When tragedies occur, it is the names of the perpetrators that stay in most people’s minds, but not the victims nor the heroes. Unfortunately, we can recall the names of the shooter in the Newtown tragedy, but how many of us know the names of the police officers who charged into the building to rescue the trapped children and educators? To those of you who can recall the terror that was wrought on the LIRR in Dec. 1993, you probably remember the name of the gunman, Colin Ferguson, but do you know the names of the individuals who subdued him and stopped him from taking even more innocent lives?
For some of you, 2012 was a good year. There are always weddings, graduations, engagements and births to celebrate. For those of you who had a blessed event this year, may the next year continue to be as joyous.
However, for many of us in Massapequa, 2012 was difficult, to say the least. A monstrous storm destroyed many homes and even those who escaped major destruction still had the heartbreak of watching friends and neighbors deal with the devastation. We also lost two longtime public servants in Peter Schmitt and Harry Jacobson. Here’s hoping that 2013 is much better, filled with peace, prosperity and good health for all of us in the Massapequas.
Happy New Year!
The standard thing to do in this case would be start with “my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the school shooting in Newtown, CT and their families,” only that would be dishonest because I don’t pray. That’s not an anti-religious statement; I respect the kind of intellectual puzzle that prayer can present, that simultaneous desire for both total humility and divine attention, but it’s never been something that I do personally.
All I can do is participate in the dialogue everyone says we should be having on gun control. However, I tire of each side making a cartoon villain out of the other, and it’s especially bad this time around; after such a particularly senseless attack, targeting the most innocent possible victims, proponents of stricter gun control practically can’t help viewing advocates of gun ownership as evil monsters with children’s blood on their hands, while gun advocates, feeling cornered, are doubling down even more on their dogma of individual freedom as the bedrock of the American spirit. The severity of the event that necessitated that we address this issue now makes it especially unlikely that anyone involved will have a cool enough head to make the right decisions, but there’s no choice.
With this being the week before Christmas, I had planned to write an editorial wishing everyone happy holidays, and I still wish all of you the best. However, something happened at a Massapequa Park Village Board meeting which I wish to reflect on. Dan Pearl was sworn in as a trustee, as his family looked on. It was a happy moment that I’m sure he will always treasure, and I wish him well in his new role. After he took his seat on the board, Mayor James Altadonna took the nameplate that belonged to the late Harry Jacobson, whom Pearl is replacing, and handed it to Village Administrator Peggy Caltabiano.
It was a final reminder that Harry is no longer with us, and this made me sad. When you cover a beat, as I have covered Massapequa Park for many years, you get to really know the people in charge. I can state from my personal experience that Harry was a good man. Up until the day he passed on, he always had the best interests of Massapequa Park residents at heart. For example, whenever the owners of a potential new business appeared before the board at a public work session, Harry would always question them to make sure that the proposed business would be an enhancement and not blight to the community. He truly cared for the village and he left a lasting legacy.
In my last column, I mentioned It’s A Wonderful Life. I’m going to reference that movie one final time this holiday season. Even though the holiday season has not always brought me tidings of comfort and joy, I’d like to believe that there is still some magic to be found.
In the movie, Clarence shows George Bailey what the world would be like if George had never been born. It’s a much darker place. When George realizes how wonderful his life really was, he is magically transported back to that much better place. I’m kind of hoping that Clarence would be able to transport us to a happier world. I know that December is his busy season, but here’s hoping for that holiday magic again. Here’s what I’m hoping we’ll find in that place.
Last week, the Massapequa School Board voted to cancel the last four days of the February break to make up for some of the school time lost due to cancellations caused by Hurricane Sandy. I agree with that decision. According to Superintendent Charles Sulc, the Commissioner of Education is not yet willing to lower the 180 school day requirement, so therefore Massapequa must make up for the lost days. While it will be difficult for some families who had made arrangements for that week, the alternative of taking vacation days away from the December break when families are getting together for Christmas and New Year’s, or the spring break when families are celebrating Passover and Easter, would have been worse.
I don’t remember a time when I ever believed in Santa Claus, but I don’t think I specifically disbelieved in him either. I think, from the age of 4, my mindset on the subject could be summarized as “I am Jewish, therefore it is irrelevant whether Santa is real or not, because he’s not bringing me anything.” That may sound coldly analytical for a small child, but never underestimate the mercenary tendencies of a little girl who really wants a new Barbie doll. Apparently, if there was nothing in it for me, the mystifying existential state of the jolly man in a red suit could be happily left alone.
Come to think of it, I had a cynical view of the holidays in general from a very young age. I was painfully aware of the fact that Hanukkah is a big scam, and I actually mean no offense to Hanukkah: it’s a fun little holiday, and any excuse to eat potato pancakes fried in oil should be respected. The scam lies in trying to con children into believing that Hanukkah is just the Jewish flavor of Christmas, which I’m convinced every Jewish child knows deep down is a well-intentioned, yet somehow odious lie.
The beginning of December also marks that the holiday season is in full swing. I think I can speak for everyone when I say, “Thank God.” No, not because I’m all that into the holidays, which I will explain a little bit later, but because December 1 also means that hurricane season is officially over. I think all of us on Long Island are relieved at that. So if bringing in the holidays means doing away with hurricanes, then I say string up the holly!
It shows you just how bad the hurricane was if I’m saying to bring on the holidays. The season and I have never really been friends. As a child, I would often come down with strep throat at this time of the year. One year, as a young child, our beloved Christmas display was vandalized. I can still remember getting in my mom’s car and seeing Rudolph smashed and turned upside down. The decorations were repaired, but one week later the whole display was stolen. My beloved first dog, Charlie, died a week before Christmas when I was young. Years later, another beloved pet, Ricky, died the day after New Year’s. Another year, during the season, I was hit in the rear as I was stopped at a stop sign. The weather gets too cold for golf and Bethpage is closed on Christmas so I can’t console myself with even the thought that I could possibly play on Christmas, if I really, really wanted to. And in a note that we can all relate to, could there be any more traffic in the malls at this time of year? So, as you can see, as December rolls around, I usually cringe and hope that the damage won’t be too bad.
I had written something on the conflict in Gaza only to find out, within minutes of finishing, that a cease-fire had been announced. I considered scrapping the whole thing, but you know what? Sadly, this will probably still be relevant going forward, because chances of this ceasefire setting the foundation for a lasting peace are slim to none.
And if I’m wrong, and the end of this particular conflict marks the beginning of a new, more peaceful era in the region, my having published one dated column will be a very small price to pay, I think.
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