Category Archives: History

Thinking on Labor Day

From the US Department of Labor website:

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr also said of labor:

We must set out to do a good job, irrespective of race, and do it so well that nobody could do it better.

Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. Even if it does not fall in the category of one of the so-called big professions, do it well. As one college president said, “A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.” If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beethoven composed music; sweep streets so well that all the host of Heaven and earth will have to pause and say, “Here lived a great street sweeper, who swept his job well.

Today is the day we celebrate a job well done. It’s important to not only take pride in how well we do our job, but resolve to do it better; to become indispensable. Even if (or especially if) that job is considered “below” other jobs.

Because if we were all doctors and lawyers, who would pick up the trash, or clean our sewers?

Even better, perhaps we should use this day to thank others for doing those so-called thankless jobs.

I, for one, thank you.

9:46am CDT, 11 Years Ago

The day was Tuesday. It was a lovely day. Sun shining, nary a cloud in the sky. It began as any other. Go to work. Turn on the radio. Sit down with my first cup of coffee and begin tackling all the work that needs to be done for the day.

All activity stops when the radio announcer preempts whatever was playing to proclaim that a plane crashed into one of the twin towers in New York City.

My first thought was that it was an accident similar to what happened in 1948 when a B-25 bomber crashed into the Empire State Building. I figured while horrifying, it was nothing more than an accident where a pilot wasn’t paying attention.

For the most part I listened to find out more details, which were scant at best.

Until a mere 15 minutes later we hear news that a second plane hit the second tower.

It’s not very often I could describe a reaction to “my blood running cold.” It’s a cliche, but in this instance, an apt one. I knew at that moment we were under some kind of attack. This was all on purpose. Not a half an hour later we heard about another plane hitting the Pentagon, and one more unaccounted for, headed for Pennsylvania.

I went home for lunch and watched the buildings fall in a dense cloud of black smoke and fire.

That image will be burned in my memory forever. As it should be, but more on that later.

With all that was happening, my work still needed to be done. After lunch, me and a few others had to go outside to set some property corners in a new residential subdivision.

I watched a couple dressed in military gear load up their car. I knew they were called up and would end up who-knew-where to prepare for and begin to fight a war. I feared for them, prayed for them, but also silently thanked them for their willingness to put their life on the line so I would not have to. I also noticed the sky was completely devoid of airplane sounds and contrails when normally we’d see four or five at one time during this time of day.

I remember also people wondering why we kept seeing the same footage over and over, and one announcer finally said, “We have a lot more, but we can’t show them.”

What was even more frightening at the time was how there were so few people going into emergency rooms. That meant that people close to the towers were not injured, but killed outright.

It’s a miracle that fewer than 3000 people were killed including those on the planes. Normally more than 50,000 worked at the World Trade Center. One reason there weren’t as many people there was because they simply hadn’t gotten to work yet. The reason the Pentagon survived as well as it did is because the plane crashed into the one area that was just renovated with higher-strength windows and structural materials.

On October 27, 2001, September 11th was designated “Patriot Day” as a day of remembrance and mourning. On this day, all flags are to be flown at half-staff, and request that all Americans observe a moment of silence to remember those that perished that day beginning at 8:46am Eastern Daylight Time. House Resolution 71 passed the House 407-0 and was signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 18, 2001.

On September 9, 2011, President Obama released a proclamation calling September 11 “Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance.” The proclamation states in part: “. . . I ask all Americans to join together in serving their communities and neighborhoods in honor of the victims of the September 11 attacks. Today and throughout the year, scores of Americans answer the call to make service a way of life — from helping the homeless to teaching underserved students to bringing relief to disaster zones. I encourage all Americans to visit, or for Spanish speakers, to learn more about service opportunities across our country.”

It’s the same again this year, because I’m hearing public service announcements on the radio about serving the community on September 11.

I’m all for serving communities. Every day of the week, not only on September 11th.

What I take issue with is calling Patriot Day also a Day of Service and Remembrance with an emphasis on service. Emphasizing the service part minimizes what happened that day. That day was an attack on our nation. It was an act of war. Acting like it was anything else is a true disservice to everyone who died that day.

It’s a day to remember that our country is worth protecting, just as those people on Fight 93 did. They didn’t sit back and let the terrorists take control over their destiny. They decided that if they would die, they would do it on their terms, and with the hope their actions would save lives of those on the ground the terrorists intended to kill.

It’s a day to be a Patriot; to say to our enemies, “We will not be terrorized. We will not bow down to you. If you try to destroy us, prepare to face the consequences.”

It’s a day to say, “Let’s roll.”

Making our job harder still

I just read this article where Dove World Outreach Center plans on burning a Koran on 9/11 to commemorate the 9th anniversary (See the article HERE). I can only shake my head in frustration. As a Christian who longs to share who Jesus is, I find Dove’s actions almost as offensive as the Muslims do (although I won’t go so far to burn an American Flag or call for the death of anyone).

Jesus was not afraid of those who disagreed. In fact he sought them out. Burning a Koran, or any other book that contradicts the Bible is saying it has power over us. It’s saying we don’t have enough faith in the Word or in God to persuade others. Dove World (based on their actions, they are horribly misnamed) is spewing the kind of hate Jesus preached against.

Beyond that, in a cynical world who sees Christians as nothing but hypocrites, this adds one more piece of evidence that they are right.

If we are to bring Jesus to a despairing world, we must meet everyone on their terms. Jesus spoke to the Pharisees differently than the fisherman. Paul used different arguments for the Greeks than for the Jews and Romans.

How does burning one religion’s holy book help to convince them that perhaps their way isn’t the right one? Is that something Jesus would have done? With a sense of irony, the people of Dove would probably answer in the affirmative. I’d even wager that they would use the scripture where Jesus overturned the money-exchanging tables in the Temple as their reasoning. Convincing them otherwise might take more effort than trying to convert a rock to Christ.

Perhaps that’s a harsh judgment on my part, and puts me on the same level as Dove World. Call me a cynic when I say they’ll have to change their ways to prove me otherwise. I just get so angry when professed Christians act in a way contrary to Jesus’ teaching. It only makes my job that much more difficult.

A Touch of History

While in school, History was not my best subject. I honestly didn’t care about it, figuring it was a bunch of dates, events, and dead people that had no bearing on my life.

As I grew older, I began to understand the importance of history. I could see in my minuscule little life how the present and future in many ways is determined by the past. I could see cause and effect. Knowing my own history helped me to not repeat mistakes, for one, and to use my past successes to build new ones.

I not only started to gain an interest in history, but an affection for it.

As a land surveyor I get to research documents that date back over a hundred years. However, I rarely get to touch the original documents.

That changed today, however.

North Dakota Parks and Recreation hired us to scan in original engineering drawings of two state parks. They want hard copies for a presentation, and electronic copies so they can make as many copies as they want without continuing to handle the originals. The state Historical Society has bugged them for years to give them the plans, but Parks and Rec didn’t want to part with them.

Now they can.

I scanned in about a third of the plans today, and doing so was simultaneously exciting and unnerving. These plans were drawn by hand, mostly in pencil on thin onion paper. This paper is no thicker than the tissue paper used to wrap gifts, so they need a gentle handling. I almost wished I had a pair of cotton gloves.

I also held my breath every time I fed a 24×36 sheet into the scanner. I feared every time I would feed it in wrong and the scanner would tear the plans.

Luckily the scanner is well-designed, and when it senses a fold or bend in the paper it stops. I have yet to witness it tear a sheet, but the worry still exists.

The best part is I get to handle a small part of North Dakota’s history. These plans were drawn up from 1939 through 1941. They are true works of art as well as historical documents.

I’m proud to play a small role in perpetuating that history for future generations.

Change o’ subject.

My nano word count is a pathetic 2549. I’m not worried as I still have plenty of time to catch up.