REMEMBERING 9/11, ALWAYS.

Every 9/11, I will share my memories to commemorate my friends and colleagues at 32BJ. I wrote this blog in 2017 and edit it each year as appropriate.  I appreciate you reading it.  In memoriam to the workers who died that day. Give us PEACE.

18 years ago, I rose from the McPherson Square Metro to walk the 3 blocks to my office at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) office at L Street NW, Washington, D.C.  It was a beautiful Tuesday morning, no humidity and the air and sky were crisp and clear.  There was an announcement in the subway, which was garbled like all the announcements in the Metro.  All I heard was “blah, blah, blah…Pentagon”.  As I walked toward my office, I realized there was an unusual amount of horns honking, traffic congestion and people streaming out of office buildings.

The city was in complete panic, and the subway was now closed.  When I got to my building, a colleague told me the city was evacuating.  She offered me a ride home and we sat in traffic for an hour traveling only a few blocks.  Because she was trying desperately try to get home to her family in Maryland, I got out and walked home to Capitol Hill.   I am certain I got home before she did.

A few day later, I was sent to New York to assist SEIU 32BJ navigate the federal, state and local government bureaucracy in the time of our national crisis.  32BJ is the largest building services local union in New York City.  The members are doormen, cleaners, property maintenance workers, security officers, building engineers, school and food service workers, and window cleaners.  24 union members died on 9/11. “Roko Camaj spent nearly half his life suspended from ropes over 1,300 feet above ground working outside of the original World Trade Center. Born in the small Balkan country of Montenegro, he immigrated to the United States in 1969.”  He was known to say he loved his job, “at the top of the world”.  Another window washer was instrumental in saving lives, “A man standing next to Jan Demczur reached into the window washer’s bucket and seized the Squeegee handle. It took them 90 minutes from the moment the elevator cab had halted in the shaft, but they reached safety only minutes before the tower collapsed—the second tower to do so. The tool that saved their lives, the Squeegee handle”  The handle is now part of the Smithsonian exhibit at National Museum of American History.

Why on earth was I being sent to New York, what could I possibly do to help?  I was a Legislative Advocate (Lobbyist).  But my experience representing public employees and understanding the unemployment compensation system and other government programs would come in handy.

In the mist of such tragedy, the benefits of union membership were paramount to the 1,200 plus workers who worked in the World Trade Center buildings and had lost their livelihood.  The buildings were gone and so were their jobs. 

32BJ offices were only a few blocks away from the World Trade Center.  Those blocks were filled with pages and pictures, “have you seen this person”.  I am haunted by those flyers fluttering in the wind.

Yet, I was incredibly proud and privileged to have met and helped union members in the days following 9/11.  I was concerned that some of the janitors might be undocumented, but the World Trade Center was the premiere building in New York City.  The least senior janitor had worked in the building over 10 years.  They weren’t undocumented, but there were major language barriers to overcome.

I remember one perticular eastern European woman, she had been a school teacher  before she immigrated, because her English was not very good instead of being a teacher she worked as a janitor.  She had been cleaning the same floor of the World Trade Center over 15 years.  She was my age, single, educated but worked as a janitor.  Her English was still not very good after years of being a U.S. citizen, because as a cleaner she didn’t converse daily with co-workers, she worked alone and was invisible to the people who occupied the offices she cleaned.  There by the grace of being born in the U.S.  I really identified with her.  She was alone, no family and her co-workers spoke many different languages.  But her union family step-up and took care of her.

The union officers and staff worked to get all the members onto unemployment as quickly as possible.  The NYC phone system had collapsed, because of the thousands of people who lost their jobs that day.  Also the unemployment system only offered translations services in Spanish and a few Chinese dialects.  32BJ workers were from all over the world, but the World Trade builings were mostly Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia.  We helped them complete paper applications giving each member personal assistance.

Each day a union meeting was held on the first floor of the union building.  32BJ leadership told all the displaced workers “they were family”.   The union was going to get everyone back to work.  In addition, the union extended health insurance and granted a supplement $100 unemployment benefit from the union trust funds.  At those meetings workers cried and hugged each other.  I was never so proud to be with union members, the union was an extended family taking care of one another, as it should be.  Later the union was able to negotiate an early retirement program so that older workers could retire and the 1,200 displaced World Trade Center workers would move to other buildings.  The union got everyone back to work in 6 months, without any government assistance.  (U.S. Senator Hilary Clinton was no help at all.)

I was incredibly privileged to attend those meetings and see firsthand the joy expressed by workers who had experienced such loss and tragedy.  I felt guilty that week, because being there was a priviledge, and that week was one of the best of my career.  

Each anniversary of 9/11, I remember the wonderful 32BJ members, staff and officers.  I am proud to be a union member, and now retiree.  

TUMBLE WEED TUESDAY, THE END OF SUMMER.

I remember how hard it was to go back to work after Labor Day.  Ironic that Labor Day marks the end of summer.  My last 17 years of work revolved around the Congressional Calendar, and we all lived for August.  Congress left town and we all got a breather.  I love summer.  I never want it to end, my Airstream life is a true blessing.  I follow the sun.  Summer on Long Island, in Westhampton and winter in warmth.

This year I am staying in Westhampton longer, until late October.  I hope for an Indian Summer, and today sitting on the deck with a beckoning pool, it still feels like summer.

The Tuesday after Labor Day Monday is called Tumble Weed Tuesday.  Who Knew?  There is not a tumble weed within a thousand miles of Long Island.  But the city people have gone back to work and the Westhampton village is full of 50% sales, and the shops are soon to close.  The full-timers are always glad to see the tourist leave, but it is a mixed blessing.  Marginal restaurants will close never to reopen.  Next summer will bring new owners with great expectations.

Anyone who wants to open a restaurant should be committed to the nearest “nut house”.  To prove my point The New Yorker just republished Anthony Bourdain’s first article on eating in restaurants later turned into Kitchen Confidential.

I am not a foodie, but I admired and loved Anthony Bourdain, as so many of us.  I still isten to Kitchen Confidential when I can’t sleep.  His voice soothes me to sleep, but I have also incorporated his cooking ‘orders’.  I no longer buy garlic, shallots or any other herbs in plastic tubes.  I chop in his honor.

Time is flying by.  Soon it will be November, Scout, Maggie and I will head south with the snowbirds.  Last summer I had too many things to do, remodeling Scout’s interior.  This year I have been totally lazy.  My plan this summer is to take everything out of Scout, and re-evaluate.  The rule of living in an RV is throwing something out if you want to bring something new in.  But more to the point, if you haven’t used it in the last 12 months, it has to go!

So today I pulled all my clothes out of Scout, and I plan to reduce by 50%.  Even in a 20’ trailer I seem to accumulate too much STUFF!

I also have a few things to repair.  The bathroom fan quit working, which means climbing up on the roof.  I also put a good size dent backing into Robin’s driveway.   Those tree limbs are dangerous, (Stop laughing Michelle).  I have been watching lots of YOUTUBE video about pulling out dents and bought a dent puller tool at Harbor Freight.

I can’t tell you how beautiful it is today in Westhampton.  I will be jumping into the pool after writing and posting this.  Maggie and I will go to the beach at sunset.  I am writing this on sister’s Robin’s beautifully (newly remodeled) deck, how lucky am I?

GRATEFULL

I CAN’T FIX THAT!

I enjoy and pride myself on trying to fix stuff, with the help of YouTUBE.  I have thought it might be fun to do my own Do-it-Yourself videos.  Get some cute coveralls, possibly a funny hat?  BUT, I am not at all photogenic, especially when I am doing repairs.  I tend to sweat — not perspire — I sweat.  Water running down my face and stinging my eyes.  A good imperssonation of Nixon at his debate.  This is not a good look, especially on YouTUBE.

After collecting Scout from her parking spot in Oxford, MD, I drove to Coopersburg, PA to visit Carol and Keven.  Carol was working on purging stuff, and Scout needed a good going over after being stationary for three weeks in extremely hot temperatures.  Airing out and cleaning was definately required.  It is amazing how dirty a trailer can become just sitting, collecting spiders and dust.  Worst of all, I failed to turn on the propane, so the refrigerator had not been running.  Never leave a RV refridgerator closed and not operating – the smell the mold!  I threw away everything and gave it a good scrubbing with bleach.  

But the more serious, yet another undetected problem is there was no power!  When I arrived at the campground in New London, CT it was 90+ degrees in the shade.  I plugged in the 30 AMP power cord, the lights and thermostat came on, but the roof air conditioning unit did not kick-in.  No AC, no fun.  I was sweating like crazy!

After watching several more YouTUBE videos I suspected it might be a circuit breaker issue.  Scout has three circuit breakers located behind a panel under the refrigerator.   It is easy to cut the power, just unhook the 30 AMP cord.  But, I was not sure how to cut the current running from the solar panel on the roof.  I needed a ladder.   Electricity you don’t take lightly.  I was afraid my might shock myself at best, or set my hair on fire at worst.

Thankfully, after sunset the temperature dropped slightly, and the MAXX Air ceiling fans were operating.  I felt like I was tent camping again.

I left the following morning, hopped the New London, CT to Orient Point, and arrived Westhampton. 

Scout went to WES RV Repair this morning in Wading River, NY.  I look forward to the prognosis, but not the bill.

Thankfully, I am at Robin’s lovely Westhampton home for summer and into fall, enjoying the air conditioning and the pool.

HOW LUCKY CAN ONE WOMAN BE?

My very successful sister Robin, lives in Los Angeles and works for the Mouse, AKA Disney.  She is a newly named VP!  Robin lived on Long Island prior to signing on full-time with Disney and moving to Los Angeles.  I will head to Long Island for the remainder of the summer and looking forward to cooler temperatures and ocean breezes.  Robin visits her home as much as possible, so renting is not an option.   GOOD FOR ME!

This year my arrival is delayed due to major remodeling of two bathrooms and rebuilding the deck.  We started the building permit process last summer, and only got the approval in April.   Robin had hoped her contractor could do the work last fall.  Anyone who has done remodeling understands construction has its own clock, which runs backwards most of the time.

I am a lucky woman to have great friends Liz and Tim, where I have been visiting for 3 weeks.  Even if I try to walk Lola and cook lots of fun dishes.  I have certainly outworn my welcome.  My favorite new recipe is cold chili noodles, compliments of the New York Times Cooking column.  I love to cook and try new recipes, but my 20’ Airstream and cooking for one, limits my creative juices.  Scout’s kitchen is the best of all floor plans, a double sink and lots of counter space — for a trailer.   I admit, I miss my food processor.

Thursday I will collect Scout from her parking place in St. Michaels, MD and head to Coopersburg, PA for a quick visit with Carol and Kevin.  From Coopersburg, I will avoid NYC traffic by traveling north to New London, CT and take the ferry to Orient Point, NY at the north west fork of Long Island.   The ferry is a great deal $66 to avoid the Verrazano Bridge and Long Island Expressway.  Last year I made a wrong turn and ended up on the Southern State Parkway, where RVs and trucks are not allowed.   Once on the road, there was no turning back or places to escape.  It is time like these that a co-pilot would be wonderful.  The lowest clearance under many of the very old bridges is less than 10’.  Scout has a clearance of 9’5”.  I expected at any moment my AC unit on the top of the trailer would go flying off, after a huge crashing sound.  I will never go that way again!

My first activity at Robin’s will be to take everything out of the trailer, clean the cabinets, and sort clothes.  It is time to do some downsizing.  Even in a 20’ trailer you tend to pick-up stuff along the way.  While I subscribe to the run “something in, something out”.  My discipline slips as I stuff, stuff in the overhead bins.  I always have Goodwill donation bag as I drive along the Road2Reinvention.  Robin’s house give me an opportunity to reorganize and plan winter 2020 travels.

Golf and daily walks on the beach will occupy my time until October 19, my tentative departure date from Long Island and drive back to Cary, NC.  Sister Becky, brother-in-law Chuck, and I have tickets to hear Emmy Lou Harris on November 8, and Mom’s 90th birthday is November 25.

It has been great to visit D.C. and catch-up with lots of friends.  It has been very hot and humid, and my favorite public pool feels like a bath tub after a couple of laps.  Friends I missed this visit, I hope to see you on the return in October.

I am one lucky woman.  Great friends, family and places to visit.  I look forward to being back in Scout, even for a short time.

Smashed Window, I love the city.

It is all my fault.  I know better than to leave stuff on the seat of my truck in plain view of passerbys.  Especially, in Washington, D.C.  Kids are looking for a quick score.  So, they got my $20 meter and toll road money.  They rifled through the numerous reusable shopping bags, and glove compartment.   I should have left the door unlocked, less damage.

Otherwise I am having a wonderful visit to my favorite adopted home city.  It is hot and humid, so I am swimming at the Rosedale Recreation Center in my former neighborhood.  Maggie and Lola are going to the Congressional Cemetery every day for a run around and wadding in the spa.

The majority of my friends are all still working, so trying to work in lunches and dinner visits.  I am looking forward attending Friday the Lights for Liberty protesting the mass detention of children migrants.  What would a visit to Washington, D.C. be without a protest?  There will be protests all over the country on July 12, so join me remotely. 

I advocated in Congress for passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) for 17 years.  It makes me absolutely crazy to hear what is happening on the southern border.  We are a country of immigrants who hate immigrants.  Unbelievable, and terribly sad.  FYI, there are no legal channels for most immigrants to come to the U.S., which is why they are crossing the border. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore…” still means something, as least to me.

Former colleague and friend Andrea has let me park Scout at her vacation home near St. Michaels, MD.  While I enjoy visiting Liz and Tim’s Capitol Hill home.  It is so fun to be in D.C. and not be working!  I also love the anonymity.  I use to know lots of people here and they knew me.  But, I am out of the game now and don’t care.  No more power suits, uncomfortable shoes, and make-up.  The best day of my life was giving away all my work clothes.  I should have bought stock in Nordstrom, instead of all those shoes!

Retirement is great!  I have never been so happy.  I am looking forward to heading north to sister Robin’s Long Island house for the remander of the summer and fall.  The house is getting two remodeled bathrooms and new deck.  The construction pictures look amazing!

I am commited to getting my golf scores into the 90s.