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9/11/2009: Remembering James Joe Ferguson

Posted by Bruce Carroll at 9:37 am - September 11, 2009.
Filed under: Joe Ferguson,Post 9-11 America

Today, eight years after the terror attacks on America, I once again dedicate this space to my lost friend, James Joe Ferguson, who was killed aboard American Airlines Flight 77 when that plane was used as a weapon and crashed into the Pentagon.  This posting goes up at the exact time that plane was flown into the Pentagon eight years ago this morning.

We miss you, Joe.
-Bruce and John


The last time we had dinner, Joe told my partner John and I about how much he was looking forward to being a part of the bicentennial of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Typically, I found myself jealous of him. In his role as Director of Geographic Education at the National Geographic Society, Joe had one of the most unique and rewarding jobs I can ever imagine having.

He traveled around the world, bringing American school children face-to-face with the natural wonders of our Earth.   He was not only a teacher but also provided a critical turning point for these kids, many of whom had never before left their own neighborhoods.  Joe provided the path for these students to experience things that many of us never will in our entire lives.

In addition, he got to travel to the four corners of the globe. How rewarding that must have been. How do I sign up for that job?

I got an email from Joe on Thursday, September 6, 2001.   “Hi cutie” it started — typical opening line for Joe to any of his friends.  He had just returned from Alaska and wanted to tell show me all the pictures, but the following week he said he was headed to California for another work trip.  I printed out and kept that email for many months in my briefcase as a way to keep Joe alive.

As dawn broke on September 11, 2001, Joe called his Mom in Mississippi to give her a wake up call as he always did when he traveled.  He said to her, “I’ll call you when I get to California. Have a good day.”  He was that kind of person.  The kind of person, who, no matter where he was and how busy he was, dropped a postcard to his friends so we could share a part of his experiences throughout the world.

At Dulles International Airport, Joe stood with his group traveling to California and took some last minute photos.  He and another colleague were scheduled passengers on American Airlines Flight 77, accompanying three D.C. public school teachers and three students on a National Geographic-sponsored field trip to the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara, Calif. After the photos were taken, they bid farewell to the children’s parents and proceeded to their gate.

At 9:37AM, Joe lost his life at the young age of thirty-nine when terrorists slammed the plane into the side of the Pentagon at 500 mph.  A teacher and positive role model to young Americans was taken from the world in an act of sheer violence and viciousness.

As I was dealing with the many emotions of the events of September 11, a thought crossed my mind the next day.  Gosh, I thought, Joe had said he was traveling and now he’s stuck somewhere until the airlines are allowed to fly again.   So I called his work number in DC and left a message.  After I heard his voice for the last time, I said “Give me a call if you are checking messages.”  “I hope you make it home soon,” I concluded.  When I called that day, I had no idea.

It wasn’t until Friday, September 14 that I found out that one of my dearest friends had become a casualty of the attacks on America.  Suddenly, this war was personal  — it had hit home.  I wasn’t expecting to have to go to two memorial services and walk around in a state of numbness for many weeks.

At Joe’s memorial service, there were lots of tears and lots of laughs as well.  One of Joe’s friends told the gathering that Joe had this way of making you feel as if you were his best friend in the world. I knew exactly what he meant.  I saw Joe every once in a while.  We would have lunch, or more likely trade emails or phone calls.  But every time we talked, I felt like Joe’s best friend.  Joe still has a lot of best friends all around the world.

Perhaps Joe’s death hit me so hard because it was the first death of someone close to me that I had experienced as an adult.  I am still surprised by the impact that his death has had, and in many ways continues to have, on my life.

In fact, I did a lot of personal reflecting in the months following 9/11.  I questioned how important my job and even my life were in a time of war where terrorists could invade your workplace or your school and slaughter you with no remorse.  I questioned what value and worth my own career had in comparison with a man who had chosen to teach and change the lives of young people.   I felt trapped in a good job that was giving me no personal satisfaction.

All I could remember was how happy Joe always was and how that cheer was infectious to all of his friends and colleagues.  I would miss that cheerful influence on me.   Joe had made the choice to live life to the fullest extent possible.   He was the model of the optimistic American who knows no frontiers and no bounds.  He was doing more than his fair share of contributing to a better society.

My partner John and I took a trip to the American West in the summer of 2003 and followed some of the Lewis & Clark Trail.  I know Joe would have loved the scenery and spirit of America that lives and breathes in the land of Montana and Wyoming.  The IMAX film about the “Corps of Discovery” produced by the National Geographic Society — Lewis & Clark: The Great Journey West — was dedicated to the memory of Joe Ferguson.  It is available on DVD and I strongly recommend watching it.

One day in early 2002, I heard a song on the radio that I don’t remember hearing before 9/11/2001.  I didn’t even know it was LeeAnn Womack voice, because the words are the soul and essence of Joe Ferguson.  The words are an expression of his personal passion and love of life.  And the words are also an inspiration for all of us to get through the many trying days of our post-9/11 world.

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.
Get your fill to eat, but always keep that hunger.
May you never take one single breath for granted.
God forbid love ever leave you empty-handed.
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean.
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens.
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance.
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.
I hope you dance.

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance.
Never settle for the path of least resistance.
Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin.
Lovin’ might be a mistake, but its worth makin.
Don’t let some hell bent heart leave you bitter.
When you come close to sellin’ out, reconsider.
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance.
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.
I hope you dance.

Nevada Democrats Try to Shut Down Anti-Harry Reid PAC

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 2:00 am - September 11, 2009.
Filed under: 2010 Elections,Free Speech

It was a Democrat named Harry who said, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.”

Now another Democrat with less fortitude, but with the same first name as our 33rd President is feeling a little heat, so he’s asking for a court order to turn off the stoves and ovens.  The Chairman of the Democratic Party in the home state of Senate Majority Harry Reid “filed a complaint” yesterday with the Federal Election Commissions (FEC) in an effort to shut down Dump Reid PAC, an outfit set up by Chuck Muth, a libertarian activist In Nevada working to reform the GOP.

The nub of the complaint is that the PAC failed to include a disclaimer on its mailings while including “the name of a candidate in their committee name in violation of” a federal statute.  The Democrat requests the FEC enjoin the PAC from using Reid’s name and “be fined the maximum amount permitted by law.” Don’t think the attempt of a powerful politician’s allies to silence his critics will help lift his anemic approval ratings in the Silver State.

Maybe Harry’ll win this one on the legal merits of the case, but it would be a Pyrrhic Victory.  I’ve met Chuck Muth; he won’t be silenced.  Indeed, reporter Benjamin Spillman of the Las Vegas Review Journal (you know the paper Reid wants to “go out of business“) quips:

It’s unlikely the Democrats’ move will take the edge off Muth, a longtime Nevada conservative consultant whose Web site refers to him as “no better friend, no worse enemy.”

Jon Ralston of the Las Vegas Sun agress, offering that this suit may well “create the loudest martyr you have heard.” Chuck’ll just set up shop under a different name, with Nevada Democrats’ legal shenanigans against him drawing more attention to his efforts.

ADDENDUMSpillman’s article covers the issue pretty thoroughly; I highly recommend it, notably the comments of election law expert Rob Keiner who finds the violations technical and the allegations trivial.

The Left-Wing/MSM Obsession with Congressman Joe Wilson

Last night, while doing my cardio, I looked up to see James Carville on Larry King Live, making much of U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburts during the President’s health care address on Wednesday.  The Democratic consultant/commentator faulted the South Carolina Republican for not apologizing directly to the President, without noting that he had tried to do just that, phoning the White House and talking to Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel as he tried to get through to the President.

Despite the apology, the uproar continues.  The media didn’t seem nearly as concerned when Democrats shouted and booed Obama’s Republican predecessor during his 2005 State of the Union Address (via Instapundit).  At that time, a multitude of Democrats loudly registered their disapproval.

It seems Democrats are using this one Republican’s outburst to rally their troops around the President.  Fascinating how they get their panties all in a bundle over a single disgruntled Republican who acted boorishly and apologized almost immediately.  The apology notwithanding, expect the left to gin up their attack machine to make as much of this two-second (if that) outburst as they possibly can.

It’s a lot easier to attack a rude Republican than to defend the details a complicated overhaul of our nation’s health care system.

It seems Democrats would rather malign this Congressman than address his (and other Republicans’) objections.  But, then, isn’t that their game plan?  Make an issue of their adversaries’ imperfections, ignore the content of their criticism.

The President, to his credit, accepted Wilson’s apology and encouraged the media to focus on the issues:

I’m a big believer that we all make mistakes. He apologized quickly and without equivocation, and I’m appreciative of that. . . . The media can always be helpful by not giving all the attention to the loudest or shrillest voices, and try to stay a little bit more focused on the issues at hand.

Let’s hope they — and the President’s fellow partisans — take heed to this sound advice.

Paglia Echoes Conservative Bloggers on Obama School Speech

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 1:42 am - September 11, 2009.
Filed under: Divas

On Tuesday, Ed Morrissey offered a synopsis of conservative criticism of the President’s back-to-school speech:

First, there’s a question of incompetence in this study guide.  Who produces a study guide for a document or lesson that has yet to be created? Had the White House included the speech with the study guide, a lot of the criticism could have been avoided right from the beginning.  It took six days for the White House to produce the speech after releasing the study guide and creating the firestorm of criticism.  Help the President do what, exactly?  Without the speech, who knew?

In her health care post (which I cited yesterday) Obama supporter Camille Paglia also addressed the school speech, faulting the Administration officials along similar lines:

An example of the provincial amateurism of current White House operations was the way the president’s innocuous back-to-school pep talk got sandbagged by imbecilic support materials soliciting students to write fantasy letters to “help” the president (a coercive directive quickly withdrawn under pressure). Even worse, the entire project was stupidly scheduled to conflict with the busy opening days of class this week, when harried teachers already have their hands full. Comically, some major school districts, including New York City, were not even open yet. And this is the gang who wants to revamp national healthcare?