Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A City Silenced

A mailbox in New York City covered with missing people fliers from the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  Public domain/fair use claimed, from Pinterest, website link posted in the credits secion.

Greetings All:

"Time is passing. Yet, for the United States of America, there will be no forgetting September the 11th. We will remember every rescuer who died in honor. We will remember every family that lives in grief. We will remember the fire and ash, the last phone calls, the funerals of the children."

President George W. Bush

Two days ago we acknowledged the fifteenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  There have been many tributes to those lost and the end of our "normal."  

It was 15 years ago today that I experienced what it was like to see the "end of normal."  Please allow me to elaborate.

9/11 was a Tuesday.  For those of us who worked in New York City, no one went to work the following day.  It was day off no one wanted.  Then came the following day, Thursday.  

Back to work...back to The City...but far from back to normal.

A normal commute would be noise and bustle.  Not so this day.  The best way I can describe it is what was missing from that day.  It was the noise, the honking horns, the general bustle of a city of millions of moving feet.  

All that was missing that day.  I returned to a city silenced.

What was new were the fliers.  The fliers of the missing.  They adorned lamp posts, buildings, and mailboxes.  I recall staring at them, reading the names, absorbing the faces and knowing in my heart they would never be found.  

This past Sunday, Dawn and I went to The Figge Art Museum.  It's a terrific place and as someone who can barely draw a straight line (with a ruler) I am so impressed with the artists whose work adorns its walls.  There was one piece in particular that struck me.  It is entitled, The List by Georges Schreiber.  

Here is what The Figge Museum writes about this work on its website:  "The List presents a timeless reminder of the horrors of war. In it, mothers, sisters, sons, and brothers strain to see the names posted on a casualty list."

The List by Schreiber, from The Figge Art Museum website, fair use/sharing authorized, full link below in the sources.

This painting is so gripping in its silent emotion.  The subjects utter not a word, instead staring intently at that single piece of paper nailed to the tree, hoping, praying not to read a name.  For so long as that name was NOT THERE, hope lived that their loved one did as well.

Not so on 9/11.  We knew, we ALL knew that by that "first Thursday after" that anyone not heard from while the sun still stood that sad Tuesday was lost.  

And yet the posters still went up.  I'd have done the same thing.

War, whether when in Schreiber's time or ours, is tragic.  Tragic, stupid, wasteful, and yes, necessary.  When war ends, hopefully victory is the result.  

Yet even in victory, there is a cost.  It is a cost paid in blood and treasure and joy and sound.

Perhaps the interest that war charges to our collective soul is that most awful silence.  Sort of like that silence experienced that Thursday 15 years ago.  A silence that is a first cousin to the subjects is Schreiber's painting seven decades ago.  

Whether a village or a city, the silence of war drowns every other sound out, from our ears...and from our souls. 

As I often type on my Facebook posts:  To remember is to honor.  Let us all remember those who were lost that tragic day, the voices forever silenced.  I think the city's silence that somber Thursday was a homage, perhaps only subconsciously, to those lost.

I'll send you off from this blog post with Paul Simon performing his hauntingly iconic song "The Sound of Silence," on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.  You can listen to it here.

Be well my friends,


Opening photo, full webpage citation:  http://tinyurl.com/jeygls8



Monday, September 5, 2016

Penalty Declined

My ticket from Iowa's opening game, September 3, 2016

(Quick author's note:  I am experimenting with inserting weblinks directly into my blog posts.  If you see a word underlined, left-click on that word and it should bring you to the story.  Thanks, as always, for reading my blog.)

Greetings All:

Saturday, I was able to attend Iowa's first football game of the 2016 season.  It is always fun to be back in Iowa City and as my friend Dave and I drove into town, we marveled at both the changes and the similarities to when we were there...three decades ago.

We caught up with a few of our fraternity brothers and families.  Although this game did not have the representation future B1G Ten games will certainly have, it was great to see old friends.

 The game itself went thankfully according to plan.  Iowa eventually wore down a spirited Miami of Iowa team, securing a 45-21 victory.  I have no doubt that other games this season will not be so lopsided so I may it a point to enjoy this one.

The scoreboard at Kinnick Stadium, September 3, 2016. Photo by J. Berta.

As I have written before, college football is a minor passion of mine.  I like it for a variety of reasons and am probably a bit too invested (w-a-y too invested my wife might say, depending on the game and score) in my beloved Iowa Hawkeyes.  Part of it is a genuine joy I experience in the game and having a shared experience with the place I went to school.  I suppose another reason is my less-than-noble desire to see a team I have pledged allegiance to win.  In any event, I do remind myself (sometimes sooner than later) that it is a game.  A game, win or lose, that will be with me next week and next season.  It is timeless.

While football may be timeless, players are not.  They get older, then old.  Long hair gives way to receding hairlines, if not outright baldness.  Some go on to stellar NFL careers.  Others never play another down after college.  

Then there are those who do not age...because they cannot.  They are gone.  One such player that always comes to mind is Nile Kinnick.  

Kinnick won the 1939 Heisman Trophy, playing for Iowa.  He was also an amazing student and by all accounts an outstanding human being.  He also died far too young.

When I lived out East I would occasionally run into Michigan fans.  One day, some "Go Blue" fan snidely asked me, "Does Iowa even have a Heisman winner?"  It was more of a taunt than a question. 

I replied:  "Well, we have one.  But when your Heisman winner is a WAR HERO, you only need one."  

Discussion over.  

Nile Kinnick perished in the Pacific during World War II as a Navy pilot.  Rather than crash land his plane on the deck of a carrier and risk damaging the flight deck, he chose to ditch in the water.  In doing so, he lost his life. 

Nile Kinnick gave an immortal speech when he received the Heisman.  Here's the link to it and if you have not heard it before, of if it has been a while, I encourage you to take the two minutes to listen to it.

(This is your first "left click" moment, just FYI.)

Despite Kinnick's undeniable status as a fallen hero, something tells me Kinnick would have NOT approved of my comeback to my Michigan fan friend.  He was a humble man who disdained bluster and bravado.  Here's a quote from him that graces the back of a t-shirt I bought from my friends who run Public House in Davenport:

A quote from Hawkeye great, Nile Kinnick.  Photo by J. Berta, t-shirt from Public House bar, Davenport, Iowa.

So to the memory of Nile Kinnick, I do apologize for what was a blatant effort to leverage his memory to win an argument.  I will endeavor to not do that again.

Speaking of fallen athletes, two college football players were lost this summer:  One was the former punter for Michigan State (2011-2014), Mike Sadler.  The other was Nebraska's punter, Sam Foltz.  They were athletes at the height of their college careers with their whole life in front of them.  They were denied the opportunity, as William Butler Yeats wrote to live long enough,"... to comb grey hair."  (This is a reference to Yeats' work, The Wild Swans at Coole, (1919) "In Memory of Major Robert Gregory."  I have a link to the this work int credits.))

At their game Saturday (September 3, 2016) Nebraska did a truly class act.  They took the field for a punt and let the clock run down, taking a delay of game penalty.

As the clock ran down, it was clear that this was a memorial to a fallen friend, a teammate lost.  Nebraska was heavily favored against Fresno State and five more yards would have helped their field position against the mighty Nebraska Cornhusters.

Frenso State would have none of it.  In true sportsmanship, they declined the penalty.   Here's the link to that story.

College football is many things.  True, it is a game.  It does not determine election outcomes or the stock market's value or the Geo-political balance of power in the world.  What is it, besides a game, is a reflection of our values, of the things that matter to us.  When I saw what Nebraska did and when I saw the response from Fresno State, I smiled.  

While Fresno State lost the game, they won the hearts of Nebraska fans.  They declined a penalty...and claimed the honor of the day.
 I'll leave you with this photo of the formation.  You can read the story and see a video clip here:

Nebraska took a delay-of-game penalty on its first possession after just 10 players took the field as a tribute to fallen former punter Sam Foltz, who was killed in a car crash in July. AP Photo/Eric Olson.  Photo originally posted on ESPN's website, fair use claimed for this non-commercial blog.

R.I.P. Sam Foltz & Mike Sadler. 

Be well my friends,