The 100th Anniversary of the Wall Street Bombing

At 12:01 pm on September 16, 1920, a bomb exploded in the financial district of Manhattan in New York City. 30 people died instantly with 8 more deaths to follow. 143 additional people were injured. It was the deadliest terror attack on American soil up to that point.

According to Wikipedia, this crime was never solved, but it is suspected that it was carried out by Italian anarchists. It had to do with postwar social unrest, labor struggles, and anti-capitalist agitation. (Sound familiar?)

The bomb rolled up on a horse drawn carriage, times being what they were. It consisted of 100 pounds of dynamite and 500 pounds of shrapnel. Given that there was a timer, you’d think the terrorist would have had the decency to save the horse, but no. The driver escaped, though. Of course.

The explosion mostly took out young, lower level employees; messengers, clerks and the like. That hardly seems fair. But of course none of this was fair.

It also caused 2 million dollars in property damage, which would be worth nearly 26 million today. It was no accident that this happened at lunch hour at the busiest intersection of Wall Street. You can still see remnants of the damage to this day.

Needless to say, trading on the New York Stock Exchange was suspended immediately. James Saul, aged 17, took a car and spent a good deal of time transporting 30 people to hospital. I bet he turned out to be an amazing person. Unfortunately, that information seems to be lost to history.

So anxious were they to get back to business as usual that they cleaned the area up that night, destroying a lot of evidence. But flyers were found that said, “ Free the political prisoners, or it will be sure death for all of you. American Anarchist Fighters.” It is now assumed that the political prisoners referred to were Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian anarchists who were erroneously arrested (and later electrocuted) for murdering two people.

So there you have it. A bit of history to enjoy while eating your corn flakes this morning. You’re welcome.

Not a good day to be on Wall Street.

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Suspicious Package

I was walking to the south end of my bridge to do some much-needed maintenance when I came upon a large shopping bag, apparently stuffed full of clothing. It was right in the middle of the sidewalk and no one was in sight. I wasn’t about to go rooting around in this bag. After all, I once wrote about a hand grenade being found on a bridge. You just never know.

After alerting my supervisor, I spoke to the 911 operator and described the package. They said they would send someone out right away. This was good news, because not only would I like to keep my bridge, but this package was, coincidentally, only about 20 feet from my new (to me) car. That’ll ruin your whole day.

It was a little awkward. I didn’t want to leave this bag unattended. We get a lot of pedestrian traffic. So I stayed there, but at a safe distance.

But what is a safe distance, anyway? Close enough to keep the public away from the bag, but far enough not to be maimed for life if it exploded was what I was shooting for. I also didn’t want to stand so far away that I looked like a paranoid dope when it turned out to be just a bag of clothes as I strongly suspected it would. I spent an unbelievably long time pondering the sweet spot of distances until the officer arrived on the scene.

He reassured me that I’d done the right thing by calling. One cannot be too cautious in this day and age. He then inspected the bag from all angles, and asked if I had heard any sounds or seen any wires. No and no. So he then extended his baton to its full length and gingerly used it to pull out the first layer of stuff, which turned out to be a towel. I held my breath.

The bag’s contents included a beach towel, a jacket, and a very nice ballpoint pen. That seems like kind of a strange combination, but I guess we’ll never know the whole story. At least I know more of the story than all the joggers and bicyclers that hurried past. If they sensed my adrenaline dump, they definitely had no idea of its cause.

Just another day on the drawbridge. Move along. Nothing to see here. Your tax dollars at work.

Boom

Kaboom

I have always been haunted by a few seconds of footage. You’ve probably seen it, too. It’s often used in post-apocalyptic movies and documentaries to illustrate the impact of a nuclear detonation. Every time I see this footage, it always makes me slightly nauseous. Maybe because it seems so impossible, so unreal.

First you see a white house sitting alone in a desolate landscape, with weird shadowing behind it. You can almost imagine it being on Mars. And then it is blown off the face of the planet in a split second. Kaboom. Gone.

kaboom
[Image compilation credit: hubpages.com]

The first time I saw that little portion of this video, I was a small child. I was probably too young to be watching something like that, but it always pops up without warning. I’ve been treated to it more than 100 times, I’m sure, since then. Now I don’t even have to see the explosion to feel queasy. All I have to see is that creepy house.

I’ve always thought this was staged; that it was special effects, straight out of someone’s twisted imagination. Well, yes. And no.

After a little research, I discovered that this was part of Declassified US Nuclear Test Film #55. (You can see the house in question disappear around minute 9:45.) It kind of freaks me out to think that there are at least another 54 such films floating around out there.

It is staged in that it was a house built especially for this particular test. It was never occupied. But the explosion was all too real.

Now that I’ve sat through the entire Federal Civil Defense Administration video, I’m even more disturbed. We had so much power in our hands, and we used it. We had absolutely no idea what we were doing.

At minute 10:15 they show the troops that witnessed the blast as the nuclear wind rushes past their unprotected bodies. The narrator said, “The fury of it had stunned some, but not one was injured.” Oh yeah? Tell that to their widows after the cancer took them.

At minute 11:40 the narrator says, “When readings indicate safety for human beings, the troops are led in for a tour of the area.” Again, they were completely unprotected, and you realize that they are swimming in the radiation that will destroy their lives, and they don’t even know it. Poor schmucks.

That video is the stuff of nightmares. To this day, though, I can’t figure out how those cameras remained stationary amidst the devastation of that blast. That’s why I always had my doubts about its veracity. That’s what I found so creepy—that someone could imagine such a thing, script it, and put it on film. But in retrospect it’s even more creepy that we imagined it, created it, and made it come to pass.

Some things, once seen, cannot be unseen. Some things can never be undone.

Sovereign Citizens: The Tip of the Tassel on the Lunatic Fringe

None of us like to pay taxes. But most of us are rational human beings who realize that the nation’s infrastructure can’t be provided for free. If we are stupid enough to break a law, we may not like getting arrested, but we sure appreciate it when an operator is at the other end of the line when we feel the need to dial 911. The vast majority of us use the nation’s highways and bridges, and are grateful that traffic lights function, fire departments respond, libraries are available, tainted food is recalled, and 12 year olds can’t buy cocaine at the local Stop n’ Shop.

But there is a group out there that seems to think that they can have their cake and eat it, too. They feel that they are above the law and do not recognize the authority of federal and state governments. They live within this country, take advantage of what it has to offer, but refuse to contribute to it in any way, and in fact believe they get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore. If they didn’t resort to violence and hate speech and frivolous law suits to clog up our courts, their selfishness and irrationality would be laughable, but they are waaaaaay out there in nut-job land, and it’s kind of scary, knowing that these people walk among us.

Here is a short list of lunatics who are considered Sovereign Citizens, according to the website Hatewatch, by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

  • Eddie Jones, the candidate expected to win a county commissioner seat in Memphis, Tennessee, was fired as a Memphis Police officer for his use of cocaine 18 years ago. Recently he stopped paying his mortgage to protest changes in where to send the payments. He only had three years to go before the house was paid off. Naturally the bank started foreclosure procedures, so he sued them, calling himself “a living man created in the image of God, with indefeasible title to our land,” ordering the bank’s agents “to immediately CEASE and DESIST any further actions.” The man is in cloud cuckoo land.
  • Israel Rondon fatally lost a gunfight with the sheriffs in Ohio in March. They had come to arrest him for probation violations. His rap sheet included illegal weapons charges and assaulting an officer, and driving without a license. He has filed multiple rambling and incoherent lawsuits seeking millions of dollars in damages against various government agencies and banks.
  • Mark Kulis, another Ohio Sovereign Citizen, caused his entire neighborhood to be evacuated in January when the police found bombs in his foreclosed home during an eviction process. The walls and ceilings of his house were covered with anti-government graffiti, and the tree in his front yard had been covered with strange, incomprehensible messages. He once told a neighbor that someone had drilled a hole in his home’s foundation and inserted termite larva.
  • In Arkansas, police officers pulled over Jerry Kane and his 16 year old son Joseph for a routine investigation of some unusual Ohio (what is it about Ohio???) license plates. Jerry got out of the car and started arguing with the officers, and Joseph then got out of the car with an AK-47 and shot one of the cops and pinned the other down with gunfire. After chasing the second cop and killing him, he returned to the first cop and shot him in the back of the head. The Kanes then drove away. After a chase and another shoot out where two more officers were wounded, the Kanes were both killed. They had been traveling the country as Sovereign Citizens, giving sparsely attended seminars on avoiding foreclosure. This comprehensive article on the Kanes will give you some amazing details on this lunatic fringe movement.
  • David Carroll Stephenson, of Washington State, was convicted of filing false liens against federal officials, plus one count of harboring federal fugitives and being a felon in possession of firearms. He conspired with Kenneth Wayne Leaming, who has a record of depositing 1 million dollars in false promissory notes and operating an aircraft without a pilot’s license, as well as founding the County Rangers, an armed enforcement wing of the Sovereign Citizens.
  • Convicted sex offender David Allen Brutsche and Devon Campbell Newman were arrested in Nevada for allegedly planning to kidnap, jail, torture and kill police officers. Brutsche said, “I will kill anyone that tries to stop the cause of liberty.” They planned to use acid and plastic bags to dispose of the officers’ bodies.
  • Christopher Lacy, a bipolar man from California, shot and killed a highway patrol officer at point blank range last fall. He was then shot and killed by another officer. The officer stopped him for having an obstructed license plate.
  • Phillip Monroe Ballard was in jail, awaiting trial for filing fraudulent tax returns. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Texas for attempting to have the federal judge in his case assassinated.
  • Lewis Pollard, a Navy veteran from Colorado, pointed a handgun at a police officer after a routine traffic stop and was then shot to death. On his Facebook page, Pollard stated, “I have renounced my citizenship to the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA which is a corperation and clamed my individual rights as an american who upholds the freedom as an individual who lives under the laws of the constition the United States and as a free man I revoke all clames on me and my children grand children and great grand children so say I Lewis Be Pollard American living on the Colorado Republic near [81521-9998]”
  • David Russell Myrland of Washington state filed a civil suit accusing the government and its agents of using poor grammar and writing at a second-grade level. He has been illegally practicing law for 20 years, yet he still felt the need to get help with the suit from David Wynn Miller, who claims to have become the king of Hawaii in 1996 after turning the state’s name into a verb. He also believes that if he adds a hyphen and a colon to his name, he can escape the grasp of government taxation. Miller claims to have an IQ of 200.

There are hundreds of thousands of people who claim to be Sovereign Citizens in America. The members of the group have been classified as domestic terrorists by the FBI. Seven law enforcement officers have been killed by them since 2000.

Even Jerry Kane’s widow is nutty. For those of you getting this blog by e-mail, you can see the video here.

Bridge Goes Boom

One of my coworkers reminded me of an incident that occurred a few years ago on our drawbridge. I can’t believe I had forgotten about it. It was very bizarre. Makes me wonder what else I’ve forgotten. Hmmm…

Anyway, two workmen from the Department of Transportation were leaving the bridge after doing some repairs when they came upon a barnacle-encrusted hand grenade on the sidewalk. Yes, I really said hand grenade.

MK2_grenade_DoD

In their infinite wisdom they decided to pick it up and carry it to the park at the foot of the bridge. Getting smarter by the minute, they then tried to detonate it themselves. I’m sure the future branches of their family tree will be quite grateful to know that they were unsuccessful in their efforts. Finally they decided to notify the police.

The police had the good sense to take this situation a trifle more seriously, and they sent out the bomb squad, who determined that this was a Viet Nam era device. They managed to detonate it without harming anyone or anything, unless you count the significant crater that it produced in the park.

Based on the evidence, here’s what everyone assumes happened: Someone came home from the Viet Nam War with a souvenir. They probably put it in their garage or attic where it was forgotten about for decades. Then it was rediscovered when the owner was more mature and he realized that, hey, it might not be the best idea to have a live grenade in the house. But how do you get rid of a thing like that? He brought it to the bridge and threw it in the river, where it sat for another few years gathering barnacles. Then one day someone was fishing off the bridge and brought something unexpected up in his cast net. Realizing what it was, he took off, leaving it on the sidewalk like the responsible citizen that he is. Luckily a jogger or a dog walker or neighborhood kid didn’t come across it before the DOT guys did. That bridge gets a lot of foot traffic.

Just to be on the safe side, the city had divers explore the river in that area the very next day. It wouldn’t do to have a live ordinance dump rusting away under the drawbridge. Fortunately nothing further was found.

You wake up every morning assuming that your day is going to follow a certain routine. You just never know, do you? Sheesh.