Lessons still being taught 20 years after Sept. 11 tragedy

Chico’s Sept. 11 memorial is at fire station No. 5. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The world was forever changed 20 years ago this month when terrorists took down the Twin Towers in New York City, ploughed a plane into the Pentagon, and were thwarted by Flight 93 passengers who were able to steer the plane into a Pennsylvania field, thus saving who knows how many lives.

It angers me that people are still dying in events that stem from Sept. 11, 2001. I call it the Afghanistan cluster. I doubt anyone will ever be able to convince me there were valid reasons for our continued presence there.

There will never be adequate justice for what occurred 20 years ago. There never can be when there is loss of life. You can’t write a check to make it all better.

But our actions also have consequences and we, the United States, need to take a good, hard look in the mirror and take accountability for the wrongs we have unleashed related to Sept. 11 and at other times.

It is easy to point the finger to say “they” did this to us, therefore we have a right to X, Y and Z to “them.” That logic didn’t work on my elementary school playground, so it certainly should not be how we write our foreign policy.

Remembrances of Sept. 11, 2001, inside the building at Chico fire station No. 5 (Image: Kathryn Reed)

But we also need to remember the human component of all of our decisions. On this Sept. 11, let’s reflect on what we have lost. Because personally, I’m at loss as to what we gained from Sept. 11. I’d like to think we could gain perspective, compassion and understanding about why people could hate us so much to do what they did. If we don’t understand the “whys” of any action, then we will forever be ignorant and on the defensive, and thus susceptible to future turmoil.

As publisher of Lake Tahoe News at the time of the 10-year anniversary of Sept. 11, we put together a multi-day package of stories that to this day I am proud of.

In my current hometown of Chico, I was emotionally moved by the Sept. 11 memorial built by the Chico Firefighters Association and local businesses at Station 5 at the corner of East and Manzanita avenues. There is much more to it than the building that looks like an enclosed bus stop.

In that structure people can write notes and hang them for all to see. Some said:

  • To Captain Joey Durah … We miss u and love you so much. R.I.P. Your bro.
  • May we each all remember we are one and not to be divided less we fall into madness.
  • To all our fallen brothers, miss all of you.

Pictures from that fateful day are on the wall. One shows a Chico firefighter shirt hanging in New York, as well as a sign that reads Paradise California (heart) New York.

Adjacent to the structure at the fire station is a pentagon shaped slab of concrete with the words Never Forget stenciled in red. On the other four sides are the flight numbers of the planes that went down.

In the center are two concrete posts symbolizing the World Trade Center towers with a piece of steel suspended between them that came from one of the towers. One pillar says FDNY, the other 343. That number reflects how many New York City firefighters died that day.

A flag flies at half-staff. Benches are available to sit, to ponder, to reflect, to take it all in. Even 20 years later there is plenty to still try to grasp, to understand, to mourn.

Journalists delinquent in quality of coverage of Caldor Fire

Three times I nearly lost it this week. All because of people in my profession. Damn journalists.

I understand covering the Caldor Fire could be a once in a lifetime event, but that is no reason to throw ethics out the window.

CalFire at times has provided the media with firefighter quality jackets. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

I also understand that it’s fun and exciting covering big stories like this.

Let me tell you, I’ve almost driven to Tahoe every day since the basin has been threatened. Not for the adrenaline rush, but to help in the only way I know how—which is to provide accurate, timely information to people.

But this isn’t my fire to cover, at least not on the ground.

I am shocked and saddened CalFire had to send an email to journalists the night of Aug. 31 that in part said, “It has come to our attention that a few members of the media have been impeding the progress of the firefighting efforts and going on to private property without permission of the property owner. This activity cannot and will not be tolerated. Action will be taken if it persists.”

I’ve been thwarted plenty of times by “officials” who don’t understand the media’s rights. But this wasn’t about keeping journalists away from the news, or impeding their coverage. This was about journalists breaking the law.

CalFire, all firefighters, U.S. Forest Service, and law enforcement personnel should not be babysitting journalists. Their attention needs to be focused on the fire, not people wanting a “better” story.

It is beyond shameful for someone to pick up debris on someone’s property, to hold it up for their viewers to see. It’s fine to film from the street, the sidewalk. That’s all legal and ethical.

Maybe I’m hypersensitive because my mom lost everything in the Camp Fire in Paradise nearly three years ago. To think of strangers going through the remains of her home makes me want to scream. This was a task she and my sisters went through, and more than once. She knew where things were in the house so then it was more easy to identify what that charred object was.

It’s simple, if the house were standing, would you walk in and pick something up? No. At least you better not. So dammit, don’t do it just because it’s in a pile of ash. That object may be the only thing that person will be able to salvage.

These are TV news people, never a favorite of print/online journalists to begin with.

The limited TV coverage I’ve seen has been questionable at best because there seems to be a twinge of sensationalism in all of it. I tend to scream at the TV when I watch the news because of inaccuracies. Before the fire reached the basin a national news source used exaggerated language about how close it was to the lake. Then there was the regional embedded team. I know they were embedded with the firefighters because they said so every fourth phrase. I had to turn it off it was so bad and bizarre. Bad by the guy on the ground and the anchor in the studio; it was like they were in it for themselves instead of providing information to their viewers. It was crap; hard to even call it journalism.

Print isn’t perfect by any means. I made some choice comments this week on a San Francisco Chronicle story about Caldor. Commenting on stories is a rare endeavor for me.

And sites that only publish press releases, well, that’s not being a journalist on any day.

When is there going to be a story about why no one is talking about the cause of this fire? I have so many story ideas … sigh.

But what incensed me the most was when I heard from two people that the Tahoe (non) Daily Tribune (still an odd name when you publish one day a week) was not going to publish on Sept. 3. What the hell? How was this even possible? How could anyone think this was a good idea? How do you abdicate your responsibility? How do you not have a print edition of what is potentially the biggest story of the year, the decade, the century, or ever in South Lake Tahoe?

The presses are in Carson City. Even if they were still in South Lake Tahoe, the paper probably could have still printed there. It is common for publications to share presses in times of need, and many news sources don’t own presses, but instead contract out that work.

The Tribune is the newspaper of record in South Lake Tahoe. I’m not even sure it would be legal to not publish.

Sure, there are not a lot of people in town, but deliver to the shelters, throughout the lake, drop it off at the Carson City post office where all South Shore California mail is being delivered.

Fortunately, as of this moment, a more reasonable decision has been made and the Trib is going to have its regular Friday print edition.

I know it’s difficult to do a job when you are in crisis mode. But as journalists it is our obligation to provide the news no matter what is happening in our own lives.

The Tribune did well during the Angora Fire. The sports editor at the time lost his home, but was at work every day. Now that’s a true journalist.

To not publish once, well, then how do readers know you will be there in the future? To have even contemplated not publishing is such an egregious breach of trust between publication and the public. Shame on you Tribune.

Tennis friends teach by example how not to swear

I like to swear, or so I thought.

Usually it’s on a tennis court out of frustration at myself. Sometimes it’s while I’m in the Jeep with the expletives directed at other drivers. Other times it’s random like when I’ve rammed my toe into a hard object that didn’t move or I’m trying to fix something that seems to want to remain broken.

My parents rarely swore. I remember the occasional shit. Mom still rarely swears; at least not audibly. I never heard either one use the F word and would be shocked if I learned they ever did.

I, on the other hand, cannot say the same. I have never been one to swear in everyday conversations, so to speak. But I also have not shied away from using colorful language.

What I’ve noticed lately is that I have been swearing less. I give credit to the group of guys I am regularly playing tennis with. They don’t swear. Not never, but so seldom it’s noticeable.

If it were just two or three guys not swearing that would be one thing, but there is a dozen or so guys who rotate in and out of our twice a week court dates.

I asked a few why they don’t swear; admitting that my girlfriends and I would swear on the court routinely. One said how he learned quickly in high school (he is older than me, so this was decades ago) that if he were to swear, he would have been kicked off the team. Essentially, they said it was about sportsmanship. It certainly had nothing to do with me being the only woman on the court.

They also said they had no problem if I wanted to swear. I laughed, and then swore.

What I’ve noticed as the weeks roll by is I’m swearing less and even more surprising I want to swear less. So, it’s not just being silent, it’s that the words are not the first I think of in frustration. I’ll never be perfect, but this less swearing thing can only be a good thing.

Who knew a group of men would be what I needed to clean up my mouth.

Time to kill the patriarchy

Patriarchy, as the dictionary defines it, is “a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.”

It seems like not a day goes by that I’m not reminded this is still very much a patriarchal world. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s blatant.

When will patriarchy be in our past and not our present? Can there be equality among the sexes? Why are men so threatened? How insecure are these men (and women) who want patriarchy to be the norm, or at least for it to be acceptable?

This month I came across a letter my sister, Pam, wrote to me in early 1975. She had just turned 15 and I was 9. It starts off as though she was going to give this to me when I was older. I don’t know what age I was when I received it, but the intent reads like I would have been close to entering high school.

In part she wrote, “You are a really cute girl, but you have a fresh mouth. No guy likes girls with fresh mouths, no matter how cute. Guys look for a good personality. Don’t try to out-do a guy, he is the top or whatever. Remember, you are a young lady, not a tomboy.”

Wow, just wow, was my reaction when I read this now at age 55. Anyone who knows me, knows I still have a “fresh mouth,” I’m athletic (does that make me a tomboy?), and I don’t think guys are the “top or whatever.”

I’m not upset with my sister for having written this. It just goes to show what she was taught at home, in school, in society, and through the media. The four of us girls grew up with a domineering father. It was very much a “father knows best” upbringing.

I tried to rebel at home, I rebelled at work, I was a bit of rebel this month on the phone during an HOA meeting run by men. Sometimes it backfires, sometimes not. I got what I wanted in this meeting after earlier being dismissed via emails by the HOA president and the administrator. I think men would like us women to be silent, and when we aren’t they do their best to silence us.

Sometimes it’s as though women are invisible. A column in the San Francisco Chronicle in February told the story of a woman whose stimulus money was accessed via the same debit card as her husband’s. But she couldn’t activate it, only he could. This is 2021. What the hell is going on? (There’s that smart mouth again!)

At my first job out of college as a reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune I found out a white male colleague had gotten a substantially larger raise than me. I asked the white male managing editor why. He said because he thought my colleague had a family. Another, what the hell? This was the late 1980s. I was dumbstruck, but not evolved enough to know what to say or how to fight the injustice. I let it go in the moment, but clearly have never forgotten it.

I remember growing up the mail would come for my mom delivered to Mrs. Donald Reed. Yet another what the hell? Why does a woman have to lose her identity when she gets married? The way of addressing a woman is like treating her as a possession of her husband’s.

I used to wonder why friends (and sisters) would take their husbands’ last names in marriage. I understand it can be easier with kids, but still, why give up your name and not the guy giving up his? Then I thought some more. What does it matter, you are just trading one man’s last name (your father’s) for another (your husband’s).

It took until 1975 for the Tennessee Supreme Court in Dunn v. Palermo to rule that a married woman did not have to use her husband’s surname to register to vote.

Interestingly, there was a time when last names were not even common.

Attorney Stephanie Reid in a column for Seattle Bride magazine writes, “… the matter of a wife taking a husband’s surname didn’t surface in English common law until the ninth century, when lawmakers began to consider the legalities surrounding personhood, families, and marriage. Thusly (as they would say), the doctrine of coverture emerged—and women were thereafter considered ‘one’ with their husbands and therefore required to assume the husband’s surname as their own. Under the concept of coverture, which literally means ‘covered by,’ women had no independent legal identity apart from their spouse. Actually, this ‘coverage’ began upon the birth of a female baby—who was given her father’s surname—and could only change upon the marriage of that female, at which point her name was automatically changed to that of her new husband. But coverture laws also prevented women from entering into contracts, engaging in litigation, participating in business, or exercising ownership over real estate or personal property. As succinctly stated by former Justice Abe Fortas of the United States Supreme Court in United States v. Yazell, ‘[c]overture… rests on the old common-law fiction that the husband and wife are one, [and] the one is the husband.’”

It wasn’t until 1974 that the Equal Credit Opportunity Act was passed in the U.S. Prior to this law financial institutions did not have to give women (married or single) credit cards in their name, let alone a loan.

The examples of our patriarchal society are endless. If there were only historical examples, that would be one thing. But they aren’t. That’s the problem.

Just last summer I overheard an acquaintance (another white male, not too much older than me) say something like he or someone on his court was “hitting like a girl.” It was anything but a compliment. I stopped the ball on my court to ask him if he would have said that if his wife (who is a 4.5 player) were on the court; or if he would say that if his daughters-in-law or granddaughters were in ear shot. He laughed it off.

It’s not something to laugh about. We girls/women don’t deserve to have our gender be verbally abused like that, to be dismissed, to be considered less. Stop it. Words matter, as do actions. The patriarchy needs to die. Now.

Ditch the bottle and turn on the tap

Water is a basic necessity for any being to survive. Why then isn’t drinkable water available to everyone?

Money and lack of willpower would be the two easy answers.

Richard Jolly, chairman of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, sponsored by the W.H.O., told the Associated Press it would cost $10 billion a year to bring water and sanitation to the places that don’t have it today. He added, that amount is ”one-tenth of what Europe spends on alcoholic drinks each year, about the same as Europe spends on ice cream and half of what the United States spends each year on pet food.”

Another question: Why when good drinking water is available do people buy bottled water?

Answer: Ignorance, stupidity, laziness. All guesses on my part.

I have lived where the water isn’t drinkable, though purification systems are available in Mexico. In the San Joaquin Valley in the 1990s I had bottled water delivered to my house because the water was so horrid. I understand not being able to or willing to drink what comes out of the tap.

Some of the best water I have ever drank out of a faucet was in Tahoe. Tahoe tap water comes from rain or snowmelt. Some agencies in the Lake Tahoe Basin take water directly from the lake, while others use wells. Each water agency decides how to treat it before it reaches spigots.

I would always be amazed when I would see tourists (sure hope they weren’t locals) loading up on bottled water in the grocery store. I told them they didn’t need to, that what comes out of the faucet is soooo good. They looked at me like I was crazy. I never saw anyone put a case of water back on the shelf.

Where did they come from that bottled water was the norm for them? The people I spoke with all seemed to be from the United States. Is their hometown water really that bad?

The irony about bottled water is that it is less regulated than tap water. The Environmental Protection Agency oversees tap water, and mandates individual agency’s annual reports be made available to the public. The Food and Drug Administration oversees bottled water. The FDA doesn’t require bottlers to reveal water sources.

Besides not knowing what’s in that bottle of water, there is the whole issue of the bottle itself. That’s a whole lot of plastic; and we know it’s not all being recycled.

It’s time to think about the water you are drinking and why.

No good reason to recall Newsom; vote no on Sept. 14

The California gubernatorial recall—what a waste of time and money.

The Sept. 14 election to oust Gavin Newsom from his job is going to cost taxpayers $276 million, according to the state Department of Finance.

Gov. Gavin Newsom should not be recalled. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Think what else the state could do with the money.

That $276,000,000 figure doesn’t include all the advertising going into the campaign by everyone who is running, and the special interests funding the propaganda. While that’s not my money being spent, it is still lot of cash being funneled out on what I believe is a frivolous election.

Why aren’t people up in arms about the recall process that allows Californians to be fleeced by special interests who have a gripe with the governor? Maybe they need to have some serious financial skin in the game.

It would be one thing if Newsom had done something super egregious. After all, it is possible to impeach a California governor, so there is that process that did not occur. If he had done something criminal, there are procedures in place to deal with that.

I understand there is plenty to be disappointed with in Newsom. But by no means has he done something that warrants being removed from office prior to the end of his term next year. Even if no taxpayer money were being spent on this election, I would still be vehemently opposed to the recall. Recalls need to be a last resort for someone who is clearly incompetent, not for someone people merely disagree with.

Whether it’s Newsom or someone else, that person’s time in office won’t be long before the next election. The primary is in June, with the main event in November 2022.

A simple majority could oust Newsom, who is in his first term. If that happens, the next governor would be whomever gets the most votes. No minimum percentage is required.

Think about that. Of the 24 Republicans, nine Democrats and 13 others who will be on the Sept. 14 ballot, the winner could garner 7 percent of the vote or some other scary number and be the governor. Is that what we really want, someone in office who hasn’t been elected by the majority of voters?

Voters are being asked two questions: Should Newsom be recalled? and Who should replace him? Vote no and don’t vote for anyone; that’s what I plan to do.

It’s long overdue to stop leaving trash behind after having fun

There was a time, and not all that long ago, that I didn’t think twice about littering. In fact, it almost seemed to be encouraged. I gladly went along with leaving my garbage behind without thinking twice about it.

Popcorn and drink containers left by a baseball fan at Oracle Park. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

What is it with people, including myself, thinking it is OK to leave trash anywhere?

My indiscretions were at ballparks and movie theaters. That by no means makes it right. I am finally taking ownership of my past bad behavior and trying to understand it.

I grew up with the concept of trash left behind at these two types of venues being OK by my parents, maybe even encouraged—certainly not discouraged. And these were responsible people who would otherwise demand trash be disposed of properly.

I could not find anything online pointing to how this phenomenon of letting someone else cleanup after people started. It’s not like I was alone in this behavior. There was a time when the majority of people left their food containers at their seats.

Peanut shells remained after the fan left. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Having recently been at Oracle Park in San Francisco for a couple Giants games I know that leaving trash by your seat is still an accepted practice by some.

People—wake up—it’s 2021 and you are no longer entitled to trash the places where you re-create. Take the empties, the used napkins, the half-eaten meal, the whatever to the garbage can. At Oracle they have bins for the landfill, recycling and composting. If it’s that hard to figure out what goes where, put it all in the landfill bin so you don’t contaminate the others. Just don’t leave any trash at your seat.

At each of the Giants games I was at this year people eating peanuts left the shells on the ground. One pile also had a sunflower seed shell cluster next to it. Empty drink containers were in cup holders. Trash was under seats.

While I temporarily stored my trash under the seat, I eventually got up and put it where it belonged—properly separated.

Sure, there are employees to clean up the crap people leave behind, but that is a lame excuse for aberrant behavior. Clean up after yourself. Do this at the ballpark, movies, concerts, beaches—everywhere. There is no reason you can give me for not doing so.

Vaccine cards have been around long before COVID-19 surfaced

Before traveling to South America in 2001 my arm was jabbed with more needles than I can remember. It was horrible for someone who is a bit of a needle phobe and tends to faint.

Some of the countries I was going to mandated I have certain shots. Yellow fever being one. Other vaccinations came at the recommendation of the federal government and Sonoma County Public Health Department (where I was living at the time)—like hepatitis B (which is a dose of three shots) and hepatitis A (two doses).

Showing proof of vaccination is not a new concept. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The only aspect of questioning if I would be inoculated were:  Could I handle all those shots? and Was traveling to countries with these requirements worth it? Let me tell you, the questioning was momentary. I wanted to travel.

I had a ticket into Peru with Machu Picchu one of the first destinations and a return flight to the U.S. out of Venezuela. What I would do with the nearly four months in between was to be discovered when I arrived on the continent. The shots were worth all the experiences I had and memories I cherish to this day.

I was in my 30s. It’s not like I was a kid or under parental control. I was thinking for myself when it came to getting vaccinated. It was simple—I didn’t want to get any of the diseases the vaccines were to prevent. And I didn’t.

I was given a yellow vaccination card that I still have. The outside of it says the certificate is approved by the World Health Organization. It has my name on it. At the bottom is the seal of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Inside the health official wrote the date of the shot, type of vaccine, doses and stamp of physician’s signature. I can’t read all of the vaccine names, but guessing a medical professional could figure it out.

This card is with other medical information that I keep handy. Also among these records is my COVID-19 vaccination record card. In the last week I got my electronic version of this last shot in case I need it because I don’t carry the card with me.

I’m guessing people who don’t travel internationally are more put off by the thought of having to show a vaccination record for COVID-19 than others are. It’s not a violation of any of your rights. You have the right not to go that venue, business, even school that says get the shot or stay away. That venue, business, school has the right to protect its patrons/students from you, the unvaccinated.

I’m not telling you to get vaccinated, not in this missive any way. All I’m saying is there are consequences to actions, or inaction as the case may be. Not being vaccinated comes with limits. Former neighbors started home schooling their daughter because she didn’t have a certain vaccine. Remember, just as it’s your choice not to be vaccinated, it’s my choice to applaud businesses that require proof of vaccine before being allowed in.

Being back in the ballpark an invigorating experience

Fans are back in the stands at Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It felt good to actually be in the stands at a Giants game instead of a cardboard cutout like so many people were last year because of the pandemic.

Baseball in person—as is true of most sports—is so much better than watching it on TV or listening to it on the radio. The energy of the spectators (albeit there wasn’t much last Saturday when they got trounced by the Pirates), the sounds of the ballpark, the smells—you just don’t get that without being in the stadium. Fortunately, the vibe was even better the following day when Giants refused to be swept by Pittsburgh.

I’ll admit, I was a bit apprehensive about even going to San Francisco because of the Delta variant of COVID-19. Headline after headline makes we wonder when the pandemic will really be in the rearview mirror. I’m vaccinated, but I know I am not 100% immune from getting this virus.

Lunch at the ballpark–beer and garlic fries–$25. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Reassurance from my friend Karen, who is in charge of our season ticket group and who had been to the ballpark earlier in the month and who is equally concerned about the virus as I am, convinced me I would feel safe. She was right.

Neither of us cared we were in the minority with our masks on. We wore them outside the ballpark, taking the escalator up, walking to our seats, and then when we left. They were on when getting food and going to the restroom.

Masks were off in our seats. This is because of where they are located—in a handicapped section without people nearby. Had I been in a regular seating area, I’m pretty sure my mask would have been on throughout the game. I’m sure this would have changed the experience in some manner, but not negatively enough to have wanted to be anywhere else.

The stadium isn’t full, but at least there are fans in the stands this year. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Mask wearing is easier to swallow than the prices at the park—$10 for garlic fries, $15 for a beer, $40 to park. Then there were the tickets.

Still, it’s the game that is so fascinating. Seeing the entire ballfield instead of just what the cameraman focuses on allows fans to witness everything. A home run in person is so much more exciting live; no matter how good the call is by an announcer. When the ball goes out of the park—wow—the collective excitement is electrifying. The spectators can be entertaining as well—with what they are wearing, yelling, and consuming.

Maybe the two games last weekend were more special because it had been a year of not being able to attend a game. Maybe it was seeing a friend in person (and getting a hug) who I hadn’t seen in two or three years. Maybe it was feeling like a bit of my pre-pandemic life was returning.

I look forward to going back in September … and hopefully again in the post-season.

Live music provides fuel for the soul

Live music is the most primal form of energy release you can share with other people besides having sex or taking drugs.” – Kurt Cobain

This energy that music provides to performers and listeners is so powerful that even a pandemic could not stop it. Even though big concerts (for the most part) ceased to exist for much of 2020, that didn’t mean live music was not being played.

Lester Wong plays music for neighbors in Chico. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Plenty of musicians kept on playing, though the audience and venues changed. My brother-in-law, Lester, is one of the creative ones. He started playing his guitar (with amplifier) and sang songs from his front porch in Chico. Neighbors would bring chairs, sitting appropriately spaced on the law, sidewalk and across the street.

He resumed the sessions this summer. It was wonderful hearing him last week. My first time to hear live music probably since being at La Esquina in Todos Santos, Mexico, in spring 2020. There local musicians would play on most Thursday nights. It was casual, it was free, and always fun to share with friends.

That’s the thing about music, it brings people together. The experience of live music has created incredible memories for me.

The other day a massage client asked me what kind of music I like to listen to. I’m all over the board and didn’t have much of an answer. I’m actually not a big music aficionado. I just like to listen to music. I can’t tell you the history of bands or even necessarily name who is on the radio.

I just like music. In fact, musicals are my favorite genre of movies.

I didn’t know I was missing live music until I heard it again. It wasn’t just the music, but also sharing it with the dozen people who turned out to listen to this solo guitarist.

I’m not sure I’m ready for a large venue or even an indoor one, but hearing my brother-in-law play made me realize live music perhaps means more to me than I had realized.

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