Thursday, September 27, 2007

Integrated Eye for the Confident Guy

I was such a big fan of Bravo’s show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy when it started in 2003 that I wrote a commentary about it, and Dr. Michael Hurd reprinted my piece in his Living Resources Newsletter. Beginning in early October, Bravo will air the show's 10 final new episodes, and som I'm reposing my original commentary here.

By Joseph Kellard
January 16, 2004

Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” features five homosexual men who makeover heterosexual guys. The show is popular, however, not primarily because of its gay-straight dynamic, but because it promotes an important value rarely practiced today.

In each episode the “Fab Five” visit their subject at his home and upgrade his choices in clothing, grooming, interior design, dining and culture. Before arriving, they go over his bio and discuss his reasons for seeking a makeover. Past subjects have included pack rats, longhaired throwbacks from decades past, inept dancers, the overweight, and an overalls-wearer. Their goals have been to become more independent, to ask a girlfriend to move in, to rekindle a 20-year-plus marriage, and to rejoin the dating scene.

The Fab Five approach each makeover with serious, calculated thought, always mindful of each guy’s individual goals, personality, and manner of living. They share with us their thought processes and methods as they assist their subject in picking the appropriate threads, skin products, furniture, food and wine, or music.

For example, we watch Carson rummage through each guy’s closet and determine he must update his wardrobe and add brighter hues (“colors show confidence,” the fashion expert often states). Carson tailors the new clothesline accordingly, whether his subject is a Marine or a rocker he fits with rugged yet stylish looks, or an already model-like guy who he suggests wears “always elegant” black-and-white attire to propose to his girlfriend.

Thom, the interior designer, learns about how each guy uses his living quarters, and with modern furniture, rugs and paints he creates for him the appropriate space and ambiance. Thom often employs the standard decorating principle that uses colors from a single object, such as a lamp or bedspread, to play off the same tones he paints the walls.

Stylist extraordinaire, Kyan explains the various skin and hair products he expects his subject to use to achieve a cleaner, healthy appearance. He meticulously demonstrates to each guy the manner in which he should groom, explaining, for instance, such shaving principles as stroking slowly and with the grain.

While these experts take serious life’s finer but nonetheless important details, they are incredibly humorous (though sometimes sophomoric), witty and upbeat as they go about their business. They thereby send the message that, far from being a burden, remaking oneself and maintaining the new look can and should be enjoyable, uplifting and self-fulfilling.

The Fab Five often note the confidence that the makeovers give their subjects. But this confidence reflects a deeper self-esteem that originally sparked each guy’s desire for self-improvement. And such factors tie into what makes QE a hit.

QE’s makeovers focus, not merely on an individual’s immediate appearance, such as his clothes and hair, but on broader, important details, from the furniture he surrounds himself with to the brand of wine he picks for a special dinner. Thus, while the show evokes style, sophistication, elegance, and manners, it above all promotes the idea that it is important to have each aspect of your life reflect your goals, personality and lifestyle. The primary value QE promotes is that this all-encompassing integration leads to a better, improved person who assumes a positive, confident approach toward his life.

As Carson says in a tip he offers at the end of one episode, “Travel with luggage that represents your lifestyle. That way, everything that says ‘you’ from head to toe, travels in something that says you.”

Unfortunately, both critics and fans of QE emphasize instead its gay-straight dynamic. Some critics crow that it promotes “stereotypes” of homosexuals --that all that gays think about is mousse and Gucci wears. The Fab Five, however, are intelligent sophisticates who project no such superficiality. This fact, in part, prompts some QE fans to see the show mainly as a vehicle to make Americans more “tolerant” of gays.

While the gay-straight dynamic does lend an interesting, sometimes thought-provoking social element to the show, QE is essentially about aesthetically-minded men with an eye for transforming an individual into a more complete, integrated person for his betterment.

Encouragingly, an appreciation for these high-minded values, too rare in America today, is the silent motor driving this show’s success. QE embodies a manner of broader, integrated thinking about one’s life that many individuals -- gays and straights, women and men alike -- fail to adopt, yet know it would benefit them greatly.

Please post a comment about this article. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Social Security Can Wait: Seniors Opt To Work

By Joseph Kellard

When he was 11 and living in Pelham Bay Park, Mel Febesh would watch laborers build an extension of the Hutchinson Parkway to the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge. Febesh found himself so enthralled with this construction, that he cites it as the origin of his lifelong love of engineering, a profession the now 80-year-old Merrick man continues to pursue with no definite retirement date marked on his office calendar.

“I went there every day and watched what they did,” he recalled. “I was fascinated by the road work.”

Febesh, a licensed civil engineer in four states and co-owner of a Queens construction company, is among many seniors who opt to forgo retirement, not because they must do so to stay afloat financially, but because they’re still passionate about their professions -- and because extenuating circumstances allow them to continue on.

For 35 years Febesh has co-owned Urban Foundation/Engineering LLC in East Elmhurst. He still drives to the office by 6 a.m. and typically works to 5 or 6 p.m. each weekday, doing everything from paper work at his desk, to contract negotiations, to checking out project sites. His firm is responsible for the foundational construction at the new stadium for the New York Mets and the preparatory work at a Brooklyn LIRR railroad yard where the New Jersey Nets will build an arena.

“I just love it,” Febesh said when asked why he continues to work. “I find it challenging … You have to use your brains, and half my friends who are retired don’t have to use their brains at all.”

Teddi, Febesh’s wife of 51 years, confirmed her husband’s reasoning. “He just loves what he’s doing,” she said.

Like Febesh, Maria Frangella, a 60-something director of the Oceanside-Island Park Senior Center, and Bob Phillips, 74, a plumbing contractor for 50-plus years, trace their interests in their professions to their childhoods.

Frangella’s 30-year career assisting seniors in many areas of their lives stems from her teenage years when she used to help out her Italian immigrant parents -- her father was a chef and contractor and her mother a housewife -- with anything from going to the water or tax departments to work out their finances, or dealing with problems with tenants who rented from them in their Park Slope brownstone.

“I’ve always enjoyed helping people out,” said the Island Park woman, who conducts a variety of programs, including arts and crafts, dance exercises, Bingo and Tai Chi, for the some 75 to 100 seniors attending the center at St. Anthony’s Church in Oceanside each weekday.

When Phillips was about 13, he worked with his father in his plumbing business each day after school in East New York. He found he liked working with his hands and, instead of inheriting his father’s business, he started and built his own, one that is still going strong after five decades. “The bottom line is, I enjoy what I’m doing, it keeps me mentally young and healthy, and I’m not the type of fella who likes to sit and watch TV all day and just veg away,” Phillips said.

The Merrick man and his assistant do mostly minor plumbing repairs at an average of 50 to 75 homes along the South Shore each week. While normal hours are between 8 to 5, Phillips is on call 24 hours, and about twice a week he’ll go out on emergency calls in the wee hours of the morning.

According to a 2005 survey of the U.S. Census Bureau, of the 90,991 seniors in Nassau County who are 65 to 74, 26.5 percent are employed, and of the 97,518 of seniors 75 and over, 9.2 percent still work.

While Febesh, Frangella and Phillips all attribute their professional longevity to their love of their professions, other circumstances, such as being in general good health and the assistance of others, have contributed to their decisions to remain gainfully employed.

“I’m very fortunate that I’m in good shape,” Febesh said. “That’s part of the reason I’m able to do it.”

Saying he feels like he’s 34, Phillips also points to his wife of 52-years, Adele, who runs the financial side of his contracting business, as a fundamental factor to why he keeps plumbing. “My wife and I get along fine in the business together, and she’ll encourage me to do things,” he said. “She’s been my backbone.”

Frangella said that while she has never made much money as a social worker, and does it because she loves the work, she also notes that her financial crutch was her husband Alan, to whom she was married for 47 years before he died three years ago. For decades he’d made a comfortable living as a communications consultant with New York Telephone Company.

He was able and willing to retire at age 56. And Frangella found that he loved retirement, in large part because he kept himself busy with many hobbies: gardening, cooking, entertaining guests and computing. Except for cooking, reading and painting, Frangella said her hobbies are limited; plus she still feels challenged in her job.

Frangella flirted with retirement almost three years ago, when financial circumstances forced Catholic Charities to close down the senior center at the American Legion in Island Park, which she ran for 25 years, and merged it with the senior center at St. Anthony’s Church in Oceanside. “I thought about retiring then,” she said. “But I said, ‘Let me take up this challenge, and as soon as I can see I can succeed there, then maybe I’ll retire.’”

Phillips said the thought of retirement does occasionally cross his mind -- but only occasionally. “I like to travel, and to do more of it would be one of the main reasons to retire,” he said. While he has no particular hobbies, Phillips likes working with his hands and is tempted to tap his artistic side and take up sculpture, one of his wife’s favorite pastimes.

Febesh, too, said he has few pastimes. Unlike his friends, he doesn’t golf, play tennis, paint or gamble. He and his wife own a home in Florida, and he likes to travel and read good mysteries and political non-fiction, but that’s about it. He’d still rather work.

“That’s my problem,” Febesh said. “I’d be afraid to retire.”

“Every year, he always says maybe he’ll retire in two years,” his wife, Teddi, said, “but he’s been saying that for 10 years now.”

When will he know it’s time to call it a career? “When I get in a physical condition where I can’t do it anymore, or I unfortunately get sick,” Febesh said.

He said one of his friends’ main complaints is that many of them are sorry they retired, because they are still healthy and have to keep doing something, and sometimes their hobbies just aren’t enough to stay busy.

As one who works and gets to know intimately many seniors firsthand, Frangella says that some of them regret that they retired too early, while others were happy to retire when they did. She knows some seniors who did work into their 70s, one of whom was employed at a computer engineering company and wanted to continue to work, but was compelled to leave at 72 when her husband grew ill.

Today, when people ask Frangella why she doesn’t retire, to travel more or spend more time with her grandchildren, she says she does consider this a lot. “But you know what,” she concluded, “you want to live your life the way you are happiest. I mean, if you’re happy working, why can’t you work until the very end, as long as you can do a good job?”

Bessie Horton of Roosevelt, the kitchen supervisor at the senior center and a colleague of Frangella for 30 years, said about her director’s devotion to her work: “She’s very loyal to the seniors she works with and she loves her work. If she didn’t, I think she would have retired a long time ago.”

In the end, it all comes back to a love of what they do. Febesh said he hears every day from people asking him why he hasn’t retired yet. “But I just believe,” he said, “that people should do what they feel comfortable with.”

Please post a comment about this article. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

Saturday, September 15, 2007

New York Times on 'Atlas Shrugged' and Businessmen

By Joseph Kellard

The New York Times today published a generally positive article on how “Atlas Shrugged” is an inspiration for businessmen, particularly as a moral tract that justifies their self-interested pursuits.

I could tell right from its first few sentences, which are devoid of any snide adjectives, that the article would be generally positive: “One of the most influential business books ever written is a 1,200-page novel published 50 years ago, on Oct. 12, 1957. It is still drawing readers; it ranks 388th on’s best-seller list … The book is ‘Atlas Shrugged,’ Ayn Rand’s glorification of the right of individuals to live entirely for their own interest.”

Among those quoted in the article are Objectivist businessman John Allison, the chief executive of BB&T bank, and Jeff Britting, the archivist at the Ayn Rand Institute. The article also mentions Mark Cuban, owner of professional basketball’s Dallas Mavericks, and John P. Mackey, the chief executive of Whole Foods, and how “they consider Rand crucial to their success.”

One business executive, John P. Stack, is quoted as saying: “It’s the best business book I ever read. I didn’t do well in school because I was a big dreamer. To get something that tells you to take your dreams seriously, that’s an eye opener.”

Drawing on its opening sentences, the article later mentions how hundreds of thousands of copies of Miss Rand’s novels are sold annually in book stores and are provided free by ARI to high schools.

There’s no reason for me to repeat here some of the article’s low points, except to say they are few, minor and brief.

Overall, this is a positive piece by a newspaper that has mostly been unfriendly to Miss Rand and her philosophy. It certainly appears that the Times can no longer ignore the sustained and growing influence of her books. While publications such as Commentary magazine sense this and smear Ayn Rand at every chance, the Times, at least this time out, showed some respect for her books and devotees.

Please post a comment about this article. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

Friday, September 14, 2007

Commentary Smears Ayn Rand—Again

By Joseph Kellard

After publishing an essay on Ayn Rand two Septembers ago, Commentary magazine is again employing its smear tactics against her, this time in a highly muddled essay on libertarianism:

The author does correctly point out that libertarianism basically adheres to the subjectivist morality of "do whatever you want." But then, as a typical conservative is wont to do, her essay boils down to essentially criticizing libertarians for not recognizing that capitalism is based on "tradition" and "family values."

Here's one of many examples:

"Children do not come into the world respecting private property. They do not emerge from the womb ready to navigate the economic and moral complexities of an 'age of abundance.' The only way they learn such things is through a long process of intensive socialization-a process that we now know, thanks to the failed experiments begun by the Aquarians and implicitly supported by libertarians, usually requires intact families and decent schools."
Virtually the only morals and qualities as a basis for capitalism that the author offers throughout her essay are "self-discipline," "respectability" and "self-responsibility." That she further has no understanding of this basis is evident in promoting "socialization," i.e. social conformity, as "the only" means of learning a "respect" for property rights. Also, what makes schools "decent"? I guess that they primarily aim to "socialize" children.

Oh, brother! And this is presented as an alternative to libertarianism, an intellectual and political movement that the author does not, and likely cannot, identify as essentially amoral and thus anarchist.

During her attempts to tie Ayn Rand to libertarianism, calling her a "guru" of the movement because libertarians cite her as a political influence, the authors takes this shot at her (and note, again, her stress on "the family"):

"Libertarianism was complicit, too, in the vociferous attack during the 1960's on the bourgeois family. After all, blood relationships are involuntary, and parents with anyinterest in rearing and educating their children are unlikely to look for guidance in Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand was predictably wary of kinship ties and, like radical feminists, saw the family as a soul-killing prison ..."

The paragraph continues, but that's all the author has to say here about Miss Rand. No explanations are given for her conclusions.

Anyway, I hope you will join me in writing a letter to the editor at Commentary.

Please post a comment about this article. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Economist Promotes Nuclear Power

By Joseph Kellard

While I’ve yet to read any of these articles, I find it encouraging that The Economist is reporting on nuclear power in a seemingly positive light.

“… Now nuclear power has a second chance. Its revival is most visible in America (see article), where power companies are preparing to flood the Nuclear Regulatory Commission with applications to build new plants.”

“OVER the next few months America's Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) expects to receive 12 applications to build new nuclear-power reactors at seven different sites. It is preparing to see plans for another 15 at 11 more locations next year. These will be the first full applications to build new nuclear plants in America for 30 years. If they are all successful, the number of reactors in the country will increase by roughly a third. The output of nuclear electricity would grow even more sharply—the new reactors would be more powerful than older ones. The new enthusiasm for building reactors means America's long-awaited “nuclear renaissance” is about to become reality.”

“OVER the next few decades global electricity consumption is expected to double. At the same time, many power plants in rich countries, built back in the 1960s and 1970s, are nearing the end of their projected lifespans. Meanwhile, concern is swelling both about global warming, and about the Western world's increasing dependence on a shrinking number of hostile or unstable countries for imports of oil and gas. The solution to this conundrum, in the eyes of many governments, is nuclear power.”

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11 First Responders Honored in Pin Ceremony

By Joseph Kellard

If John Feal says he'll give you one of his body parts, take him at hisword.

Last September, Paul Grossman, a 20-year FDNY volunteer EMT-firefighter, e-mailed Feal seeking a link to the Web site of his organization, Fealgood Foundation, which assists 9/11 first responders who suffer medical problems related to their search-and-rescue efforts at ground zero.

Grossman told Feal that he would have been at ground zero on Sept. 11, 2001, if he hadn’t been on dialysis and on a kidney recipient list. Feal replied that if Grossman needed a kidney, he’d give him one of

“He thought I was kidding,” Feal recalled about their e-mail exchange, a printed version of which now hangs on his refrigerator. “After three or four days of convincing the man that this wasn’t a cruel joke, we went to New York Presbyterian Hospital to see if we were a match, and we were compatible.”

Feal told this tale on Sept. 5 at another hospital, South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, following a pin ceremony that honored him and several other fellow 9/11 first responders -- firefighters, police officers, EMTs and even a demolition supervisor like himself -- who riskedtheir lives after the terrorist attacks that left the World Trade Center in smoldering ruins six Septembers ago.

Feal was recovering from an operation less than a week earlier in which his kidney had been removed. After having his name called and walking through the hospital’s lobby atrium to accept his pin, Feal steppedgingerly, due to what he described as perhaps the worst pain he had ever experienced. This from a man who walks with a limp after a multi-ton steel beam crushed his left foot at ground zero and left him in a hospital bed for 11 weeks, suffering with gangrene before half of his foot was amputated.

“Why wouldn’t I?” Feal, 40, said matter-of-factly about donating his kidney, as if he were parting with, say, a favorite dress shirt. “I’m giving the gift of life. I’ve never won Lotto; I don’t know that feeling. But thisfeeling is pretty good.

“I’d do it again,” Feal continued. “If my body was like a Pez machine for kidneys, I’d be popping them out.”

Feal was one of a few pin recipients who addressed the crowd at the ceremony, which drew mostly fellow first responders and their families. Among the speakers -- including state Sen. Charles Fuschillo, SNCH President Joseph Quagliata and Freeport firefighter Ray Maguire -- who thanked them allfor their search-and-rescue efforts was a survivor of the attacks. Mark Goldberg was working on the south tower’s 22nd floor for First Montauk Securities that morning. Last Wednesday, Goldberg stood in SNCH’s atrium -- whose walls are adorned with memorabilia such as a 9/11 construction worker’s jacket and paintings of nature scenes by children whose parents were killed that day -- and recounted how he and other WTC employees filed down a stairwell in terror.

“People were depending on each other to make it down,” Goldberg said. “And on the left side, coming up the stairs, were people like you, emergencypersonnel.

“Saying thank you doesn’t come close to the words that need to be expressed from the bottom of my heart,” Goldberg said.

One first responder, Scott Belten of Franklin Square, has always declined invitations to ceremonies that honor 9/11 workers -- except those hosted by Home Ground, a free counseling and outreach program for 9/11 first responders and their families, which hosted the ceremony at SNCH. “I don’t do ceremonies because it’s sort of something I want to put behind me, and also I felt that people were honoring me for doing my job,” Belten said.

But he attends the Home Ground ceremonies because without the program, he said, he would be unable to function as well as he does today. Established with a federal grant in 2002 and sustained through the American Red Cross, South Nassau and private donations, Home Ground has worked with nearly 4,000 WTC rescue and recovery workers and their families.

“Going to Home Ground was the first step on this long road to healing,” Belten said.A paramedic with Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, Belten and other EMTs used the neighboring Marriott as a shortcut to the south tower on Sept. 11 to avoid its raining debris. Seconds after a piece of debris hit Belten’s hand, the tower came down on top of the hotel. Belten escaped, and helped assist others who were injured, but the injury he sustained proved serious.

Since 9/11, Belten has had multiple operations and has lost most of his fine motor skills, making it nearly impossible for him to tie his shoes, write or type, and he also has trouble breathing. “Some days I can’tfunction at all,” he said about his degenerative condition. When he walked up with his wife and children to accept his pin, he said later, he had to hold back tears. “It was a great experience,” he said. “It’s very moving, and I’ humbled by it and that people still thank me after all this time.”

Alan Beach of Lynbrook, a retired FDNY lieutenant who spent 20 years fighting fires, awarded the ceremonial pins to each of the dozens of hisfellow 9/11 first responders. Beach recalled the “total chaos” at the WTC, to which he tried to bring some order by commanding a staging area.

Unlike Belten, however, Beach attends 9/11-related ceremonies whenever he can, he said. “The situation is that, I feel, this country is starting to forget,” he said. “It’s like everything else after a while, and time mostlyheals wounds. But this is a wound that shouldn¹t be healed because of a lot of the things that happened that day.”

Please post a comment about this article. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

Cheating Death Three Times

By Joseph Kellard

Some might call it the loss of her innocence, but she sees it merely as the loss of her comfort zone.

Andree Marshall survived the terrorist bombing while working at the World Trade Center in 1993, and she never imagined anything like it would happen again.

“I didn’t feel the least bit fearful working there after that bombing,” she said last week from her Harbor Isle living room. “No way. This is the United States. We’re safe.”

Then came the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, an atrocity that proved an even closer call for the change management manager with a large brokerage firm that had offices in the World Trade Center and New Jersey.

During the 1993 bombing, Marshall recalled seeing people fleeing the towers in terror and covered in soot, but nothing could compare to the horrors she witnessed up close on 9/11 -- none more stunning than the people who plunged from the top floors of the burning towers.

Marshall, like many other workers at the WTC, survived both attacks, but she finds it hard to wipe away the unforgettable images in her mind of human suffering. “With 9/11, I saw the bodies, I saw the people killing themselves, I saw that people had no choice,” she said.

On top of all that she experienced at the WTC, Marshall survived another brush with death two months after 9/11, when an airliner crashed near her home in Bell Harbor, Queens, the second deadliest aviation accident in U.S.history.

That day, Marshall heard an enormous explosion, and all the decorations and knickknacks on her walls tumbled to the floor. About two blocks away, American Airlines Flight 587 crash-landed not long after taking off from Kennedy Airport, and all 260 people on board, as well as five on the ground,were killed.

For Marshall, the close call in her Queens neighborhood was the last straw. “My mother said I walked into the living room screaming that ‘They’re coming after me,’ and that ‘I have to get out of here,’” Marshall recalled, noting that at the time she was clutching her 6-week-old daughter so tightly that her mother had to pull the girl from her arms. “My thoughts were, I did something to someone,” Marshall continued. “I didn’t know who it was, I didn’t know what I had done. After the ‘93 bombing, the World Trade Center [attacks], and six weeks later, I felt I had to have done something to someone.”

Six months after the crash of Flight 587, Marshall sought a new place to live, and found peace and quiet in Harbor Isle -- or so she thought. Unbeknown to her when she purchased her new home, Marshall had to contend with the noise of planes flying overhead to and from Kennedy Airport. When hearing any one of them, to some extent, she cannot help but be reminded of her horrific experiences six years ago.

“That feeling is always, always, always there,” she said about hearing the planes overhead.

In recent weeks, as the sixth anniversary of 9/11 approached, Marshall found herself more anxious than in previous years, since this Sept. 11 would fall on a Tuesday, the same day of the week as 9/11. She also started re-experiencing the nightmares she had for up to two years after the attacks on the WTC.

What haunts her most is the people she watched jump from the towers. “Not being able to help them, knowing that they were going to die, they had no choice, and that their only choice was jump and die or burn to death,” she said.

On 9/11 Marshall was pregnant with her twins, Andree and Aiden, who turn six on Sept. 20, preparing to take maternity leave that Friday. When the first plane struck, she was shopping in a Duane Reade on the ground floor of the WTC, and the air conditioner blasted on much more forcefully than usual.

While she chatted with Barbara Jo Sciequan, a travel supervisor for 17 years for their firm, they noticed people scrambling around, lights flickering and a hunk of metal crash outside the front doors. A man had told them that a bomb had gone off.

Marshall simply wanted to go down to the subway below to take a Path train to her firm’s office building in New Jersey, but Sciequan stopped her.

”She sternly said, ‘You’re not going down there,” Marshall recalled. “I said, ‘I’m going.’ And this petite woman literally pulled me back up the stairs. I was pregnant and weighed over 200 pounds, but she pulled me out of that building.”

“I told her, ‘Let’s get out of the building,” said Sciequan from her Williamsburg residence last week. “I told her, ‘You’re not going down there.’ I was thinking of her with the babies.”

Eventually, Marshall and Sciequan walked over to a building their firm owned a block away on Broadway. From the fifth floor, Marshall gazed upon the horrific scene, at the bodies, body parts, the lone shoes and pocketbooks, the people screaming and crying in terror, and others jumping from high above, all of which are part of her nightmares now.

Then, suddenly, the heavy vibrations from the low-flying second airliner pierced her chest just before it crashed into the second tower. Later, when the towers crumbled, she could feel her unborn twins react to the enormously loud, massive rumbling. The pains in her stomach were sharp.

Several hours later, firefighters got Marshall and others out of that building, onto a truck and over the Brooklyn Bridge, from where she walked to a fire hydrant that was open. Marshall cupped some flowing water to clean the gray soot covering her body, and while she lifted her shirt to wipe herself, exposing her pregnant stomach, a uniformed officer walked over, held her hand and insisted that she sit down. He sat with her on a bench for hours as Marshall waited for her then-husband Craig to find her.

Ernesto Robinson, a court officer with Brooklyn Family Court, was on Jay Street helping stunned, dazed and bewildered people over the Brooklyn Bridge, when he spotted the pregnant Marshall. Noticing also that her feet were swollen, he felt a duty and compassion to help her, he said.

“Well, 3,000 people died that day,” Robinson said, “and in the midst of all that chaos, here’s this woman who looks like she’s about to give birth.

”I believe when one life goes out, a life comes in, and you can’t save the dead. So I felt I had to save her and her unborn children.”

The next day, Marshall checked into a hospital, and eight days later she gave birth to her twins six weeks premature.

Last week, as the anniversary of 9/11 approached, Marshall was determined to stay home from work rather than commute two hours into New Jersey via the Long Island Rail Road into Manhattan. While in recent years she finally was able to watch the televised ground zero ceremonies on Sept. 11, she planned to keep the TV off this year and focus on her children. Several pictures of them fill two walls in her living room.

“I’m just going to stay home and appreciate what I have,” Marshall said last Thursday.

She noted that whenever she travels on a plane now, she always takes her children with her. “They are my life,” she said.

Despite the unending anxieties she must still struggle with, Marshall still focuses on the good that nevertheless grew out of these horrific experiences. For one, she said, she appreciates life so much more now.

“I think back then, of the fur coat, the diamonds and wearing expensive clothes, and none of those things were important,” she said. “Sept. 11 affected my understanding of life, my patients and how fast life can be lost,” Marshall continued. “When I’m driving behind people who honk at me to go faster now, I pull over and let them go. Or if my boss is yelling at me, I’ve learned that if you just take that deep breath, it soothes so much of the anger.”

Also, Marshall has two new friends, Robinson and Sciequan. She’ll never forget how Robinson helped her, and two years after 9/11, she returned to his courthouse with her twins.

“They came back, and that meant a lot to me,” Robinson said, “because I never ever thought I’d see them again.”

“I kind of cried when I met him,” Marshall recalled. “I explained to him, that it was important for me to have my children meet him. It was very emotional for me.”

And Sciequan visits her Harbor Isle home for the twins’ birthday each September. At last year’s party, Marshall’s son, Aiden, thanked Sciequan. “The boy came up to me and said, ‘Aunt B.J., thank you for saving my mom from the World Trade Center,” Sciequan said. “I wanted to cry.”

Please post a comment about this article. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

Monday, September 3, 2007

Gambling: 'Err on the side of freedom'

Here is an opinion piece that illustrates why Jeff Jacoby, a conservative columnist for the Boston Globe, remains one of my favorite commentators.


“So it goes, year after year, in state after state: Entrepreneurs and investors who ought to have the same freedom to operate a casino as they would to open a shoe store or start a newspaper are forced instead to run an exhausting and expensive political gauntlet, often with no guarantee that casino gambling will even be permitted, let alone that they'll win a license to build one. How many other peaceful businesses offering a popular form of entertainment face such formidable legal and political barriers to entry?

“Why do state governments treat casinos and their would-be owners this way? It can't be from any inherent objections to gambling -- 42 states have government-run lotteries, with annual revenues of more than $50 billion. It can't be because gambling is intrinsically immoral. Countless churches and religious organizations raise funds through bingo, lotteries, and Las Vegas nights. And it certainly can't be said that gambling flouts our national tradition. The Continental Congress established a national lottery to help finance the Revolutionary War. Riverboat gambling thrived on Mark Twain's Mississippi. Saloon gambling was a mainstay of the California Gold Rush. Gambling is as American as bourbon and Betsy Ross.”