REMEMBERING 9-11 TEN YEARS AGO
By Cash Michaels
For Sen. Dan Blue and his oldest son, Dan III, this Sunday, Sept. 11, has an extra special meaning.
On that day ten years ago, Blue, the Wake Democrat and former NC House Speaker, had spoken by phone with a Carolinian reporter about his decision to run for the United States Senate representing North Carolina. He would be filing papers shortly, and his campaign team had been at his office strategizing their next moves.
Little did Rep. Blue know that in a manner of hours, his son would be fleeing for his life, along with tens of thousands of others in New York City, after two hijacked airliners slammed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.
This Sunday, Sept. 11, also has special meaning for attorney Marjorie Fields-Harris.
Ten years ago, Fields-Harris, who used to work in the Wake County Sheriff’s Department for then Sheriff John Baker, was having breakfast with civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton at a Brooklyn restaurant.
Fields-Harris was the executive director of Sharpton’s National Action Network. They had been canvassing New York’s subway entrances campaigning for a Hispanic candidate for New York mayor. It was a bright, clear primary day in the Big Apple, and Sharpton’s team had been up since before the sun urging voters to go to the polls.
As they had their meal during a breakfast break, little did they realize that across the bridge in Manhattan, what was first thought to be a tragic airplane accident at the World Trade Center, soon developed into a horrible terrorist attack with thousands killed.
Dan Blue, his son Dan III, and Marjorie Fields-Harris, are just three of the untold number of people with North Carolina roots, who have a direct connection to that fateful, historic day in America on Sept. 11, 2001. And ten years later, all three say that day changed their lives, making them more aware of the collective responsibility Americans have to each other, not just to protect against terrorism, but to build a better world.
It took seeing for themselves first hand just how vulnerable a mighty nation like the United States really is to terrorist attacks, to open their eyes to the need for making every day count, they say, building bridges over social barriers, and developing better resources, preparation and defenses.
Dan III, a graduate of Enloe High School in Raleigh and currently an attorney specializing in corporate law in his father’s firm of Blue, was an investment banker with Bears, Stearns and Co. in New York City then. His offices were located in the Wall Street area of NYC, but on Sept. 11, 2001, he was taking special classes miles away in midtown Manhattan in Times Square.
His class was interrupted when people came in with reports of what happened at the World Trade Center, at the time, the singular symbol of American economic dominance. When it became clear that the city, if not the nation, was under attack, Blue III left to head home. New York public transportation had been halted. Buses and subways were shutdown. Thousands took to the streets of New York, stopping only to watch the horrifying pictures on street level televisions of the burning Twin Towers crumbling before their eyes.
“Pretty quickly, we realized that something bigger than New York City was happening, “ Dan III recalls.
Back in North Carolina, his parents couldn’t reach him, trying to call, but the lines in New York are down.
With cellphone service disrupted (text messaging didn’t exist then), Blue III just kept walking the many blocks and miles along Manhattan’s Westside Highway to his home at 72nd street and Amsterdam Avenue, feeling the thickness and intensity of fear all around him.
“Everybody was walking quickly, and in the same direction,” Dan III said. “It was scary, but it was an orderly evacuation.”
On his way, by mid-morning, he’s able to let his mother, Edna Earl Blue, know that he’s OK, and headed to safety.
Once home, he finally got a line out to Raleigh, letting family and friends know that he was all right amid the horrifying events just miles away.
Before his wife called him with the welcomed news that their son in New York was safe, state Sen. Blue was naturally concerned, he said, worried and fearful that “Danny” might be injured.
He decided that from that point forward, his campaign for the US Senate had to change its focus. The world would never be the same after 9-11-2001, he says, and he wanted to go to Washington, D.C., representing the people of North Carolina, to help lead the effort to bring about that needed change.
Blue ultimately lost in the Democratic primaries in 2002 to Erskine Bowles, but he never lost his perspective on what America’s role in the world must be if it is to truly serve all of its people.
He admits that the first thing he wanted to do was “go after the terrorists,” but once he knew his son was safe, Sen. Blue realized that “we are part of a bigger mosaic.”
Dan II agrees, saying that while he saw fear, he also saw New Yorkers, and ultimately Americans, coming together to help one another in times of crisis.
“We’ve got to find a way to make it better world,” Blue III says 9-11 ultimately taught him.
Over in Brooklyn on that same fateful morning ten years ago this weekend, Marjorie Fields-Harris knew the moment she saw the World Trade Center in flames, that she and the rest of Rev. Sharpton’s team had to get back to their Harlem headquarters because they would be needed in the community.
“I immediately called Rev's driver who was yelling that we needed to get out of there because they were shutting down the bridges into Manhattan,” Fields-Harris recalled in an op-ed piece titled, “Terror at Our Door.”
“By the time we got into the van and traveled the 1.3 miles from Flatbush and DeKalb Avenues to the Brooklyn Bridge, all gateways to the city were shut down. Rev directed his driver to try the Williamsburg Bridge next, and if we encountered the same problem, to jump on the BQE (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) to try the Triboro Bridge.”
Fields-Harris continued, “As his driver maneuvered the streets, we looked across the water and witnessed a visual that remains seared in my mind to this day. On this clear and bright day, we could clearly see the darkened and charred holes in both towers -- smoke emanating from the places where unimaginable evil had landed at our front door. The radio was carrying reports of the incidents, with reporters offering more questions than answers at this point. Our cell phone signals were intermittent at best but I was able to reach my mother, who was in North Carolina, to quell her fears.”
“When we finally made it to the Triboro bridge, there was a standing line of cars trying to make it across,” Fields-Harris continued. “The bridge was closed and only emergency service cars, private cars carrying physicians and emergency workers and a few city service vehicles were being allowed to cross.
“Rev asked me to question the officials near the barricade about possible passage for his vehicle. After much discussion, they granted Reverend Sharpton access into the city, but not his vehicle. I was able to flag down a sanitation truck whose driver said that he could take the two of us across the bridge but that he would have to follow the route that he was assigned once there. His truck was directed north and he let us out close to the Madison Avenue Bridge. It was odd because there was no traffic and an eerie silence along the streets as we walked down to our headquarters.”
“Reverend kept saying that we needed to be there for the community because many of them would be seeking prayer and a place of refuge until things quieted down. He was correct,” Fields-Harris wrote. “That began the first of many vigils and prayer circles that we had with families and the communities for the events of 9-11.”
Today Fields-Harris is back in North Carolina, heading up her own consulting firm, and writing.
She’s that 9-11 taught her that communities of color are even more vulnerable because they don’t have the standard access to communications and resources in cases of emergency. Fields-Harris says she’s developed a personal emergency plan for herself and her family.
CHARLOTTE UNVEILS DNC LOGO - Tuesday, the Democratic National Committee came to Charlotte to mark the year-out date of the 2012 Democratic National Convention in the Queen City, and unveil the new logo for the occasion at the Time Warner Arena. 35,000 delegates, officials and journalists from around the world are expected to attend the convention, where President Barack Obama is expected to be formally renominated for re-election in the November 2012 campaign [Cash Michaels photos]
NNPA STORIES -
Will Obama Respond to CBC Criticisms?
Welfare Cuts Put Thousands of families in jeopardy
WILL REPUBLICAN SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES DEBATE?
By Cash Michaels
Tonight, when the first of five Wake School Board candidate forums sponsored by WakeUp Wake County and the League of Women Voters takes place, Donna Williams, the only Republican candidate for the District 6 seat currently held by Dr. Carolyn Morrison, may not be there.
Neither might Republican Heather Losurdo share her views when the District 3 candidates gather to debate the issues on Sept. 14th, 7 p.m. at the Church of the Nativity on Ray Road.
And in Southeast Raleigh’s District 4, while incumbent board member Keith Sutton has confirmed that he will be present for the candidate’s forum on Sept. 15 to put the best case forward for why he should remain the predominately black district’s representative, Republican challenger Venita Peyton might not participate to justify why she'd be the better choice.
With the Oct. 11th supposedly "nonpartisan" Wake School Board elections looming large, several newbie Republican candidates may already be invoking the old Jesse Helms strategy - “Do dominate, but do NOT debate.” That was an infamous tactic of the late longtime North Carolina U.S. senator and Republican icon.
Helms, known for his ultra right-wing stances, racial intolerance and hatred of liberals, refused more times than not to share the stage with an opponent during an election campaign, preferring instead to smear his “liberal” opponents with various untruths in order to keep them off balance, thus dictating the terms of the debate.
Helms won five terms in the US Senate as a result.
Williams and Losurdo, well-known and connected Wake Republican insiders, apparently plan to do the same.
Williams, who has raised over $22,000 for her campaign thus far (over half of that from $4,000 contributions respectively from local top shelf conservatives Art Pope, Pope’s wife Katherine, and businessman Bob Luddy), was the founder of the Northern Wake Republican Club,”…an affiliate club of the Wake GOP…[and] a group of concerned citizens working to preserve the constitutional values handed down from the founding fathers of our country,” according to its website.
NWRC was a strong backer of the four Republicans who won the 2009 Wake School Board race, the election that gave the GOP the current 5-4 board majority.
Ironically, Wake Schools Supt. Anthony Tata, known for his past affinity for conservative Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement, is scheduled to address the NWRC this evening.
Williams is on record as strongly opposing student diversity, and supporting neighborhood schools. She also wants to break up Enloe High School’s 142 magnet programs and spread them out around the system, calling that “fair and equitable balance.”
Republican Wake school board member Ron Margiotta wanted to do similarly with the system's magnet programs in 2008 before he became chairman.
If Williams were to change her mind and show up for this evening’s District 6 candidate’s forum at Hudson Memorial Presbyterian Church, she would be defending the current GOP school board’s policies against Democratic challengers Christine Kushner, George W. Morgan and Mary Ann Weathers.
Same with conservative GOP powerhouse Heather Losurdo of District 3, who, like Williams, has the strong backing of the Wake GOP, several high profile Republican elected officials like state Rep. Paul Stam and Wake Commission Chair Paul Coble, and of course, all five Republicans she hopes to join on the Wake School Board.
In fact, Coble, Stam and other Wake Republican leadership will be holding a fundraiser for Losurdo at the Stag Club in Raleigh this evening, a clear indication that the Republican power structure has her back. Donna Williams might even show up there, instead of to her own debate.
Losurdo, a California native, was the immediate past president of the Northern Wake Republican Club, and vocal supporter of the GOP neighborhood schools policy. During the 2009 Wake School Board races, she worked very hard to get the GOP majority elected, speaking out against Wake’s socioeconomic diversity policy, and for neighborhood schools.
She has already raised over $12,000 in campaign funds to unseat Democratic Wake School Board incumbent Kevin Hill.
Unlike Williams and Losurdo, District 4 GOP school board candidate Venita Peyton, while certainly supportive of the board Republicans and Supt. Tata, is not as entrenched politically with the Wake Republican Party. It comes as no surprise, given that Peyton has yet to return the GOP’s past investments in her, given her losses in at least four previous failed bids for public office.
Peyton, who has not responded to several emailed requests for comment from The Carolinian thus far, has used both her campaign and personal online blogs to reach prospective voters. Though she’s been endorsed by the Wake Republican Party, and is bound to see some donations for her campaign, the party may be supporting her in the overwhelmingly Democratic District 4 only to keep incumbent Keith Sutton busy so that he can’t help other Democratic school board candidates.
Thus, why Peyton may not debate Sutton next Thursday, Sept. 15, 7 p.m. at the Walnut Creek Wetland Center, 950 Peterson Street in Raleigh, is not clear, given that unlike either Williams or Losurdo, Peyton needs all of the exposure and backing she can get.
Same could be said for District 5 Republican challenger Cynthia Matson, who reportedly has been showing up at schools passing out campaign literature in her faceoff against Democratic opponent Jim Martin. Matson, who once led the Wake anti-student diversity group Assignment By Choice ten years ago, has also been endorsed by the Wake GOP, but does not have the Republican establishment backing of Williams and Losurdo yet.
As for District 8 Republican incumbent Ron Margiotta, all indications are that he will take part in scheduled candidates forums against Democratic challenger Susan Evans. Margiotta has served two terms on the Wake school board, is currently chairman, a strong proponent of neighborhood schools, and must win his district if the Democrats take the other four open seats, or else the Republicans lose board control.
Evans, who like fellow Democrats Sutton, Hill, and Martin is endorsed by the Wake Democratic Party and the Wake North Carolina Association of Educators, opposes neighborhood schools, and supports more funding for the school system.
STATE NEWS BRIEFS
EDWARDS’ ATTORNEYS WANT CASE DISMISSED
[CHAPEL HILL] After asking that the October trial of former Sen. John Edwards be delayed, his attorneys have now filed several motions asking a federal judge to dismiss all of his campaign corruption charges. Edwards is charged with using more than $1 million in campaign contributions for his unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign to buy off his mistress, Rielle Hunter, who was pregnant with his child. Edwards’ attorneys say though unethical, it was not illegal. Edwards has pleaded not guilty.
BEWARE OF HURRICANE IRENE SCAMS
[RALEIGH] There’s no question that victims of Hurricane Irene need as many donations as they can get to help put their lives back together after the devastating storm caused massive floods and damage to homes and businesses. But, NC Secretary of State Elaine Marshall says, there’s also no question that there are scammers out there trying to steal as much of those donations as possible to fill their own pockets. She’s advising that before you donate any money to any charity associated with Hurricane Irene, check http://www.secretary.state.nc.us/csl/Search.aspx to see if the charity in question is legitimate, and registered with the state. Marshall says a legitimate charity gives at least 60 percent of its donations to the cause. Any less, and it’s a scam.
IRENE RECOVERY UPDATE
[OUTER BANKS] The price tag for Hurricane Irene recovery has now surpassed $400 million, thanks to crop losses, in addition to flood, wind and tree damage across Eastern North Carolina and the Outer Banks. Power has finally been restored to hard hit areas like Roanoke Rapids. At least fifteen more counties have been made eligible for federal disaster assistance, including New Hanover, Edgecombe and Bertie, making it 33 NC counties in all. State transportation crews are busily working to repair NC Highway 12, which was badly damaged during Irene, thus cutting off the Outer Banks barrier islands. The state Board of Agriculture met Wednesday to determine hoe to help farmers who loss crops to the storm.
CASH IN THE APPLE
By Cash Michaels
YOLANDA ADAMS SHOW FRIDAY AT SHAW - This Friday, Sept. 9th, from 6 -10 a.m., gospel great Yolanda Adams broadcasts her nationally syndicated radio show from the Thomas Boyd Chapel on the campus of Shaw University in Raleigh. Adams will be there live raising both awareness, and funds for Shaw 's disaster relief effort to recover from the devastating April tornadoes that tore through the campus. The appearance is also to raise money for Shaw University's Scholarship Fund.
Also appearing with Ms. Adams is artist Ernest Pugh who sings, " I Need Your Glory," plus, the Shaw University Ensemble.
This event is free and open to the public, and will be heard nationwide.
Online donations accepted at www.shawuniversity.edu.
9/11’S TENTH - On the fifth anniversary in 2006 of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, I wrote the following in this newspaper:
It’s hard to believe that it five years have gone by since the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and the downed Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania.
Without question, it was a day our country, and the world, will never forget.
I was in Brooklyn, NY on Tuesday Sept 11 at my mother’s house. She was in the backyard, and I was in house trying to meet my deadline for The Carolinian and Wilmington Journal newspapers. I was actually supposed to be in Manhattan that day to get some legal papers for my mother so she could move to North Carolina, but as fate would have it, I ended up getting those the day before.
I had interviewed former NC House Speaker Dan Blue earlier that day about his run for the US Senate. My mom’s house was getting some exterior work done by workers of Arab descent. I had the TV off so I could concentrate.
It was after 10 a.m. when I checked my e-mails, and got a “breaking news” message from one of the North Carolina TV stations. When I opened it, there was a picture of a fireball exploding at the World Trade Center in New York.
In New York? Here?
I read further how two jetliners collided with the Twin Towers in an apparent terrorist attack.
I immediately went downstairs to tell my mother, who was in the backyard tending to the flowers she loved so much.
On my way, I stopped to listen to the all-news radio station she always had on. The Pentagon had been hit. People were seen running for their lives from the White House. A car bomb reportedly went off in front of the State Department (that report was not true), and other hijacked planes were said to be heading to other targets across the country (also not true, except for United Airlines Flight 93, which had been heading towards Washington, but had already crashed, thanks to the brave passengers onboard.
I got my mother into the house quickly, telling her what was going on. I turned on the TV, but because the Twin Tower with the major antenna had already collapsed, I couldn’t raise any of the New York TV stations, except for a fuzz.
I then called all of the workmen together, made them aware of what was going on, and told them to be careful. I didn’t know whether the cops or FBI would pull up any minute and take them away because of what was going on across the river.
From that moment on, my agenda changed. I had to cover a story that was a few miles away, but had no phone (the telephone company relay was destroyed) and only TV from New Jersey...no cable)
I had to dial literally 20 times to get through once, so I called my now-wife Markita, and my publisher at The Carolinian.
Going into Manhattan was out of the question from Brooklyn. Then Mayor Giuliani issued an executive order shutting all entry to the city. All vehicles leaving were being checked. People were walking over the bridges by the millions.
It was as state of siege.
Miraculously, and I look back in wonder even to this day, I was able to pull material together from online when I could get a dial tone, and find a TV station or two that switched to New Jersey stations to broadcast (most people in New York do not have cable, so the TV stations had to find a way to transmit over the air).
As night fell, New York City was absolute in a state of shock, as the images of the planes hitting the WTC were replayed over and over again, followed by the extraordinary collapse of both towers, the toxic plume chasing fleeing people through the streets like a cheap Japanese monster movie.
The tears, the pain, the horror, the disbelief.
I don’t know what it was like watching all of that from North Carolina, where I’m sure many were equally in shock.
But I do know what it was like to be a few miles from Ground Zero on that day, and to be both a reporter who had to get the story out, and at the same time, a son who had to protect his mother and stay close to her, not knowing what was going to happen next.
When I was finally able to file all of my stories and pictures with The Carolinian via email with very, very limited phone capability, I then exhaled and took it all in.
By that time, and for days following (I stayed in New York for a week after until I was sure all was safe), the smell of burnt electrical substance hung in the air. People were stunned.
On the afternoon of Sept. 11, after the Arab workers finished their job on my mother’s house and were paid, I’ll never forget. They pulled out a prayer rug, placed it on my mother’s porch, and began praying.
They were afraid.
Five years ago, coming back to North Carolina, and driving across the bridge from Brooklyn, seeing the Statue of Liberty.
But the twin Towers she always looked upon were gone.
What a sad, sad and humbling sight.
Some ask if we’re any safer today than five years ago. In some ways yes, but in other ways, clearly this is a more dangerous time than ever before.
I just pray that GOD continues to bless all of us.
As I said, that’s what I wrote five years ago on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I reprint it word-for-word because I’m pretty certain my memory five years ago of what that time-turning day was like, is much, much better than it is now.
But there is no question that that day changed all of our lives forever.
And certainly the lives of those who lost loved ones, as well.
This week, and particularly this Sunday, the official tenth anniversary, the world will stop to commemorate. A lot has happened since that tragic event, the most momentous of which is President Obama capturing and eliminating terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden earlier this year.
The question now is, how do we move forward in a world where anyone with enough hate and the means to manifest it, can change all of our lives once again?
I pray that it never happens again.
I pray for all of us.
EDDIE MURPHY HOSTING THE OSCARS - Well as you know, it’s official…comedian Eddie Murphy, who hasn’t headlined a hit film in ages, has been named the host of the 2012 Academy Awards telecast on ABC-TV on February 26th.
Since it’s hard to predict which films will be honored with Oscar nominations, ABC doesn’t want to have another low-rated telecast, so the network and the Academy hire a performer known for his always-on-the-edge comedy.
But they’re also hiring a performer whose once stellar career could use all of the help it can get.
Beyond being the voice of the Donkey in the “Shrek” animated film series, Murphy really hasn’t done anything of decent note since his Oscar-nominated role in the hit 2006 flick, “Dreamgirls." He has a new movie coming out in November called “Tower Heist” that could put him back on top, but once again Eddie Murphy will be portraying the kind of black clown we wish we could all forget.
Eddie’s comic genius lies in his ability to make us laugh without all of the coon stereotypes. He’s too old for that kind of crap, and quite frankly, so are we.
Gone are the days of Murphy’s brilliance on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” or some of his early movies like “48 Hours” and “Beverly Hills Cop.”
A couple of years ago, Murphy’s sci-fi comedy “Pluto Nash,” which cost a $100 mil to make only to earn maybe a buck-fifty at the box office, was rated one of the most expensive bombs in film history. And many of Eddie’s current flicks of late have simply been ignored.
Eddie Murphy just turned 50 this year, which means he has to find a way to stay relevant without the Stepin Fetchit “Yassuh boss” comedy he’s unfortunately famous for. He can do it. Eddie has the talent and skill. I wish I could say that no one knows Eddie Murphy better than Eddie Murphy, but his long, long track of failures proves that is not true.
Hopefully, in taking the Oscars gig next year, Eddie can turn a page, and start having a great second chapter to a noteworthy career.
And Eddie, if you’re reading this, nothing personal.
Make sure you tune in every Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. for my talk radio show, ''Make It Happen'' on Power 750 WAUG-AM, or online at www.Power750.com. And read more about my thoughts and opinions exclusively at my new blog, ‘The Cash Roc” (http://thecashroc.blogspot.com/2011/01/cash-roc-begins.html). I promise it will be interesting.
Cash in the Apple - honored as the Best Column Writing of 2006 by the National Newspaper Publishers Association, by Cash Michaels, honored this year as well by NNPA for Best Feature Story Journalist of 2009.
Until next week, keep a smile on your face, GOD in your heart, and The Carolinian your life. Bye, bye.