Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day

It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who gives us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.

— Author Unknown

The Declaration of Independence

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that 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.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

HBO’s miniseries “The Pacific” starts Sunday

I’ve been eagerly awaiting this miniseries since I saw the first trailer, despite my recent misgivings thanks to Tom Hanks’ asshattery. Here’s a little history that sets the stage for the first episode.

In partnership with HBO, The U.S. Naval Institute has collected a great wealth of historical information on the the Pacific Theater of World War II. For further reading, try any (or all) of these books:

Want more video?

There’s a bunch more after the jump.

These liberal bloggers have class

Statements like these rekindle my belief that America still has a chance:

If you have been reading us for any length of time, you know that we used to make fun of “Dubya” nearly every day…parroting the same comedic bits we heard in our Democrat circles, where Bush is still, to this day, lampooned as a chimp, a bumbling idiot, and a poor, clumsy public speaker.

[We] will always be grateful for what George and Laura Bush did this week, with no media attention, when they very quietly went to Ft. Hood and met personally with the families of the victims of this terrorist attack.
The Bushes went and met privately with these families for HOURS, hugging them, holding them, comforting them.
If there are any of you out there with any connection at all to the Bushes, we implore you to give them our thanks…you tell them that a bunch of gay Hillary guys in Boystown, Chicago were wrong about the Bushes…and are deeply, deeply sorry for any jokes we told about them in the past, any bad thoughts we had about these good, good people.

Criticize their policies academically and intelligently and discuss the Bush presidency in historical and political terms…but you mess with the Bushes personally and, from this day forward, you’ll answer to us.

Thank you for your service, Mr. President. We’re sorry we didn’t appreciate you while you were in office, but we thank Heaven we’ve wised up and can see the good you are out there doing, under the radar, today.

They have something to say about Dick Cheney, too. The post is a must read.
Thanks, guys. Kudos.

Remembering Jon Vandevander

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Larger Than LifeAs part of of The 2,996 Project, I’m remembering Jon C. Vandevander of Ridgewood, NJ, who was 44 on September 11th, 2001.
He was a Vice President at Carr Futures, and on that morning he was at work (along with Damian Meehan) on the 92nd floor of the North Tower at the World Trade Center. At 8:46 AM, the recently-hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into floors 93-99 of the North Tower, wiping out the eight floors occupied by Marsh USA.
Although Jon’s office was below the impact zone, the extensive damage caused by the airplane impact left him and over 60 other Carr employees trapped. A story from the UK Guardian describes a small part of what happened:

10:00 – North Tower, 92nd floor, Carr Futures, 28 minutes to collapse.
‘MOM,’ asked Jeffrey Nussbaum. ‘What was that explosion?’
Twenty miles away in Oceanside, Arline Nussbaum could see on TV what her son could not from 50 yards away. She recalls their last words. ‘The other tower just went down.’ ‘Oh my God,’ her son said. ‘I love you.’
Then the phone went dead.
That morning, the office of Carr Futures on the 92nd floor was unusually busy. A total of 68 men and women were on the floor. About two dozen brokers for Carr’s parent company had been called to a special 8am meeting. When the building sprang back and forth like a car antenna, door frames twisted and jammed shut, trapping a number of them in a conference room. The remaining Carr employees, about 40, migrated to a large, unfinished space along the west side. Nussbaum called his mother and shared his mobile phone with Andy Friedman. In all, the Carr families have counted 31 calls from the people they lost.
Carr was two floors below the impact and everyone there had survived it; yet they could not get out. Between 10.05 and 10.25, videos show, fire spread westward across the 92nd floor’s north face, bearing down on their western refuge.
At 10.18, Tom McGinnis, one of the traders summoned to the special meeting, reached his wife, Iliana. The words are stitched into her memory. ‘This looks really, really bad,’ he said. ‘I know,’ said Mrs McGinnis, who had been hoping that his meeting had broken up before the airplane hit.
‘This is bad for the country; it looks like World War Three.’ Something in his tone alarmed McGinnis. ‘Are you OK, yes or no?’ she demanded. ‘We’re on the 92nd floor in a room we can’t get out of,’ McGinnis said. ‘Who’s with you?” she asked. McGinnis mentioned three old friends – Joey Holland, Brendan Dolan and Elkin Yuen. ‘I love you,’ he said. ‘Take care of Caitlin.’
McGinnis was not ready to hear a farewell. ‘Don’t lose your cool,’ she urged. ‘You guys are so tough, you’re resourceful. You guys are going to get out of there.’ ‘You don’t understand,’ McGinnis said. ‘There are people jumping from the floors above us.’
It was 10.25. The fire raged along the west side of the 92nd floor. People fell from windows. McGinnis again told her he loved her and their daughter, Caitlin. ‘Don’t hang up,’ she pleaded. ‘I got to get down on the floor,’ McGinnis said. The phone connection faded out.
It was 10.26, two minutes before the tower crumbled. The World Trade Centre had fallen silent.

Jon was able to reach his wife on the phone after the crash, as recounted in “A Widow’s Wish”:

Jon VandevanderThere is a peacefulness in Anne Vandevander’s voice, the serenity of someone who has known happiness and accepted a fate that robbed her of some of it. Anne’s husband, Jon, worked as a trader for Carr Futures Inc., on the 92d floor of 1 World Trade Center. She talked to him several times after the tower was hit, until about 10 minutes before the building collapsed.
“He said ‘I love you and tell the kids I love them,’ ” she said. A week later, a police officer came to her door to say they had found his body. She buried him in a cemetery in Ridgewood, N.J., where they lived with their three children. “Most wives will never get that opportunity,” she said of the others who are still searching for missing relatives. “I have him back in Ridgewood. My one wish that morning was to have his wedding band back, and now I’m wearing it.”
Jon Vandevander, 44, loved his job and died with men he had worked with for 4 years at Carr, and for 10 years before that when their division was owned by Dean Witter.
He played soccer in college, and coached his children’s soccer, baseball, softball and basketball teams. He loved taking his two oldest children golfing at the Ridgewood Country Club. “He was a great dad,” she said. “I feel very fortunate.”
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on October 9, 2001.

Carr Futures lost dozens of its employees on 9/11:

Carr Futures survives its darkest hour
By Collins, Daniel
Publication: Futures
Date: Saturday, December 1 2001
When the airliners crashed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, the world changed for everyone, but especially Carr Futures, an FCM that had offices on the 92nd floor of the WTC’s north tower. Of the 141 employees based in its New York office, 69 did not survive that day, says CEO Didier Varlet, who was in Spain when he received word of the events via cell phone. Some New York-based Carr employees were traveling, some were on the Nymex floor and some worked a later shift, but of the 69 people in the 92nd floor office that morning, nobody escaped.

Jon was a member of the Lycoming College Class of 1979. Two other Lycoming alumni, Angela Kyte and Justin Moulisani, died in the 9/11 attacks.
Leave a note to honor his memory on this memorial and this guestbook. Godspeed, Jon.

Remembering Damian Meehan

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As part of of The 2,996 Project, I’m remembering Damian Meehan, a Carr Futures employee (along with Jon Vandevander) who died in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. He was 32. The following biography was written by his family.

Growing up in a large family in Manhattan’s Irish Inwood in the 1970’s, gave Damian all the necessary essentials for a very happy childhood. Six older brothers, an older sister and a baby sister set the tone for a perpetual smile and a unique laugh that became a very integral part of his personality. His big brothers, Shaun, Michael, Eugene, Kevin, Chris and Paul, while always creating obstacles and torment in his daily life, grew to love, protect and admire this most gentle of siblings. His sisters Kitty and Janine just adored him from day one.
Damian’s loving nature made his life a very happy experience. He was such a happy kid and people loved being around him. His easygoing personality and perpetual smile endeared him to a wide circle of friends. He attended Good Shepherd grammar school in Inwood and made many close friends there that would stay with him through life. As a child he played in Inwood Hill Park and spent his summers at the Four Green Fields. Both Inwood and the Four Green Fields, played major roles in his early and developing years, that led to friendships that were to last a lifetime.
Damian was so trustworthy, that his parents allowed him to travel by subway to attend Power Memorial High School. Unfortunately, Power closed in 1984, just after Damian’s freshman year, so he decided to finish at St. Raymond’s in the Bronx, where a few of his brothers also attended. Upon graduation, Damian chose SUNY New Paltz for college. Two years later, his Dad convinced him that there was more to learn at home. Damian decided to join his sister Janine at Lehman College, where he was first introduced to Janine’s friend, Joann McCarthy. It was definitely love at first sight – and the rest is history. While in college, Damian worked at the Columbia Tennis Center in Inwood, along with various bartending jobs throughout the city. In August of 1993, Damian decided to try Wall Street and it was his brother-in-law, Marty Boyle, that introduced him to the wild world of finance. He worked for Dean Witter, which later became Carr Futures, and he came under the guidance and counsel of Brendan Dolan and they became fast friends for the rest of their lives.
On June 6, 1998 , at the age 29, Damian married the love of his life, Joann McCarthy at Mount St. Ursula Church. They were just a perfect couple; so much love, devotion and respect that was obvious to all. They settled in Riverdale. The following year they bought a house in Glen Rock, NJ near their friends Brendan and Stacey Dolan, and Kathy and Joe Holland.
On January 23, 2000, Damian Peter, Jr. was born – the arrival of Damian, Jr. could not have been more perfect. It was a great time in Damian’s life. He loved being a father and cherished every minute spent with his son. He was so proud of little Damian and always boasted about his accomplishments. They had their own rituals. Every night, little Damian would stand on the couch and watch out the window for his “gogga-gogga” to come home from work, and if Damian got home after little Damian’s bedtime, his Dad would immediately go into his room and stand over his crib and talk to him while he slept. It was an unbelievable bond.
Damian was a gifted athlete. Gaelic football was a big part of his life from a very young age; he won every under-age medal with Good Shepherd as a full back and continued at Junior and Senior grades with additional success. When Good Shepherd could no longer field a full team, Damian went to play for Donegal, along with Dave Mc Sweeney, another former Good Shepherd player. Those were great years for Damian, as he took immense pride in the fact that he was playing for his parent’s native county team. He trained really hard and thoroughly enjoyed playing at this top level at Gaelic Park and internationally as part of the New York panel.
Damian also enjoyed running, even more so in the last few years, when he began competing in races with his brothers and sister, Kitty. Damian was an excellent runner, his siblings watched in awe, as he ran the toughest hills effortlessly, and always managed to have the fastest time. Damian also enjoyed golfing and did so quite often with his brothers, extended family and childhood friends from Inwood, Chris Lee and Donn McNamee.
Most of all, Damian was a “family man”, in every sense of the word. He loved going up to the Four Green Fields because it meant spending time with family and close friends and sharing many laughs. He loved playing Bingo and the card games that followed in the dance hall into the wee hours of the morning. He looked forward to participating in the basketball tournament every July 4th and Labor Day weekend. Last Labor Day weekend, Damian spent quality time with his family and friends at the Four Green Fields, and had a great weekend. Everything was perfect. Damian was always making plans for next month and for the next five years. Life was so good: health, happiness and a secure future. Little did we know that we were all enjoying the very best time of our lives. A week later, came the devastation of September 11th, leaving such so much pain, anguish, devastation and heartache that will never heal. Life will never be the same again.
In the early hours of October 2nd, Damian’s brothers Michael, Eugene and Kevin brought us the tragic-yet joyful news that Damian had been recovered on Monday, October 1st with a bunch of firemen and civilians on West Street. The news was so final – we had lost our beloved Damian forever. Damian’s wake at William’s Funeral Home was an incredible scene, as thousands came to say goodbye to our Damian, and yet again at Good Shepherd Church on October 8th, as Father Kevin Devine led us all in a final farewell to one of the most beautiful human beings ever created. Damian now rests in peace at St. Anastasia Cemetery in Harriman, New York.
On January 13th 2002, Damian and Joann’s little daughter, Madison Margaret was born and it was finally a day to rejoice. Damian Jr. is delighted with his baby sister.
We will never forget Damian and we will all make sure that his children know the type of man their father was. For all of us, our Damian was truly one of a kind.

Rest in peace, Damian. You are not forgotten.
Please visit The Damian Meehan Memorial Fund and consider making a donation to their scholarship program.