk down to the Jefferson Memorial to read that.

There was one other monument on the Mall that was not there the last time we visited Washington. It opened in April 2004, which shows how long it has been since we traveled to the nation’s capital.

The monument marks a war in which 416,000 Americans died, 45 million people world wide were killed and two totalitarian regimes were snuffed out. It took the nation 60 years to commemorate the achievement of the “Greatest Generation.” It’s a war most Americans have no trouble deciding whether it was worth it or not.

But the monument to World War II? My decision: It fails. To me, it seems as if someone or some committee decided to include all that they thought should go into a monument: fountains, lots of stone, statues, bronze plaques, arches, terraces. Build it in a prominent spot on the Mall and everyone will like it. But there is no there there. No symbolism as in the Vietnam Monument. Nothing to focus on as in the Korean Monument. No one statue that dominates as in the Lincoln and Jefferson monuments. Can we decide to do this one over?

3 days’ worth of tree cutting told in 10 minutes

We had two trees, both more than 100 feet tall, cut down at our home last week. I hate cutting down trees, but one tree was leaning over my neighbor’s house and the other one over ours. Rather than have them fall on us, we decided to take them down.

The job took Sky High Tree Care three days to complete, and we watched pretty much all of it. This video shows that work in about 10 minutes. All of it is hard work, but the climbers are the most fascinating to watch. As Kathy said, “They are doing treetop ballet.”

Hope you enjoy watching this video as much as we did watching the live event.

Immigration problems that won’t go away

I returned to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum today to pick up where I left off, which was at the start of the main exhibit concerning the Nuremberg Trials.

I had covered the anti-semitism and how it had been around way before it became a mainstay of the Nazi party in Germany, the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany, World War II and the Allied discovery of the concentration camp. That took five hours in the museum before I had to run to catch a plane back to Seattle. That was about 20 years ago when I was in Washington, D.C., for a conference. My apologies to The Seattle Times, who sent me there, that I can remember almost nothing about the conference besides visiting with others there who had previously worked at The Times and where I left off at the Holocaust museum.

So Kathy, who had not been at the museum before, started at the beginning of the main exhibit while I headed straight for the Nuremberg Trials. But I did stop and view the videos on America and the Holocaust, which I don’t remember being there in my previous visit. The videos looked back on what Americans knew about the persecution of Jews by Germans in Europe and what the United States did about it – not much.

There was another exhibit downstairs in the museum covering the same topic in greater detail, which I returned to after viewing the Nuremberg videos and displays and lunch at the museum café. The lunch was prompted by Kathy, who texted me, “I could use a break. Woof. This is tough stuff.”

It was. Tough stuff to ignore, which is what Americans did leading into World War II. Take more refugees? No way in a country suffering the Great Depression with 25 percent of the population unemployed. If we took more refugees would Germany respond by even tougher laws against the Jews? In a country where isolationism was the current policy, who cared what they were doing in Germany and the rest of Europe?

Refugees. Immigrants. Illegal migrants. Asylum seekers. No matter what you call them, it has been a sore subject for those of us safely within the borders of the United States. Go back to the 1920s when immigration was restricted and I think you will find that there has never been a policy that suits anyone or everyone. And there is no outlook for a future policy that will solve the immigration question.

Should Venezuelans have the same leniency shown to Cuban refugees/immigrants? They are both fleeing a communist regime.

Who could deny a Ukrainian family from coming to the U.S. now? They may be the latest victims of an aggressor trying to expand its territory, just like those who tried to flee Poland, Austria and other European states as Germany took them over and tried to rid them of Jews.

We don’t have 25 percent unemployment. In fact, we only have between three and four percent unemployment, which is considered by economists as full employment. Would more immigrants open up restaurants that can’t find workers?

The action of some governors to send migrants to other places seems cruel to those put on buses and hardly helpful to those reaching out to aid them in cities far from the southern border. Maybe a way of bringing attention to the problem, but still cruel and unhelpful.

No answers here, but some familiar tones in the awful history on display at the United State Holocaust Memorial Museum.

I could not escape the museum without buying two books in the gift shop: “Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial” by Joseph E. Persico, and “In Pursuit of Justice: Examining the Evidence of the Holocaust”, a project of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

And I found a movie I have to see. Who can resist Edward G. Robinson?

What if COVID had come a week later?

Trying hard, with little success, not to think of the timing of this COVID attack.  Kathy and I went two and one half years into this pandemic without a whiff of COVID. Then a week before our rafting trip through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River, I come down with COVID and spread it to seven of 10 family members. The only ones spared are two who have already had it and a 21-year-old who has a cold but refuses to test positive.

I also think about what would have happened if my first symptoms were a week later in Flagstaff.

Night 1: Feeling tired but it had been a long day with the orientation for the rafting trip.

2. Next morning: Some sniffles but nothing so serious that I could not get on the raft with the other 15 or so people who would be sailing down the Colorado.

Day 3 and Day 4: I would have spent these days sleeping, coughing and gulping down anything to sooth my sore throat. Muddy Colorado River water? Not a problem. Can I hang over the edge of the raft with my mouth open like whales sucking krill through their baleen?

Day 5: Guides would have pushed me overboard. If not. . .

Day 6: All guides, clients, orchestra sick in quarters. Section of river roped off to incoming rafters, who have to walk out of the canyon while the rest of us are left on our own to suffer.

I also thought about whether we canceled our trip too early. What if we had kept pushing on to Flagstaff? No travel on Days 3 and 4 (see above) when I was the sickest and Kathy came down with her first symptoms. Then it would be Friday. We’d still have time to stretch our two-day trip to Flagstaff into four driving days. We’d arrive tired and coughing, but with enough cough syrup we might get on the trip. If the company asked us to show a negative COVID test, we were sunk – probably by the other clients who saw the worst coming their way.

I’ve been over this a couple hundred times, and eventually we did what was right: Canceled, infected our family (who took wonderful care of us), then started a slow trip back home. I’m testing negative, Kathy still positive. Mostly holed up in the truck, masked when not, eating outside or in our rooms like bums under a culvert.

View from our culvert

Also hard not to dial through everyone I met leading up to getting infected. Was it the person who sat behind us in the theater Friday night and coughed all through “Hamilton”? On the bus and light rail to my doctor’s appointment Friday morning? The clerks in the camera store where I bought three new memory cards and multiple batteries for the hundreds of pictures I was going to take in the canyon? The U-Haul clerks? Some wisp of air that had lost connection with whoever put it out there to travel up my nose. To them I say: May a bird of paradise fly up your nose, may an elephant caress you with his hose. Remember that song? Long-term memory is still intact. And I did fix my own car key (see post two back). I can read instructions. Wait. That’s new. My behavior has changed. A new COVID symptom?

A rafting trip before the river dries up

Canyon Explorations found a spot for Kathy and I on the 2023 trip. Maybe they read this piece in the Denver Post.

Here’s a scary line for river rafters: “If the reservoirs drop even lower — to a point called ‘deadpools’ — officials at the dams will no longer be able to send water downstream at all . . .”

So much for future river rafting. Hoping we make it through 2023 and our once again scheduled trip.

And so much for the 40 million people who depend on the river for food and water.