5-16-2004 Healing Field

I'm having a hard time sometimes convincing people that we need to vote for a new president. We need a different president right away, I think. I think we should impeach this one rather than wait for the next election.--Linda Ronstadt on WABC radio yesterday.

And there we have it. Linda Ronstadt is calling for a bit of revenge. Oops! I meant to say impeachment. They'll just never get over having their wonder boy, Bill "Faster Baby! Faster!" Clinton being impeached for desecrating the office of the presidency and then lying under oath. Should we impeach Dubya after we toss Donald Rumsfeld into a pit of burning jet fuel, and after we send John Ashcroft through a wood chipper, or should we impeach him first? Is Alec Baldwin, or Barbara Streisand available for a quick consultation. They openly yearn to be the co-authors of 'How to kill all Republicans and Conservatives without really trying."

I was way too pooped to post last night. As if it matters anyway. Late Friday night, my daughter Peace got out of work early and we headed over to Kirby Park to sneak a peek at our Healing Field which already had a couple of thousand flags in place.

We arrived right around 10 pm to find some of our hose dudes handing over the security of the field to three of our city crime watchers until 4 am. We took a slow stroll in the dark through the thousands of assembled flags and Peace got to talking about her visit to ground zero in downtown Manhattan. She noted how being at that site just about brought her to tears and also how appalling it was to see others her age gigging and carrying on at the site of America‘s biggest tragedy to date. Obviously, our Healing Field very quickly got her to thinking about what happened on that clear September morning. That was the hoped-for effect, heyna?

We ran into a few higher-ups in our city government, a girl from the chamber, as well as the mayor himself. Here’s a bit of undeniable weirdness. I took along a rather humungous Maglite. Larger than you’ll ever run across. Anywho, when we arrived at the park, I realized the switch was fried and tossed the expensive sumbitch on the floor of the front seat. I said to Peace: “It may not throw much light, but it makes a helluva weapon.”

So...we climbed into the Mazda and headed over the bridge. As we approached the three-quarter point, a few cars directly in front of us came to a screeching halt and the 1st annual Lead-lined Pipe Swinging Championship was suddenly on. Seriously. Peace didn’t know whether to vote for John Kerry or go blind, so I yelled at her to just stop the car and we watched the featherweight event unfold in a flash. After only a few seconds, one of our older police cars came seemingly out of freakin’ nowhere and skidded to an abrupt stop. It was as if the bell at the end of the first round had rung and the fighters were returning to their corners as the perpetrators (in our opinion) scurried like startled roaches towards their respective cars. And the kid that took the brunt of all of this was left bleeding from the skull in front of his Mustang and trying to explain to the copper dude what in the hell it was that had just happened.

After we drove around all of this, another cruiser passed us on it’s way to the scene and Peace was flabbergasted by what she had just witnessed. By her own admission, she was trembling a bit and her stomach was a bit off of it’s game. I told her that if she’d simply move back to Wilkes-Barre, she’d get used to this sort of thing. Ease up there, folks. I was being faceious. Well, sort of. We heard the cop tell the medics to “put an X on it,” so I guess that kid got whacked a bit worse than we had first thought. They took him to CMC, so he must have had a fairly serious head wound. At that point during our eventful journey, I asked Peace to describe the pipe-wielding lunatic. Let’s see just how reliable eye-witness testimony really is.

Peace’s description of the assailant: A short, white teeny-bopper male wearing a white “wife-beater,” a bandana and a few gold chains.

This is what I saw: A short Hispanic male teenager with gold chains around his neck, a thin head-covering garment popular among very aged Polish women on his head and a pipe in his hand. No clothing registered at all with me, but he did kick much like a 4th grade girl.

Whatever. For what it’s worth.

The Healing Field

I’m sure our two local newspapers will tell us in great detail why the Healing Field event was staged right here in lil’ old Wilkes-Barre. I don’t need to remind ya’ll about all of that. And I’m also sure they’ll share a few tales of some folks reactions to it, emotional and otherwise. I already told ya’ where I stand. Those flags may be intended to honor those who were taken before their time, but for me they serve as a stark reminder that we’ve got much more to do to see to it that no more are taken before their time under the very same circumstances. Whatever. That’s just me.

I remember hearing the folks on TV speculating about how many people may have been trapped in those twin towers right after they had collapsed. 10,000? 20,000? Possibly even 30,000? We sat glued to CNN in stunned silence hoping against hope that those estimates couldn’t possibly be correct, but in the backs of our minds, we kinda believed it. Didn’t we? And then, before we knew it, we were hearing the revised numbers. The ’good news’ if you will? As it turned out, ONLY 3,000 or so were lost. Thank God. Isn’t that what we thought?

But as I stood atop our new-and-improved dikes today and stared down at 3,000-plus flags, 3,000 didn’t seem to be such a stroke of good fortune anymore. That’s a lot of flags. And each one represents a person who should still be with us today.

I gotta tell you, it seemed touch-and-go there for a spell, but the city managed to pull this off today with nary a glitch as far as I could see. And it really was an enormous event to coordinate. I may be wrong, but I seriously doubt that any event ever held in this city required so much time and effort from those at city hall, from city employees, and from scores of untold volunteers. Putting the victims of 9/11 and the War on Terror aside-the entire reason for today’s festivities-today was a shining example of what real leadership, cooperation, donations and a healthy dose of volunteerism can achieve. Logistically speaking, this was a monumental project and you wouldn’t know it by judging from what transpired today. If this is an example of what we can expect in the future, Wilkes-Barre has a bright future ahead of it. Enough with the atta-boys.

Gage Andrew had himself a full day today and he went to bed much earlier than he normally would. Basically, we wore him out. We were up early and on our way to fire headquarters by 8:30 am. The little bugger walked all the way down there excepting the last 100 yards or so.


Upon our arrival, a sea of humanity was already lined-up and ready to march their flags to Kirby Park. We were assigned to group 12, whatever that meant, and we both ended up bringing up the rear of the folks from Blue Cross. The parade began within a few minutes of it’s scheduled start and the brisk pace surprised me a bit. I knew right then and there that Gage wouldn’t be able to keep up with us, so that meant that along with my flag I was going to have to carry him for a good part of the trip. Man, oh man! What was it that Maureen, a Wilkes-Barre native, used to always say after spending almost four years at Fort Hood, Texas? Oh, yeah. Shee*ttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt!

So...I carried the 35 pound boy for a half a block, he’d walk the next half block, and then I’d scoop him up again. A nice gentleman to my left offered to carry my flag for me, but I declined his generous offer. I figured I might as well tough it out after getting myself into this 35 pound pickle. Needless to say, I was very happy when we arrived at the former Rebar Park. If we do this sort of thing again anytime soon, you’ll find Gage Andrew in the red Radio Flyer wagon trailing directly behind me. Live and learn.

There were enough fire fighters from widely scattered departments on hand to put out that fire we normally refer to as The Sun. There were so many Wilkes-Barre City police officers in attendance, it left me with the impression that every single one of them were there, save the ones left behind to patrol the city. Cops, as well as fire fighters are part of a large, almost sacred brotherhood and they take fallen brothers and sisters very, very seriously. I’ve never seen so many city employees so polished-up at the same time before. Dress blues sure were the order of the day. And it was warm enough and sunny enough to make it look uncomfortable.

Gage & Big Coke

I didn’t see a lot of emotion today, but we are going on three years since we were shocked beyond all belief. I ran across two teen-aged girls who were both crying their eyes out, clutching cameras and clutching each other. I also saw a lady with tears streaming down her face while staring intently at an out-stretched flag. Can you imagine what it would have been like if we had held this event two years earlier? There would probably have been enough tears spilled to have the Emergency Management Agency boys rushing towards the river with yardsticks firmly in hand. I guess time does heal all wounds to some degree, or another. I guess.

There was one clear hint that today was a very special day for those in attendance. I have never seen so many cameras in one place at the same time during my entire life. If we did this at night, it would have been like being at a Super Bowl in Kirby Park.

Check this out. I arrived there loaded for bear. Name it. Police scanner. Camera. Extra batteries for both. Cell phone. Pager. A weapon. A pen. A memo pad. Cookies for the Gagemeister. Cough drops. Cigarettes. A Juicy Juice. Follow me here. So we played with the ducks for a spell. We even fed them some lemon cookies. I sure hope there isn’t an ordinance on the books barring just such a thing. We posed for a few pics. We listened to some fire fighters reading the names of those who perished on 9/11. And then Gage let loose with: “What’s that?” just as soon as the first amusement ride fired-up it’s rather noisy motor a few hundred yards away. I was surely had. So we sauntered down to the kiddie rides and it was at that point that I realized that I had left the adobe without my wallet. Rutro! Endless crying ensued and it was time to high-tail it out of there. But...but, just a few feet from being out of there, we ran across someone who was generous enough to spot us a twenty dollar bill. I said: “Hey, Gage, you want a soda?” “Soda?” he quickly perked up with. We reversed course and Pop Pop no longer sucked. Whew!


We did the amusement rides. We did the worse playground this side of Europa. We did a cherry Italian Ice which made my cerebral-cortex freeze-up for a few minutes. I freakin’ hate that. Gage did a rather long hoddog with a sprinkling of ketchup and we also did a monster Coke together. And as we listened to the reading of some more 9/11 names it was becoming obvious that the little guy had had enough. Then I discovered another slight problem. With all of our wheels at someone’s place of employment and the little guy ready for an afternoon nap, how the hell would I get him home? No cars. No Rock Stomper. And one exhausted toddler. A slight oversight on my part. Now what?

What else? Time to tough it out again. I threw him up on my shoulders and humped his thirty-five pounds from Kirby Park to Thompson Street. Actually, he rather enjoyed himself, so I’m sure he’ll be trekking somewhere soon enough from the tops of my shoulders. Once back at the adobe, he went for a swim and it was nap time soon afterwards. And what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. After he began dreaming of sugar-coated Tonka Trucks and such, his sister, Taylor Kate, took her first ever road trip on the Stomper. And then she went for a swim. And then I took a recharged Gage for a wagon ride through the Nord End in search of 40 very cold onces of brewed vegetation and a couple of Tootsie Pops. And now they are both sound asleep and I am beat. It’s been a full day as far as I’m concerned.

And it was a good day. A good day to remember those we lost. A good day to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going as a nation. A good day to reflect on where we’ve been as a city and where we might be going to. And if today was a good example of what Wilkes-Barre is now capable of, we should all feel invigorated and enthused about what lies directly ahead of us.

I know that the Healing Field was about much more than one tiny backwater city, but if we can pull off events as large as this without a glitch, it suggests to me that Wilkes-Barre may finally be healing to some extent. Instead of the daily black eyes in the local papers, we can now look forward to the next success and take some real pride in our community.

Oh, what a difference an election can make.


Never Forget

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