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Travel Feature

Mourning 9/11 in the Time of Covid

 

Nearly 20 years ago, the attack on the World Trade Center seemed like the greatest world-shattering event people would experience in their lifetime. Two planes piloted by hijackers slammed into the Twin Towers, killing nearly 3000 people, bringing down the two buildings and spreading cancer-inducing dust into the lungs of thousands of first-responders. For many Americans — especially New Yorkers — the devastation was unlike anything this country had ever seen and prompted 20 years of war in the Middle East.

Then came the coronavirus, Covid 19, the ultimate disrupter, which has overshadowed in many ways, how one world-shattering event changed our lives because this cataclysmic event had such global ramifications.

Accordingly, it has also disrupted remembrances for 9/11 this year. After months of being shuttered, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum is reopening but there was doubt as to whether the annual remembrance would take place as it had been for the last two decades. So it is holding a COVID-conscious observance using pre-recorded audio of family members reading the names of loved ones rather than the usual live readings.

When the 9/11 Memorial announced that it would also cancel its Tribute In Light — where beams are shined into the sky to resemble the Twin Towers -- it raised hackles and stirred the bile. Officials said the tribute would put stagehands and electricians needed to install the 88 lights at risk. But, in response to a national outcry — which embarrassed former Mayor Michael Bloomberg — who chairs the 9/11 Memorial — and Gov. Andrew Coumo, the 9/11 Memorial then agreed to erect the lights after all, suddenly saying it could be done safely.

Meanwhile, the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation -- which organizes an annual run to raise money for 9/11 survivors and first-responders -- is featuring live readings in a separate, simultaneous event a short distance from the Ground Zero memorial. Its ceremony takes place at the corner of Liberty and Church streets, next to Zuccotti Park — where the victims’ names were read aloud before the ceremony was moved to the 9/11 memorial in 2014.

Both events will ring bells and observe six moments of silence at the exact times when the hijacked planes crashed into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pa., and when each tower fell. 297 family members volunteered with Siller to read the names live.

Traditionally, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum has chosen the readers of the names of 2,983 men, women and children killed on 9/11, along with those who perished in the 1993 WTC bombing. But now we have these recordings — to be piped into the memorial plaza — originally produced to be played in the museum’s “In Memoriam” exhibit, which displays photos of the victims.

The memorial has invited 6,100 family members to attend its ceremony; all will be required to wear masks and maintain social distancing. So even with the occasion of recalling 9/11, the pandemic trumps terrorism.

All this brouhaha proves that this global assault has restructured our way of life in a fashion that the localized tragedy of the Twin Towers attack could never do. And because of that, we now have to find a way to restructure our lives in ways we never could have expected in 2001. Maybe the hope that we would become so much better people after 9/11 -- which didn't seem to have happened -- will finally come into play thanks to the world having slipped into the Corona-verse.

Memorial services will be streamed online:

Pennsylvania: https://www.nps.gov/flni/index.htm

Pentagon: https://www.defense.gov/Watch/Live-Events/#/?currentVideo=24840

A Nostalgic Vision of the Future of Travel Tempered By Reality


I’ve always been someone who looks ahead and believes that, in hope for the future, we have to look to the skies. While NASA's own space programs are part of the past, the future is now tied into privatization of space travel, exploration and, eventually, colonization.

That’s why I have believed that space travel would be normalized and become a way out of our troubles. Many of our problems stem from global limitations; we have to move to the open-ended possibilities of going beyond our earth and into the cosmos.

SpaceX’s recent test flight with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board the Dragon spacecraft meant that human spaceflight has returned to the United States. On Saturday, May 30, these two former NASA astronauts boarded the Dragon spacecraft and re-launched human spaceflight by the USA.

Both men are military test pilots, engineers, and members of the same NASA astronaut class. Each flew on two space shuttle missions, married a fellow astronaut, and have a son. SpaceX  described them as "badass space dads," while fellow astronauts say the two men are deceptively intelligent and now pioneers.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 launched Crew Dragon"s second demonstration mission (Demo-2) from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA"s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The next day, Crew Dragon autonomously docked to the International Space Station (ISS). At 7:35 p.m. EDT on Saturday, August 1st --  after 63 days at the Space Station -- the team on board the ISS with the American duo autonomously un-docked and departed from the orbiting laboratory. At 2:48 p.m. EDT on Sunday, August 2, they splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida.

This mission was the final major milestone for SpaceX's human spaceflight system, executed in order for the company to get it certified by NASA for operational crew missions to and from the ISS. The SpaceX and NASA teams have reviewed all the data for certification; NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker, and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi will fly on Dragon's first six-month operational mission (Crew-1)-- now targeted for late September 2020.

This particular launch not only brought the USA back into the game but it represented the first commercial contract for a crewed NASA launch. Is the privatization of space the future? In 20 years, will the millennials of today be taking their grand kids on commercial space flights and building orbiting colonies?

In any case, I didn’t get as worked up about this flight as I did when space fights were completely untested events in the '60s. The early space trips that took place had all my attention then; when these two intrepid space travelers returned, I was far less excited.

Maybe I had a sort of deflation or even a blasé reaction about it all because it was a result of tech visionary Elon Musk's efforts. Musk, who co-founded and leads Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink and The Boring Company, can chortle. The travel-focused entrepreneur oversees all product design, engineering and global manufacturing of the company's electric vehicles, battery and solar energy products. There we go, that raging capitalist, an arrogant conservative full of bile and ego, someone who skirts the edge of being a conspiracy theorist while actually making a go of it  -- is the hero of the moment.

Maybe that’s what it takes, a man who has such a vision, but this success was needed to kick-start us all; our global future has to expand well beyond him.

The point? We each have to make our own collective push towards new technology and the future. And that might save us all as we survive through this pandemic.

The Political Conventions That Will Be Mostly Politics and Little On-site Partying

 

Yes, it’s less than three months until the election day, and the conventions are about to happen — sort of. In this age of the pandemic, what would have been two whiz bang weeks of thousands of people gathering on the streets as either supporters or protestors isn’t happening. Whether inside huge arenas or outside the halls, people aren’t going to be there.

Like some virtual reality future come to play these events will mostly be online. The Democratic National Convention was scheduled to be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, starting on August 17th, 2020, and ending on the 20th.

The event was originally supposed to take place July 13-16, but the DNC announced in April that due to the coronavirus, it would be moved to a month later. All the keynotes will be broadcast from various locations, and at this point, no one seems to have an idea what everyone or anyone will do in Milwaukee.

As for the Republican National Convention, it had been scheduled to take place in Charlotte, North Carolina, which originally had planned to host the convention there, but after Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said he wasn’t going to guarantee the RNC a full-fledged convention in an arena packed with people due to health concerns, Trump and Republican officials were pissed. So in June, they decided to hold most of the convention in Jacksonville, Florida, from August 24th  and run through August 27th, 2020.

Then the pandemic hit there and now Jacksonville will host the celebratory aspects of the election-year affair but how much of that will be virtual nobody knows yet. Trump has suggested he might give his acceptance speech from The White House — or not.

Having these virtual conventions — without mass gatherings, visual dramatic activities on the floor — has to be the weirdest political scenario yet. How much of this will become standard operating procedure is yet to be seen, but it will re-shape the political process and ways of campaigning forever. 

Maybe it’s a good thing that sloppy old guys no longer will be able to kiss babies or glad-hand constituents. And nobody will be embarrassed when they just expect the check without any cheek, or direct ass-kissing. It all going to be digital — the ass kissing that is.

San Francisco Restaurants Look To Innovation for Survival During Pandemic

Restaurants in major cities across the countries are struggling to survive amidst the pandemic gripping the country. The restaurateurs and chefs of San Francisco are looking to new ways of reaching people that can’t eat out. Carrie and Rupert Blease, the chef couple behind Lord Stanley, and their good friend and neighbor, Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu’s have created Lord Jiu’s (https://lordjius.square.site/), a five-course collaboration dinner kit.  You can even order a cocktail kit to go so you can still have something to sip with your food.

Wise Sons Deli (https://wisesonsdeli.com/) has shifted its business model to pick-up and delivery only, like many restaurants across the county. They’re offering Stay at Home Starter Kits in addition to other pantry staples so you can have a shmear and some rugelach at home.

Other restaurants have opted towards teaching people online some of their tried and true techniques. The China Live @Home Web Series (https://chinalivesf.com/VideoRecipes/) provides video classes on making Chinese restaurant staples like dumplings and beef with broccoli.  It expands chef/owner George Chen’s mission “to demystify Chinese ingredients and recipes while educating guests on its rich history and influence.”

San Francisco-based ChefsFeed’s Virtual Cooking Classes (https://experiences.chefsfeed.com/) give people a chance to connect with local chefs and bartenders, learn simple cooking tricks and tips, and most importantly, support the culinary community through this difficult time.  Classes demonstrate topics such as tapas, gumbo, scones and coladas.

 

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