Of Altitude and Attitude: 12K and Windy

We met some lovely people on this Rocky Mountain adventure. Two of the nicest were a couple of gals about our age but in better high altitude shape. We met them waiting for the park and ride shuttle at Bear Lake. They live in Colorado and were familiar with the park. One, non-hiking excursion, they raved about was the Trail Ridge Road drive. They drove the full 48 miles to Grand Lake the day before and thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. Of course, we had to check it out.

In the interest of full disclosure, we did not make it all the way to Grand Lake.[i] With that said, the time we did spend was well worth the effort. The road itself twists and turns around the mountains as it climbs from the 8,200 or so foot level to 12,183 feet before starting down the other side of the range. Every turn brings a new aspect of the mountains into view, from a splash of Aspen yellow decorating the green of the pines, to rock outcroppings and glimpses of the valleys below there is plenty to keep one’s attention.

One of our first stops on the drive was the Many Parks Curve overlook. The overlook is situated on a switchback curve at 9,600 feet. From the overlook, visitors can see numerous features and areas within the park. Its views are magnificent and hard to do justice in a photo, but here is a panorama that might give you a taste of what you can see from this vantage point.

While the overlooks and other viewing areas were fantastic, the drive itself was not shabby. There is not much one can do to make asphalt with stripes on it attractive, though surrounding it with nature can help.

The next stop on our little foray for this day was Forest View Overlook. This small piece of high-altitude paradise is reportedly 11,716 feet above sea level. It is certainly well above the nominal tree line of approximately 10,000 feet. The area surrounding the road and the overlook at this point is classic tundra, with warning signs reminding visitors the tundra is delicate. Stepping off of the path or road is against the rules, if not the law. Tundra is fragile, and tourists tramping around on it is bad for its health.

There was another aspect of being on the tundra at this altitude. The closest trees or other forms of windbreak were hundreds of feet down the mountain. The overlook was cold and windy!   It was not quite a wind tunnel effect, but people were being warned to take off headgear or turn ballcaps around to keep them from blowing away. Still, the views were worth the little walk to the overlook and the chattering teeth one experienced while gawking at the sight.[ii]

Our final stop before heading back to civilization for the day was Gore Ridge Overlook. This location is just a few yards shy of the 12,183-foot level. At that elevation, on that day, a park ranger measured the wind speed at 22 miles per hour, with gusts above 25, making the chill factor at, or just below, freezing. For us folks from Texas and most of the others huddled in their cars, that was a mite chilly. With that said, the view was magnificent.

The Who had a top ten song in the late 1960s, which included the chorus, “I can see for miles and miles.” The history of that song is a bit sad, but the idea of seeing for miles and miles is intriguing. One can certainly see for miles and miles, and miles, and miles, and then some from different locations on Trail Ridge Road. From this overlook, it might have been possible to see Texas, if the clouds had not gotten in the way. Okay, maybe just to northern New Mexico, but you get what I mean.

If I have not bored you to death with my reminiscences and amateur photography,  I have one more installment coming. Stay tuned.

[i] In our defense, we spent so much time, stopping, looking, taking pictures and generally enjoying the drive, making the round trip would have taken the rest of the day.  Or longer, if the setting sun made it necessary to stop and take additional pictures on the return leg.

[ii] The butte on the left above is the same one from the panorama taken at Many Curves.  We’re just hundreds of feet higher, and several miles away at Gore Ridge.

© oneoldcop.com – 2019

Posted in Family Vaules, Holidays, Travel, Vacation | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Of Altitude and Attitude: Bear Lake and Beyond

As chronicled in A Rocky Mountain Story, Bear Lake was “closed” when we attempted to visit it the first time. Our second try was more successful, but the start of our day made one wonder if we were in for a disappointment. First, we had a bit of trouble getting ourselves in gear. The day before, we hit the ground running, which some younger people might mistake for a fast walk. Nevertheless, we were in the park before it officially opened, which means we got in for free. That is always a nice perk. 

Our second foray in the world of national park tourism started a bit later. By the time we made it to the entry, all gates were staffed, and there were moderate waiting lines. Thankfully, the wait was not lengthy, and there was time to dig into my wallet for the $25.00 per day rate entry fee. When our turn came, the nice looking and very professional young park ranger looked us over and asked if we had a pass. Since I had money in my hand, that seemed a bit strange, but the ranger was just setting up the next question.

When I admitted, this was our first visit to a national park in some time, the ranger nodded and smiled. She then asked, very diplomatically, if either of us might be older than 62 years of age. Bingo! Discount bells began to ring in my head. When we admitted, we were indeed at least that age, the ranger explained that for less than the cost of a day pass, we could purchase an annual pass good throughout the country. We left her booth, pass in hand, ready to start planning our visits to other parks.[i] 

Okay, enough with the public service message. We left the gate in good spirits, and shortly had our mettle tested again. Bear Lake was open, but the parking at the Bear Lake Trailhead was full. We were diverted to remote shuttle parking along with hundreds of other visitors, one of the consequences for being a bit tardy. After seriously considering turning around and taking in some other sight, we chose to wait it out. That was a wise choice, and not as boring as we feared.

Our quest for this day was the Emerald Lake trail. This is a hike of just over 3 miles, with an increase in elevation of 650 feet. It was labeled as a “moderate” hike, and suitable for all visitors. I think the same folks who labeled it “moderate” work part-time at one of our favorite Tex-Mex places making the “medium” hot sauce. It was a moderate hike for kids, millennials, and people who trained at high altitudes. For us, and dozens of other hikers of middle age or later, it was a test. In fact, as you headed up the trail, you knew who was in the same climbing condition you were by looking uphill a few hundred feet to see the next informal rest stop.

Nymph Lake

Pretending to be the “little engine that could” we made the trek. It took a while, but we made it. Then, the first lake left us wondering if the exertion would be worth it. Oh, it was pretty, in its way. That is, it was cute if you liked the look of something about the size of a large stock tank in west Texas covered with Lilly pads. The mountains behind it were pretty, but it was surrounded by trees, limiting much of the view. It was not that exciting.

Thankfully, a text from our daughter and the encouragement of a park volunteer about the beauty of the final lake kept us going. The second objective, Dream Lake, was everything one expected a small mountain lake to be. The water was deep blue, and it was surrounded on three sides by majestic mountains. It was surrounded by trees to some degree, but they were simply the buffer between the mountains and the lake. They added to the beauty rather than masked it. It was here we had another up close and personal contact with wildlife.

Dream Lake

While taking a well-deserved break near the head of the lake, we were surprised to see a duck suddenly appear out of the reeds, almost at our feet. It waddled up, looked at us for a moment, nestled down next to the grass, tucked its head under a wing, and took a nap. We might as well have been part of the landscape. As I attempted to take a picture or two, a more inquisitive local showed up, a hungry little chipmunk.

The little fella, or gal, scampered down a rock near my pack. For a moment, I thought the little sucker would crawl into it. However, it looked at us for a minute and then noticed some crumbs dropped during another hiker’s stop. It munched a minute before scurrying past me to some rocks near the duck. For the rest of our brief stay, the little character checked on us regularly to see if we had anything to share. 

The next leg of our journey was a challenge. We could not tell how far we needed to climb, but we could quickly gauge the slope we were climbing. Our progress slowed to around 100 feet laterally and 15-30 fifteen vertically every time we turned a corner. That may not sound like much, but every little climb put us that much closer to 10,000 feet.

In my self-talk, I kept saying, airliners are pressurized to the 10,000-foot level, and I handle that okay. In spite of the positive vibes, my body kept reminding me the longest walk I made on an aircraft was from my seat to the toilet. Those were short and level. Still, the hikers returning from the lake kept encouraging us, saying it’s just a little farther, you’re almost there. They were, for the most part lying.

Be that as it may, we made it! Was it worth it? Probably, if for no other reason than to say we did it. Still, Emerald Lake itself was somewhat of an anticlimax. As the pictures illustrate, it looked a bit like a pool of water at the bottom of a damaged cement catch basin. Yet, as with cognitive dissonance similar to the fraternity initiate who tells himself the hazing was a good time because he made it, we were convinced it was beautiful because we survived.

Oh! By the way. I kept thinking the hike down would be less demanding than the hike up, not noticeably.

Next stop, 12,000 feet and windy! 

[i] Just in case you might be interested, there is more to this story. If you are not familiar with the national park senior annual pass, as of that day, it was $20.00. A lifetime pass was $80.00. The ranger also explained purchase four annual passes would allow you to trade them in for a lifetime pass. She was helpful, and the system seems to have some advantages if you like visiting national parks. Additionally, there may be fast access gates for pass holders at some entrances.

© oneoldcop.com – 2019

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Of Altitude and Attitude: A Rocky Mountain Story

All right, before the grammar hawks start swooping in trying to take my scalp for using altitude when I meant elevation, it’s a play on words, not a scientifically correct title! Anyway, my attitude at altitude on this trip was not the best either.  My love-hate relationship with American Airlines hit a rough patch on this trip, but that is a tale I’ve already shared on TripAdvisor. 

Shifting back to less lofty altitudes or elevations, let me share the tale of my birthday/anniversary surprise for the love of my life. For years, she has been campaigning for us to take a mountain vacation, and for legitimate, and sometimes contrived reasons, I managed to avoid the mountains.  

I mean, we both love the tropics. Not only that, we invested a not insignificant amount in resort memberships giving us access to beautiful beaches, pools, great restaurants, entertainment, and dolphins.  Who needed mountains, babbling brooks, and rustic cabins? Besides, we’d been to the mountains in southern Colorado, Washington, British Columbia, Alaska, and New Mexico. 

Truthfully, no one needs mountains, beaches, babbling brooks, or vacations for that matter.  Still, spending time with the people you love in locations such as those can be more than just a diversion.  You share joys, challenges, learning experience, and time you might otherwise miss.  For example, I learned that the time I spend on the treadmill 5-6 days a week is only marginally useful if someone my age is attempting to hike three miles up a mountain trail beginning around 9,000 feet above sea level.

Yes, our attempt to hike to the peak of Deer Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park lasted about a quarter-mile.  If we’d purchased some oxygen before striking out, we might have made it far enough to need rescue, but we were spared that embarrassment.  On the other hand, we had a closeup, as close as the Park Rangers recommend, with two denizens of Deer Mountain. 

One was an exquisite mule deer buck who was peacefully feeding just below a rock outcropping we climbed to photograph the landscape.  The other was the nosey little Chipmunk featured at the top of the page. He was cheeky enough to have his (her?) own wildlife show. Their presence and the beautiful countryside made our first foray into the park more than satisfactory, but as I learned in the following days, we had not seen anything yet!

Yep, the scenery, the first sighting of native wildlife, and discovering my limited lung capacity at this altitude, oops, elevation was going to limit my adventures made for an interesting start of our time in the area. Still, as it turned out, the experiences of our first full day were not over.

Our next discovery started out as a disappointment. Realizing our ability to explore the higher reaches of the park would be limited by our lung capacity, we decided to explore a less arduous trek, according to the RMNP list of trails, sights, and locations.  So we headed toward Bear Lake, only to find it was inaccessible temporarily due to road work.

More than a little disappointed, we decided to return to our campsite. All right, campsite is an exaggeration. It was a nice little cabin next to a beautiful small river, the Big Thompson, but it was rustic and nothing like a 5-star resort in Cabo.  Heck, the Wifi seemed slower than my first dial-up service back in the dark ages of the internet. 

Sitting next to the river watching the sunlight play across the ripples while another guest tried his hand at catch and release fly fishing helped mitigate our disappointment.  Once we were suitably relaxed, we decided to dip into the next adventure on vacations such as this, exploring local restaurants. We’d already sampled one that was fantastic and had a list of other recommended establishments.

We freshened up, headed for the SUV, planning to start our next culinary adventure.  Before we made it to the car, another guest asked if we’d seen the elk yet. The blank look on our faces, let her know we had no idea was she was talking about. Thus began our second close encounter with indigenous creatures.  The clearing just east of our lodging was currently the resting place of a bull elk and his harem. 

It was that time of the year in the mountains. The elk came down from the upper elevations to the lower, relatively speaking, meadows.  This meadow was in front of the cabins just north of ours, and while people are told not to approach the animals closely they make themselves readily available for photographs and oglers.  On this evening, everyone kept a respectful distance, including a younger bull lurking around out of sight. All of the elk seemed oblivious to the other gawkers and me.

It was the perfect ending to our first full day in the area.  Stay tuned for the rest of our adventures.

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Of Idiots and Ignorance

First, if you find the title of this piece offensive, consider the following. 

Merriam-Webster states the word idiot is outdated and offensive.  It also lists 80 synonyms, most of which are apparently not considered outdated and offensive. At least, none of the ones I checked through M-W came up that way. Admittedly, I did not take the time to run them all. 

Suffice it to say, “idiot” is dated, and offensive. On the other hand, airhead, birdbrain, chowderhead, ignoramus, nimrod, and fool are descriptive nouns.   Interestingly, some of the words M-W does not flag as “dated and offensive” use the term idiot as a definition. For instance, nimrod is defined as ” slang : IDIOT, JERK.”

Okay! The question now is this.  Do I have a point, or am I merely attempting to push the edge of the envelope to catch your attention?  I genuinely hope I have a point, and I can communicate it understandably. Of course, you will be the judge of how well I accomplish my goal.

The incident inspiring this essay, or rant, was a “news” piece catching my eye when I opened my browser.  The headline was: “Family outraged after a Universal character made ‘OK’ symbol on 6-year-old’s shoulder.”

My first thought was, “Are you kidding me?” Then, I clicked the link and read the piece.  I guess with all the mundane issues in the news over the last year or two, you know, the Muller Report, the impeachment inquiry, the turmoil in Hong Kong, North Korean missile testing, and the latest Jenner gossip, I missed a significant development. The hand gesture to signify things are “OK” is now considered hate speech!

All right! Maybe at my age, I simply forgot the latest outrage in the hate speech dialogue. Whatever the truth of that statement, the title of this piece stands.  No, the parents in question are neither ignorant nor idiots for their reaction when they noticed or were told, the cartoon character was flashing a white supremacist sign over their bi-racial daughter’s shoulder.  They had, given the world in which we live today, every right to be outraged. One does not go on vacation to be insulted or used as a propaganda prop by an amusement park actor.  

The video clearly shows the actor intentionally making the upside-down okay sign. That use of the sign is now considered by many to be hate speech, and there is evidence white supremacists have deliberately adopted the gesture as a symbol of hate.  The idiot in the costume appears to have intentionally insulted the family.  Either that or his or her level of ignorance toward this matter was even more significant than mine. I find that hard to believe, as an innocent gesture would have been the universal sign for okay, not the inverted form.

So, to whom does the title above apply?  In some ways, it applies to all of us.  We all, as human beings, have a tendency to jump on the bandwagon without checking to see where it is going. Humans, for the most part, are joiners, or as the Bible says, sheep.  We go with or follow the flow, and social media gives us instant access to a multitude of bandwagons.

In this case, it appears a group of satirists decided to prank some within the general population and social media users specifically. They decided to claim the almost universal finger sign for okay was now being used as a symbol of “White Power.”  They claimed the gesture used by divers worldwide to indicate they were okay, or your equipment was okay, or they had your back was being subverted by nefarious forces to send a message of hate.

It was supposed to be a joke. It was supposed to make people who overreacted look foolish. It was a prank!  The problem was the world of social media is full of people who fall into the category described by the outdated and offensive term in the title. The other problem was those initiating this tomfoolery were ignorant of, or ignored, the potential pandora’s box they were opening.

It seems others within the social media universe jumped on the bandwagon with a  vengeance. They helped spread the misinformation to the point those within the white supremacist movement picked it up, initially according to some as a joke on their critics. Sadly, the Alt-Right, WP crowd decided they liked the way their critics and opponents reacted and decided to adopt the inverted okay hand signal as a gang sign of sorts. Now, anyone using the sign, in any fashion runs the risk of being considered a racist.[i]  

To close, let me make a point I have made in the past.  A point I will continue to make when something such as this comes to my attention.  Social media is an effective way to stay connected, make new connections, share stories, raise money, fight for causes, and so on and so forth.  It is also a dangerous tool, even a weapon, when used by mean spirited, evil, or ignorant people.  If you are mean spirited or evil, there is little I or anyone else can do, at least through social media, to change you.  On the other hand, ignorance can be cured. 

I was ignorant of the development concerning the okay sign until I noticed the post about the family mentioned earlier. That is no longer the case. If you are reading this, you can reduce your level of ignorance or increase your understanding by remembering the following:

  1. Do not believe any so-called news, revelation or other noteworthy nonpersonal posts on social media until you have researched it yourself.
  2. Do not like, forward, share, or repost something that might be controversial until you have given it some thought.
  3. If you just enjoy poking the bear, so to speak, by posting things you know will upset some friend or acquaintance of a different faith, political philosophy, or whatever, quit!  Do that in person or privately through PM or snail mail. 
  4. If you are one of those people who simply enjoys stirring things up and posting information you know is not true just to see how many people you can enrage or deceive, go to Washington and, join the clowns up there.

[i] I feel it appropriate to note, even the Anti-Defamation League, which is often quick to point the racist accusing finger at people suggests caution when accusing someone of being a white supremacist just because they flash the okay gesture. 

 © oneoldcop.com – 2019

Posted in Civility, Daily Life, family, Manners, Morality | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Donor (and parents) Beware!

Knowing your children and grandchildren have hearts for giving and service is a great feeling. OneOldCop is blessed with children and grandchildren falling into that category. From volunteering at church and community organizations to involvement with raising funds for various causes, my family does its best to make a difference. The problem, if there is a problem with their efforts, is a tendency to be a bit impulsive at times. For example, the first thing popping up on social media the other day was a fundraising post from a grandson.

That was nothing new in some ways. Requests for funds for church camp, cheerleading, football programs, or other causes show up regularly in one form or another. This one, however, was seeking to raise money to help with medical bills, and the goal was in the upper five-figure range. Additionally, the story in the post read as if it was written by someone a bit older than sixteen. My fraud radar went off immediately, hack job?

The good news is no one hacked my grandson’s social media or email account. He set up the fundraiser, and he posted the information for a friend who was badly hurt in an automobile accident. The bad news is no one hacked his account, and he set up the account, without anyone’s knowledge, permission, or assistance. The worse news is, the fundraising or “crowdfunding” site makes no attempt to verify the age of the “organizer” setting up the account. This, in spite of their minimum age requirement for setting up and withdrawing funds, which my grandson did not meet. When queried about this discrepancy, the agent for the site advised they would verify age before allowing funds to be distributed.

Some of you are probably scratching your heads about now wondering what’s the problem. That was the response of the organization when I first chatted with them about the matter. They thought waiting until funds were raised before enforcing their rules was just fine, and what difference did it make. So, I told them.

First, fraud is rampant on social media. Anyone dealing with fundraising needs to make sure there are safeguards in place. Here, the protection was the money would not be distributed or withdrawn without some verification of the person making the withdrawal meeting their criteria. So, in this case, my grandson might have raised an amount approaching or exceeding $10,000 before being told he could not withdraw the funds. This seemed wrong in at least two ways. It could interfere with the timely distribution of the funds, and it could open the door to fraud.

If you’re thinking fraud is not likely in a case like this, you have not been paying attention to the cases of abuse involving crowdfunding. People have raised tens of thousands of dollars fraudulently through well-known crowdfunding operations. The most egregious, financially, incident of which I am aware involved a trio of miscreants in New Jersey.

A young couple and a homeless guy concocted a story designed to raise a few bucks to reward the homeless fellow for spending his last $20.00 to help the young woman out of a jam. The response was unbelievable! They raised $400,000 to “lift the homeless fellow out of poverty.” It was a scam, and all three were charged with crimes.

Other stories of this nature abound. In some cases, people claim they or family members have severe conditions, such as cancer. In reality, they are looking for easy money from soft-hearted people on social media. Others are set up to raise money in the name of legitimate needs, but the money goes in the pocket of the organizer.

Yes, those things will happen with any fundraising effort. People will misuse money, lie about why they need money, and outright steal if it comes down to it. Yet the incident the other day added a new element to the equation.

What would stop an enterprising person from setting up someone such as my grandson?  He is a trusting young man and selling him a bill of goods might be easy. He also has a bit of a problem with asking for permission, learning somewhere along the way asking for forgiveness might be easier

While the account being discussed here appears legitimate, the campaign was set up without parental knowledge. Luckily, between his parents and his nosey granddad, it did not take long for the situation to come to light. Still, what if no one noticed? If the campaign went unnoticed by family and was successful, the situation could become more problematic.

A minor child, legally speaking, would have raised a significant amount of money, either on his own initiative or at the request of a third party. That in and of itself would not be a horrible problem. What happens next could be.

First, why did he raise the money without telling his parents? Here, I cannot see my grandson intentionally hiding it from his folks, but he might not think it was necessary. Or, he might wait to see if the effort was successful, so he could surprise them.

On the other hand, I can see him withholding the information because he was asked to keep it quiet for some reason. In this case for instance, it seems the information used in the campaign came from the injured friend’s sister. If she asked him to keep it quiet, for whatever reason, he probably would have agreed. What if she was being less than honest about the reason for raising the funds?

Again, this is a hypothetical, but clearly possible situation. Money has been raised in the name of helping a severely injured teen. The campaign organizer, a minor child, contacts the crowdfunding group to withdraw the money, and their response is, “Sorry.” They inform him he needs to appoint an adult beneficiary to withdraw the money.

Hopefully, he would head straight to his mom or dad and tell them what was going on. However, that is not often the way an independent teen thinks. So, instead of his folks, he tells the sister the problem, and she or an older family member or friend says, “Hey! Just put it in my name.” Hopefully, again, that would solve the problem, but what if the money just doesn’t make it to the doctor bills or whatever? Who will be on the hook if the thing turns out to be a scam of some sort?

In the case of the homeless guy and the gambling addicts, the crowdfunding company, if I remember correctly, reimbursed disgruntled donors. That was either a good deed on their part, a wise advertising move, or they listened to their attorneys. What if they had not stepped up?

I will not dig into the muck of what might or might not happen legally in a situation where a minor is tricked or coerced into setting up a fund.   That would depend on the circumstances, the courts, the jurisdictions, and the people involved. Yet, it should be clear someone might have liability here. For instance, it might be hard for the organizer’s family members to avoid legal problems.

Legal ramifications aside, my grandson and his parents would feel responsible to some degree. He would feel used and betrayed. They would be disappointed and might feel a moral obligation to repay people out of their own pocket. If the story got out, as it certainly would, the young man would face ridicule and embarrassment that could scar him for life.

Hopefully the preceding makes it clear this is a potentially damaging situation. The crowdfunding source in question here seems open to changing the age verification policy. One hopes, they will find a way to prevent a minor setting up an account without a sponsor or associate of majority age. Still, there are dozens, if not more, of these organizations operating today.

My guess is most of them have not addressed this issue any more clearly than the one inspiring these comments. Before anyone uses or donates to one of these services, some investigation might be appropriate. This would be especially true in a case such as the one triggering this piece.

A minor organizing one of these efforts under parental supervision is one thing. A child undertaking an initiative of this sort without parental supervision Is a horse of a different color.  The kid’s family may be at risk financially, friends and acquaintances donating to the fund may find they have little recourse in the case of fraud, and the entire system of crowdfunding takes another hit that was avoidable.

© oneoldcop.com-2019

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The World As We Knew It: Untold Stories

For many, September 11, 2001 was the end of the world as they knew it. Suddenly, the entire country faced the reality babyboomers knew since grade school. Some parts of the world hate the United States. Admittedly, it was unsettling to discover the enemy was not a well-defined nation. Instead, the United States might be at war with an ideology spread around the world.

Boomers grew up worrying about someone pushing a red button and wiping countries off the face of the earth. They weathered the storm of the Cuban Missle Crisis, as well as Vietnam and the civil unrest it engendered. The world, as boomers knew it, was always in flux and changed with shifts in the political wind. A war with an ideology was different, but it was still war.

Yes, the sheer magnitude of the attack taking place that day was staggering. So staggering in fact, the way we did business, traveled and defined our enemies changed, but the world was still the same screwed up place it has been since the Iron Age. As for the United States, someone has hated us, tried to attack us, threatened us, and done their level best to make us disappear since the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Please know, the preceding remarks are not to downplay the importance of 9/11. They are not to minimize the prices paid by those who are no longer with us because they decided to go to work that day. Nor, were they written to disparage or cast a shadow over the efforts made to remember the price the nation paid that day, and every day since, for being the United States of America.

The memorials, memorial services, remembrances, and ongoing struggle to control, if not eradicate, terrorist organizations in the world are essential. So were the efforts to save as many as possible that day. The price paid by first responders for rushing into a toxic environment deserves to be recognized, and the heroics of the passengers on Flight 93 lauded. Still, in our desire to memorialize a tragedy of this nature, some stories go unknown or unacknowledged.

Judy* was a widow whose husband died unexpectedly and relatively young. He was in the prime of life, with school-age children, and a beautiful wife. However, he left home one morning and never returned. I do not remember what took his life, but I believe it was natural causes and totally unexpected. Judy ended up seeking help with her grief and her future from the para-ministry with which I was involved.

As with many who seek help, this writer included, Judy remained with the ministry to help others. We became friends and colleagues, which is why I know how the events at the World Trade Center changed her life. You see, Judy was in New York that day, a few blocks from ground zero.

Can you imagine what it was like? Not that many years before the world as she knew it changed dramatically. Now she was only a few blocks from something devastating, trapped, with no way to call her family or find out what was happening elsewhere. It took hours for her to make contact with anyone from home, and it was days before she could make it back to her family. When she returned to Texas, her world had changed, again.

Harry* was a young man who came to work with me after leaving the military. He liked being in uniform and thought law enforcement would be a good job. He hoped it would allow him to help others, build a career, even a legacy.

The military was the ticket out of Harry’s small-town life. He came from a rural area of Texas where he felt mistreated. In the Army, he was no longer the poor black kid from the wrong side of the tracks, at least for a time. Unfortunately, he discovered discrimination and stereotyping were not limited to the boonies. He left the military a bit older, a bit more resilient, but still hurting.

Law enforcement was good for him to a point. Our department valued diversity and pushed public service more than traditional police agencies. Unfortunately, the department operated in an area with its share of rednecks and bigots. His response to some of those individuals and his inability to handle his emotions almost cost him his badge.

Then he found a new way of thinking. He found a religion that helped him with his self-worth and helped him realize it was not about the small-minded people who only saw the color of his skin. He changed right before our eyes, becoming a more mature, more stable friend, colleague, husband, and father.

If Harry had worked in New York City and been near the towers on that fateful September morning, he might have been one of those rushing into harm’s way. He was that kind of person and cop. Instead, he served along with all the other officers in the United States waiting for the next shoe to drop, wondering what might happen and where it would happen. He had a community to help protect, and he wanted to do a good job.

Harry soldiered on, doing his job, taking care of his family, and growing in his faith. Unfortunately, his faith was Islam. His efforts to overcome frustrations from his youth were negated by the response of many people to his faith. The 9/11 terrorists were Muslim, all Muslims must be dangerous.

Harry’s family was harassed and threatened. His personal property was vandalized, and he was mistreated when he was not in uniform or performing official duties. As a grown man, an experienced police officer, he suddenly found himself once again on the wrong side, figuratively speaking, of the tracks and with the “wrong” religion in the view of many.

Judy’s experiences surrounding 9/11 led her to question her life and her future. She wondered if there was anything out there for her. She was alone and had just experienced one of those, “What if I’d been in that building” moments. She had to be strong for her children, but there was no one close to be strong for her. No one to hold her in the night when she remembered the fear she felt that day. There was no one to comfort her when she cried.

Then, she ended up in my office. Among others, I helped her recover from the loss of her husband. She trusted me and shared her fears and longings readily. Her proximity to the attack on New York made her realize her vulnerability and her desire to have a partner in life. She just had no clue how to fill the void she now recognized so clearly. Thankfully, what she needed was already a part of her life, which made my job simple. All I had to do was point out the obvious.

She and her best male friend and confidant were married a few months later. He had loved her for a long time but knew she needed time and space. He was patient, standing by as she struggled with grief and was still there after 9/11. They are together to this day, happy and healthy.

I wish I could say the same about Harry. The alienation he felt as a young black Baptist in rural Texas was nothing compared to the isolation he felt as middle-aged black Muslim in Dallas after 9/11. He withdrew from his long-time friends and colleagues, depending more and more on new friends who shared his religion.

On the surface, he made the right choice. Most faiths believe being surrounded and supported by fellow believers is essential, and if that is true, Harry was in a good position. He was a leader in his neighborhood and congregation.

Unfortunately, Islam is no different than Catholicism, Christianity, or other religions in one critical way. Sinners hide behind the trappings of faith in all of them. Harry became involved with a fellow believer who was not part of the same congregation. However, Harry trusted him because of their shared beliefs. That was a mistake.

The fellow in question was accused of some serious crimes. His attempts to mitigate his punishment included offering the prosecutors information on a “dirty cop.” There was, as far as I know, little if any evidence to support his charges against Harry. In the end, the lack of evidence did not matter.

Harry’s involvement with the person was enough to call his judgment into question. There were plenty of signs this guy was not to be trusted, but Harry believed in him because of their shared faith. The prosecutors agreed to close the investigation on Harry if he would resign from law enforcement. His career was over, as the reason for his resignation was part of his official record.

These are simply two small stories remembered eighteen years after 9/11. One is uplifting the other is not. Either way, they represent the thousands of other stories which likely played out and will play out over the years. The world changed that day, and people of whom we’ve never heard are living with the consequences of that change. Now and in the future, take a moment and pray for the Judys and Harrys whose lives were changed by 9/11. Pray they all find, or found, a way to have full and love-filled lives as Judy did.**

* Pseudonyms

**To be fair and transparent, I have reason to believe Harry went on to recover from the situation which caused him to give up his law enforcement career. I would hope his friends and family supported him as he built a new career for himself.

© oneoldcop.com-2019

Posted in Daily Life, family, Law Enforcement, Leadership, Patriotism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Of Life and Limb

An online dialogue between some old cops reminded this old cop of an incident from the early days of my law enforcement career.  This particular episode of my time in the field was dangerous, amusing, and are-you-kidding-me all in one package. As with many stories of this nature, it started on a slow Thursday night.[i]

The call was to somewhat routine.  One of our regulars was mixing his poisons again. His folks called to let us know he’d run off down the street chasing ghosts or something.  The guy was in his twenties or early thirties, physically and chronologically.  Emotionally and intellectually, he was a damaged teenager on ineffective medication.  Medication which did not interact well with the street drugs and alcohol he’d consumed that evening and many other evenings.

Typically, the guy, let’s call him Larry, would turn up in an hour or two.  He’d either find his way home after sobering up a bit, or one of us would find him somewhere and provide a place for him to sleep it off, whatever “it” was. The concern this evening was the creek or drainage ditch near where he lived. If he’d chased his demons into the creek, it might be challenging to find him or retrieve him.  As it turned out that was the least of our problems.

Several patrol units responded to the area. No one, his folks or the neighbors seemed to have any idea where he might be. Since he wasn’t attracting attention to himself at the moment,  we figured he was either hiding down in the creek, curled up under a porch, or passed out behind someone’s shed or garage. Whatever the reality, walking the area was the only possibility of finding him. Thankfully the neighborhood was small and compact. Still, we had no luck. Then, we got a break.

Someone called and reported hearing cries for help near the south end of Railroad Avenue. Railroad bordered the tracks, stopping just short of the wooded area near the creek. It was the kind of place Larry might hide if he was afraid. Still, when we made it to the location, we couldn’t hear or find anything.

We were about to call it a night and head back to our regular assignments when we heard a faint cry of some sort coming from overhead.  We immediately assumed the “cries for help” were coming from a cat stuck in a tree. Still, we had to check.

Flashlights in those days were not the flame-throwing LED lights of today.  Most were the two D-cell lights the department issued. They were good enough for checking the interior of a car or finding something you dropped.  We did not expect to see much with them unless the cat’s eyes caught the light just right.  Well, it wasn’t a cat, and the eyes of the large pale creature in the tree did not glow.

Larry was in the tree. Not only was he in a tree, he was in the uppermost branches. Not only was he in the topmost branches, he was hanging upside down by one leg which was caught where a large limb forked off the trunk.  Not only was he hanging upside down in a tree fork in the upper reaches of the tree, he was stark naked.

All right! Fire department time! Police officers did not climb trees to rescue cats or people.  That was the smoke eater’s job. True to form, the fire department responded in style, bringing their ladder truck, and all their fancy gear.  Then they called a supervisor, who called the chief, who decided no one from the fire department was going up that ladder to rescue a naked, intoxicated, and stoned psycho, their words not mine.

Now we had a problem. We were street cops.  We were ready willing and able to jump in a lake, dive into a burning car, kick in a door, or do almost anything else necessary to assist someone in distress. Climbing thirty or forty feet up a tree to extract a naked, frightened, drunk, was a bit out of our comfort zones.  Still, some of us were attempting to suck it up enough to at least give it a try when our savior arrived.

Yes, two of our detectives pulled up to see what all the fuss was about. Now, street cops all wanted to be detectives at some point. That did not mean we wanted detectives involved in a situation like this. In many cases, detectives were ill-prepared and ill-equipped to respond to routine police calls.

For instance, there was the time two detectives decided to assist the nightshift with a burglary in progress call. They arrived ahead of the uniformed officers, with no flashlights and no plan. Thankfully, the only injury was when the burglar accidentally shot himself. Perhaps, I’ll write about that near comedic tragedy at a later date. Here, the detectives, at least one of them, was a lifesaver, literally.

His name was Don West. He was one of the smaller guys in the department, and I do not remember him being that fit.  However, he looked at the firefighters and street cops pointing fingers at each other, said a few bad words, took off his sport coat and climbed up the ladder.  Not only did he climb all the way up, but he also managed to calm Larry, help him extract himself from the tree fork, and got him down to the ground.

Once the suspect was on the ground, routine took over.  Larry was dealt with appropriately, and Don went home to clean up and get some rest.  The neighborhood went back to sleep, or whatever they did in the wee hours of the morning.  The excitement and confusion were over for that night.

So, why did I share this story?  Is there a point or moral? There are lessons to be learned from any incident of this nature. Yet, that is not the reason for telling the story here. It is told here to remember Don West.

As I mentioned, Don was not a big guy. He was not trained to rescue people from hanging upside down in a tree, and could easily have taken the position that was not his job. The Fire Department guys who, theoretically at least, underwent rescue training, were refusing to go, and the street cops responsible for the call were waffling, including me. He could have driven off into the night with a clear conscience.

That wasn’t Don though.  He risked life and limb to rescue someone who spent much of his time attempting to drink himself to an early grave.  He had a record of attempted suicides, and everyone knew it was simply a matter of time before he’d succeed. In fact, not long after this incident, he finally did.

Don knew that was a possibility. He knew he was going to risk his life to help someone who was, at best, going to die at an early age of liver problems. Yet, Don did not hesitate to place himself in danger to help someone in distress.  If nothing else, I thought this little bit of Don’s story deserved to be shared.[ii]

[i] Okay, it may not have been a Thursday, but Thursdays were often the slowest night of the week in our part of the world. Also, when something did happen, it was often weird, frightening, unexpected, and different.
[ii] Like a lot of guys Don left our PD to pursue other interests, going on to make a living as a polygraph operator and investigator as I understand it.  Sadly, it appears Don passed away earlier this year, and that is another reason to share this story. May he rest in peace.


© oneoldcop.com – 2019


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