Category Archives: But Not Forgotten


Men of Harlech stop your dreaming, Can’t you see their spearpoints gleaming?

I remember this day.

It started like any other day, as I got in early to work at NASA.  Part of my morning duties included checking various newsfeeds and related things, and when the first report of a plane hitting the World Trade Center, I remember wondering if it was a small plane and how such could have happened.  Then came other reports, including an early one of an explosion at the Pentagon, and it was then I knew nothing was an accident, and I made the calls duty required.

I remember the shock that went through our office, and the building, and my efforts to get any information possible.  I remember the much needed laugh when I confirmed that the President was airborne, and Air Force One was in National Emergency Airborne Command Post mode (that’s not just limited to the E-4s).  My public shorthand called out to my manager that the President was KNEECAPed caused someone who shall remain nameless to think that an attacker had hit the President in the kneecap with a baseball bat…

I remember watching the news on televisions in various conference rooms, and the horror that ran through all when it was realized that it was not debris falling and jumping from the upper floors.  Of learning more about the Pentagon, of tales of planes down elsewhere, and the command to land all planes now.  Of wondering and worrying about people I knew at both locations.

I remember being ordered to evacuate, and driving home still in shock, angry, sad, and more.  We knew we had been hurt, and that far too many were dead; but, we still didn’t know the true toll.  Our thoughts had turned towards survivors, and I knew that around the country Nightingales were prepping to fly to New York to take survivors to selected burn and trauma centers around the country.  Would to God they had been needed.

I remember the dust still caking the streets and buildings of lower Manhattan, and the smell of baked lime (chemical, not the fruit) and burnt sweet pork.  Of being embarrassed by having an NYPD lieutenant drive me around to a day full of meetings.  Of learning how he had barely survived both collapses, as he ran towards the trouble to help.  Of being taken to Ground Zero, and watching the boots slowly melt off the workers as they searched their search.  Of a young NYPD officer who made sure I saw the Statue of Liberty “while it’s still here” even as we checked out a report of a possible body in the river.

Today, I remember all that and more.  Today, I remember Rick Rescorla, who’s preparations, quick thinking, and defiance of official orders allowed him to save 2,700 lives.  I remember that he, along with members of the NYFD, died going back in and up, to try to save more.

Today, I remember the dead.  Please remember and honor the 2,977 killed (no, not including the terrorists in that number, fuck them), and the more than 6,000 injured.

As for me:

I have not forgotten

I will not forget

I do not forgive

The war began before 9-11.  It is not over.  It has just barely begun.

Well, Damn

I just learned that Ed “Babe” Heffron of the 506th (Easy Company) has passed this day.  I also learned that Earl McClung passed this last Wednesday.  They leave us faster and faster, which makes getting their stories all the more important.

Thank you gentlemen, and Godspeed.

In Memoriam: They Came In Peace

Thanks to the Internet Wayback Machine, I’ve been able to recover this post, first put up in 2003. A lot has changed since then in the world, but not my vow to remember and do all I can towards “NEVER AGAIN.” I will remember Bill today, and think and smile as I remember his wonderful family, and I will hold them in my thoughts and prayers this day. Hope you might do so too.

In Memoriam

Darn Sgt. Hook anyway, it’s his fault the dust has gotten into my eyes. That’s my story and I am sticking to it.

Over at his wonderful site, he has a memorial up, one that I missed. Part of it is my fading memory, and part of it is something else, something deeper that I really don’t want to look at too closely.

At this memorial site, to which the good Sgt. sent me, there is a list of names. With trepedation I scrolled down it, and there it was:

Stelpflug, Bill J. USMC LCPL 10/23/1983 AL Auburn, AL

I never really knew Bill, but I knew his family. His mother was a student in the English department where I both studied and dated one of the graduate students/teachers. His sister was a gorgeous creature on whom I had quite a crush, with a wonderful personality and soul to go with the package. His sister even modelled for me when I was learning portrait photography, and I never did have the courage to tell her how badly I screwed up the shots. If they were not perfect, I was not going to show them to her. For her, I was not willing to show or share anything less than the best. Everyone of the family that I was graced to meet were such good people. The kind of people who epitomized not just Southern hospitality, but charity, grace, consideration, and all the other attributes that make up those special, rare, people in the world.

Then came that day. The news filtered out, and then the worst news came. One of Auburn’s own was among the dead. Bill, a loving and laughing brother was not coming home. The lights dimmed, but the family did keep plugging away. At least in public, they never lost the core of what made them such good people.

I never did have the words to express my sorrow to them, and I still don’t. All I can say is “I remember.” And to that, I will add “NEVER AGAIN!”

Damn dust. Need to clean up more in here.

No Greater Love…

Into The Light: Mary Frances Stewart

“Miss Mary Frances” was a cross between an aunt, a sometimes surrogate mom, and something more. When my official Godparents failed of their trust, she and her husband Crowell stepped in and did such a good job I never knew they were not my official Godparents. They were a large part of the church in which I grew up, with her being secretary for the church (which sometimes seemed to include being chief cook, bottlewasher, janitor, and other assorted duties) and both of them singing in the choir.

They were two of the best friends my parent’s had, and did so much for me when I was growing up that it really can’t be described.  Crowell worked for Clark Fork Lifts, and as such drove all over Georgia and even sometimes into the neighboring states — and more than once I got to travel with him.  From climbing in mounds of peanuts twenty or more feet high, to a wonderful day where I got turned loose into the RC Cola new product tasting room I had a blast.  I also learned a lot about sales, about people, and about doing right.  There was that time Crowell had me take a BIG drink out of a vodka bottle we had carefully filled with water just before my Mom walked into the room.  Miss Mary Frances was torn between getting on to us, and wanting to roll at my Mom’s reaction.

She was pleased when as I child I thought she had written the (wonderful!) Mary Stewart Merlin books.  She understood my love of reading, encouraged it and exploring new books and topics; yet, she had no problem at all sending me outside at their wonderful country home to get some exercise.

The fact that I had allergies didn’t phase her too much, though she was very careful about them.  I never did ask, but think she knew what my parents had been told about my life expectancy when I was little.  Unlike Mom, she did not wrap me in cotton, instead focusing on keeping me from doing anything too stupid and making sure that nothing she did tripped any of the major allergies.  She also did not have trouble (from my perspective at least) in giving me whatfor when I needed it.  To this day I think she was torn between wanting to beat me and being proud of me over how I handled the yellow jacket incident at the world jamboree in Norway when I was 15.

For the last decade or so, my visits back to Macon have been few and far between.  That said, every trip included at least a brief visit with her, and often a meal as she insisted I needed good southern barbecue, pecans, and other Southern food — especially after I moved up north.

I had planned to visit her this weekend, but now she is reunited with her husband, my parents, and other family. Thank you, and may the light shine down on all you leave behind. This image is of a place she loved as much as I (and my parents) did.

Godspeed Miss Mary Frances, and thank you — for everything.  Love you.

A view up the cove

A view up the cove

RIP Tom Clancy

I was surprised to hear that Tom Clancy has gone into the light.  His early work with Larry Bond were his best IMO, created a new genre of fiction (with heavy fact), and did much to put the military in a better light. It also made a much larger audience aware of defense issues and the price paid by those who serve. For that, he has my thanks. I also need to thank him for literally introducing me to Larry, and for his hospitality many years ago.


Gold Star Mother’s Day

Today, for the 77th time, the nation officially recognizes the mothers who have lost a child to service in combat.  The Army news service has a good story on the day and the Gold Star Mothers.

Today, make time to remember, to reach out to a Gold Star parent you may know, and honor the sacrifice that has been made.

9-11, Good Memories (Mostly)

I realized this morning that my previous posts on 9-11 have been lost, and I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing.  I’ve discussed the more urgent issues of the day at Blackfive, and hope you will read them.  Here, let me share some memories of The Day, and afterwards, with you.

My morning began as it usually did, arriving early at work to peruse the news and net to see if anyone was saying anything (good in particular) about commercial space activities and the NASA program for which I worked.  When the first report flashed up about a plane hitting the World Trade Center, my first thought was that it was a small plane, perhaps clipping it or at worst something on the order of the B-25 that hit the Empire State Building so many years ago.

Minutes passed, and it became clear that such was not the case.  As reports from the Pentagon and elsewhere rolled in, I made the calls duty (and old oaths) required and dug in to pull up any hard intel that I could get to.  For all that fear of what was happening, and fear for friends I knew to be headed to the WTC and at work at the Pentagon, gripped me, old training kicked in and I was able to set it aside as I dug and got information to my boss and others.  I remember shocking a person who heard me report to my boss, with relief in my voice, that the President was ‘knee-capped.’  I no longer see the expression on the man’s face that clearly, but do remember having to explain to him and others that no, no one had taken a bat or gun to the President’s knee, but that he was indeed in the air and that Air Force One was also now functioning in its role as National Emergency Airborne Command Post (NEACP, pronounced knee-cap).

We evacuated Redstone Arsenal that day, and I went hope still not knowing the fate of friends and acquaintances.  One thing I did know was that even with the grounding of all civilian air traffic, a fleet of planes was being readied on the ground.  Military and civilian Nightingales, air ambulances capable of handling large numbers of casualties, were being prepped for flight even as we streamed out the gate so the base could be locked down.  Trauma and burn centers around the country called in staff to prepare to treat the wounded.  Within a day we knew there would be none.  Few today know about that, nor do I suspect many care.

A few weeks later, I was in New York on business for NASA, having given the cabin crew of my flight up an impromptu lesson in self-defense/hand-to-hand before we boarded.  I know that quite a few of us quietly and unofficially provided security on those flights.  While we were careful in what we said and how we shared it, there were a number of us who decided to do so and we worked to carefully place ourselves where we could get between the cockpit and trouble, and would do whatever we could or was needed to protect same.  At least some cabin crews figured out what was going on, and I had one give me a broad wink as she leaned down to give me the unopened can of soda I requested.  No, I can’t throw worth a darn, but at close range and in a confined space, I just had to hit hard… And, yes, we did it because we had no faith in official assurances.  You have no idea how often weapons of various sorts were found in those days by flight crews doing unofficial and official sweeps after ground crews serviced planes.  Might give you a hint where the real security problem was though.

I also have to laugh at all those who rail and gnash their teeth about evil corporations and capitalism.  Why?  Because in the days after 9-11, I watched those evil companies large and small stand up in a way still not known or appreciated.  I represented a number of them, all partnered with Commercial Space Centers, who made a remarkable and largely unprecedented offer:  anything we have is yours.  If it will help aid the search for survivors, enable security, or treat the injured, it is yours and we will work things out later.

Because of that offer, I found myself in the embarrassing position of being driven around NYC by a police lieutenant.  He was an interesting fellow, headed towards retirement, and who almost died twice on The Day.  You see, like so many, he went towards the drums.  When the first tower fell, he was almost killed in the fall, and the same was true when the second tower came down.  I spent a bit of time that visit out on the water with NYPD, and I remember being taken out to see the Statue of Liberty “…while it’s still here…” even as we investigated a report of a body in the water (log as it turned out).  I met many on that and other trips, firefighters, medics, cops — all had gone to the sound of the drums.

That first trip still brings a scent to my nose, and a feeling of being gritty, when I think of The Day.  When the towers came down, they sent out a cloud of dust that covered the lower part of Manhattan.  Grey, fine, and it got everywhere.  To me, it smelled strongly of baked lime (mineral, not fruit) and with it was a hint of burnt sweet pork.  Between the burning jet fuel and the fires and compression heating created by the fall, most things organic and even some inorganic were cremated to dust.  The heat was so intense in the pit that you could literally watch the boots on those laboring within melt as they worked.  In the early days, it was not unusual for more than one pair of boots to be needed in a day, and even later a pair would only be usable for a day.

I visited the ferry that became the emergency command post as politicians more focused on domestic issues had placed the emergency command post for the city in the WTC over the strong objections of the professionals.  I’ve visited some of the others since, and am glad that the new one was ultimately placed in an area where the professionals had more input.  Today, I am still awed at the feat that was getting that ferry online as a command post in a matter of hours.  I’m both amused and saddened that the one thing NYC was not prepared for was the massive amount of support from outside the city.  You see, their emergency plans never considered that anyone would come to their aid, and one of the largest problems they faced was handling the massive amount of aid and volunteers that flooded the city.

The memory of a NYC policeman telling me about Canadian Mounties showing up and taking over things like traffic control and such (with no warning or notice) still makes me laugh.  He, like so many, were amazed by the response, but it was the plaintive note in his voice when he told me how people were walking up to thank the Mounties and how ‘they never told us that’ that got to me.  What does it say that people stood up, people did — and it was the one thing they never planned for or expected to happen.

There are more memories, but there is also more I must do this day.  I share these so that they not be lost to me or to others.  Already portions of The Day and those trips fade.  Today, I smell the smells and feel the grit of that first trip when I think of memories of the day.  Faces blur or are lost, and details slip away.

Write down your thoughts and your memories while you still can.  The mind being what it is, they will slip steadily away unless you do.  Remember the time when we did come together, however briefly, and remember why we did.



Into the Light: Frederik Pohl

Torn does not begin to describe my thoughts right now upon learning of the death of Frederik George Pohl, Jr.  I had the honor of getting to spend some time with him on several occasions, and will admit I thoroughly enjoyed that time and listening to him and others talk, discuss, and debate.  While he was not one of my favorite writers (something I think would have amused him), and his work has not shaped me or my writing to any great degree, spending that time with him and listening did shape some of my path with the word and thought behind.

The first time I met him is a memory I treasure, because it came about from one of the first times I was included in a group by some people I considered giants in some respects.  Far too many years ago, I used to attend science fiction conventions to learn, to share as a guest (usually science but also some on writing), and to meet editors and publishers who used to attend such things on a regular basis.  In so doing, I did indeed meet some extremely well-known writers, and did meet editors and publishers.  With the latter I made some friends and some contacts.  With the former, it varied.

However, as my career was focused on science I also attended science conventions.  It was at one such in Chicago (the trip there and back may have to be worked into a fiction story) where I bumped into Jerry Pournelle.  We had met at some science fiction events, but it was when we met at science conventions that he (and his equally talented and wonderful wife Roberta) decided there was something more to me.  Despite a threat by Jerry to kill me that briefly stopped all traffic in the atrium of the Hyatt Chicago, they took me under their wings.  Aside from spending some time and talking science at or after panels, I found myself invited out to dinner with them and “a few friends.”

I regret to say I can’t remember if that was the first of several dinners I had with them and Larry Niven (and too few with his wife Marilyn), but I do remember coming in to where we were to meet (their room?) and being introduced to Fred Pohl.  Not Frederik, but just Fred.  I hope it didn’t come out as a sound, but I swear I think my mental response was on the line of “eeek” and screeching of mental brakes.  “Fred” and Jerry were having a discussion and my memory is that I had the wisdom to mostly keep quiet.  Fred was not the only writing luminary to join us that night, and I learned a good bit that night, including how to pick up a tab and do it right (something much appreciated as I was on DoD per diem).

One thing I learned was that passion and reason are not necessarily separate, and that even when one disagrees with a position it is possible to respect the person who held it and how they made their arguments.  That applied to several parties I think, and it was a fun, amazing, and wonderful evening that I treasure to this day.  Don’t ask me what I ate (I think steak, know the wine was good as Jerry selected it), as I mostly sat back and listened, learned, and watched masters of their craft show me how discussions and discourse could be done.  I was a bit terrified, truth be told, to be asked my opinion on things or about my work, as I didn’t consider it near their level.

We met later at other conventions, and I was shocked (and pleased) he remembered me.  He had a sharp mind, a prolific output, and was principled on several levels.  He made no real secret that he had been a member of the communist party in the 30’s, as did many idealistic people of the day.  Unlike some, however, when things changed he stood on that principle and left the party.  He served in WWII, and did time overseas as a weatherman for an Air Corps bombardment group.  I would say from what I heard and our few talks, he hated war and wanted peace.  However, I would also say that principle would demand he acknowledge that peace was not something to be purchased at any price.  I would also add that he showed me by word and deed that he respected service of any type even when he disagreed with how the military might be used.

He offered me encouragement more than once, and was one of the first to tell me I had talent and could (and should) write.  I still haven’t done with fiction what I should, but he seemed pleased with the path of my science writing the last time I ran into him, which was far too many years ago.  I wish I could have told him about the second stint with NASA, and about the amazing experience that was working with Les Geddes.  He would have been fascinated with Les’s work, and part of me would have dearly loved to have arranged for them to talk.

He was a gentleman, with a truly amazing depth and breadth of knowledge.  He was kind, even when giving honest opinions.  From what I hear, he was writing to the end.  The world is now a poorer place for his going, and so much richer for his having lived.  I’m richer in mind and spirit for the few times I had the chance to observe him first hand.  Godspeed Sir, er, Fred.  Sorry, never broke that habit, and not going to try to do so now.

In Memory Bright: Todd Satterfield

I arrived back in the U.S. to the news that a good man was gone.  Todd gave it a good hard fight, and in the process of living he touched so many in a positive way.

Like so many, Todd came into my life through Wolf Park.  When I first moved to Indiana in late 2004, I discovered the park and was signed up as a volunteer before the end of my first tour.  The Wolf Park staff and volunteers are family, and in many ways Todd was the heart of that family.

It was Todd who went and picked up interns as they arrived from out-of-state or even out-of-country.  It was Todd who introduced them to the area, often to the Park, and who helped the interns, practicums, and even volunteers find various unusual things suddenly needed.

Todd was both a story teller and a story collector.  He learned about each intern and practicum as they came in, and quite often came up with a witty and pithy one-liner that summed up a lot of things.  He would tell stories of events and interns past, stories about himself, and enjoyed sharing the laughter of the tales.  Sometimes the funniest thing shared was watching him start to laugh, and get to the point where he could barely finish the story.

Some of the funniest stories were of his misadventures in health.  He loved to tell the tale of running into his pediatrician, who looked at him and exclaimed in surprise: ‘Todd Satterfield, you’re still alive?!?’  Todd had a number of issues, but you would almost not realize how serious they were because he made parts of it into jokes and tales that brought laughter and smiles.

I was told of some of the issues, and did indeed keep an eye on him as did everyone there.  There was one time I almost felt sorry for Todd, and that was the night his blood sugar crashed and lied about it.  Kfir (a former intern and now volunteer) and I knew something was up, and once the situation was resolved I learned never to trust him if his blood sugar dropped below 100.  He learned that not letting us know that he needed something or had a problem would get a 30 minute (or longer) lecture from Kfir.  Listening to some of the lecture, I almost felt sorry for Todd, but agreed with Kfir.  Besides, I could already see Todd turning this into another good story.

A stranger to the area, I bought a house and Todd was kind enough to share his extensive knowledge of home repair and construction with me.  He taught me how to replace doors and frames, and though one of the efforts was to be me doing and him supervising, it turned into him doing and showing as he just couldn’t stand everything not being extremely precise.  Even when he could not do or even supervise, he would tell me what I needed to buy, and give me all the steps needed to do it.  ‘Make sure you do X, Y, & Z and remember you have to do these steps this way.’

I had my own joke on Todd at one point early on.  Some soundproofing panels had been given to me and I put some to use trying to dampen some of the sounds from the basement (pump, sump pump, etc.) by putting some of them up on the basement door.  Todd wasn’t real sure about this, and when he asked I responded in my best old horror movie voice “So no one can hear my victims scream” and the look on his face was priceless.  Once he figured out I was joking, I got “the look” that if you were around Todd you probably got more than once.

We didn’t agree politically on much, but we did find common ground in woodworking, wolves, and other topics.  He was so happy when he found out that I had watched “Rat Patrol” on TV as a kid too, and delighted when he found the series available on DVD for purchase.  We agreed on some people, some things, and especially some movies.  Todd was into movies, and to call it a passion is a bit of understatement.

It was also so much fun watching him start to explore food.  One of the fun traditions of the Park was something called ethnic night where once a week a different ethnic restaurant in the area was chosen for all to go to.  This sometimes had interesting results as an intern from that region of the world would have to explain that the food being served was not the real food of the area.  The other funny thing was watching Todd try something new.

The expression on his face one night at a Japanese restaurant when he had been talked into trying some sushi was priceless and makes me laugh to this day. Todd’s face lit up, his eyes widened in surprise, and he said “This is good.  No.  Really.  This is GOOD!”  I always wanted to win the lottery so that if his doctors agreed, I could take him to Russia (and elsehwere) to try some of the food.  Not sure what Todd thought of it, but a mutual friend agreed it would be fun.  Especially if we could tape and photograph his reactions to the food.  Would that this could have happened.

There are so many good Todd stories out there.  Quite a few of them revolve around things he did for others.  Despite hospital stays, transplants, and other delights, Todd always found a way to laugh, to make people smile, and just went about his life doing nice things for others.  That was just Todd.  Others involved misunderstanding things said (Human Chicken), or in taking phrases and putting them to better use (Piso Mojado).

He was devoted to his family, and the love he had for his children and grandchildren shone through.  His two daughters were the light of his life, and that light only grew with the addition of grandchildren.

He’d be pissed at me to know that tears fell in that first airport, and are falling now — even as I laugh.  I can just about hear him taking a look around on the other side and saying that “wow” that could and did mean and say so many things.  The world is a richer place for having Todd in it, and all who knew him are richer still.

Godspeed Todd.  Piso Mojado.

In Memory Bright, Black Knights

Quoting a friend, who was their LT:

Remembering Alex Varella, Travis Haslip, David Behrle, Joeseph Gilmore,
Jean Paul Medlin, Christopher Moore, and “Caesar II” today.

KIA Ameriyah, Baghdad, Iraq
19 MAY 2007
1 PLT/A CO/1-5 CAV/1 CD

Six years ago today.

Black Knights

Long-time readers may well remember these fine men, and Lt. Hickey.  For those that don’t go learn more about them, and previous things that showed their character, at this post that was part of Operation Puppy Love.


Please join me in remembering and honoring them today.