A CERTain Thing In Fort Worth

March 31, 2010

On March 30 at 11:15AM I got a phone call from a number I did not recognize.  I picked it up anyway, something I usually do not do.  To my surprise it was someone from CERT.  Community Emergency Response Team of which  I am a member.  In short Fort Worth CERT was being activated for a real, non-exercise situation.  I said I would help out and would go to the staging area post haste.

The situation was something you see on the news frequently.  A 12 year old boy had been missing since about 9:30PM the previous night.  He was last seen at Farrington Field in Fort Worth where he had run in a track meet.  He had not done so well, had been picked on by other kids, and apparently had simply walked away without telling anyone.

I arrived at Farrington Field and sought out the incident command center. One is always set up when things like this happen.  I found our guys and got my first order:  help call folks on the CERT volunteer list to get people to  help out in the search for the boy.  And that I did using my cell phone since it was ordered that cell phones would be used for communication by the CERT folks that day.  Sitting in my car I went down the list calling person and after person.  Then I got a surprise.  The folks from Channel 8 started asking me questions about CERT and what it did.  I explained some things to them and kept calling. To my surprise  they began to roll tape of me calling several people, the video camera  just outside of my car window.  Then as suddenly as they appeared they left seeking content for other folks.  Jim Douglas, the reporter, was very interested in CERT, he had no idea we existed and thought it was important that we were there.  They were not alone, most of the  major TV stations were there. Channel 5 was strangely absent I noticed.  The media was all around us with cameras rolling, asking questions, and their satellite trucks parked with their little dishes on the tall masts dishes pointed upwards.

As I finished calling my share of the list we got our search orders.  Somehow I  got appointed a team leader en absentia, I accepted that duty of course not being a slacker.  My team of seven CERT volunteers was assigned to search the Farrington Field stadium once more.  Search it inside and out using the facilities manager to unlock EVERYTHING that had a lock on it.  We walked over to the stadium, being filmed by Channel 8 again, and began our work.  Doing search and rescue is not haphazard, there are certain things one does to plan and execute a search and we applied our training to perform the task we were ordered to do.   We went around and through the stadium and of course found no trace of the kid.  While the team searched I relayed status updates back to the command center and kept my team coordinated.  The unofficial consensus was that the kid was not around.  In fact the FWPD “Search One” dog team had lost his scent across the street at Will Rogers Colesium.  But protocol states that one always searches the “last known position” of who was missing.  And the stadium was that location.

We completed our search and returned to the staging area for more orders. It was about 3PM.  We did not get any new tasks and we could tell there was something going with the Fort Worth Police who ran the operation and we CERT folks.  We were then asked to gather in the bleachers in the field house.  Officer Monty Lambert,  who runs CERT, a FWPD sergeant, and a FWPD Captain  then addressed us.  The boy had been found.  His father had him of all things. This was a bit interesting since the father had possessed the kid since the night he was lost but did not tell anyone.  The father’s boss at work knew about it and had called 911 saying the dad was afraid to contact FWPD.  This was on top of some “unofficial” news we had gotten from one FWPD officer that they thought the mom was not being entirely truthful about the overall situation.  It seemed then there was something else involved than just a young kid getting mad and walking away from his track meet.   The captain said the detectives were “sorting it all out” and that we could go home since the kid was safe and sound. Mission completed therefore.

After gathering my equipment I walked away from the field house, saying goodbye to my CERT compadres.  The media crews were still there but they would not have a dramatic ending to tell about this story.  In fact as I ate my dinner and drank a cold beer I watched the newscasts of two of the channels who were taping and interviewing and saw not one mention of this event.  I guess with no blood, death, rape, or injury present it was not “newsworthy” enough.  But so it goes.  CERT’s mission is not to get publicity, it exists to help others.  And that is exactly what we did that day.


Dragons In Our Lives

March 25, 2010

How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love. So you mustn’t be frightened, dear Mr. Kappus, if a sadness rises in front of you, larger than any you have ever seen; if an anxiety, like light and cloud-shadows, moves over your hands and over everything you do. You must realize that something is happening to you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand it will not let you fall.   

The words above were written by the German poet named Maria Ranier Rilke.  Those words long ago got my attention and are something I have used in my book “Notes To Stephanie: Middle Aged Love Letters And Life Stories”.   While the words vary some depending on the translation you read the key elements of course remain.   Beyond the words themselves one asks what exactly do they mean?  They were written in a book called “Letters To A Young Poet” where Rilke is corresponding with a French poet named Kappus.  Rilke explains to Kappus that sometimes what seems to be the darkest things in our lives sometimes creates something that is good and wonderful.   

In fact before the quote above he says “We have no reason to harbor any mistrust against our world, for it is not against us. If it has terrors, they are our terrors; if it has abysses, these abysses belong to us; if there are dangers, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life in accordance with the principle which tells us that we must always trust in the difficult, then what now appears to us as the most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience..”

When a person is having a hard time it is only natural to see only the bad and negative side of things.  When events try us it is hard, if not impossible, to see a positive side of them.  But that is what we have to do to endure the trials besetting us and obtain victory over the things that attack us.  I myself have had to do this more than once.  In fact that way of looking at things is one reason I completed the first book as I have written about elsewhere. Sometimes something  bad begets something that is good.  And thus as Rilke suggest to us I learned to love the dragons in my life and move on.

So when life throws up its next hurdle to you just remember what Rilke said: “… life has not forgotten you,  … it holds you in its hand it will not let you fall”.   Thus even in darkness light can be found if you are willing to try. 


And Now A Public Service Announcement……

March 25, 2010

Way back in graduate school I did newscasting on KNTU 88.1 FM in Denton.  Doing that gave me some insight on how radio and TV works.  The biggest thing I learned is that there is incredible bias in the media.  How do I know that personally?  Before I was on the air I of course noticed a left leaning tilt in the stories that were heard on the news, KNTU included.  I wondered why there was so little conservative oriented material.  When I was on KNTU I found out the answer.  There is a lot of right leaning material on the wire services it just never gets read.  As a newscaster on KNTU you got to pick your stories from the wire services and read them on air.  And that is exactly what I did. I picked the stories that were favorable to conservatives all of the time.

Now doesn’t this mean I personally injected bias onto the airwaves?  Of course it does.  I did the same thing that the more liberal newscasters did on their own shows.  And that same picking and choosing still goes on today.  You can see the vivid difference between the content of Fox News compared to just about everyone else.  While the press is supposed to report the facts they most always present one side of the story more than another.  Because of this bias, some of it is natural of course, the individual has to decide on their own what the truth is. You certainly will not get it from most national news sources.  Fox News’ adage of “We Report You Decide” is really “We Distort We Decide” for many outlets and their politically driven “journalists” (gerbilists perhaps…err…I won’t go there).  This is a sad but true fact in our modern age.

Managing the content is also a major factor in what you see on local news as well.  The other day at a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) function we discussed the response a Fort Worth Police Officer got from KXAS (Ch5 NBC) on a request for covering a Police/community service event in Fort Worth.  To the shock of the Officer he was told that Dallas was the primary market and the Fort Worth story would not be covered.  This was from a Fort Worth TV station that had been on the air here since the 1940s.  Amon G. Carter is certainly turning in his grave as a result of that statement.  The point here is that what you see on local news is also driven by someone deciding what you will see.   Just as I chose my stories back in 1983 an editor producer does the same thing now based on the rating that might be received in the market they are serving.  Thus the editor decided that the 1.75 million people in and around Fort Worth were not a big enough market to worry about.  In many cases these news types are not from here and know very little about the area except in pure Neilson driven demographic terms.  Thus they make all decisions without any thought of the local culture or history.  Much to the dismay of people who live in places like Fort Worth who seem to be forgotten more and more  or are painted as hick-filled backwaters to be ignored as irrelevant.

All in all the news media is driven not by reporting unbiased fact but instead is herded in a lemming like fashion by hordes of producers and editors who care little for their communities.  And the national news fete set is driven mostly by ideologically decisions.  While all of us have our preferences politically the news media has strayed far beyond the idealistic vision of it being an unbiased and factual guardian of our Republic.   As far as a solution to this large problem goes about the only thing we as individuals can do is to choose what we watch, use the TV control to filter what you see.  And most importantly use your own mind and do your own research, try reading some serious non-fiction books for example, to find out what the truth is.  One can determine what the facts are.  It just takes some work.  Perhaps in our hectic and busy culture more of us should take the time to be less busy and be more informed.

Another Tale Of Helping Our Fellow Man

March 22, 2010

Many times on Facebook we see our friends reaching out to us for help when they are troubled by something in their lives. This is a natural and good thing to do for those we know or care for. But do we help out folks that we don’t know so well? I have posted an entry on helping people out we don’t know before but some of the recent things I saw on Facebook prompted me to think about this subject more. And as a result I have the note below for you to consider today.

Yikes! It’s Ike!

While we were members of CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) we had never had a disaster in the area where we were called up to help the fire or police department. But that changed when Hurricane Ike slammed into Galveston and Houston. At first nothing happened that affected us except for Jane fleeing Galveston but then we were contacted by officer Monty Lambert and we knew we would be called up to help.

We were told to assemble at that Fort Worth ISD sports facility near the college north of I-20 that Sunday evening to help dispense drinks and snacks to busloads of refugees coming into the area. The Red Cross was there with bottled water and snacks. A TV crew was around too. So we stood around with our CERT vests on and waited for the buses to start showing up. Monty was talking on his radio and then came over to address us. He said the buses were near Fort Worth and would be arriving in groups or singly.

And then they started coming in for sure. We divided up into teams of two, one team for each bus and climbed aboard the just parked buses filled to the brim with people from the coast, all tired and a bit grumpy. We walked down the aisles passing out the cold water and handing out bags of chips or cookies to the adults and children in each seat. A few thanked us and a few complained about the limited selection of snacks. We simply said they would soon be at a real shelter where there would be meals and more drinks. We stepped out of the buses and they soon left. The TV crew never came over to see any of this; I guess there was not enough drama for this to get on the news.

After a while it became apparent that the Red Cross stash of supplies had almost been exhausted. Someone would have to go to the Red Cross HQ near downtown to get more for the next batch of buses which was coming from East Texas brining the refugees from a shelter that itself had to be evacuated due to storm damage. Monty started seeking volunteers and we stepped forward since only we had a truck which could carry a large amount of supplies. 

We climbed in the truck and followed the man from the Red Cross to their HQ on Riverside east of downtown and went in with him.  Inside the building there was a scene of controlled chaos. The staff of the Red Cross was busy getting shelters set up, staffed, and supplies staged to the many locations scattered across the region around Fort Worth. We soon learned that supplies were scarce but we did get some regardless but not as much as we wanted. We loaded it up and returned back to the bus staging area and unloaded the materials.

And later more buses came by filled with more tired and dazed people who simply wanted a place to be comfortable and get a hot meal. We handed out water and chips and then we left for home when the overnight shift came on.

That week we were not needed but the next weekend we were called up again to staff the Emergency HQ at the Police Academy. That day was anticlimactic to the previous weekend. We just answered a few phone calls and forwarded messages to the Fort Worth response teams who were in the room with us. No more buses filled with tired and griping people that day.

But yet our efforts did affect them of course without us seeing the results. And perhaps that is the lesson to be drawn from those two weekends. There is more than one way to help out those who need help. You can do something hands on like go on a crowded bus or you can work behind the scenes where no one will ever know who you are or what you did. You don’t have to give a lot of money or be in the public eye to help out your fellow man, but at least make the effort, even in a small way, to help someone else from time to time.

A Song And The View Of Forever

March 18, 2010

Does a song or a soundtrack ever make you think of something?  Or make you feel a certain way?  Sometimes that happens to me.  And it did the other day.  I was driving up 287 to go down Bonds Ranch Road to take some pictures.  Bonds Ranch Road is the inspiration to the notes “The View Of Forever” and “Another View Of Forever” in what will be book #2, “Days Remembered”.  Those two notes describe the wide and seemingly endless view of the area seen from there.  On top of the hill on the road what you see really does seem to extend to the infinite sometimes.  Thus the titles containing the words “view of forever”.

While buzzing down the road to there I was playing a song on a CD I had downloaded.  I heard it one night on KCTU, the local college radio station.  The song really got my attention.  It was an instrumental with synthesizers and such.  The score was an ethereal type of work which started slow and then flowed back and forth to a climax and then faded away once more (the on-line sample on Amazon does not capture the best parts BTW).  It certainly made me feel a certain way.  I realized it made me feel the same way I felt when I was gazing at “The View Of Forever” on Bonds Ranch Road.  And thus that song was a soundtrack of sorts to that hill I write about and take pictures of.

When you look up at the high clouds overhead, such as I do at the View Of Forever, they behave like that song.  At one moment they can be shapeless and nondescript and the next second they can have a shape that looks like it belongs to something down here on earth.  The forms these wispy strands take always mutate into something new.  Each new shape is a fleeting moment of unique form miles above.  And then at some point they are gone over the horizon blown by the winds and the jet stream to be a sight for people we don’t know but perhaps look upwards at the sky just the same.

So if you read the two notes I mention, or look at some of the pictures I have taken, there is a song you can play that tells part of this story too.  Maybe you will feel the same thing I do, maybe you won’t.  But I know the feeling I get when I hear those musical notes or look at forever with my own eyes. That feeling is a picture of something larger than what I see, or that any of us can view, on this little orb we call home.

The song:  Tycho – Coastal Brake (Manual Remix):


The View Of Forever:


Another View Of Forever:


Do You Ever Wonder?

March 15, 2010

This last Sunday I visited a writer’s club near my house.  There weren’t many there due to the very nice weather but it was a good time regardless.  The three other folks there, usually they have around 15 or so, were a mix of authors.  One lady has two books out, POD/self published like mine.  The other two had no published works.  We exchanged some background information with each other, mostly mine since they knew each other, and went to the business at hand.

We looked at some in process stuff by two of the people, critiqued parts of it, and made comments on the texts: material from a fantasy and a mystery.  It all sounded good.  Not the type of things I read personally but I could appreciate their work.  Then two of the authors had to leave and I remained there alone with Ruby, the lady who was the organizer of the club.  She asked to see my book, a copy of which I had brought.

She thumbed through some of it, stopped to read some short parts, and then simply told me “you have a way with words”.  I of course thanked her immediately but then asked what part made her feel that way specifically?  She picked up the book and again and told me it was the note “Do You Ever Wonder” and read some of it back to me.  So if you are curious about that note in “Notes To Stephanie: Middle Aged Love Letters And Life Stories” here is the exact part she read back to me:

Do You Ever Wonder?

Do you ever wonder what lies over the side of a hill? Underneath a cloud? Beyond the horizon and the curve of the world itself? Or wonder who lies underneath such sights as you gaze at them?

On a wintry day with high cirrus clouds streaming in from the west or the southwest, the visible curve of those clouds stretches back for maybe a hundred miles. Who lives under the overarching stream of whiteness? What towns are there? Whose lives are unfolding there? Seeing such things and thinking about who or what lies there gives me a sense of wonder and excitement that is hard to explain, but is there as sure as I tell you about it here.

And underneath the clouds high up and far away from where our lives unfold, do the people there look up as I do and wonder who or what lies underneath their distant sky? Underneath everyone’s skies are people like you and me, living and hopefully loving.

All of the little notes I have written try to ask a question, make a point about life, or convey some emotion all of us feel.  And this one was no different.  Indeed I wrote them to someone now gone from my life but the message remains for anyone who reads them now.

And what is the message in this note you ask?  I’ll let you read it again and wonder on your own just like I do each time I look upwards to the sky above.

It Is Spring In More Than One Sense

March 9, 2010

The seasons are changing now.  Winter and its cold are giving way to spring and its warmth and thunderstorms.  There are many clichés that relate this cycle of change and how our lives progress but it is a true thing nonetheless.

All of us have had good times and bad times.  The last year for me in many ways has not been fun but things are starting to give way to a new cycle of better events.  I sure hope so even though the last few months have not been devoid of good experiences either.  And that of course shows us something else.  Even in hard and tough times new, softer things peek up through the smoldering rubble of what troubles us.

That fact is like what happens in spring at its start.  It is still chilly outside many times but the trees start budding out, the weeds start growing, and the grass begins to turn green once more.  And it  might snow too.  Thus even in our darkest hours we should look out for a sign of light that might soon shine down upon us.

When the bad times do turn to good we should be glad and thankful about this.  We can attribute this change to God, luck, or something else but it is there in our daily lives.  The cycles always wax and wane but that change is one thing that makes us human after all.  We are more than just the DNA in our cells. We are more importantly the things that have happened to us that have forged our character, beliefs, and morals.  That and who our parents were make us who we are.  While it is tough to do we should always embrace the hard times knowing that they will prepare us for the good things that surely will be coming.