November 30, 1993

President Bill Clinton signed a bill into law on this date.

Like many new laws, this one brought out public debate on both sides of the issue. Voices still shout out on occassion on the topic.

It’s my right! – One viewpoint yells on the airwaves.

This saves innocent lives! – Others counter.

The formal name of the law I’m referencing is Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.

The violent incident which injured the man the bill is named after – and others, including President Ronald Reagan – occured on March 39, 1981.

As you can see by an inspection of the dates, this was not a hasty, rushed piece of legislation. Introduced in the House of Representatives in February 1993, the bill is intended to prevent convicted criminals, drug addicts, and diagnosed mentally ill indiviuals from purchasing firearms. Much discussion of waiting periods and background checks filled the committee meetings and floor debate.

Is this a perfect solution?

No, read the police section of any large metropolitan newspaper and you’ll find record of gunshots fired or weapons shown to threaten.

Should we repeal it to unrestricted ownership?

That’s not a solution in a country as large and densely populated as the United States.

This leaves us with compromise. Give and take. Accomodation. Adjustment.

I leave you with the idea that citizens should encourage lawmakers to practice that most rare of attributes – Common Sense – when writing and passing legislation.




November 27, 1954

Today a man was released from the Federal Penitientiary in Lewisburg, PA. Met by his two lawyers, wife, and son he gave a brief statement to the scores of journalists covering the end of his sentence. Then he and his family drove back to New York City.

Who was he?  Why do we care?

Alger Hiss. He can be viewed as a product and symbol of his times. Today I present him as a reminder to excerise caution in the present.

Accusations of spying require investigation. When the accuser is an admitted former spy I expect the truth to be hidden within a knot of lies, half-truths, and evasions. How to extract the truth? Carefully – please.

An investigation of one Communist Party member (he admitted former membership) led to the initial accusations against Hiss when he worked as an assistant in the State Department. The case languished for five years. When revived, the House Un-American Activities Committee and Rep. Richard Nixon move to the forefront.

It required two trials to convict Mr. Hiss of perjury.

Mr. Nixon gained a positive reputation that contributed to being vice-president under Eisenhower.

The entire United States suffered from a “Red Scare” and the blacklisting of celebrities and organizations signled out by  Joseph McCarthy and his senate committee.

A good day to remember our history, learn from it, and proceed with caution – lest we repeat it.


November 23, 1963

Denial.         Anger.

Our grief stalled as the news dribbled out of the radio and television.

Where were you when…?

The question didn’t need concluding words. We all knew the rest of the sentence. For the first time, our generation, those born after WWII, had one of those sharp, corporate tragedies to process and remember.

Confusion and fear joined our grief. The President killed. A Governor wounded. A policeman dead. One man arrested.

Did they get the right one? Did they get them all?

Each news cast seemed to add another piece to the puzzle. Funeral arrangements. Times and places the body would lie in state. Dignitaries that would attend.

Before dismissal from school that Friday the State Superindent of Schools cancelled all public schools for Monday. The television at our house, and many others remained on for hours in a row.

Since that memorable day our generation has experienced other “Where were you…?” moments. Yet this one remains the sharpest for me.

Because it was the first?

Because I was writing an American History test when President Kennedy was killed and made American History?



November 20, 1968

Down into the mine, to work 600 feet below fresh air, 99 men descended for the midnight to 8 AM shift.

Suddenly – at 5:40 AM – an explosion shakes Number 9 mine and shatters the miner’s lamp house, where precise work records are stored. Three more explosions follow, stopping rescue operations and sending thick black smoke hundreds of feet into the air.

Twenty-one workers emerge. Some are able to walk out and others are rescued by emergency measures via a shaft remote from the explosion.

Crews begin efforts to reach the trapped men but another explosion, collapses, and dangerous gas levels deter them. Did their comrades reach one of the lockers with emergency equipment? How many? How long?

No miracle in the mountains this time.

The event enters the records as the worst mining diaster in West Virginia since early 1940. Ten days after the initial explosion, with fires still burning and hope of rescue expired, the mine is sealed.

Seventy-eight men lost.  Buried.  Entombed.

May we honor and appreciate the men and women who face danger in their work.


November 16, 1973

No parades today. No public celebrations. Just the usual birthdays or anniversaries of a private nature marked by families and individuals.

So why the title?

This date references one of the many preliminary steps to a great American construction project. It was on this day that President Nixon urged the US Congress to pass the bill authorizing the Alaska pipeline.

For nearly 800 miles across and through some of the most difficult terrain the pipe, with a four foot interior diameter, connects the oil fields of the North Slope with the Port of Valdez. An ice free port, supertankers drink their fill at the terminal and then glide away.

And where do they go?

A good percentage of them unload at refineries along the US West Coast. Cherry Point, Whatcom County, Washington is included. It is a refinery build especially to receive this northern, domestic oil and put on-line in 1977, the year the “tap was opened”.

Hats off!  Hard hats that is. To the men and women that worked the construction crews. Long hours. Difficult work. Precise work. Terrible working conditions.

While researching this topic I wanted to include the barrels per day the pipeline supplies. At two official web sites I found conflicting numbers. How can the port ship each day three times the amount the pipeline pumps?

And my friends wonder why I’m getting more cynical with age?????


November 13, 1982

It’s about time we got recognition.

Ugly! Where’s the flag? I could have done better myself.

Reviews by Vietnam Veterans were mixed at best when the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated on this date. Wounds were raw and the talk blunt less than a decade after the end of the war. Many sought the honor and respect so freely offered to veterans of previous wars.

Negative reaction is behind us now. Yes, additions eased some of the hurt. In 1984 the Three Soldiers Statue was installed as if gazing at the names on the wall. And in 1993 the Vietnam Women’s Memorial gave honor to the women medical and support personnel that served in this first war without a defined “front line”.

Like a black stone mirror 58,195 names stretch in front of a visitor. According to a friend searching for her brother’s name it was similar to approaching a church altar. A sense of reverence, appreciation, and love combined to ripple through her body.

My travels have not taken me to Washington, DC since the dedication. I’ve made do with visiting one of the three Moving Wall replicas that tour at the invitation of veteran and civic groups. There, with the aid of the index books, I located the names of two young men which graduated from the same small high school as I. I can picture the younger of them now. He moves on the basketball court, dark hair swishing on his forehead as he propels his slight, agile body through the larger players.

Honor.  Remember.  Learn.


November 10, 1775

Dateline: Philadelphia

According to a mixture of recorded fact and oral tradition this is the date that several young, strong, adventurous men gathered over tankards of ale in a local tavern. What made this gathering different is the organization that resulted.

Can you see them crowded around the corner table? Plotting and planning with glances at each new arrival to the public room? For if the wrong person learned of their plans they would be hung by the Royal authorities.

They succeeded. They found others willing to join their cause. Their patriotism stood the test of time. For 237 years now they have fought the enemies of the American Colonies and then the United States on land, sea, and air.

The Few.    The Proud.

Happy Birthday Marines!!!


Have you voted yet?

Today’s the day!

Have you cast your ballot yet? Did you vote absentee? Or do you live where early voting is allowed?

My first presidental ballot was cast absentee as a twenty-one year old college student. My roommate voted also and we witnessed each others ballots. I think our votes cancelled each other.

The first time in my life when a presidental election fell on Nov 6 I was just becoming aware of politics. I remember asking my father after I came home from school if he’d voted. Yes, he did.

Who did you vote for? The loser, he replied. How do you know? The votes haven’t been counted yet. I could see this mountain of paper ballots that needed counting in my mind and the polls just now closing.

It was years later, during another election cycle when I began to understand about projections, polls, and landslide victory in 1956.

Twenty-eight years later I cast my ballot again. By this time our family – two sons added to the husband – had moved several times and changed economic status but not opinions. This was the fourth state I’d lived in and the third where I’d cast a presidential vote along with state and local officials. (Our stay in one state didn’t include a leap year.) My losing streak remained intact.

Today is twenty-eight years later. I’m in a different state now. The sons are grown and will cast ballots in their own juristictions. The husband is an ex and I suspect he will vote – veterans tend to. My plans for the day put a walk to the polling place as a diversion on my regular morning walk.

My reward? I think I’ll continue that morning walk to a restaurant that serves breakfast. Tonight will find me watching the results. Winner or loser – I’ve exercised my civic muscle.


Civic Honor

We’re having a presidental election this year. Have you heard? Are you registered to vote?

Three times during my life – so far – general election day has fallen on this date.

The first Tuesday after the first Monday in November is how my father always defined election day. So today is the earliest the date could fall.

Citizens over twenty-one elected Harry S. Truman when I was falling down as much as walking. My personal memory of him is as a blunt spoken man long retired. I’ve learned more since then, much of it from books written after his death.

Fast forward twenty-eight years. I’m a voter now. Also a married woman with a mortgage. My vote went for the loser that election. It kept a pattern going. From my first presidental vote until several cycles later I was consistent in my vote for an underdog that stayed on the rug. It didn’t matter which party they represented. I knew how to pick them!

Calendars are predictable. Twenty-eight years again and the election fell on November 2. My consistent losing streak finished in the interim since the previous election on this date. The winner from this cycle is still living but out of office. His opponent is also living, occassionally in the news during this plateau of a political career.

I may not pick winners. But I vote. Can’t complain if you don’t vote.

See you at the polls on Tuesday!