Thursday, September 14, 2023

A Day In The Life - Throwback Thursday

It’s 4 AM and I've awoken to the Beatles "A Day in the Life" playing in my head, sadly for me most the “people” I know are still sleeping.

Most those who wake up at 4 AM will just roll over, fluff their pillow, and drift off back to sleep. 

But to me, one of the best things about living part time in Charleston's historic district, an area void of look alike cloned houses and silent streets after 9:30 of urban planned subdivisions, my Charleston neighborhood is alive, even in the small hours that follow midnight.

The city is respectfully quiet, but there is life at every turn and knowing that I have two eager friends to walk along with me, makes the choice to go for a 4 AM walk easy. They never need encouragement, their otter tails banging everything in reach, my two happy clowns who the rest of the world calls "Labs" are ready to go and the three of us bound out the door.

Thunderstorms swept through Charleston around midnight and some of the streets are still flooded something you learn to live with if you call Charleston home.


Up on Broad the Blind Tiger has closed but the staff are still cleaning up. Along the East Bay a lone patrol car sits, the officer inside completing paperwork looks up just long enough to recognize Madison and Callie, he knows the dogs but doesn’t know or acknowledge me.

The section known to all as Rainbow Row is dark and void of her famous pastel colors, simply muted tones of gray and white.

Along high battery all is quiet the harbor shrouded in low hanging clouds passing swiftly out to sea. It's still and the water seems nearly motionless.

Charleston is a city of subtle oddities. South Battery Street is a block from The Battery and the street that runs along the battery is called Murray Boulevard.

Years ago, they filled in the marshland that had grown up over the years along the Ashley River after all the small ships and wharfs shut down. Someone decided to build a sea wall and the property became prime real-estate and so with the sea pushed back, homes sprang up.

In the dark dampness of the predawn hours I notice a lone fisherman, his pole, cooler and bucket. A lit cigarette in his mouth, he eyes my two dogs cautiously gives a friendly wave and casts his bait into the tide.

My grandfather taught me long ago a secret that fishing wasn’t just about where but about when, the moon and the tides all played into catching fish and tonight at 4 AM the fishing is good. But this secret was not only a secret to me, for scattered down the concrete edge of the Ashley River are no less than 30 cars outside each darkened car are couple of poles and buckets. These buckets are about fifty feet apart, another fifty feet and another fisherman. Some sit, some lean, some are asleep in their cars, those who came together take turns watching the pole and checking their bait.

At 4 AM this is an surprising sight and in the darkness their black faces are hard to see, they are all black and they are all fishing.

Good Morning, says Trenton, he’s afraid of Madison and Callie he says “Man them two dogs are so black I didn’t even see them until you was right here”. 

I laugh and he knows why I’m laughing. Other than the fish Trenton just put in his bucket I’m the only white thing on the battery this early in the morning and Trenton is no easier to see than Madison or Callie.

I circle the dogs back about ten feet and tell both “down”, and they drop like Marines on a drill sergeant’s command.

Trenton asks if they are black labs and stops me from answering by adding.

"I know they black."

I polity tell him yes they are black labs

They bite?

No Sir, I offer.

And they’ll just stay there.

Yes Sir, I reply. They will stay like that until I say OK lets go.

He’s talking to me keeping an eye on Madison and Callie just in case they make a move.

Trenton tells me the moon is right and at slack tide so you fish when they are biting and proudly shows me a bucket of small fish.

Up and Down the battery the buckets are filled with the same small fish. Fishing is, as Trenton says, “real good”. Trenton tells me he's been fishing here at night for as long as he can remember, and that he used to come here with his father and his grandfather.

I learn they both have "passed" and that his sons want no part of fish, or fishing and so Trenton fishes alone.

We leave Trenton and the other fisherman behind and make out way past the Coast Guard Station and in no time we are back home again.

We’ll leave Charleston alone for now. 

The black mass of fur has curled up into one ball each dog on top of the other. Two pairs of eyes look up at me and the tails thump the floor as if to say we'll ready to go again.

Stay, I tell them, and Madison lets out a big sigh.

Dawn is still mercifully just an hour away. Sleep is not easy to come by with so much to do at 4 AM and then it starts again:

Woke up, fell out of bed

Dragged a comb across my head

Found my way downstairs and drank a cup

And looking up, I noticed I was late

Found my coat and grabbed my hat

Made the bus in seconds flat

Found my way upstairs and had a smoke

And somebody spoke and I went into a dream

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Monday, September 11, 2023

One Man's Story 9/11 September 11, 2001

On September 11, 2001 I was thankfully 700 miles away in Charlotte. To this day I’m haunted by this memory.

There are things that tie this nation together, Pearl Harbor, Challenger, and 9/11 as it has come to be known. But now 22 years on, many people not directly affected by the great loss of life or living in New York at the time may have forgotten the hours immediately after the first plane roared into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

The current president Joe Biden will skip today's ceremonies in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. It is his belief that it is time for our Nation to move on. He has said the same about Pearl Harbor in the past.

Certainly anyone over the age of 30 understands what happened that day, but still only a small number of Americans know what New York was like during the attack and in the first hours after.

As I said above CP was thankfully not in New York on September 11th having left the city two days prior. I watched the second plane impact the South Tower live on television. The rest of the day is a distant memory, except for the silence in the air that afternoon. Unknown to me one of my colleagues a fellow investment professional was at ground zero.

His story arrived 2 days later via fax at my office. The images at the bottom of this post are of that fax that I've kept in my top desk drawer for the last 22 years. 

Today I'm sharing one man's story unedited with the exception that I've added times and dates for clarity.

(The images you will have to click on each image to enlarge) 

From Jay:

My Memories of the day, September 11, 2001

September 11, 2001 will long be remembered as one of the darkest hours in this country’s history. It should also be remembered as one the brightest as thousands of selfless human beings attempted to save lives and a country rallied around all those that had be affected by the horrific acts of cowards who acted supposedly in the name of God. For me it was a day that I will remember for a lifetime.

I left Charlotte on September 10th with my colleague Courtenay Miller and our client Rich Covelli to travel to NYC. We were scheduled to meet with Moody’s Investor Service and MIBA the following day to discuss our golf pool program. We arrived at Newark Airport on time and were met by Concorde Limo for the short drive into Manhattan. As approached the Holland Tunnel, the skyline of NYC towered in the distance. It is an impressive sight.

SEPTEMBER 10, 2001 12:30 p.m.

We checked into the Marriot Hotel and then met up with our other colleague, Clyde Measey. We grabbed a bite to eat in the Tall Ships restaurant right there in the Marriott. We discussed our presentation and established the three major point to get across to each party the following day. After lunch we all parted company until 5:00 p.m. when we met for drinks before having dinner at Grammercy Tavern (Danny Meyer’s restaurant) at 7:00 p.m.

During the afternoon, I decided to run up to Central Park. Not a smart idea, as it turned out to be a lot farther than I had remembered. After making my way up to the Park. I knew that if I want to get back to the hotel in time for dinner, I had better take a subway or I would never make it back in time. I was sever so proud of myself as I found the E train and took it down to the World Trade Center and walked through the concourse back to the hotel. I showered, changed clothes and met everyone upstairs before departing for the restaurant.

SEPTEMBER 10, 2001 7:00 p.m.

Dinner at Grammercy Tavern was delicious. Each person had something different and each person raved about the food and the service. After consuming too many chocolate desserts, we left and headed back downtown to our hotel. Since it had been raining during our dinner, cads were at a premium and it took us sometime to locate one. Our cab ride was anything but uneventful. The driver was a Colombian woman who declared to all of us that she was a part time cabby and part time drug runner. She told us she would rather be a full time drug dealer but the risk of being put in prison or being wiped out by the drug lords scared her too much. The entire ride back to the hotel she raged on about the United States, its useless attempt to curtail the drug business, its corruption, filth and two-faced policies. While spouting forth and driving, she continually played with her chest under her shirt and kept putting her hand on my leg. Unsetting to say the least. As we approached the hotel she took us in the back way right past the garage entrance to Tower 1. For a moment I remember the bombing eight years ago and wondered to myself if such an event would ever occur again. Little did I know what would occur the following morning?

After several cigars and beers later for the boys (I had another coke) at the Tall Ships bar, we adjourned for the night deciding on the time to meet for breakfast downstairs in the atrium restaurant. We agreed on 8:30 a.m. instead of 8:00 a.m., as we didn’t have our first meeting until 10:00 a.m., and the walk to Moody’s was just four blocks. We all headed to our respective rooms.

SEPTEMBER 10, 2001 10:30 p.m.

Dead tired from my long jog/walk to Central Park, I crashed for the night at around 10:30 p.m. I tossed and turned for the most of the night. I kept thinking it was so strange not to be sleeping well as I had gotten such a work out that afternoon. 

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 6:00 a.m.

I spent several house watching TV and as the sky began to lighten at past six, I arose for the day and showered and watched the morning news.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 8:00 a.m.

I left my room at 8:10 a.m. to meet everyone for breakfast. As I entered the restaurant, I saw Rich sitting on the upper right hand side. He was the only one present as the time. I sat down with Rich and we discussed various topics including the dinner the night before and our strategies for the meeting that day. As the clock approached 8:40 a.m., both Rich and I agreed to go ahead and order and when Courtenay and Clyde joined us they could order then. Our food arrived within minutes and Rich commented to the waiter “What took you so long?” The waiter laughed as it only been 3 or 4 minutes since taking our order and the time the food arrived.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 8:46 a.m.

I had just began to eat my eggs when I heard and felt a huge explosion. Within seconds there was a second blast which was much louder and severe that the first. The impact of this blast knocked me nearly off my chair. Not being able to comprehend what had happened, everyone in the restaurant just looked around in disbelief. Within seconds it became apparent that something horrific had happened as some type of debris began crashing through the restaurant’s glass atrium onto the food and patrons below. Being located on a raised level of the restaurant there was above us a solid ceiling so that no glass was crashing onto our heads. This was not the case for the other patrons and waiters and waitresses, so as debris continued to crash through the roof, chaos broke out.

Those caught under the glass roof began running towards us to seek cover under the ceiling portion of the restaurant and the tables themselves. Rich and I were looking for cover under the tables but the tables were already jammed with wild-eyed panicked screaming patrons.

As fireballs of debris continue to rain down from above, reality hit both Rich and I and we agreed to make a run for it. As we leapt over bewilder, frantic people to make our escape the debris continued to crash through the atrium and just as we made our way to the restaurant’s front door a body came crashing through the roof and landed on the floor just feet from both (of) us. 

As we continued our run, I noticed the people outside the hotel in the open area between the two towers running in all directions. All of them had their arms over their heads and totally panic-stricken looks on their faces. The open area they were running through was strewn with massive amounts of burning debris and what appeared to be a whole bunch of white chalk or dust. (I didn’t realize until later that the “dust” was pulverized concreate.) One frantic man was within feet of the door from the outside into the hotel when he was struck and killed by a falling piece of steel. 

The scene was unimaginable and incomprehensible. I had never seen a person die and after witnessing two people killed within seconds and within several feet of me, my mind became filled with an indescribable sense of terror. I realized that Rich and I were in a run for our own lives. I began praying that I would live so that I could tell my wife, daughters and other family members just how much I loved them. I just kept telling myself, you cannot die; keep going, get out of the building before something else horrendous happens.

Realizing I was in the middle of an enormous unfolding disaster, Rich and I raced through the 2nd floor lobby headed for the stairs that would lead us down to the ground floor lobby of the hotel. As we made our decent down the stairs, there were hundreds of people standing around the door looking confused, crying and screaming and not moving anywhere. Most people appeared to be in total shock and like me unable to comprehend what was truly happening. As Rich and I reached the front door, one of the hotel clerks told us not to leave the building. Another police officer said it was safer to stay inside. I wasn’t listening. My only thought at the moment was to get the hell out of the building because the building was located on top of the World Trade Center garage and basement and maybe there was another bomb about to go off. So Rich and I raced out of the doors and what we saw next caused us both to stop dead in our tracks.

From the top of the front steps of the Marriott Hotel the landscape had been transformed into what I imagine the surface of the moon to look like. The road, the sidewalks, the signs, the cars, the cabbies and just about everything you could see in front of you was covered with a layer of grayish white dust. Scattered among the dust were burning fragments of paper, steel, clothing and body parts. The entire area looked like a war zone. As I regained my mental capacity, I told Rich to follow me and we began to run across the northbound lanes of West Street.  As we cleared the median separating the north and southbound lanes, I noticed that all of the cars on the street were scattered around facing in all different directions and of the windshields of these cars were shattered. AS we ran across the southbound lanes we came within feet of a white car that was no longer headed southbound but instead had crashed headfirst into the median on the right hand side of the southbound leans. Its driver was no longer living as his head was hanging out the driver’s side of the car blood was gushing from the side of his head.

As we continued in the direction of the Merrill Lynch building, One Financial Plaza, the carnage scattered about was numbing. I still did not realize what had happened, as I had not yet looked behind me back in the direction of the Trade Center. When we reached the corner of the Financial Plaza (approximately 150 feet from the entrance to the Marriot Hotel) Rich and I both stooped running to catch our breath and re-orient ourselves to the situation around us. It was at this point that I look east back toward the Marriot and saw for the first time the inferno that was raging 80 floors up in North Tower (Tower 1).  I remember thinking, oh my God how are the ever going to put that fire out.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 9:02 a.m.

I still did not know what had caused the fire. I thought it might have been a bomb, a transformer blowing up, a plane off course, etc.  I had no idea it had been a terrorist attack nor did those around me. The scene for that moment was one of total pandemonium. People were screaming, crying, shaking and holding each other. Rich and I kept saying to each other, “we’re okay”, “we’re oaky” but then it hit us both that we did not know where Courtenay and Clyde were at the time of the explosion and we wanted to find them right away. To help locate them, we decided to stay close to the Merrill Lynch building in hopes that we would catch a glimpse of them leaving the building and call to them to come join us until the crisis subsided.

While standing watching the entrance to the hotel, Rich was able to call his wife on his cell phone and leave her a message. He told her “the World Trade Center was on fire. Jay and I are okay. We don’t know where Courtenay and Clyde are but we assume they are fine too. Please call Suzanne, Jay’s wife and let her know he is okay”.

As we stood taking in the situation unfolding around us, emergency vehicles began arriving at the scene and the police were in an orderly fashion pushing people back across the street towards the Hudson River to make room of the emergency response teams. As help arrived at the ground level, all Hell was breaking lose in the North Tower (Tower Number 1). Those desperate folks trapped in the burning tower were screaming for help. They were waving towels, clothes and any other object they could use to draw attention to themselves. Despite their frantic scream for help, no one was able to reach them and many were left with only one option: jump or suffer a worse fate. It was impossible to believe but out of sheer desperation and agony person after person leapt from the top floors to their death. As each one jumped people on the ground began screaming and sobbing. <y emotions were reeling. At one moment I felt helpless, another a coward – I should go help, another moment sick to my stomach and still another this is a horrible nightmare and O am going to wake up soon. I truly did not know what to do, where to go or what was going to happen next. I feared for my own life and wanted desperately to be home with Suzanne, Lauren and Sarah. I also wanted to find my friend Courtenay.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 9:03 a.m.

As my mind and emotions attempted to create some rational thought process, my whole being was shattered to the core as I dead a deafening roar and then looked up to see what speared to be a tail of either a plane, or a missile slam into the South Tower. The blast was deafening and the heat emitted from the explosion could be felt on our faces – we were that close to the blast. At this point I knew the city was under attack and I was scared to death. I did not know what to do or where to go. Rich and I just started running away from The South Tower towards the Hudson River. I wanted to get away from any building because I didn’t know which building was going to be hit next.

As we ran to the river, I dropped Rich’s cell phone. Desperation set in. I had lost the only thing that could give us access at some point to our loved ones. Luckily some nice guy picked it up and delivered it back to me and Rich reassembled the phone.

As we regrouped along the riverfront adjacent to the marina, I know our next route of escape was going to have to be to jump into the river. I told Rich about the current and looked for a piling that we could each hold onto should it ever become necessary. I figured the water would protect us from any flames.

After several minutes of no further attacks, I began to develop our game plan of how to get out of the city. I told Rich that we needed to make our way north. By going north, we would avoid being scattered with more debris as the prevailing winds that day were from the north. We thought about taking the ferry across the Hudson River to New Jersey but decided against is as we realized that brought us closer to Newark Airport and all those people trying to find rides out of the metro area. I decided at that point to attempt to make to MetroNorth at 125th street. I believed if we made it there we could get a train to White Plains and pick up a rental car and drive back to Charlotte and Hilton Head. I did not want to go to Grand Central because I wasn’t sure whether or not is was open or in fact whether is was the target of another attack.

Agreeing on moving north, Rich and I made our way around the marina. We were on the southern side of the marina after our run from the second explosion so moving north meant moving close to the Marriot hotel before being able to move further away. Rich was a little apprehensive about getting close to another tall building but we moved anyway. As we were making these decisions, we were continually attempting to make voice contact via cell phone with Bridget to check on the status of Courtenay and to notify our loved ones that we were still okay. 

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 9:59 a.m.

As we made our way to the northern edge of the marina, I heard another horrific blast and looked in the direction of the noise. What I thought I saw I could not comprehend…. The shell of the South Tower was peeling away from the core of the building and the floors were crumbling into each other like dominoes. The roar became a 100-foot high wall of glass, steel, pulverized concrete and paper and this wall of debris was rushing toward us at an ungodly pace. In a split second we knew we had to run to get out of the way the crashing building.

Rich and I both took off running parallel to the Hudson River as the cloud got closer and closer over our right shoulders. As we ran we lost view of each other as you had to watch your step so as not fall over those that had fallen, those that had had a heart attack or those there were suffering from asthmatic attacks. After running until I could run no longer, (I had run out of sidewalk and there was nowhere else to run except to jump into the river in front of me), I stopped to check out my situation. Fortunately for me the majority of the cloud had continued to move westward and not northward. That meant the cloud around me was just the peripheral edge of the cloud and not the black cloud which enveloped the area right behind me. As I looked behind me I saw the cloud race out into the river to the shoreline of New Jersey. In its wake, there was debris everywhere and hundreds of people dazed and confused and covered with ash and soot. Many more were floating in the river, either forced in by the blast or there by their own accord. No matter where you looked there were faces filled with total disbelief, fear and terror.  

While standing at the corner of the sidewalk and river, I frantically began searching for Rich among the thousands of other people that surrounded me. I knew Rich was as panicked as me and I knew we were much better together than apart. He was after all not only my client but my friend. After a few silent prayerful seconds, I spotted Rich and yelled to him. He heard me and we were once again reunited to continue together this horrendous ordeal.

We both looked at each other in total disbelief. Did we just see what we saw? It could not be. The South Tower did not just implode in less than 15 seconds. It just could not have happened!

Stunned and dazed, Rich and I continued to attempt to walk north. By this time, we were in a massive crowd of equally dazed and frightened people. No one could process the magnitude of the disaster and no one wanted to attempt to comprehend how many innocent lives had been lost in the rubble. 

As we made our way back towards West Street, I could see for the first time, the impact side of the North Tower and the continuing inferno that rage from the upper floors. The devastation was more severe that I had thought and I then knew the inevitable – the North Tower was going to collapse as well. My thoughts continued to be with those trapped on those upper floors. It was incomprehensible to imagine their suffering or fate. It was unimaginable that another “human” could have done this to thousands of innocent people.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 10:28 a.m.

Before I had time to think anymore, The North Tower began to sink into itself.  It occurred with the same noise, cloud and chaos that had accompanied the first collapse. But this time you were able to see that the tower was collapsing into itself and falling straight down. This was evidenced by the descent of the radio tower which had once stood on top of the building. The radio tower fell straight down and never toppled over. Once again, my mind was reeling with feeling of total and complete denial and fear. Who could have ever imagined that within two hours the world’s largest buildings would have been reduced to a pile of burning rubble? Who could have imagined that thousands of innocent people would lie dying or dead underneath this rubble? I couldn’t comprehend any of it and I simple muttered, Oh my God, Oh my God.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 10:15 a.m.

It was now 10:15 a.m. and I was consumed with trying to reach Suzanne by phone. Rich’s phone did not work and there were not any land lines out on the where we had run to escape the masses. While mingling around looking in the direction of where the two towers used to stand, we were once again assaulted with a thunderous roar overhead. People ducked, jumped and screamed. We all thought it was another place headed for yet another landmark building in NYC. It was not. It was rather the roar of the engines of a United States Air Force F16. I have never been so relieved to hear the words “those are our guys. That’s the United States Air Force. It’s all okay.” You wanted to believe the words, but I really didn’t know if it was “all okay.” Who knew if there was another onslaught of planes inbound for another part of the city? What we did know is that we wanted to distance ourselves from the area as quickly as possible.  

We began our trek north towards 125th street walking up West Street along the riverfront. We were two of thousands doing the same thing. What struck me at this point in the nightmare was the total calmness of those around us. There were hundreds of thousands of people just walking in an orderly fashion, one foot after another. The screaming and crying had subsided. In its place was the constant piercing sirens of police, fire and other rescue vehicles. 

Rich and I agreed we wanted to get away from the masses so we crossed over the northbound lanes and headed north on a road in from the West Side Drive. We stopped for a bottle of water to quench our parched mouth and throats. Unfortunately the first place was without any more water and it was not until several more blocks that we located a place with water.

We just kept walking, looking for an open landline to call our loved ones. Looking for a chance to make contract with those we knew would be concerned. This is where I realized the old saying was true; "sometimes it is easier to be the patient than the bystander.” Each phone we approached had ten or more people waiting and those on the phone didn’t appear to be having short conversations. So we pushed on. 

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 11:00 a.m.

Finally at approximately 11:00 a.m. I was able to find a landline and call collect to Bridget in Charlotte. I knew Suzanne wasn’t home and I knew Bridget could try lots of phone numbers and not disconnect me. So I called Bridget. The joy and relief I felt when I finally got through was overwhelming. I knew now that no one would have to worry any longer because Bridget would be able to track Suzanne down and tell her that I was okay. I cried when I heard Bridget’s voice and she told me that Courtenay and Clyde had called in and they were okay too. When Bridget tied in Suzanne and I heard her voice, my adrenaline stopped momentarily, and I couldn’t do anything but weep.

After regaining composure, Suzanne and I talked briefly and then I returned to my number one mission: get the hell out of the city.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 1:00 p.m.

Rich and I continued by foot northbound. We stopped at a little after one o’clock at an open air-restaurant to grab another water or possible something to eat. We were able to find a table inside and see for the first time with our own eyes exactly what had happened. The restaurant had at least six tv’s on the walls and every station had another tape of the actual place going into the second tower. I remember thinking, this is not possible. You are having the worst nightmare of your life. You are going to wake up and some director is going to yell, “cut”. Nothing in my life had prepared me for the four hours I had just experienced. 

After a bite or two of a grilled chicken sandwich, conversations with perfect strangers and a hug from one of the strangers we deiced to push on. We attempted to hail a cab but to no avail. No cabby was taking new passengers. The street below 50th street were being left open for emergency vehicles. At this point we had 100 blocks to go (5 miles). So we continued to move north.

By this time, Rich’s expensive dress shoes had given him blisters and he had resorted to putting napkins inside his socks as to give his feet some relief from the pain. We both agreed this pain was far less than the being suffered by so many behind us at the World Trade Center so we stopped talking about the discomfort and pushed on.

At 79th Street we spotted a host of rental car locations. My heart seemed, for the first time in six house, to leap for joy. Maybe just maybe they would have a car and we could high tail it up the West Side Drive and get out of NYC?  Rich headed towards Hertz and I headed toward National. To our surprise and utter disappointment and frustration, no one had a car to rent us. Each attendant had the same answer; “I’m sorry. There isn’t a car left in NYC.” Words we dreaded to hear. Crestfallen, we each looked at each other and knew we only had one alternative; keep walking.

By 86th Street, Rich was really in great pain. We needed a ride to 125th Street or find a shoe store where we could replace our dress shoes with sneakers. We looked up and down block after block but no store was open. Every store had closed for the day and stores were now behind those metal gates used to keep the masses out at night. Up to this point I had not noticed this fact before. But as I looked around, it appeared that the majority of the city had closed and the city had become a ghost town. No wonder there weren’t any rental cars.

We keep walking. By the time we had made it to 90th and Broadway, Rich said he just couldn’t go any further and he would find us a ride from one of those “assholes” who were heading north and had not stopped to help us. Rich stood at the intersection of 90th and Broadway and asked several cars for a ride. It was not until a Porky’s meat truck stopped at that the light did Rich have any success. The truck driver agreed to take us to 125th and we both hopped up into the cab and shared one seat all the way to 125th. Despite one seat and jarring from each little bump, the ride beat walking and neither one of even thought of complaining. It was in fact the first time I smiled or laughed that day. 

At 125th, the truck driver let us off. We offered him $50.00 but he refused it. He told us no and said he was only too glad to help us given what we had been through that day. We thanked him profusely and he said God Bless you. It was yet another time that I cried as his simple act of kindness restored my belief in humanity and a part of my broken heart. 

I thought when the driver left us that we were at the metro north station. Oh how wrong was I. We were on 125th but clear across on the opposite side of 125th for the station. So we had yet another mile plus to go to reach the train. Rich still needed sneakers so we found “Harlem Sneakers” and we each purchased a pair. What a sight we must have been with both of us in business attire except for me in my black and red Nikes and Rich in his gray and silver Air Jordan’s.

We finally reached the station, waited several minutes and boarded the Harlem Division for the ride up to North White Plains. We sat down for the first time in five hours and oh how good it felt. As we rounded the bend on the train and began to cross over the Harlem River, I could still see the smoke billowing from lower Manhattan. It hit home once again. We had been spared from a horrific disaster. God had spared our lives and those of Courtenay and Clyde. Why? Why were we the lucky ones and yet so many other, thousand perhaps, were not so lucky. I couldn’t comprehend it and I couldn’t think about it anymore because I was exhausted both physically and mentally. It did not stop the guilt though as I sat in the air-conditioned comfort of the soft train seat. 

We arrived at the Bronxville station and got off. We looked for a place to grab another water and a phone booth once again to call our loved one and let them know of our status. We were able to find a phone and I called home. I talked for the first time to my oldest daughter Lauren. Her voice sounded so good that it took me a couple of seconds of tears and silence to continue the conversation. Lauren used her cell phone to call and make us reservation at the Rye Town Hilton. When she had them confirmed, we hung up and Rich and I hailed a cad and dove to the hotel.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 6:05 p.m.

Upon arriving at the Rye Town Hilton, we were told there was only one room available but once we explained what we had been through, the nice clerk gave us each a room. After checking in we went to the gift shop and both purchased a pair of swim trunks, t-shirts and some toiletries. We agreed to meet back in the bar area after getting a shower and making some calls. I was able to talk to Suzanne, Lauren Sarah, my parents, brother and sister, and my in-laws Janet and Cowles, It was so comforting to hear each one of their voices and know that within a short time I would be able to be re-united with all of them. 

SEPTEMBER 12, 2001 8:00 a.m.

The next day Chip came to meet Rich and me for breakfast. What a sight for sore eyes and what a joy to be able to hug him. It was what I now know was the beginning of the healing process. We ate together and then Chip took us to the North White Plains train station to rent a car. We left with our new red Trans AM car for the long journey back to Charlotte and then Hilton Head for Rich. A long hug good-bye, some tears and laughter and we were off on our 675-mile trek south.

SEPTEMBER 12, 2001 10:00 a.m.

The car ride was filled with emotion as Rich and I both grappled with the disaster and the events of the prior day. I remember crossing the Tappan Zee Bridge and looking south to the city and seeing the smoke still hovering over the tip of Manhattan. The sight sent chills though my body and a renewed fear that something still might happen. I accelerated faster over the bridge and remember breathing a sigh of relief as we cleared the expanse. Now it was only a matter of hours until I was able to wrap my arms around Suzanne and the girls.

As we drove south, I remember day dreaming. My mind was filled with the anguish of what I had witnessed the prior day. My emotions ranged from rage to utter devastation for the families that had lost their loved ones. I kept asking why? Why in a world like ours could such a horrendous act occur? How could God have allowed this to happen? Slowly but surely it became a little clearer. God didn’t have a hand in this act of terror. 

He was probably feeling the same sense of sadness that we all were feeling. He was probably thinking, how in the world could one of His children have done such a thing? That realization gave me a great feeling of comfort but I continued to prat that my own desire for retribution and hatred toward he cowards who carried out these acts would subside in time.

The drive was long and arduous. The car was silent for long periods of time and then at others there were expressions of anger, pain, anguish and joy. The emotions ran the gamut; tears, smiles, laughter and silence.

September 12, 2001 9:15 p.m.

We finally made it home to Charlotte at around 9:15 p.m. I dropped Rich off at his son’s house and watched as Rich hugged his son Tom. It was a reunion of father and son and such a joyous one at that. I lingered for only a short time as I longed to be doing the same thing with Suanne, Lauren and Sarah.

September 12, 2001 9:25 p.m.

I arrived home at 9:25 p.m. and found the back door locked so I rang the bell. I didn’t have any keys as they were in the rubble of the disaster in NYC. I heard Lauren’s voice and I began to cry. I will never forget how good it was to wrap my arms around her when she opened the door and then to be able to do that two more time with Sarah and Suzanne.

That night I lay awake thanking God for all that He had given me. For my safety; the love of my family; the love of friends and colleagues; my life and for being an American. I had a lot to be thankful for and this event reconfirmed to me those blessings thousands of time over.

As I regain the normalcy back into my life, I continue to mourn like all Americans and God fearing people across this world. I have confidence in mankind and know that good will eventually win out over evil. I still cannot fully process the carnage I witnessed on September 11th. But I can share with other the heroism of other human beings as I witnessed many selfless people attempt to save the lives of other human beings. The memories and the love of my family and friend that I cling to and it is this type of goodness that I cherish most about this glorious country we all call America. 

As that wonderful song says, “I am proud to be an American” and I know America and all of its people have the might and strength to recover from this tragedy and eventually triumph over evil.

Foot Notes:

2,606 people in the Twin Towers including 343 firefighters and 71 NYPD and Port Authority Police officers perished more than 5,500 were injured.

A total of 2,977 deaths and more than 6,000 injured including the Pentagon and Shanksville Pennsylvania crash. 

The 19 hijackers are currently standing at the gates of hell denied entry to their promised paradise even hell won’t take them.  

In 2001 not everyone had a cellphone and yes there were payphones all over New York. 

Today there are more Uber and Lyft drivers than Taxi Cabs.

The 2001 Trans AM was an awesome car.

Harlem Sneakers on 125th Street is now Sneaker Den 

Porky’s Trucks both “Box” and “18 Wheelers” still roll along the streets of NYC.

Rich Covelli is now is his mid 70’s and lives at Lake Norman. He ran C2 Advisors and Pension Advisory Group which closed in 2018.

Courtenay Miller is still active in the business and is with Park Avenue Securities a division of Consolidated Planning.

Clyde Measey is with Fifth Third Bank at the time he was director of development with Golden Bear International. He resigned from Golden Bear September 2001. 

Jay I’ve lost touch with but I've kept this letter (Fax) for 22 years a reminder of what was lost that day. No we should never forget, we should never move on.

Cedar's Take: I'm still stunned at what happened that crystal clear Carolina morning in September and while I lost no friends or family in the attack the pain is just as if I had. 

My grandfather a Navy vet never hated the Germans but he despised the "Japs". I never understood why until 9/11. It takes a pretty horrific event to make an entire group of people the most hated and despised of the world's population. Muslims have unfortunately accomplished just that. 

Friday, September 8, 2023

Fort Sumter September 9, 1863

Tomorrow will mark the 160th anniversary of the only Union attempt to storm the South Carolina fort where the Civil War began — an attack doomed to failure by rivalries between Union commanders, poor planning and the fact the Confederates knew exactly what was coming.

The September. 9, 1863, attack on Fort Sumter was, like the Confederate bombardment of the fort in Charleston Harbor that opened the war more than two years earlier, a complete Southern victory.

This time, with the Confederates holding the fort, about 500 Union sailors and Marines in small boats approached Sumter in an unusual nighttime operation. But after about 20 minutes the shooting was over.

There were about 125 Union casualties — five killed, 16 wounded and the rest captured — while the Confederates lost not a man.

"The federals lose five boats. They lose five stands of colors and they have 11 officers captured. It's bad"  Rick Hatcher, a historian at the Fort Sumter National Monument said ten years ago during the 150th anniversary. 

The fight made national news at the time. Now, 160 years later, that fight like many others during the war has been lost amid bigger milestones such as the Battle of Gettysburg and the fall of Vicksburg earlier in the summer of 1863.

The Union wanted Charleston for two reasons, Hatcher said a decade ago.

"This is where rebellion and treason began," Hatcher said. "Charleston was also the most successful blockade running port in the Confederacy."

The attack developed after the Confederates evacuated Battery Wagner on Morris Island three days earlier. Wagner was the battery that the black 54th Massachusetts soldiers unsuccessfully stormed earlier that summer — their exploits chronicled in the movie "Glory."

What the 54th could not capture, the Union forced the Confederates to abandon when their siege lines moved closer to the oceanfront battery. Capturing Sumter seemed the next step in taking Charleston.

Rear Admiral John Dahlgren, commanding Union naval forces, wrote in his log he was informed by Army Gen. Quincy Adams Gillmore that Wagner had been evacuated.

"The island is ours," he wrote. "I sent a flag demanding surrender of Sumter". Answer: 'Come and take it,'" he writes in the log included in the "Official Records of the War of the Rebellion."
Dahlgren and Gillmore both wanted the glory of taking Charleston for themselves and both planned an attack for the same night without consulting the other, Hatcher said.

"Your dispatch by signal that you intended to assault Sumter tonight reached me about an hour after I had sent a letter by one of my staff informing you I intended to do the same," Gillmore telegraphed Dahlgren. "In an operation of this kind there should be but one commander to insure success and prevent mistakes."

But there was no cooperation. When the Navy began its attack before Gillmore could began his, he recalled his 500 troops. Dahlgren's remaining 500 sailors and Marines were hampered by poor planning.

"Dahlgren hasn't done any reconnaissance. He hadn't sent out any boats at night to see what the situation is and he provides no scaling ladders," Hatcher said. The attackers were in small boats pulled toward the fort by a tug boat and then set adrift. Three Union warships that were supposed to provide supporting fire never got into the battle.

"Some of the sailors and Marines can't make their way through all the debris by the fort that has been knocked down by the earlier bombardment," Hatcher said. "Some make it to the second level but then hit a straight wall and have no ladders."

"After casting off from the tug, I pulled up to the northeast face of the fort," Lt. F.J. Higginson of the USS Housatonic wrote in his report. "I succeeded in reaching the fort and immediately attempted to land. I found myself upon a narrow ledge of rocks in which no foothold could be obtained."

The Confederates, who had recovered a Union code book from a sunken ironclad when Union naval forces attempted to run past Sumter earlier that year, could read federal signals and knew what was planned.

After the fight, Union forces would never attempt to assault Sumter again. Hatcher said that in the following months, the Charleston blockade was tightened and East Coast blockade running shifted to Wilmington, N.C.

The battle for Charleston "pretty much devolved into a stalemate" with troops from both sides being shifted into other theaters of the war.

With the blockade solidified, there was no real imperative for the Union to take Charleston "other than the moral factor of putting a U.S. flag again over the city," Hatcher said

The Union would never take Charleston. It was abandoned in early 1865 when U.S. Gen. William T. Sherman marched through South Carolina to the west, cutting the city's lines of communication.

Today's revisionist history attempts to portray Confederate forces as illiterate racists and treasonist traitors. Often described by today's liberals as MAGA extremists, hate filled inbred knuckle dragging southerners who only wish was the enslavement of the black man. And of course losers.

However history still proves that the Confederate soldier served out of allegiance not to slavery rather to the belief in self-governance and state's rights. They fought without compensation or conscription. An all volunteer force commanded by superior military tacticians who would had prevailed had they garnered the support of a benefactor nation as Ukraine enjoys today.

The war for Southern Independence was lost because they were outnumbered and outgunned. 

Today the war continues as a war of culture. Liberalism vs conservatism, wholesomeness vs debauchery, faith vs decadence, patriotism vs communism, responsibility vs dependence on subsidies, honor vs lawlessness and finally right vs wrong.

This I believe.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

US Army Capt. Larry Taylor Medal of Honor (Back Story)

By now you have likely watched President Joe Biden fumbling around while presenting US Army Capt Larry Taylor with the Medal of Honor.

An awkward salute and Biden then turns his back to Captain Taylor and walks off stage before the ceremony is over, leaving the Capitan standing by himself brushing tears aside.

Perhaps if Joe Biden understood the back story he would have had more interest. Nah he wouldn't but in case you do here it is:

Sgt. David Hill’s team leader gestured for him to get down. He and his two other teammates softly lowered themselves, careful not to make any noise.

Out on a standard reconnaissance mission, the four-soldier team had only moments ago reversed course after the team leader had used a Starlight scope to spot enemy soldiers blocking three sides around them in the pitch-black South Vietnam night.

Now with the fourth side blocked, the team squatted, boxed in and alone.

“We were in a Custer-like situation,” Hill said.

The closest terrain feature was the Saigon River, about a mile away. But across swaths of open rice paddies, a crossing would have meant a death sentence.

At least a few squads, possibly platoons, of enemy soldiers had likely set up multiple ambush points.

Luckily a water buffalo trail, hard-packed by the massive beasts, formed a kind of natural parapet for at least some cover.

They put claymore mines around their position, and the four men set up back-to-back, each covering an entire cardinal direction, waiting for the rush to come.

Team leader Pfc. Robert Elsner, from Manhattan, New York called for everything — artillery, air support, help. The team leader had been a sergeant about a week before, and was now a private, having gotten on the bad side of some commander or other, but would soon be a sergeant again. Rank aside, he was the best leader for the job.

At about 2100, on the northeast side of Saigon, about 30 miles away, the plea crackled over staticky radio.

The call was answered by 1st Lt. Larry L. Taylor, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, who alongside his co-pilot and gunner CWO2 J.O. Ratliff, of Cody, Wyoming jumped into a two-seat attack helicopter, the AH-1G Cobra, call sign “Dark Horse 32,” and took flight alongside Taylor’s wingman, Capt. Roger D. Trickler, 31, of Daleville, Alabama, and his co-pilot and gunner, Capt. Richard Driggs LeMay Jr., 27, of New Britain, Connecticut.

The four aviators were part of Troop D (Air), 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry, 1st Infantry Division. The men on the ground were out of “Wildcat 2″ the call sign for their four-soldier recon team under F Company, 52nd Infantry (Long Range Patrol) 1st Infantry Division.

The next half hour would witness one of the most daring rescues of the Vietnam War, and it would be carried out by a helicopter designed only for attack. In the weeks following, death after death hit the unit. Those who knew just what Taylor had done either spread out on other combat missions or died in tragic, but all too common events for that time in the war.

In those ensuing decades the men from that night would grow gray, reunite and Hill, among others, would fight a different battle, one with folders, yellowing documents and binder clips instead of M16s, grenade launchers and claymores.

But on both the fateful night of June 18, 1968, and now in the coming days, their tenacity, perseverance and intrepidity would prove victorious.

And that’s the start of how former Capt. Larry L. Taylor will become, on Sept. 5, the most recent recipient of the nation’s highest valor award: the Medal of Honor.

Capt. Larry Taylor, circa 1967. (Army)


Taylor, 81, grew up in the historic St. Elmo neighborhood of Chattanooga.

That area rests in the shadow of Lookout Mountain, where in November 1863, Union troops flowed up the northern slopes in what historians would later call the “Battle Above the Clouds.” This followed a southern victory at the battle of Chickamauga, Georgia and what led to the Confederate siege of Chattanooga that the Union ultimately broke on their continued southern march and defeat of the Confederacy.

This served not as a history class lesson, but a direct connection for Taylor, whose great-great-grandfather fought in the Civil War. The family later sent his great-uncle to fight in World War I and both his father and uncles fought in World War II.

Taylor joined the U.S. Army Reserve Officer Training program at the University of Tennessee just up the road from Knoxville, Tennessee shortly after high school. He graduated college in 1966.

The Army sent the Tennessee boy to Fort Knox, Kentucky for armor training. But as soon as he could, the young Taylor found his way into the fledgling Army aviation helicopter branch. By June 1967 he was an Army aviator.

Taylor’s explained in multiple interviews why he decided to fly instead of stay in the armor branch, where the Army first put him.

He painted a stark picture of the life of ground troops in Vietnam in his soupy Tennessee drawl.

“I had been on the ground in Vietnam and it sucked, so I wanted to avoid all of that,” Taylor said.

It was a place where someone might wait behind every tree to shoot you all day while they mortared your position all night. But in a Cobra, you can fly above that at 150 mph carrying 76 rockets and 16,000 rounds of machine gun ammo.

“So yeah, I’d rather be an ass kicker than have my ass kicked,” Taylor said. “That settles that question.”

At around the time Taylor was earning his wings, the Army was refining how it would fight in places such as Vietnam. Early work with the UH-1 Iroquois helicopter proved that an attack helicopter could provide support for larger transport helicopters, much like fighter planes and bombers paired together in World War II.

A Bell AH-1 Cobra helicopter flies low over the treeline as protection for the Vietnam-era Air Assault and Rescue at Dawn, a simulated rescue of a downed pilot. (Spc. Jennifer Andersson/Army)

But the Iroquois wasn’t purpose-built for that mission. So, the service worked with Bell Helicopter and adapted the Iroquois system into a newer, nimbler attack helicopter eventually dubbed the AH-1 Cobra.

The first prototype flew in September 1965, while Taylor still rooted for the Tennessee Volunteers at football games in Knoxville.

But by June 1967, when Taylor became an aviator, the Cobra was in the Army inventory and batches were being delivered to Vietnam. The same place Taylor found himself by August 1967.

The young lieutenant flew some of the first combat missions with the AH-1G Cobra. Eventually, he’d fly as many as 2,000 missions in both the Iroquois and Cobra. About 1,200 were combat missions. Taylor estimated that at least 1,000 of those combat flights involved supporting the long-range reconnaissance patrols. In 340 of those missions, he took enemy fire and was forced down five times, according to information provided by the Army.

By June 18, 1968, the war, which would continue for another seven years, was not going well. U.S. and South Vietnamese forces had turned back the Tet Offensive earlier that year, but, as many historians now note, those events piled on an already dismal view of the war and paltry public support back home.

In May 1968, then-President Lyndon B. Johnson and North Vietnamese leaders began peace talks. Johnson had already announced he would not seek reelection. That year alone nearly 17,000 U.S. troops would die in Vietnam.

But soldiers such as Taylor and Hill still had tours to complete and missions to accomplish.

Dark as an inkwell

When Taylor and his co-pilot approached Hill and his team’s position south of Saigon, not a single light illuminated where they were. Taylor had to use radio direction-finding to somewhat gauge where the four-soldier team had hidden.

The team leader whispered on the radio microphone to avoid letting enemy troops know exactly where they lay.

“It was dark, there was nothing down there with a light on and I didn’t think I was ever gonna find them,” Taylor said in a recent phone interview.

Taylor radioed the team and said that he didn’t want to start launching rockets without knowing their position. He told them that once he was directly over them they should say “now” in the radio and he would then fly on, circle back and come get them.

The tactical operations center tried to wave Taylor off. They said the team was trained to escape and evade. They could handle themselves.

“I told them there’s no place for them to escape and evade to,” Taylor said. “Please stay off my radio.”

The chopper flew past, someone yelled over the rotor wash into the radio, “you’re over us now.”

Taylor told them to mark their position with flares, red star clusters popped in the night sky and what seemed like a wall of bullets began flying from both sides on the ground.

He knew where the team sat, he began firing rockets and ripping through 7.62mm ammunition from the Cobra’s mini-gun.

Elsner fired his 5.56mm carbine, a shortened version of the standard issue M16.

Hill opened up with his Korea-era, .30 caliber M1 carbine which he’d sawed down the barrel for easier carry. The rear security man chose it because the .30 caliber rounds sounded like what their counterparts fired. If the team, which had been running patrols together since February, needed an indistinguishable, single-shot kill, they called up Hill with his M1.

Grenadier Spc. 4 William P. Cohn, or Billy, of Old Mystic, Connecticut, lugged the M79 grenade launcher, a specially made 18-round high explosive grenade carrier vest and a backup .45 caliber 1911 handgun.

Radio operator Cpl. Gerald Patty, of Marysville, Tennessee, fired off from his CAR-15.

Every team member carried an additional five extra 40mm grenades for Cohn’s M79.

Each soldier had stepped off on that foot patrol with 650 rounds. The grenadier alone fired 75 grenades from his M79 launcher in the handful of minutes they’d repelled the onslaught from an unknown number of enemy troops in the night.

Within moments Taylor was out of rockets and machine gun ammo. The four-soldier team had fired all their ammunition. and had only a satchel full of fragmentation grenades and the trusty claymore antipersonnel mines. And their knives.

“We were all tapped out, we had nothing left,” Hill said.

Taylor was out of ammo too, but not out of bluffs.

He told the ground team to reposition their claymores to the northeast and southeast. When they saw him begin his next run at the enemy, Taylor figured they’d think he would fire on them, distracting the enemy troops just enough.

“We’re gonna blow a hole in that ring,” Taylor said.

The lieutenant told the team to fire those claymores and then “run like hell” on a 135-degree azimuth, the opposite direction. “I’ll be there, and I hope so are you.”

Hill still had about a dozen grenades in his rucksack. He took rear security as the men skedaddled, lobbing a grenade every few seconds into inkwell night.

A new mission

Three decades later Hill and Taylor met at a unit reunion. The pair shared memories of that night and other escapades from before and after as the two had finished their tours a lifetime ago. A few of their comrades hadn’t made it out of Vietnam alive. Others had or would succumb to the indignity of a car wreck, cancer and other quiet calamities.

It was at that 1999 reunion in Branson, Missouri when Hill learned that Taylor had received the third highest valor award available, the Silver Star Medal. But Hill knew how much that night meant, how daring, bold and, maybe a little crazy, things had been, and he knew what Taylor had done. This was something that never happened before and probably never will again. Others had received more prestigious awards for less.

Three of the surviving members from the June 18, 1968 rescue at a reunion in 1999. (Left to right) David Hill, Larry Taylor, Paul Elsner. (Contributed)

A few years later Hill retired from a career with the U.S. Department of Commerce. He moved from California to Nevada. He kept busy managing a golf course but had an itch.

The Silver Star Medal? It wasn’t enough.

The former sergeant began a kind of bureaucratic trek to revisit the heroism of that fateful evening that saved his life.

He gathered documents, talked with politicians, researched websites and submitted a packet asking the Army to review the case. Hill hit hurdles and roadblocks that have stymied others for decades. The Army and most military branches are reluctant to second-guess the decisions of the commanders on the ground who recommend or approve valor award citations.

Part of the criteria involves evaluating whether what’s being submitted in a review request was available to commanders at the time. Basically, did they have all the information, did the commanders know all of what happened?

After a few failed attempts, Hill met with retired Army Gen. B.B. Bell, a 39-year Army veteran who retired in 2008 after having led the United Nations Command in South Korea.

By The Numbers:

  • 3,535 Medals of Honor awarded
  • 268 for Vietnam
  • 65 living Medal of Honor recipients
  • 54 total Army aviators have received the Medal of Honor
  • 12 Army aviators received the Medal of Honor for service in Vietnam

Source: The Army Aviation Museum; Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Bell retired to Signal Mountain, Tennessee where Taylor has lived now for decades.

The general asked questions that Hill hadn’t yet considered — were any of the members of his four-soldier recon team interviewed following the June 18, 1968, rescue?


The pair found the former Army officer who’d overseen awards and decorations for Taylor’s unit in Vietnam. No, the officer confirmed they’d not interviewed the ground team.

Combat continued after that June night, getting witness statements and commanding officer approvals wasn’t high on the priority list for a division engulfed in daily combat. But without that paperwork and those command approvals, only so much could be done.

Also complicating the decision process, nearly three weeks after the June mission on July 4, 1968, Taylor’s commanding officer, Maj. Federick Terry, 31, died in a midair collision while responding to a call for help when a U.S. armored vehicle struck a landmine on a movement, injuring several soldiers.

Tragedy struck the unit again a few weeks later. On Sept. 12, 1968, LeMay, the co-pilot in the second helicopter on the June mission, died along with 1st Lt. William Henry Hanson, 31, Park Falls, Wisconsin, in a Cobra gunship crash while defending ground troops east of Quan Loi in Binh Long Province.

The next day, the division commander over Taylor’s unit, Maj. Gen. Keith Lincoln Ware, who had received the Medal of Honor for his own actions in World War II, died in a helicopter crash near Cambodia.

Armed with these new facts, Hill resubmitted his review request in 2021, for the third time.

Back on the battlefield that fateful night...

Empty on ammo, out of grenades and enveloped in a cacophony of explosions, rifle and machine gun fire, Hill and his team ran into a clearing as Taylor stomped on the left pedal and plopped his Cobra on the ground.

As they descended, Taylor’s co-pilot asked, “what are we going to do with them?”

“I said, ‘I don’t know, I didn’t think that far ahead,’” Taylor said.

The Cobra has no seating for passengers. It is a narrow fuselage aircraft with seats for a pilot and co-pilot, stacked atop each other. Its stubby wings and light frame hold weaponry — a minigun and rocket launchers — and two slender skids come between the aircraft and the ground.

“I didn’t have to tell them to get on,” Taylor said.

On June 18, 1968, Hill and Cohn straddled the rocket launchers like horses while Elsner and Patty hugged the skids.

“Which is exciting in the dark,” Hill said.

They banged hard twice on the frame, that was technical military code for “haul ass.”

Once airborne, Taylor knew that they couldn’t fly these guys at 150 miles an hour back over Saigon and to Phu Loi Base where he was headquartered.

At higher altitudes and speeds, the men would freeze and fall off the aircraft. So, he stayed as low as incoming fire would allow and dropped the quad at a nearby water plant where they radioed ahead so the team could link up with a friendly unit.

Hill remembers a glimpse of a vague profile outline of a helmeted Taylor through the plastic windshield.

They landed, the four men ran to the front of the aircraft so Taylor and his co-pilot could see them. The four saluted the men who’d saved their lives and then they were gone.

The memory halts Taylor’s speech, sticking in his throat when he tells the story, even a lifetime later.


On an early June morning, Taylor awakened to his ringing phone.

That’s how, 55 years later, Taylor learned he would join an exclusive group, honoring the highest standards of combat valor in the U.S. military.

While the recognition is nice, bringing that team home alive proved the enduring reward for not only that half-hour mission but for the 2,000 or more missions he flew those many years ago so far from home.

“We never lost a man,” Taylor said. “We lost some aircraft, but we never lost a man.”

*This article drew information from the following sources: local media reports including the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press; the Chattanoogan; Cody (Wyo.) Enterprise; video published online of Gen. B.B. Bell speaking at The Walden Club; a media roundtable phone interview with Larry Taylor, David Hill and James Holden; A separate phone interview with David Hill; the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund database; the Army Office of the Chief of Public Affairs;; U.S. State Department; U.S. Department of Defense;; Google Earth; Freedom Sings Publishing; Pritzker Military Museum and Library; Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

The Saturday Change Up - Jimmy Buffett Live in Anguilla (Re-Post Just Because)

The video below runs nearly continuously on our boats while guests are aboard. It embraces everything about the water, the islands and boating that our crew and guests love. If you had the right connections, you scored an "invitation" to charity concert which by most accounts still stands as the ultimate parrot head adventure. And just might explain why the CP blog suddenly goes silent from time to time.

The concert, took place on March 24 2007 at 3pm, and was hosted by international reggae icon and Anguilla's favorite son Bankie Banx at his acclaimed beach hotspot Dune Preserve. The late-afternoon show began with an opening performance by Banx and his bandmates, followed by Buffett and his renowned Coral Reefer Band. Tickets for the concert where only $100, and all the proceeds benefited Project Stingray, an acclaimed music and education program on Anguilla, the Anguilla Tennis Academy and the Anguilla Community Foundation.

A few photos from the event:

The patron saint of Anguilla himself.

Something you won't see at a concert in the Carolina's a real parrot.

It won't be a Buffett concert without some wild hats
or not much at all.


And then there was Jim Patterson sporting our Southern Comfort Abaco Islands 2007-2008 Tour t-shirt.

We now return to our regular programing.

Foot Note:

James Mims Patterson Jr, 86. of Charlotte, NC passed away Wednesday, the 4th of December 2019 at Lake Park Rehabilitation Nursing home after a long battle from suffering a stroke 5 years prior. 

James is survived by two sons, Mark Patterson and James Mims (Pat) Patterson III. He is also survived by two grandchildren, Samuel Patterson and Ana Isabella Patterson.Mr. Patterson was born the 12th of December 1932 in Maxton, NC and was an only child. He spent most of his later career working as an Executive Vice President for Homebuilder's Association.

Jim was a good friend and life long fellow Parrott Head. 

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Fidelity Outage "Again?"

Good Morning Fidelity Customer Service,

I understand that sometimes network upgrades fail and that yesterday was just an anomaly. 

However, the total lack of appropriate response during the trading hours outage yesterday is problematic. Never mind the potential losses, that will be determined at today's opening. What makes this outage very troubling is the very tiny "try again later" popup that accompanied my account's zero balances.  

What made things worse was the dismissive response from your virtual and real telephone support staff. The only somewhat legitimate appearting information was a message posted on "X" formerly known as Twitter nearly an hour after the outage began. 

The vagueness and uninformed representatives gave the perception of some sort of internet hack, scam and perhaps even theft.

The dismissive try again later response was later upgraded to "we apologize for the inconvenience", which was also hardly adequate.

I suggest that future outages route user's at login to a full page "we are sorry", with the time that the outage began and when the issue is expected to be resolved (even if overly optimistic) and a contact number to further confirm that legitimacy of the outage. In other words 404 Error just does not earn any trust.

Please do better.

Monday, August 28, 2023

First Day of School 2023 Parents Edition


Cedar Posts is Proudly blocked by @CharMeckSchools and dimbulb @MollyGrantham on "X" formerly known as Twitter.

Charlotte Country Day students reported to school last week as did Charlotte Catholic and Charlotte Latin students.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools will begin the 2023-2024 school year, today Monday August 28th. 

And with the start of school, countless parents will suffer the "slings and arrows" of having school aged children during the next 9 months.

They will suffer through the fear of gun violence, questioning the point of critical race theory, coping with attempts at LGBTQ+ indoctrination, worry about social acceptance and dreaded academic failure. 

But there is hope and strength in knowing you are not alone. Your kid isn't as dumb as some of those CMS teachers will try to tell you.

Take this story to heart, take it all in, for this is the truth:

Jack Curtis -

The summer of 1929, my father grew rich selling Fords, trading oil leases, speculating in stocks and farming marginal land. Mother had a gas stove, a fur coat, her own car, went to the beauty parlor once a week and played bridge.

In a small town in central Kansas, my father was a very big frog, and that summer when I was eight, I assumed he was so successful because he was so smart.

And because I had failed to pass the third grade, there was never any end to hearing how capable my father was compared to his lazy, stupid, stubborn son.

Why couldn't I do arithmetic? Why couldn't I read and write? Why did my classmates bedevil me?

In those days, none of the geniuses in psychology or Ph.D.'s in education had discovered dyslexia; nothing is known about it now except that as many as twenty percent of children have some degree of it. It's symptoms are mirror writing, reversing numbers, awkwardness and an inability to understand the usual codes of communication. The only cure is to circumvent it with special close training.

But in the summer of 1929 it was called mental retardation or brain damage and those unlucky enough to have it were soon taken out of school and put in the back room for the rest of their lives. The educator's solution to it progressed from contempt to thrashing and, finally, banishment.

From the Short Story "Grandfather" (Circa 1978)

Jack Curtis was born in 1922. As a child he battled dyslexia, and was told he'd never amount to anything.

But life is odd and Jack Curtis grew up to become a heck of a writer. Writing scripts for some of television's top westerns including Zane Grey Theater, Have Gun Will Travel, Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, Rawhide, Big Valley, The Outlaws, Cimarron Strip, and Wagon Train. Curtis went on to write a dozen novels about the west and was one of Sports Illustrated's most prolific fishing and hunting writers.

This writer too can recall the day at South Meck High School, when a vice principal suggested that I drop out of school and take a job at Florida Steel located in West Charlotte, as a welder or laborer. I honestly think he was on some sort of recruiting commission arrangement with the company.

To this day I struggle with 6s, 9s and people who say their telephone or credit card numbers without hyphen'd pauses. But once you understand dyslexia it is all pretty easy to work around it. I can read and repeat a license plate number in a rearview mirror correctly with out hesitation. 

Imagine, that for 27 years I've worked with numbers in the banking and investment business. Spent more than 6,000 hours in aircraft that routinely required multiple numerical entries every few minutes and have successfully sailed enough ocean and intracoastal waterway miles to twice circumnavigate the globe.  And my math skills be them as they may, have yet to fail me.

So take heart parents without honor roll bragging rights, your gold starless child will survive this, another school year. Understand that 6 x 7 is 42 for most, but also equals 24 for some.

And while "turn left" is often followed by "no your other left" you too will survive.

The best you can do as a parent is to let them know they are loved and that "I can't" or "I quit" is not an option.

Jack Curtis died in 2002 at the age of 79 a life well read even backwards.