Letters

Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

Home · Articles · News · Books · Two Years Later: 900 Interviews...
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Two Years Later: 900 Interviews Round out a Look Back at 9/11

Nancy Sundstrom - September 11th, 2003
Two years ago, the unthinkable happened, and our world, as we knew it, has never been the same.
The “unthinkable,“ of course, is the devastation that took place on September 11, 2001. Much has actually been written and documented about that day’s horrific events and its aftermath, and the latest comes on the two-year anniversary in the form of “Middletown, America: One Town’s Passage from Grief to Recovery“ by Gail Sheehy.
This is the 14th book from Sheehy, whose landmark work, “Passages,“ dealt with the complexities of the stages of adult life and resonated with millions of readers worldwide. As an author, she’s a unique combination of journalist and sociologist, and she tackled the Middletown project because she believed that this second anniversary of 9-11 would be even harder to deal with than the first.
“Two years after a traumatic event is tantamount to the day after surgery,“ she has written. “The shock is past, the painkillers have worn off, the visitors have begun to thin out....Impatience with the unrelenting sorrow gives birth to the bromides by which the feel-good purveyors successfully commercialize consolation: ‘Get over it.’ ‘It’s time to move on.’ ‘Put it behind us.’“
Sheehy chose the commuter hamlet Middletown, New Jersey for her study because with nearly 50 victims, the town suffered the “largest concentrated death toll“ on 9-11. Interestingly, Middletown is also the name of a classic 1924 sociological study about life in Muncie, IN, but this Middletown has very little in common with that blue collar area. Most of the New Jersey residents are affluent, though there is a significant population of firefighters and police officers who reside in the town. And those, as we know, were two of the groups of 9-11 victims most affected by the tragedy.
In the first chapter, “Signs and Wonders,“ we meet a few of the subjects the book focuses on, one of them being a young firefighter:

“Kenny Tietjen always had to be first at the fire. He was unbeatable, even by grown men. As a kid coming up in a proud blue-collar section of Middletown, he kept a scanner in his bedroom. The minute he heard a report of a fire, he‘d streak out of the house and jump on his moped and race to the address. Whereas the firefighters, who boasted of belonging to the largest all-volunteer fire department in the world, would be delayed by the necessities of getting to the firehouse, climbing into their turnout gear, taking their places on the truck, and traveling to the scene. Little Kenny was always there first, waiting for them-a damn fourteen-year-old...The funny thing was, Kenny had been scared of sirens as a very little boy. “Petrified,“ recalled his sister Laurie. “Firecrackers, any loud noises, but especially fire and police sirens terrified him.“ And as a child he was on the runty side, short and skinny and shy. He had to content himself with “torturing“ his younger sister. For example, the “spit torture.“ Laurie giggled. “He would tackle me on the ground, sit on top of me, and-this is so disgusting, I can‘t believe I‘m telling you this-he would spit into drool, so it was hanging just over my nose, and then he‘d suck it back up.“
“Don‘t tell Mom,“ he would order. Their mother, Janice Tietjen, was a devout Catholic, a pillar of St. Mary‘s Church.
The way Kenny Tietjen dealt with fear was to go toward the very thing that scared him. “He was just so gung ho,“ said Janice. “He had to be the first one in.“ As soon as he came of age, he became a volunteer in Engine Company Number 1 in Belford, a briny section of Middletown where the fish factory was and where firefighting was one of the noblest occupations. Kenny moved closer to the firehouse. His mother was shocked upon reading a newspaper account of her son‘s participation in his first fire. It was a propane tank that might have exploded, but who was the first one on the hose? Kenny.
“That kid!“
Within his first few years in the company, Kenny Tietjen bulked up and more than proved himself. At a large electrical fire in a lumberyard, one young firefighter opened a door and was knocked unconscious by a flash. Kenny ran in behind him and with another volunteer dragged the man out of the smoke-filled shack; saved his life. Kenny‘s helmet melted, but he suffered no injuries.
“When my brother wound up being a fireman and then a police officer, the whole family, we couldn‘t believe it,“ said Laurie. As a member of the Port Authority police force, Kenny wore a smile almost all the time. He loved his job, blossomed in it. “We called ourselves the Regulators,“ said Mike Ashton, who worked with Kenny in a sector car at the Holland Tunnel. “We were both active cops, we went out looking for it. We called it ‘playing.‘ “ The two spent every working night together, ate their meals together, shaved their heads together. Ashton saw more of Kenny than he saw of his own wife. They backed each other up.“

Sheehy conducted more than 900 interviews as she followed the stories of victims and survivors who were part of the community fabric of Middletown, and most of them are quite moving and compelling. Especially so is the tale of four widowed mothers who challenged the White House in an effort to gain information about why 9-11 took place. Sometimes the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, largely because certain the stories are certainly more dramatic than others, and a few seem stretched to be given substance. For the most part, though, the dots are well-connected here and Sheehy’s research pays off when it ties into looking at the various stages the town worked itself through as they tried - and are still trying - to deal with their sense of anger, loss and grief.
This might be an interesting project to revisit in a few years, when a different perspective could be shared and the impact of 9-11 measured and described in the way that it can only through the healing that happens with the passage of time. Something tells me that there will be more chapters yet to be written about the people and the place that is Middletown, and much like the ones here, they, too, will deserve to be told.

 
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