October is National anti-bullying month. As a red head I was bullied when I was a child. Even today I can still hear the chants “Red head, red head fire in the wood shed”. This is the only one that was yelled at me that can be printed in a family newspaper. One involved the anatomy of a male dog and another involved my parents and a rusty pipe.

No wonder I was a loner.

While I was growing up in Buffalo, there was a family across the street that had 4 or 5 bazillion kids, or so it seemed. I remember them jumping me, punching me and sitting on me so they could pound my hands into the dirt. It always concluded with the threat that if I told anyone the next time it would be worse.

I was constantly tripped, pushed and kicked by the bullies in school but I suffered in silence because I knew if I reported them, retaliation was going to be quick and harsh.

In elementary school, I did manage to retaliate against one bully and gain some respect though. When we were sitting at our desks, he would reach across the aisle with his leg when the teacher wasn’t looking and kick me. This would cause the classroom to laugh.

One day I had enough and waited until he extended his leg, ready to torment me again when I grabbed his foot and gave it a yank. He ended up siting on the floor. When the teacher turned around and asked him what had happened, he stood up and said he just fell out of his seat. The laughter was the loudest I had ever heard. It seems he was bullying many of my classmates and they appreciated someone getting even. He never did it again and him and his “bully buddies” left me alone. Elementary school went pretty good after that.

We moved to the north towns in time for junior high school where I developed a small circle of friends. By the time I got to high school the bullying reached its apex. My books would get knocked out of my arms and I would get body checked into the lockers. I started carrying my books in a duffle bag so my stuff would not get scattered all over the place.  The school administrators would always look the other way because the perpetrators were primarily members of the football team. They were untouchable and they didn’t want to have to discipline them with suspensions. I was the victim and that, like designated seating, seemed to be my place in the school pecking order.”

I rode the bus to school. Seeing as I lived so far from the school the bus was virtually empty when I got on it so I would sit in the back. One day, on the way to school, I was “pantsed” by a couple of the motor-heads to the delight of all the other riders. On my way off the bus, the driver told me I had to sit in the front seat from now on. I now realize he was trying to protect me but back then I felt like I was the one being punished. Nothing ever happened to them.

One of my major tormenters was the son of Russian parents (or so he said). Finally enough was enough. One day we happened to be in study hall together in the school auditorium where he was messing with me. The person in charge saw this and moved them to the front row, but I knew that after the study hall the bullying would continue. Time to devise a plan.

I got the restroom pass and headed to my locker. Once there, I grabbed an old notebook and filled it with a bunch of loose papers. When I came back, I walked in front of him and “tripped” throwing the notebook in the air. Of course the notebook and papers flew everywhere. The teacher looked at him and me and asked what happened. He replied he didn’t know and I said I didn’t know, I tripped over something. The teacher made him pick up all the papers and I had no more problems with him.

I had started to work at a local company and once again I was the brunt of abuse. One day I was in the bathroom and a person started lobbing balls of wet paper towels over the wall at me. Time to make a statement again. There was a spray can of germicidal spray so I grabbed it. I sprayed it under the partition and lit it with my lighter. A three foot flame came out towards toward him. No more problems. I had gained the respect I deserved.

Today’s lesson is this. You never want to be the type of person that gets yanked out of their chair, gets blamed for tripping someone or has fire coming towards them. Let’s make sure nobody has to remember that October is Anti-Bullying Month.

Norb is an independent journalist from Lockport.

9/11 Never Forget

Most people will remember where they were when a historic event occurs. I remember that I was in high school machine shop on November 22, 1963 when I heard that John Fitzgerald Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald. They announced it over the public address system. I flew to my locker to retrieve my transistor radio to hear more.

When Richard Milhous Nixon resigned from the office of the presidency on August 9, 1974, my wife and I were celebrating our 5th anniversary in a hotel in Toronto. I took pictures of the TV screen with my camera not realizing that the images from this press conference would be preserved by everyone for all time.

At 8:46 on the morning of September 11, 2001 however, the whole country became a changed nation.  I was digging a ditch at my employer so we could install some new equipment when my boss came out and told me an airplane had crashed into The World Trade Center in New York City. Because he was a jokester, I didn’t believe him and went back to digging. This was just too farfetched.

Then at shortly after 9:00 a.m., he came out to tell me a second plane had crashed into the other building of the World Trade center. I thought he was carrying this joke a bit too far so I climbed out of the ditch, went into the shop and went to my radio. First thing I noticed was my music wasn’t playing and there was someone talking about these plane crashes.  Sure enough he was telling me the truth.

As I listened, the newscaster announced that a third plane flew into the west face of the Pentagon in Virginia. Then at 10:03, a fourth airliner crashed in a field in southern Pennsylvania. It was headed toward the United States Capitol or the White House. It was initially reported that more than 2,600 people died at the World Trade Center, 256 died on the four planes, 125 died at the Pentagon. However weeks after the attack, the estimated death toll was up graded to over 6,000. Over twice the number of deaths originally estimated were eventually confirmed.

Someone had brought the first war to United States soil since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 3rd 1941.

The September attacks caused a lot of confusion between news organizations and the air traffic controllers, including the unsubstantiated and often conflicting news reports that aired during the day. One of the erroneous stories that circulated that day said that a car bomb was set off at the U.S. State Department’s headquarters in Washington. Delta Air Lines Flight 1989 was believed to have been hijacked, but the aircraft radioed to controllers and it set down in Cleveland, Ohio safely.

At 9:42 a.m., the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would not let all civilian aircraft within the continental U.S. to fly, and the airplanes that were already in flight were told they had to land immediately. All international civilian planes were turned back or redirected to airports in Mexico or Canada, and were banned from landing in the United States for three days. 

The world seemed strange to me after that. There were no planes flying in the skies. I was used to seeing the jet contrails during the day and they were noticeably absent. The skies seemed slightly yellow to me and the world was eerily quiet.  

Thousands of tons of toxic debris holding over 2,500 contaminants, including some known carcinogens, mushroomed across Lower Manhattan because of the collapse of the Twin Towers. Exposure to these toxins is suspected to have been a factor in fatal or debilitating illnesses among the people who were at Ground Zero. The Bush administration instructed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue statements about air quality after the attacks, naming national security, but the EPA did not conclude that the air quality had gone back to the levels previously to the September 11 levels until June of 2002.

Health problems effected students, residents, and the office workers from Lower Manhattan and nearby Chinatown. Many deaths have been connected to the toxic dust. The victims’ names were all included in the World Trade Center memorial. It has been estimated that roughly 18,000 people developed illnesses because of the toxic dust. There is also scientific theory that the exposure to the various toxic products that were in the air could have had negative effects on fetal development. 

Every September 11th, in New York City, the names of the victims who perished are read out loud while somber music plays in the background. The standing President of the United States attends a memorial service at the Pentagon, and they ask all Americans to celebrate Patriot Day with a moment of silence. A smaller service is held in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Typically the President’s spouse attends this observance.