Saturday, September 21, 2013

Looking Back Twelve Years II

I posted some memories of 9/11 from the Academy last week for 12th Anniversary, today I get to post the flip side of my experience with something a little more uplifting.

The Color Guard at the Academy will typically present the flag at events throughout the NY Metropolitan Area, sometimes at sporting events. In the wake of 9/11 no one was sure when professional sports would be ready to play in the city. Sure the stadiums were unaffected, the Mets and Yankees both being fresh off their appearance in the Subway World Series the year before were in the hunt in their respective leagues for a return the playoffs. The Yankees being at the tail end of their most productive years with their core group of legendary players, would end up playing in the World Series and losing to the Diamondbacks, but that's a story for another day I suppose.

Schedule wise the Mets and Yankees were both on the road at the time, with the Mets due to return to NYC first, their first games after the attacks were in Pittsburgh, the next home stand would pit them against division rivals the hated Atlanta Braves.

The Academy Color Guard was invited to participate in the opening ceremonies with first responders from ground zero. Volunteers were requested, and as a Mets fan and someone struggling to be of use in some capacity, I signed up and was chosen to participate. We practiced a few times, but once the crowd started chanting U-S-A as we walked out onto the field, the bag pipes that were playing and any commands from the Color Guard were completely drowned out, it was amazing.

We stayed for the game, and got to witness Mike Piazza's amazing game winning home run, I will never forget the outpouring of emotion from the crowd. The atmosphere was electric, and who knows if I'll ever experience anything like again (hopefully not, if it means another catastrophic event).

We Mets fans rooted our rag tag team on to the end of the season, but they fell short, and so began a dark time for the Mets that continues, with brief flickers of light in 2005 and 2006. But that one moment, I'll never forget. I remember reading about Mike Piazza when he first came up with the Dodgers in Boy's Life Magazine, I was thrilled when he came to the Mets, and this at least for me is his quintessential moment with the franchise. Forever linked with a moment when some of us were finally able to take a breath and start looking forward again after such a traumatic experience. It's so silly, but I get a little misty eyed, and goosebumps, whenever I watch this moment, as if I am taken back to that night and relive the wonder all over again.

All tuckered out after a summer of fun and parties

Thursday, September 19, 2013

September Hits The Ground Running

Last week was very busy for us here in Bridgewater, well mostly Jackie and the rest of us because she can't drive yet.  Tuesday was the start of preschool.  Jackie attends North Branch Reformed Church Preschool.  This school comes very highly recommended by some of the moms from the Little Flowers Moms Group.  The first day was just an hour for the kids while the parents had an orientation session.  The class was split based on where you live, so we were in the first session with five other children from Bridgewater or Somerville.  There was one familiar face, Oliver, that we knew from the Little Lambs session that Jackie attended last April/May.  But of course Jackie didn't need the comfort of a familiar face she jumped right in and didn't want to leave.  So when Thursday was a full morning session she was very excited to go for a full two and half hours.  Here are some pictures from that first day.
Are we going to preschool today?

What are we waiting for?

Let's get moving!

Tuesday was also a big day for Catherine.  She turned five months.
Always so happy

It is very hard these days to take a picture of Catherine with no hands in the mouth

The next big thing was Wednesday swim classes for Jackie.  This is a half hour class that runs once a week from September to November at our local YMCA.  The class is for 3-6 year old children.  Based on the size of the other kids most everyone seems to be closer to 3 than 6, and the class is evenly split three boys and three girls.  The first day was a rousing success.  Unfortunately yesterday's class, not so much.  The first fifteen minutes were fine then came all the complaints.  "I have to go the bathroom", "I'm cold", "I'm wet I want my towel", "Can we go home yet?"  Hopefully next time will not be like yesterday.  Here are pictures from that triumphant first class.

Practicing "safety slide" into the pool

We ended our week with a visit to Shohola, PA.  The Gillespies had a house warming party.  This was our second visit there.  We first saw the new digs when we went with our friends the Williamsons on Sunday of Labor Day weekend.  It was Jackie's reluctance to get out of the Gillespie's pool, even though she was blue and shaking she was so cold, that pushed me into signing her up for swim class.  At any rate here are some pictures from last Saturday's party.

Mom and Dad didn't check the weather in PA, so Jackie is wearing Charlotte Pants to keep warm

Katie the dog, checking things out.

Feeding baby

Is that Catherine or a baby doll?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Looking Back Twelve Years

Some thoughts after a dozen years…

I think one thing that has stuck with me these past 12 years is the feeling of extreme helplessness I had. Something changed that morning and it was disconcerting. I vividly remember sitting in a Project Management class in Fulton Hall with the great section 1M1 at Kings Point, probably bored to tears and trying to keep myself from falling asleep as our esteemed professor droned on with a generic blue and gray colored power point presentation. Another student ran past the door, alerting us to the fact that a plane or something had hit one of the towers. Not knowing at all what to expect when we got to the roof, I remember thinking about the event comically as we raced up the stairs, some amateur pilot in a small craft had probably gotten too close and made an error, what a dumb ass! Nothing could have prepared me for what we saw from the top of the engineering building. Nestled between the towers of the Throgs Neck Bridge, the top of One World Trade Center engulfed in smoke, billowing out on the horizon as far as the eye could see, I was completely stunned into silence.

I don’t remember if our class was dismissed at that moment, but I remember being huddled around the television in the ward room of Cleveland Hall as much as I could all morning, seeing the reports that the second tower had been hit. At some point before 10 AM I wandered over to an area near the waterfront to take some pictures not realizing that the south tower had just collapsed. The rest of the day is sort of a fog of watching television coverage on the various cable news channels in the Band Company Ward Room, and attending classes. In Naval Architecture class, our professor explained the construction of the towers and why they collapsed. When you set aside the conspiracy theories that have festered over the past 12 years, his explanation on the morning of 9/11/01 to a stunned class of engineering students, turned out to be exactly the same as the 9/11 commission report. A quantitative methods class was cancelled and a test along with it, I remember feeling terrible that I would have a reprieve from a test I was certain to fail as I had not adequately prepared, (probably I was drinking beer in the baseball dugouts the night before). I would end up failing that test anyway on 9/12. 

Looking back at the television footage, it's amazing the naivete of everyone prior to the second plane hitting, even living through the bombing in 1993, and seeing everything unfold before our eyes, how we just assumed it was probably an accident, not some years long plot by evil men, throwing a desperate haymaker at the great satan. If you can bear to watch, as the second plane comes into view around the 10 minute mark, and the camera pans away as no one is expecting it, when the woman being interviewed screams out that a second plane hit, I think that is the moment when that feeling of innocence left for good. The woman on the phone thinks maybe there is a problem with the Air Traffic Control, while Matt Lauer tries to  get the camera footage, and then mutters that we have to assume that it's not an accident. I remember around that time my good friend Mike saying it must be Bin Laden.

The Power Squadron was dispatched to lower Manhattan soon after the towers collapsed, over 100 Midshipman and the waterfront staff, assisted in evacuation and relief efforts that would continue for weeks. Being on academic probation, as I was frequently, I was not permitted to volunteer. The afternoon was full of preparation by the Academy to accept triage patients since we were one of the closer federal facilities. I was to direct ambulance traffic along Steamboat Road, ambulances that never came. Drifting through the fog of that day, I tried to get away from the news coverage, I tried taking a nap, but sleep wouldn't come, when I rejoined the rest of my company mates in the ward room, we watched 7 World Trade Center collapse.

I don’t remember if it was the day of, or the day after when it was more clear what had happened, and who had perpetrated these attacks, (Mike ended up being correct in assuming Bin Laden of course), but I remember the Regimental Commander telling the Regiment at noon mess, that if we wanted to get those responsible we should join the Marines. Our generation was going to war, classmates, company mates, high school and childhood friends at the Naval Academy, my twin brother and his ROTC detachment, my older brother finishing up in the Army. Things had changed forever, the feeling of helplessness faded in the days following the attacks, but our world has never been the same. 

A photo taken by one of my old room mates from the grounds of the US Merchant Marine Academy

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Saturday, September 7, 2013


I was trying to put Jackie to sleep, and I have no idea what setting on the camera produced these, but they were interesting.

Here are some more standard pictures

Jackie Vader and multiple Darth Vaders

Catherine with a mohawk
Funny Girls

Birthday Part II

Yes that's right Birthday Part II...why not Birthday Part I? Well, the camera was lost in a couch cushion for about two weeks, so while there are photo's from Birthday Part I, we will only be able to post them once we get those pictures. This year because of some scheduling confusion, and my desire to simplify and not have one giant party at my house with a hole in the kitchen ceiling and prepping for roof repairs and new windows, we opted to have two slightly smaller parties, one with each family.