I Remember Steve Mercado

On this, the 18th anniversary of September 11th, I wanted to re-post the first tribute I wrote as a part of Project 2996. While I was honored to write all of the tributes I did, Steve Mercado’s always felt personal to me. Maybe it is because he was a first responder, a man used to running toward danger in the service or others, or maybe because he seemed like the kind of guy you’d want for a friend. But for whatever reason, Steve will always occupy a little piece of my heart.

I still remember – and I will never forget.

Annie

Firefighter Steve Mercado is among the missing in the World Trade Center attack on Tuesday. This photo is on display at the station where they do duty Wednesday Sept 19, 2001. Newsday photo by J. Conrad Williams Jr.

I did not know Steve Mercado, but he was my kind of guy. He was funny, handsome, made a mean chili and damn it, he was a hero. On September 11th he and eleven other of his firefighter brothers were lost in the World Trade Center. I imagine him charging up those stairs, intent on answering the calls for help. Intent on fulfilling his mission to save and protect. He was that kind of guy. He lived to help people. To make them laugh, make them feel like things were really okay. And I think that when Steve was around, people did feel that way.

He was born and raised in the Bronx and dreamed of playing for the New York Yankees as a kid. He played stickball in the streets with his pals – a game his father had taught him and eventually a game he would teach his own son and countless other children. A tradition he carried into adulthood.

He married his childhood sweetheart Jovianna and eventually they had two sons, Skylar and Austin. He was a dedicated husband and father and took great joy in watching his children grow. I imagine that he had a picture of his wife and kids taped inside his helmet – I don’t know it – but he seemed the kind of man who would. Who loved his life so much that he would want to keep the things dear to him close. I imagine too, that his last thoughts were of his family, what kind of men his sons would grow up to be and how very much he loved Jovi.

He was a modern day warrior, facing life and death as a matter of course. Charging in to whatever task life had dealt him – unphased and unafraid. And, I believe the world was better for Steve having been in it. He made the world a better place, a safer place, and a kinder place. He had a passion for life and it showed.

He loved stickball and dreamed of it becoming an Olympic sport one day. He was a legendary player and the President of the NY Emperor’s Stickball League. According to Steve, “Stickball is all about community. For me, I learned the game from my father, and others of his generation. They were my heroes, the role models we looked up to. Stickball was an important part in our tradition of teamwork, determination and community. My goal now is to reach out to the kids growing up today to make sure we continue to pass down these values.”

 

Stickball was a true calling for Steve. His wife said that he believed that there wasn’t any problem that couldn’t be worked out by a game of stickball. I think he may have had a point. Nothing like whacking balls over the rooftops and running like the wind to give you perspective. He was responsible for creating many teams across the country, starting programs for kids who might otherwise have not had the opportunity to learn about the teamwork and tradition Steve so loved. What lucky kids to have had such a great role model as Steve. He made things better, not by words but by his actions.

Steve was a man who made a difference and I believe still does. In the words of Buddha, If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change. I hope that I have in some small way shown you the miracle of Steve.

Steve’s poem to his dad:

Addendum: Sharon Cannone, Steve’s cousin was kind enough to share the eulogy she delivered at Steve’s memorial service in November 2001:

There’s only one way to deal with the pain of losing my cousin Steve and the thousands of other lives that were lost on September 11. There’s only one way to come to terms with the pain and fear we feel. The only way to get beyond this is to live our lives the way my cousin chose to live his. We must be brave.

I have a lot of memories of my cousin. We grew up in the same building together and always stayed very close. A lot of memories…. But one memory in particular has been playing over and over in my mind since I learned that he was among the missing. Among Steve’s many talents a long time ago he dabbled into the world of boxing. And with just about everything else he took on, he trained long and hard to hone his skills. Well, the hard work and training paid off, because Steve qualified for the Golden Gloves and had his big night at Madison Square Garden. Steve was well represented that night by family and friends. When he entered the ring for the main event, the Garden “rocked” with applause from his fans. After the usual introductions, the fight began. But a minute or so into the fight, Steve took a punch to the chin and hit the canvas with a thud.

The moment Steve fell, I jumped out of my seat and started screaming at the top of my lungs. STEVIE GET UP!! STEVIE GET UP! I don’t remember how many times I yelled to my cousin, but all of a sudden, Steve got to one knee, shook his head, got up and beat the living daylights out of his opponent. The Garden went wild.After the fight, we all went to a bar in the City to celebrate. Steve told me that as he was lying on the canvas he heard a voice through the haze screaming his name. And that’s when the haze cleared, he said “That’s Sharon – I gotta get up”. He told me that night at the bar that it was my voice yelling his name over and over that enabled him to win the fight. I never thought I could be prouder of my cousin as I was that night — the night he fought the fight of his life. But I was wrong.

From the moment I knew that Steve was missing, I thought about that night at the Garden. Over and over I prayed, Stevie please get up. But it wasn’t in the cards this time. Even though I was joined in prayer by friends, family, the City and the whole Country. We all screamed your name Stevie, but this time your opponent was a dirty fighter who hit way below the belt.

I’ll never understand the twisted minds of terrorists who can cause pain like this. I don’t understand why some people choose to live their lives with pure hatred in their hearts instead of love. Their hatred defines who they are. Steve’s love for life, great sense of humor and truly giving heart defined who he was. He put his life on the line for his fellow man on a daily basis. And I’m very proud to have been a part of his life.

Note: For those of you in the NY area, PBS will be airing a documentary called “Bragging Rights” that covers the game and tradition of stickball. Steve is featured in this documentary and it will air Thursday, September 14th at 8PM.

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Memorial Day 2018

A Memorial Day Prayer

As our nation pauses today to remember those in the military who have given their lives for freedoms we enjoy, we pray you would have us all look to you for strength, comfort and guidance.
Be with all who serve in our Armed Forces. Bless them and their families.
Grant your loving protection. Let peace prevail among all the nations, O God. Especially let your mercy rest upon our land, even as we acknowledge with thanksgiving your past goodness on this country.
If it is your will, preserve the lives of the men and women in uniform as they defend our citizenry.
Most of all, we pray that you would turn the hearts of all – military and civilian – to your holy Word where we find the true peace for our sinful souls that surpasses all understanding. Keep us repentant of sin. Move us to know, take hold and treasure your saving grace.
In this peace and hope for eternity, we pray.

Author Unknown

Never Forgetting – September 11th

never-forget-frame

Most everyone who was alive on that day, remembers where they were and what they were doing. For me, it was one of the most difficult days of my life. Most Americans and much of the world were grief-stricken, confused and angry. It brought us together in a way I’d never seen in my life.

I, like many bloggers, took part in a Project 2996 and in the ensuing years, wrote tributes to victims of 911. But as the years have passed, the enthusiasm for never forgetting has waned. Conspiracy theories have taken the place of reverence and our national cynicism has returned. That makes my heart hurt. But people move on. It’s hard to maintain grief. It’s easier to be self-involved, skeptical and worry about your manicure than to carry the weight of a national tragedy. I’m not judging, just observing.

Even I struggle with what to say to commemorate this awful piece of American history. It seems it has all been said – and there is little I can add, if anything.

I suppose all I really want to say is that I still think about that day. I still grieve for the people who died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time – and for the family and friends they left behind. And I hope that all Americans take at least a moment out of their day on Sunday to say a prayer for the people that we lost and for our country and for each other.

God Bless.

Annie

I still remember

Fourteen years ago, on a fine September morning, our lives changed. We didn’t see it coming. We, never in a million years would’ve expected it. We were horrified. We were overcome with grief. We were afraid.

But true to American spirit, we banded together. We united. We bounced back. We vowed never to forget. But I think we have. A lot of us. Conspiracy theories, wars that have gone on too long and sacrificed too much, and laws enacted to protect that actually oppress, have made us weary. Have made us lose sight of the fact that we lost 2,996 lives that day. And more as the days and months wore on.

They were fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts, friends, co-workers and acquaintances. They can’t be replaced. And they leave a permanent void in the space they should be occupying, for their family and friends.

For many years, I was one of the bloggers involved in Project 2996. A valiant attempt originated by one blogger, DC Roe, to pay tribute to those lost lives. Following are the tributes I personally wrote – my small contribution to remembering. With a sincere hope that I could offer at least a little comfort to the families and friends who lost a loved one.

Steve Mercado

Deborah Medwig

Paul Lisson

Bruce (Chappy) Boehm

Ted Moy

Craig Amundson

Peggy Hurt

I hope you’ll join me in saying a prayer for those lost lives and the family and friends they left behind.

I Remember September 11th – Tenth Anniversary

Everyone in this country knows where they were on the day the planes hit the towers and a lone plane went down in a Pennsylvania field. We all know someone who was profoundly affected by loss because of the attack or suffered a personal and unimaginable loss ourselves.

There are images that will forever remain in our memories – the wreckage of steel and concrete, the loss of human life, the tears, the grey ash that covered Manhattan – immovable objects tumbling to the ground.

And we became one nation, truly on that day. Our love of our country, our fellow citizens and freedom was on display with pride. With few exceptions the rest of the world mourned with us and the people responsible indeed heard from us.

We vowed to never forget. I’d like to think that we have all kept that vow. I’d like to think that every American will say a prayer for those we lost and their loved ones. I’d like to think that at least on this day we show one another more kindness, understanding and love.

There will be many ceremonies on Sunday, some official and some not so official. But I believe all of us will do something to honor our 911 families and our brave men and women who continue to stand the watch and keep us safe. I know I will.

Please feel free to express your thoughts here. And God bless America – God bless us all.

Respectfully,
Writer Chick

What is America?

America is my dad’s blue collar
Grandpap’s regal roses and
humble tomatoes
The mountains outside my window
And the 4th of July fireworks I watch
from my roof.

America is picnics, just because
Mom’s potato salad and
the home-made gnocchi
at Stephano’s on the corner

It’s school girls in blue plaid skirts
and Monday Night Football
Warm beer and bad hot dogs
at home games in the bleachers.

It’s the night sky
sparkling a thousand stars
and exhaling the scent of jasmine
and orange blossoms.

It’s young men and women in uniform
who say ma’am and sir
and go wherever they are called to
stand the watch.

It’s firefighters riding to the rescue
on long red trucks
facing the flames
despite the threat of becoming captive

The trucker who helps you
change a flat on the empty road
Endless highways and
open footpaths

It’s tap dancing and
baton twirling
band music
Jazz, blues and rock ‘n’ roll

It’s cowboys and cops
down home and up town
Wall street and main street
It’s vineyards and cattle ranches
Skyscrapers and the flat lands
The liberty bell
and the empty space in Manhattan

It’s Detroit city and L.A.
New York and San Francisco
Boise, Phoenix, Glendale, Sun City, Casper,
small towns, big towns
and wide open spaces

It’s barbecue ribs and pecan pie
It’s pot roast and pigs in a blanket
Iced tea and hot coffee

It’s innovation and tradition
History and unchartered territory

It’s helping hands
and open hearts
It’s rushing in when others
hesitate

My hand over my heart
when I sing…
Oh, say can you see…

It’s moms and dads
and the corner store
Lazy rivers and
roaring oceans

But mostly it’s the people
who carry inside
the certainty of personal liberties
whose pioneer spirit fosters
a can-do attitude
who never say, die
but try again
Who build their dreams
one brick at a time
who know that anything is
possible if you believe

copyright 2010

Does Anyone Want a Solution?

There is a lot of stuff happening in this country and the world today. I suppose that is always the case, although in the last several months it seems worst than it has been in the past. And honestly, much of what is happening I find personally scary and alarming. The deficit, the apparent disinterest on the part of our leaders in what the average citizen is concerned about, states going bankrupt, no legislative body showing any real concern about approving a budget much less making budget cuts, giving unelected officials the right to rule and regulate our personal lives, making the EPA part of a shadow government and in the future will tax us for exhaling, politician’s accosting private citizen’s and being defended for their actions, dissention being targeted as hate speech and terrorism, government taking over entire industries, the blame game left and right…..

In my opinion anyone who isn’t alarmed by such actions and much more is either delusional or has been living in a cave for quite a while.

But I for one, would really like to stop the blame game, the partisan rhetoric, and the gotcha games and pose a very simple question: Does anyone really want a solution? Seriously, let’s consider this shall we? In private life, most people when they encounter problems whether large or small tend to want to solve the problem. They may not always succeed but there is certainly an effort to find solutions to those things that work against us. Whether they are created by another person, a circumstance or a natural disaster. For example, last year we had horrible fires at the end of the summer in my community. In fact, I posted many pictures of the fires, some of which were literally down the block from me. I’m proud to say that my community, the firefighters, the police and so forth focused on the problem and did everything in their power to solve it. It did take a while and not everything tried work but I can truthfully say that a solution was everyone’s focus. And in the end, solutions were found, used and the problem was handled.

So, when it comes to larger problems, national problems, international problems, etc. why then is not a solution the focus? Why is the American public by and large satisfied to just let our leaders lay blame. It’s so and so’s fault because he did this and now this is why I can’t do that? A person elected to be a leader is supposed to be a leader and a leader is supposed to be the guy or gal who knows how to solve problems, right? Whether it is the president of the United States or the local city council member. But rather than solving problems PR damage control is the focus. Anecdotes about conversations with children are offered rather than finding solutions, nice speeches or not so nice speeches filled with excuses and finger pointing.

And all the while, while our leaders fail to solve existing problems they legislate more rules, regulations and attempts at taking over parts of our personal lives. Laws now exist that say American citizens must buy certain products or be fined or imprisoned. The government now must decide what we may eat, breathe, think, say and do. Those are not solutions those are impositions upon personal freedoms.

And then the causes….don’t get me started on those either. When was the last time you saw any cause that was for something rather than against something? In my mind being for something is much more likely to bring it about than being against something is likely to stop it.

I admit that I am a bit of a political junkie and I find the field interesting, fascinating and somewhat nauseating – and I love debate because I think it is debate that brings about different views, and can in reality if done sincerely can bring about real change. However, most political debate is about hating the side you are not on. About smearing and belittling people and degrading them in public forums. And I’m not talking about satire I’m talking about venom, hatred and vitriole.

I wonder if some of the most popular people to attack were on ‘the other side’ if they would be so hated. If Bill Clinton had been a Republican and gotten sex in the Oval Office while he was supposed to be doing the people’s business would he have remained in office? If Sarah Palin were a Democrat, would the ladies on the View be fawning over her left and right? If Al Gore had been a conservative would anyone have gone to see An Inconvenient Truth? If George Bush had been a liberal would his bailouts, prescription medicine initiative, and budget and deficit fall-out been hailed by the media? If Maureen Dowd spewed her venom about liberals would she even have a job? If Chris Matthews loved Chris Christie and got a tingle down his leg every time he spoke, would MSNBC issue his pinkslip?

The point I guess I am trying to make is maybe if we stepped back and viewed any leader whether public or private on the merits of what they were actually saying and doing from the standpoint of truly wanting to add to the solution to the given problem, rather than adding to turmoil would things change?

Personally, I think the time has come for Americans (at least) to stop and think. Forget what ‘side’ people are on and really evaluate if that person is trying to solve anything (particularly those things for which they are responsible for solving) just trying to get you worked up into a lather about something so you won’t notice that they are solving nothing.

No one would accept that kind of behavior in their private lives. Bosses who seek to bring the company down and fire good and effective workers are hated not revered. Co-workers who goldbrick and get paid for doing nothing and resented. Businesses that treat their customers with resentment and condescension don’t long remain in business, pastors and priests who exploit members of their congregations soon find their churches empty, criminals who steal, harm and injure other citizens are thrown in jail. Why do those who supposedly lead get a pass?

At the very least, it may be something to think about.

WC

All Gave Some – Some Gave All

You know, it is easy to forget that the personal freedoms we take for granted are not entitlements – but privileges hard won. And won through the efforts and often lives of others. People we likely never knew but who nonetheless were willing to and often did give their lives to secure our freedoms.

While Americans like to celebrate Memorial Day with barbecues, holiday sales, fireworks and alcoholic beverages it wouldn’t hurt any of us to stop at least for a moment to silently thank those who gave us our freedoms. Prayers, good thoughts, wishes spoken aloud, meditation – whatever floats your boat. Please find a way to say thank you – not just to those who have secured our freedoms and continue to do so but to the families of those injured and fallen men and women.

Regardless of the side of the political spectrum to which we align, we have much to be thankful for and many to whom we owe our gratitude. To all veterans, past, present and future and to their families I say, Thank you.

As the saying goes, ‘Freedom ain’t free.’

For those of you who missed it

Since the media is fond of under-estimating the numbers of interested and concerned citizens about the direction of the country… I thought I’d share some pics sent to me by a friend. These pictures are of the recent tax day rally in D.C., our nation’s capital for those of you who don’t know. Of course you wouldn’t have seen these in the MSM because, well after all…showing the real numbers is a little frightening even to them. Or perhaps especially to them.

As you can see it was several more than a few thousand. What do you think – are they all angry white guys? I think not. Nothing wrong with political dissention, right? I mean our Constitution guarantees it. Of course, according to some anyone dissenting from the right must be some sorta nut. Well otay then, count me in.

WC

Oh yeah, and one interesting note – unlike those who attended the inauguration of our current president – the Tea Party activists didn’t leave a ton of trash for the city to clean up. In fact, they left no trash whatsoever. Unless of course you include the politicians and they’re working on that one too.
😉