Thursday, September 11, 2008

One Day

I woke up later than normal.  It was a Tuesday morning, and I had a College English II class at 10.  Bridget, however, had things to do on campus, and Danielle needed to be at her on-campus job, so unless I wanted to use the Newark Light Rail and the 31 bus to get to school, I was getting up and going with them.  

I got my shower, I got dressed, and hurried down the stairs and out the door to jump into Bridget's car.  The drive over was as it always was - happy and pleasant, chit-chat about nothing in particular, jokes about Danielle's spaziness, with background music provided by The Scarlet Pimpernel and Godspell (sing-a-longs were quite frequent, especially with Godspell - "OH BLESS THE LORD MY SOUL!!!").  

Danielle went her separate way, and Bridget and I went over to the Pirate's Cove, the campus coffee bar and secondary social center (main one was the Caf, downstairs from the Cove - however, it was also rather cold down there, and the Cove at least had heaters venting onto the tables).  Bridget sat down with me at the table closest to the side entrance and proceeded to break out the books.  I stepped away to get us both hazelnut cappucinos (sp?) at the coffee bar and came back and started up my laptop.  By now it was about 9 AM and various friends had started to congregate around us, including Bridget's best friend Steph Johnson.  Steph started up her laptop and both of us noticed something on the Drudge Report about a small plane crashing into the World Trade Center.  I didn't really think anything of this, mainly because just a week before I'd read somewhere about a plane or a dirgible crashing into the Empire State Building and that being the reason the docks on the top of it were no longer used.  It was, as far as we could see at the moment, just another piece of news out of The City that didn't affect us Jersey folk in the least.  

That's when Adam Budeshiem, a senior and the man I credit with giving me the swift kick in my ass that I needed to stop screwing around and start taking my scholastic career seriously, IMed us and asked us to try to get to another website, and it was extremely slow, on both our machines.  Network traffic, it seemed, was at a standstill.  As Steph needed to take care of a registration problem (she was trying to get into another class with Bridget, I believe), she asked Bridget if she wanted to take a walk over to Bayley Hall, across the campus.  Bridget was reading, and since the computer wasn't working, it seemed, I said I'd go.  

We took the walk over to Bayley and I remember there was something markedly different about the center of the campus that day.  There weren't any folks going back and forth to classes or the Caf, which was odd for that hour of the morning - most people, like me, had realized after the first semester that 9 AM class was always a bad idea, so they opted for the 10 AM class this time around and spent that extra hour, bleary-eyed and zombie-like, staggering from their cars or dorm rooms and getting as much coffee as their weary bodies could tolerate (20 oz styrofoam cups with ten sugars and whole milk, wow I hated my body..).  

It's not often that you can pinpoint the moment your world changes, nor is it often that you remember certain moments with HD-quality, 100,000 megapixel resolution.  The moment I said goodbye to my friend Brian Logan as I got into the car and headed up to Newark as our family followed my dad's job north, the moment I held my driver's license in my hand for the first time and realized what great freedom I had now, the moment I read my letter of acceptance to Seton Hall the day before my eighteenth birthday, the moment I looked into my wife's eyes for the first time, the moment we said "I do.", the moment the doctor told us we were going to have a baby, the moment I held Little Jimmy in my arms for the first time and realized how real fatherhood was... these are the moments I remember like that.  And walking into Bayley is, unfortunately, one of those moments.  

Bayley is the administrative hub of Seton Hall - any financial decisions, registration issues, et cetera get handled there.  It's also the starting point for the orientation tours and as such had been outfitted with several TVs, usually tuned to an orientation-only channel, but hooked into the campus' DirecTV system.  This morning, each and every one of the TVs had been changed to WNBC, channel 4, and local meteorologist Janice Huff was calling in from her home in New Jersey, relaying what she was seeing to Matt Lauer, Katie Couric, Ann Curry and Al Roker (having worked for so long at 30 Rock, I can tell you that unless you are on the 46, 47, or 51 floors, you really couldn't see anything going on downtown).   The cameras usually positioned at the Lincoln Tunnel were turned downtown, as were many other cameras I would imagine, and Chopper 4, in the middle of a report on the Turnpike and so in a perfect position to capture history, had been turned towards Lower Manhattan and was watching while the debate raged as to whether this was simply an accident, since people had been reporting seeing a plane, but most had misidentified it as a Cessna.  

It was watching, as were all the employees, students and administrators, when the second plane hit.  I watched it turn its wings slightly downward and level off as it slammed through the building.  And everything stopped.  For a moment, no one spoke.  No one said a word, made a move.  The raw impact of what had just occured smashed through our brains with the impact of an atomic bomb.  Everyone knew now that this wasn't an accident.  The debate ended, everyone blinked for a second and started to look around.  We awoke as though it had all been a dream, a terrible nightmare, but only a look at the television could shake us from that.  Steph and I headed back to the Cove and told Bridget what happened.  Others had gathered near our table and were finding out around the same time we had found out.  The Internet, despite hiccups, was continuing to provide information to the campus about the situation.  Not knowing what else to do, and being only the second week of the semester, I decided to go to class.  Bridget, having left her laptop at home, went with Steph to the nearest computer lab, in the Arts & Sciences building.  

My class was in the basement of what was then known as Kozlowski Hall but is currently called Jubilee Hall because Seton Hall is afraid of associations with people who are accused of things.  I got there with about five minutes to spare, and tried to focus on getting into the appropriate frame of mind for class.  Push it out, James.  Leave that gruesome image behind - there isn't anything you can do about it, so just try to focus on your work right now.  Ten minutes after class was to have started, the professor popped her head in and asked us, "Are you seriously unaware of what's happened?  Please, go home!  There's no reason for you to be here today."  I grabbed my bag, stood and went to find Bridget and Danielle.  

I managed to track them down in the computer lab and it was at that point that we all heard, at the same time, about the attacks in Washington.  Well, yes there was only one attack that day, but you must understand that the amount of confusion and speculation was unbelieveable.  People were saying that a bomb had hit the Capitol building, that a nuke had been set off in New York City, that we were at war with some other unnamed nation.  We knew very few pieces of information, considering cell phones weren't working and IM seemed to be the unshakable juggernaut of communication.  We also heard that the planes had been international flights, but there weren't many other reliable facts at that point - and we were more concerned immediately because Maryann, at the time living in the same neighborhood as the rest of the family, had managed to tell everyone that her husband Brendan was on an international flight and had been scheduled to arrive early in the morning on a trip back from Ireland.  We found out later that his flight had simply been redirected to Newfoundland when all flights were grounded and that he was perfectly fine, but it only added to our fear and sadness to know that he might be among those victims across the Hudson.  We wanted to go home but other reports indicated that roads were clogged with people trying to get away, as fast as they could, from New York.  

I remember wanting to help out with whatever I could, and not knowing what else to do, heading over to Corrigan Hall, center of Seton Hall's IT department and for a while my workplace.  At this point it was almost noon, so I asked if anyone needed help manning the phones or the computer labs, and I was told initially yes, but when I tried to leave my gear in the office, I was told that the campus was being shut down for the rest of the day, and classes, from initial reports were being cancelled for the remainder of the week.  

I wandered over towards the Cove again, and while I was out on the campus green I noticed what looked like a 747 being escorted by two small jets and I realized how quiet the sky was.  People outside the Newark/New York area might not realize this completely, but when you live near several of the busiest airports in the nation, you get used to hearing the sounds of planes overhead constantly.  It's such an ingrained part of living here that no one really ever stops to say "oh there goes a plane.." - but when you have two hours go by and only one plane flies overhead, that's when you realize how bad things are.  I wandered down to the freshman dormitory, Boland Hall, and walked into the basement lounge just as one of the towers collapsed on live television.  I couldn't sit there.  I got up and left.  I wandered across campus to the upperclassmen dorm, Xavier Hall, and took the elevator to the seventh and highest floor.  A crowd had gathered near the only public window facing Manhattan and had watched the first tower fall.  I must state now that I'm not sure how much time passed while I wandered - I know that it had to have been a lot, because when I got to the window, I watched with others gathered there as the second tower fell and sent a massive plume of dust, dirt, smoke and debris into the air.

The remaining community, those who had opted to stay behind or who had nowhere else to go, had gathered on the center of the campus green with the campus priest community and were expecting some form of support and news.  Msgr. Robert Sheeran, a man whom I believe doesn't belong leading a major Catholic university, at that point helped unify the Seton Hall community and led a prayer for solace and peace, not tempered by any political or other leanings, and advised the gathered crowd that yes, the campus was closed, effective immediately, and that classes were cancelled for the remainder of the week, and advised anyone who was able to do so to return home for the moment, as there was nothing else to be done.  We took up the offer and decided, traffic jams or no, we needed to get home.  

The roads were surprisingly empty, though we were not on major roads and took back roads home in the event that we were wrong.  Driving on roads paralleling the Garden State Parkway, we realized that this major artery, normally full of traffic, was empty.  There was no one on that road, in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon.  We got home and managed to get the facts sorted out, and let the pain of what had occured seep in.  

I don't remember much else from that day, thankfully it's mostly greyed out in my head, but I know that that's the day that the defense of this nation and all she stood for began to matter to me.  I took comfort in the fact that whomever these evil men had been that had committed murder on such a scale, they were dead and could do no more against us, and their compatriots were easy to identify and target.  And they had jumped into America's sights with both feet. 

God help them, and God bless America.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Obamatons - Fun to play with!

From: <> 
Hi JAmes,

Thanks for the button [McCain/Palin button I sent out Friday on Facebook] ...nice try. One of the things I LOVE about America is that we can have different viewpoints yet still respect one another!!! I was a Hill supporter til the end. After watching O' BAma speak last night, I was convinced he was for me. Of course having Joe on the ticket really helps as he is brilliant and a Catholic. As for Palin on your ticket, I am not impressed. If McCain croaks, I do not want a women with NO EXPERIENCE whatsoever to be my prez. It is insulting to me as a woman that he picked a woman that started out as a beauty queen. That is insulting to all women. Why didn't he pick Kaye B Huchinson from least she is smart. SOOOOOOOOO. I am NOT impressed at all and O' Bama/Biden will get my vote.

James Riley
August 29 at 2:45pm
I love America! BARACK AMERICA! The man who can defend us from evil demon children coming out of the womb! The man who can make sure all of our money gets funneled to the right lobbyist or fatcat! BARACK AMERICA! The only one who can save us from ourselves! BARACK AMERICA! And his sidekick, Joe "I'm always wrong on foreign policy AND a Washington insider" Biden! BARACK AMERICA! Defending us from Hillary Clinton, the discoverer of the VAST RIGHT WING CONSPIRACY! 

Seriously, though... Palin hasn't had to resort to petty BS to get any office - she relied on her wits and her experience to get where she is. Barack, well, pretty much ruined the lives of Jack Ryan and his wife, Star Trek: Voyager star Jeri "Seven of Nine" Ryan with the crap he went through to get into office. Oh, and that whole "I launched my career in the house of a terrorist who likes the idea of killing Americans to achieve his aims" thing - yeah let's just sweep that one under the rug. 

The man has one goal, which he's been screaming from the rafters: introduction of the redistribution of wealth on a scale unknown to mankind. The man is a Marxist and wants to bring America to its knees. 

I have my own problems with John McCain, but at least he's picked someone that has their head on straight. She's a mother of five kids, one of whom is fighting for our freedoms in Iraq and the youngest of whom has Downs Syndrome. The kind of strength of character, the absolute will to go ahead with pregnancy despite such news tells me all I need to know about this woman. It tells me that when there are hard choices and difficult decisions to make, she'll guide us on the right path. It tells me that she is not concerned with what some pollster might say, and that when she says she is going to do something, by hell it's going to happen no matter what. 

I can't be more proud to be an American, especially now.

August 29 at 3:03pm
Let's see where this takes us from McCain who in his own words said he doesn't know that much about the economy. The man who will NEVER get us out of Iraq even if THEY want us out (and now even GWB is setting a timetable). The man is a War mongrel and will have us at war with Iran in a heartbeat. He also wants to bring back the draft, which I am for. The campaign that is run by lobbyists, that is Mc Cain. The man who left his ailing wife for an heiress, now That is family values!!! As for Palin, isn't she under investigation now also..........what a way to start a campaign....Let's go.
As my dear friend Timothy J Russert used to say, "What a Country"!!!! I am so PROUD to be a Democrat. The Republican men I know here are livid he picked her. They wanted Romney. He may get some women to vote for her, but he is going to loose men now!!!! What does that wind bag, El Rushbo have to say about her?????e

James Riley
August 30 at 8:46am
Apologies for the late response - yesterday was just a tad bit crazy. That being said:

1. McCain doesn't need to be an expert on the economy - he just needs to choose the right advisers to assist him in making sound economic decisions. 

2. A) McCain, if elected, will bring the troops home when the security of this country from forces who would take advantage of the precarious situation in Iraq can be guaranteed primarily by the citizens and residents of Iraq. We are already very close to that goal, as al-Qaeda has shot themselves in the foot and bolted for Iran and Afghanistan. Just this weekend a young woman who had been ready to follow their bidding and become a suicide bomber turned herself in - this is a strong indication that we are getting through to the people of Iraq and that they are willing and able to accept and embrace a free and secure nation on their own very soon. B) Dubya hasn't set a timetable - I love my friends at NBC but they like to make up news to suit their particular viewpoints. 

3) I think the word you are looking for is "monger" and I doubt that very much - I'm sure he wants to end this just as badly as everyone else involved, not the least because he knows the horrors of war first hand (unlike certain half-term Senators with plenty of experience as unpaid "community activists"). Consequently, because he knows how important a war is, and because he knows, as a soldier, that victory is not something to be claimed lightly, and because he understands that in order to remain the greatest, most free nation on the planet that we need to claim a definitive victory in this instance, he will not back down from this war. And if, sometime in the future, that means going after Achmedenijad, then that's what it means. 

4) As for the draft, I'm not sure I recall John McCain ever, in this campaign, actively endorsing the draft for this time and place. I do recall he made an offhand comment about how it was a good idea at the time during WWII, since our armed forces at the time required an intensive and rapid buildup to take on what was at the time the greatest threat to the free world. I personally think it outlived its usefulness and was thankfully taken down after Vietnam, but as for reinstituting it, I think that would be a very bad idea - our armed forces are experiencing very high influxes of volunteers who want to be there and who have a desire to do their absolute best while they are there; taking that away will quickly reduce the effectiveness and morale of our armed forces. 

5) McCain may have dealt with lobbyists as a senator, and some may have appeared to be less than ethical, but very early on in the campaign an investigation proved that this was quite incorrect and the man was cleared of any and all wrongdoing. Obama, on the other hand, has very questionable friends: the previously mentioned admitted and self-declared terrorist Mr. Ayers and his wife; Mr. Tony Rezko, a convicted felon who embezzled funds meant to keep his tenants warm (yes, Rezko's tenants actually froze the whole winter because the heat had been turned off - mind you this was all within Obama's district as a state senator at the time, so he had the power and the means to fix this and did NOTHING), Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a man whose infamous line "No No No, not God BLESS America, GOD DAMN AMERICA" says all we need to hear about his beliefs and his feelings, and whose beliefs Obama had to have been aware of, having attended his church for over twenty years and having had his marriage conducted and his children baptised there; Rev. Michael Phleger, a radical Catholic priest who associated with Obama in his role as a community activist and whose beliefs were most certainly not in line with the Catholic Church, having advocated socialism and having mocked HRC and I believe (I may be wrong on this one, I'm still waking up) called for her to go back to the kitchen and stay out of the race. On McCain's side, we have one Baptist minister who had made some offhand comments about what he thought McCain believed, and a radio host who mocked Obama's middle name and was practically immediately shown the door by McCain. Rather than Obama's weeks-long waits to throw his prior associates under the bus, McCain tackled it head-on within 24 hours. 

6) Yes, he cheated on his wife and yes, he divorced and remarried. He also has admitted that it was wrong of him to do that, which is an order of magnitude greater of a response than other politicians who have been involved in the same form of scandal. He is human, he isn't perfect, but he's willing to admit when he's wrong and that means more than empty excuses and begging forgiveness. 

7) Palin is under investigation because her sister's ex-husband, who had tazered her nephew (at his request, but still..) and done various other things which would put someone, in my book at least, under the category of "asshat", was removed from employment with the state troopers and decided that it was a conspiracy against him. The state senator leading the investigation, a solid Democrat (remember: she soundly routed the Democrats when she came into office) has made it clear that subpoenas are absolutely not necessary because the governor has made all resources, records, and personnel available for the investigation. Since the investigation just started, we do not know how far it will get but I can tell you: actions such as that do not point to a guilty governor. 

8) The men you know are obviously not informed and rather sexist, if you ask me. Romney was vetted in the primary and lost. In addition, McCain happens to have a strong and stubborn sense of personal honor, honor which Romney quite obviously violated on a number of occasions and which immediately disqualified him from the VP slot. Whomever he loses as a vote simply because he chose a woman ought to be ashamed of themselves. I say this now equally of Palin and Geraldine Ferraro, whom I disagree strongly with but who was equally qualified for the VP slot when she was nominated: if you choose not to vote for them strictly based on gender, you are selling short not only the candidates, but every woman everywhere who has made a decision to stand up and live and work equally to their male counterparts and independently of any assistance. 

9) I'm honestly not sure what Rush has to say about her: I don't have the opportunity to listen to him while I'm at work, but he's got transcripts on his site so it's quite easy to figure out what he thinks of McCain's choice. Knowing what I do of Rush's beliefs in the situation I think he would approve (have a child inside right now who is in the middle of tearing apart the living room and don't have the time to check his site to be sure).

No response yet!  And this person's current status?  "... is passionate about .. politics!" [gender removed to anonymize]  

(PS: does anyone else notice any glaring differences between the messages?)