Most of us have heard about the bird strike that brought down US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River off Manhattan, after both engines were disabled by a bird strike on January 15, 2009. The birds were just flying along…minding their own business. Then suddenly, there was a plane…right in their path. So my thought is what were the birds thinking in that instant before their death. I don’t mean to sound morbid, but I do believe animals can think, and like humans, they might be thinking, “Oh boy…this is it!!” And it was.
In the world of NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida, birds are a part of the territory too. NASA usually takes their feathered intruders in stride, and in turn, the birds provide an extra level of interest in launch photography. For NASA the bird problem can be largely attributed to the nearby Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge’s 310 species of birds that love to swoop through for a visit. Most of the time it’s no big deal, but when they start poking around during a launch, it can be a bit more problematic.
Many of the bird species are not a problem, but one particular type of bird is causing concern for NASA…vultures. In 2005, they had a bird hit Discovery’s external tank during the launch. A vulture’s average weight ranges from 3 to 5 pounds, so a strike at a critical point on the shuttle…like the nose or wing leading thermal protection panels could cause catastrophic damage to the vehicle. The foam chunk that fatefully struck Columbia’s wing in 2003 weighed only 1.7 pounds. Even with the space shuttle launches cancelled, there are still launches at the Kennedy Space Center, and something needs to be done to protect the astronauts, rockets, and equipment, as well as the birds from the harm that occurs when nature collides with NASA. That said, NASA designed special radar to track any vultures around Launch Pad 39B during the countdown to liftoff of Space Shuttle Discovery on mission STS-121. NASA is also trying to clean up anything, like “roadkill” around Kennedy in an effort to prevent the birds being drawn to the area. They are removing the easy food source that keeps the birds around.
Vultures search for food during the day, often circle high into the Florida sky, floating on the thermal gradients, getting a birds-eye view of food sources. To mitigate the danger, an avian radar system known as “Aircraft Birdstrike Avoidance Radar” has been installed to track their movement around the launch area and relay the data to launch control experts. The system was developed by a company called DeTect of Panama City, Florida, which primarily has served the commercial aviation industry and the military. Hopefully the radar can give the launch team locations in real-time so decisions can be made to avoid bird strikes in the future.
My uncle, Wayne Byer is the younger of my grandparents, George and Hattie Byer’s two sons. He always had a great sense of humor, which is very likely why my mom, Collene (Byer) Spencer and their older brother, Larry Byer all got along so well. They were pretty much three-of-a-kind. They all thought the same things funny, and they didn’t care if they looked silly…it was all part of the humor. In fact, I think the silliness is what really makes humor. People who can’t ne silly, really aren’t funny either.
My mom loved being the middle sister, in the middle of the two brothers, mostly because the boys made it fun. Of course, they were all kids, so sometimes that meant they got into mischief. The three of them…well, I can imagine they drove Grandma crazy sometimes. I never really thought of my mom as a tomboy, but I think she might have been. I’ll bet she did everything she could to keep up with her brothers. I think they were probably protective of her too. Still, like most siblings, who are close…I’m sure they picked on Mom a lot. It was just past of being the three-of-a-kind.
Uncle Wayne’s sense of humor, and his friendly ways, endeared him to so many people. My sisters remember that Uncle Wayne was well known and liked by the ladies who worked in the cafeteria at East Junior High School. That information and the fact that we were related gave my sisters a few good lunchtime perks, like the best desserts and dishes. Uncle Wayne was very well liked by everyone, and I’m sure there were other nieces and nephews, as well as his three sons, Tim, Keith, and Cliff. Anyone with a true tie to him was looked at as privileged. I never had to ride the bus to school, but I can just imagine what the drive was like. There are bus drivers who are crabby, and then there are bus drivers who are fun. I can totally imagine how much fun it was to be on Uncle Wayne’s bus. I would imagine that as long as you stayed seated and didn’t cause trouble, the ride could be filled with a lot of laughs. A bus driver like that makes me wish I did have to ride a bus…well, sometimes. Today is Uncle Wayne’s 83rd birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Wayne!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
I have always loved watching birds in flight, especially when they are playing as they fly. They swoop, dive, and chase each other across the sky. We used to have pigeons downtown that played like that, but now they have moved near, or rather right over the trail I like to walk on. Since I don’t go downtown much, you can imagine how delighted I am that they have moved. Pigeons, while fun to watch truly have nothing on the Common Starling when it comes to play. The first time I saw a group of starlings in flight, I was stunned. They moved as one, swooping and diving. It looked like a cloud in the sky, but the cloud would have to be alive, which of course, it was, but not in the way you might think. The cloud was the birds, and their dance is beautiful. It was almost surreal, but it was very real.
This group “dance” is actually called a murmuration, and it doesn’t happen every day. Starling murmurations only happen when the birds start to roost…as early as September in some places, and as late as the end of November elsewhere, with more birds joining the nightly displays during this time. Starlings usually perform their aerial acrobatics at dusk, just above their communal roosting sites before they bed down for the night. I suppose it is a joyful display, because they are preparing to have their young. That is not the only reason starlings murmurate, however. Murmuration can also be used as a defense mechanism. The idea for defense is that as a closely packed flock, can appear to it’s enemies as being much larger than any single bird could possibility appear. Grouping together in the sky does offer protection from predators like peregrine falcons, but the birds also murmurate to keep warm and exchange information on feeding sites. It’s like a natural version of social networking, I guess…with the exception of no computer.
The Starling prefers to nest in sheltered spots, away from predators, but that is not always possible. Often they nest in “woodlands, but reedbeds, cliffs, buildings and industrial structures are also used. During the day however, they form daytime roosts at exposed places such as treetops, where the birds have good all-round visibility.” They need to be able to keep a watch to protect themselves from prey. The habits of birds has always been interesting, but the Starling is perhaps the most interesting of all the birds I’ve seen.
I have never been caught up in a serious earthquake, and I don’t think I want to, but stories of survival in an earthquake, are always filled with hope. Earthquakes remain the one natural disaster that the scientists can’t successfully predict. They may make the attempt, but any earthquake that comes on or near the date predicted, is coincidental. They might come close one time, but totally miss it the next. Earthquakes simply confound the scientists. The Avezzano Earthquake near Avezzano, Italy was no exception.
At 7:49am on January 13, 1915, the people in the Marsica area, a suburb of Avezzano, were going about their day…business as usual, but at 7:50am everything changed. It was a clear, cold morning, after a hard winter night during which the Northern wind blew through the area with a display of crazy violence from dusk until dawn. One survivor had been running errands, and when he came back, he found his brother and cousin sitting by the fireplace, while his mother was busy preparing milk and coffee for her two boys. The younger brother would be heading to school after breakfast, but 15 minutes later at 7:50am, the earth started to rumble around them.
It didn’t matter that it was 1915, because there are no warning systems for earthquakes in this day and age either. The only thing that might have made a difference would have been buildings that were more earthquake proof. Still, it seems that deaths during earthquakes can happen even if the buildings are earthquake proof. The magnitude 6.7 earthquake destroyed the city. Often we think of an earthquake that brings that much destruction being of far greater magnitude than a 6.7 and maybe the stability of the buildings was the problem. People woke up with debris on them, finding it hard to breathe. Families were ripped apart. Some lived and some died. The city and the surrounding area was in mourning.
When the people came outside, a terrifying sight greeted them. There was a huge greyish cloud that was hanging over the suburbs. The city below the cloud was flattened. The air was filled with the acrid smell of old plaster, and the screams and cries of people who were trapped or had found their loved ones deceased. The city was in despair. Death was everywhere. Beloved, historic buildings were gone…many of which had been thought to be indestructible. The total loss of life in the 1915 Avezzano earthquake was 30,000 people. The financial loss was $60 million.
Our enemies really depend on the war we are in. In World War II, Russia was on the side of the United States. While they might not have really been our ally, they weren’t really our enemy either, so I guess they were our “frienemy.” In reality, they were in just as much danger as any other member of the Allies. Germany had made a deal with them, but then invaded them anyway. World War II was a fear-filled time. It was a hard-fought war, against terrible enemies. There were times that it looked like Hitler would win, but in the end, he did not, and as far as history knows, he committed suicide, along with his wife, Eve Braun Hitler, who married him the day before.
The people of the Soviet Union heard on the radio on May 9, 1945, at 1:10am, that Nazi Germany had signed the act of unconditional surrender. That surrender ended the USSR’s fight on the Eastern Front of World War II, or the Great Patriotic War as the Soviets called it. That war had been devastating consequences…according to official data, the state lost more than 26 million people. It was a great day for Russia and for the world. Hitler was dead, and the world could move forward and begin to heal. It was truly a rare case of an indestructible victory over its worst enemy, and the people of the state began a traditional method of celebration…drinking vodka and toasting to their victory.
The party began that day, May 9, 1945, and continued without ceasing for about 22 hours. People were so excitedly celebrating that they really didn’t think about their condition. They went outside in their pajamas, embraced, and wept with happiness. They didn’t care if they were in their pajamas, they were elated, and they partied. In fact, even non-drinkers began to drink. The party came to a screeching halt 22 hours later when the wartime deficiency of vodka, led to a unique situation. The party was in full swing, and when Joseph Stalin stepped up to address the nation in honor of the victory, the population had drunk all the vodka reserves in the country. I don’t think people really cared at that point what they toasted with. They would gladly lift a glass of water to cheer the victory. Nevertheless, how often does an entire nation run out of liquor…unless the nation is in prohibition, that is?
As with anyone, there were many sides to my uncle, Bill Beadle. It really depended on who you were and what you were looking for in a friendship/relationship with him as to what you ultimately found in him. That is exactly why people say, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Of course, Uncle Bill would laugh at that statement. I doubt if he, like most men, don’t think of themselves in the “beauty” arena, but there are many beautiful people, who are men. I always remember Uncle Bill as being a humorous person. He liked to joke around, and many of the kids were able to witness his funny side. I think that is the main reason that when his mind started to slip and he didn’t come to family events anymore, it was just so sad.
Uncle Bill led a busy life for most of his life. He worked for years in pipe yards, and later had his own rathole drilling company with his sons, Forrest and Steve. He was an excellent machinist and mechanic. He could fix just about anything. Nevertheless, his favorite pastime was hunting and fishing with his son, Steve. He had always loved the outdoors, and going out in it. I think, like most outdoorsmen, Uncle Bill just felt like he could breathe outside, like he was free. Since he was born and raised in Wyoming, I’m sure he knew many of the best places to go camping, hunting, and fishing. That would make for some great memories for him and his family.
Uncle Bill took his position in the family seriously, and not just with his own kids, but any of the nieces or nephews found themselves heading in the wrong direction, and Uncle Bill heard about it, he took it upon himself to “sit them down” for a heart to heart talk. I think that just knowing that he cared about the direction they were heading made them decide to do the right thing. That is a great legacy to have. Today would have been Uncle Bill’s 92nd birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Uncle Bill!! We love and miss you very much.
My niece, Gaby Beach completed her nursing degree with the December 2020 class, and has been hired by Wyoming Medical Center to work in the Progressive Care Unit (PCU). She has wanted to be a nurse for some time now, and once she left the US Navy, has used her GI Bill to realize that dream. Following her graduation, Gaby applied for a job at Wyoming Medical Center, and was quickly hired in the Progressive Care Unit(PCU), which is just a step below ICU. Gaby was hired on the day shift, which is a bit unusual, since many new nurses have to accept the night shift. She starts her new adventure on January 25th.
Gaby and Allen have been renting a loft apartment out in the country while she was not working, but now that they both work at Wyoming Medical Center, it makes more sense for them to live in town. Their next plan is to buy a house in town, but that will have to wait until Gaby is established at the hospital, besides when you think about it, moving in the winter is the pits anyway. For now, Gaby is enjoying being out of school for a while. She will need to go back, because nurses really need to have a Bachelors Degree, and the program she took gives an Associates Degree. Right now, she is looking at her options, because there are requirements the college must have in order to qualify for the GI Bill, and Casper College doesn’t offer the Bachelors Degree for nursing (BSN). Gaby is a person who isn’t likely to put off that part of her training, because she is highly motivated. My guess is that she will be back at it by fall.
For now, she is relaxing, free of her studies, and enjoying her dogs and her plants. Gaby has a definite green thumb when it comes to house plants. She likes the unusual plants, and posts about her success on social media. Her posts have actually turned her hobby into a bit of a business, because people love her posts and her plants so much that she has been able to sell plant shoots for astonishing amounts of money. Her mother-in-law, my sister, Caryl Reed can’t believe anyone would pay that much for a plant clipping. I guess the value of something like that comes from the person selling and the person buying the item. Unusual plants would likely bring more money. However she managed it, Gaby is very talented in nursing and horticulture. Today is Gaby’s birthday. Happy birthday Gaby!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
While many people had a terrible 2020, my niece, Toni Chace and her husband, Dave continued to work, and really ended the year in good shape. They didn’t get Covid-19, like so many in the family and hope they don’t. Normally they would do a lot of traveling, but like most people, that was curtailed this year. The only trip they took was to Centennial, Wyoming, to visit Dave’s parents, Jim and Nancy Chase. The trip was a blessing to all, and like most of us, much needed to keep us from getting cabin fever…no pun intended, because they were in Dave’s parents cabin, in Centennial. I’m sure it all felt rather confining for them, but sometimes, a nice quiet vacation can be very nice too.
As I have talked to Toni’s family members, I am told that she loves her dogs. In fact I’m told that in her family, the dogs, Biscuit and Cricket, are her first loves, with Dave, and her son, James coming in second and third. According to Dave he is the third position. I can’t really decide how “true” that statement is, because I know that Toni dearly loves her husband and son, but in the interest of telling the story as it was told to me, I’ll say that Toni really loves her dogs. James says that his mom loves her dogs more than him and Dave combined. As happens in most owner/pet relationship sources, especially when there are multiple people in the family, pets often choose one owner as their “own” human. That is the case with Biscuit and Toni. Biscuit loves his human…Toni. In fact, Biscuit actually gets separation anxiety when Toni is gone for work. Toni’s sister, Liz Masterson figures that Biscuit sits at the window all day, until Toni gets home. Life (for Biscuit) begins again when Toni (his human) gets home. While loving her dogs more than her husband and son, is a funny thought, it does go to show Toni’s heart for her pets and her family. She also love buying them treats and toys. I think maybe her dogs just like being treated like babies.
While her home is filled with mostly men (Cricked is a girl), her son, James brought home a girl who is in the United States on a work visa, named Manuela. She is from Columbia, and Toni likes her very much. The whole family does. She is bubbly and fun, and most of all, she loves Toni’s pride and joy…her son. Time will tell where that is going, but they are enjoying the journey. Today is Toni’s birthday. Happy birthday Toni!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
As years go, 2020 was one of the worst. We had to face so much loss, some was from Covid and some was not from Covid. I don’t think I have ever attended so many funerals as I did in 2020. The funerals were all beautiful, but it’s the pictures of sadness the never fade from my mind. And it’s not just the funerals from 2020 that were filled with sad faces, but every funeral I’ve ever been to.
I suppose it is because of the compassion I feel for the family of the one who has left us. Their family is feeling such pain, that their faces have completely changed. Grief does that to a person. It’s like death takes away a layer of innocence…the unfounded belief that our loved one will always be here with us. Those broken hearted faces that cannot hold back the tears. The look of disbelief that tells me that they still can’t wrap their mind around the fact that their loved one is gone. And these are not people without the hope of Heaven, but their loved one is no longer here with them, and that is so hard to bear. We don’t grieve for the one who has gone to Heaven, the grieving is for us…the ones left behind to pick up the pieces of our lives.
My mind’s memory files retain pictures of events, and that can be good or it can be bad. I remember the faces of people who were very happy, and those pictures bring me much joy, but the sad faces, are so hard to get off my mind. Maybe it’s because I have such a hard time wrapping my own mind around the fact that the person is no longer here. When a loved one or friend leaves us for Heaven, we are always unprepared. There is no way to prepare for death, even when the doctors have said it is coming. We always hope against hope that the doctors are wrong, and sometimes they are, but when they are right, we are faced with the finality of it. While the picture of someone’s extreme sadness never fades from my memory files, there is another picture that stays with me. It is the look behind the sad face. The look of a parent who knows that they have other children who need them, so with determination, their face shows that they will continue to make a life for their family. It is look of an adult child who is determined to live the kind of life that will make their departed parent proud. It is the look of a spouse who is determined to carry on as the now widowed parent to the family. Their hearts are broken right now, but with prayer, the love of family, and determination, they will carry on, because they are all overcomers. I can’t say that every grieving face has that same determination, but the ones I know do. Maybe it comes from knowing their loved one is in Heaven…it probably does. It is the hope of the future for them and their families.
When we look at the events of the Holocaust, we find ourselves looking through the eyes of those who were resigned to their fate. Some even felt like this was what they were born for and nothing could possibly change that. One Holocaust survivor, Eliezer “Elie” Wiesel, who was born in Sighet, Romania, on September 30, 1928 expressed that very sentiment concerning his time as a prisoner of the Nazi Regime. Wiesel’s early life was fairly normal, as it was a fairly peaceful time for the Jewish people. He was part of an average Jewish family consisting of his mother, father, and three sisters, but all that came to a screeching halt in 1944, when they were shipped off to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. The Holocaust experience was so horrific and such an assault on both his body and mind, that it defined his life. He couldn’t even stand to talk about much of it for over 60 years.
Wiesel, when he could finally speak of the atrocious acts he and others were subjected to, told of how the Nazi Regime conditioned the prisoners in the camps to believe that their future was what it was, and that they had no say in it. When his own father was beaten in front of him, Wiesel just stood there. He was horrified, but he didn’t move…he didn’t dare. For years that life moment haunted him. His father told him that it wasn’t so bad, but as his father’s son, Wiesel knew he should have done something. Nevertheless, he like so many other Jewish prisoners of the Nazi Regime, was made to understand that the killer (Nazis) came to kill, and the victim (Jews) came to be killed…like it was their destiny from the beginning of time. Somehow they were taught that this was the reason they were born. They are expected to believe that that their life had no other purpose, and that their voice didn’t matter…that their lives didn’t matter.
Wiesel’s ordeal really began in 1940, at age 12, when Hungary, which was in alliance with Nazi Germany, annexed his hometown of Sighet, Romania…although he didn’t know it then. At first things seemed ok, but then all the Jews in the city were forced into a ghetto. This was the story so many Jews shared. By 1944, when Elie was 15, Hungary colluded with Germany to deport all residents of the ghetto to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, in Poland. They were trucked out of their homes, their possessions stolen, and then they were packed into a cattle car on a train. It was so tight that they had to stand up the whole trip. They had no food or water, and no restroom facilities. It was terribly degrading. Upon arrival at Auschwitz, Elie’s mother, Sarah, and youngest sister, Tzipora, were killed, and he and his father, Shlomo, were separated from his other sisters, Hilda and Beatrice. Elie and Shlomo were transferred to Buchenwald concentration camp, where his father died.
Then came some of the worst scenes he can remember. Wiesel describes it this way: “Not far from us, flames, huge flames, were rising from a ditch. Something was being burned there. A truck drew close and unloaded its hold: small children. Babies! Yes, I did see this, with my own eyes…children thrown into the flames. (Is it any wonder that ever since then, sleep tends to elude me?)” Wiesel battled with immense guilt and the ugliness of humanity for most of his life after surviving the Holocaust. Nevertheless, Wiesel was devoted to combating indifference, intolerance, and injustice. He became an accomplished writer, professor, and overall champion for human rights. Finally on April 16, 1945, American military personnel liberated the Buchenwald concentration camp. The survivors were barely alive, and even solid food ran the risk of causing their death, because their digestive systems were not prepared for much food, even though they were starving. The soldiers didn’t know the consequences, and gave them chocolate bars. The results were disastrous. They finally had to stop giving them anything, which was just as hard, if not harder than the problems caused by feeding them.
Thinking his family was gone, Wiesel eventually made his way to Paris, where he enrolled in the Sorbonne to study literature, philosophy, and psychology. By age 19, he was working as a journalist for a French newspaper, earing $16 per month…a pretty goo wage in those days. A few years later, in 1949, he was sent to Israel, to cover the early days of the new nation. Wiesel found out that two of his sisters survived, when his sister, Hilda saw his picture in a newspaper. While Elie was living in a French orphanage in 1947, a journalist took his photo, and it was published in the French newspaper where Hilda saw it. In an interview in 2000, Wiesel admitted he thought all his sisters had died in the Holocaust. “When I was still in Buchenwald, I studied the lists of survivors, and my sisters’ names were not there. That’s why I went to France…otherwise I would have gone back to my hometown of Sighet. In France, a clerk in an office at the orphanage told me that he had talked with my sister, who was looking for me. ‘That’s impossible!’ I told him. ‘How would she even know I am in France?’ But he insisted that she’d told him that she would be waiting for me in Paris the next day. I didn’t sleep that night. The next day, I went to Paris, and there was my older sister! After our liberation, she had gotten engaged and gone to France, because she thought I was dead too. Then one day she opened the paper and saw my picture [a journalist had come to the orphanage to take pictures and write a story]. If it hadn’t been for that, it may have been years before we met. My other sister had gone back to our hometown after our release, thinking that I might be there.” The following year, Elie reunited with Beatrice, in Antwerp, Belgium. She eventually emigrated to Canada, where she lived for the rest of her life. Elie Wiesel passed away on July 2, 2016.