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Allied Bombing of Dresden, 1945

(Destruction of Dresden, 1945)

[NOTE: A week ago, my father’s ashes were interred with full military honors in a military cemetery in California. The ceremony included a three gun salute, a bugler playing “Taps,” and the flag-folding ritual. Although my father served during the Korean War, he never saw live action. Instead, he was sent to Cuba on a reconnaissance mission. My brother is also buried in a military cemetery and died of cancer at the age of forty. He was an Army medic and became a paramedic and German teacher after leaving the military. Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer here in the United States. We honor all of our dead this weekend, but especially, those who have served, fought, and died protecting our country. War is hell, as any soldier will tell you, but sometimes, it is a necessary evil. Just ask the people of Ukraine, who are fighting for their lives, their country, their freedom, and their sovereignty as a nation. Please take a moment to remember all the soldiers who have given their lives to protect YOUR country.]

Allied Bombing of Dresden

The British RAF began dropping bombs on Dresden, Germany on February 13, 1945. Over the next few days, British and American Allies dropped approximately 4,000 tons of bombs onto the city, killing 25,000 people, and destroying the center of the city (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 2).

Prime Minister Winston Churchill questioned the attack, saying, “The destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 2).

But, was the bombing justified?

Summary of Theories and Concepts of Pufendorf and Vattel

Pufendorf claimed that the enemy’s aggression “allows me to use force against him to any degree, or so far as I may think desirable” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 152). He explained that the people fighting a defensive war may use any force to put an end to the threat against them, receive reparations, or “secure guarantees for [their] future security” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 152). It was not, he explained, a priority to gauge proportionality but to ensure “the defense and assertion of [their] safety, [their] property, and [their] rights” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 152). The people on the defensive, therefore, may use whatever means necessary to defeat the enemy.

Vattel, on the other hand, believed that “now the laws of nature being no less obligatory on nations than on individuals, whatever duties each man owes to other men, the same does each nation, in its way, owe to other nations. Such is the foundation of those common duties – of those offices of humanity – to which nations are reciprocally bound towards each other” (Christov, 2018, pg. 159). But he also allowed for the possibility of nations that would violate the law of nations and violate all the civilized rules of warfare: “If there were a people who made open profession of trampling justice under foot, — who despised and violated the rights of others whenever they found an opportunity, — the interest of human society would authorize all the other nations to form a confederacy in order to humble and chastise the delinquents . . .the safety of the human race requires that [such a nation] should be repressed” (Christov, 2018, pg. 160).

Was the Allied Bombing of Dresden Justified?

At the time of the bombing, the Eastern Front – “where Nazi Germany was defending [itself] against the advancing armies of the Soviet Union” – was only 155 miles from Dresden. According to Luckhurst (2020), Dresden “factories provided munitions, aircraft parts and other supplies for the Nazi war effort” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 3). It was a major city through which German “troops, tanks and artillery traveled through . . . by train and by road” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 3). The attack was intended to bolster Soviet efforts on the Eastern Front (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 3).

RAF planes were equipped with both “high explosive and incendiary bombs: the explosives would blast buildings apart, while the incendiaries would set the remains on fire, causing further destruction” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 4). The United States Air Force completed the attack with daylight bombings which were directed at the city’s railway yards” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 4).

The Nazis denied that Dresden had any military function and exaggerated the death toll at 200,000 civilians. They claimed that Dresden “was only a city of culture” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 7).

Worldwide, Dresden was considered a tourist attraction. British Members of Parliament questioned the attack, and the Associated Press accused the Allies of using terrorism against the people of Dresden (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 7).

Allied military leaders defended the attack as necessary to further cripple Nazi Germany and end the war. A 1953 report done in the U.S. determined that “Dresden was a legitimate military target” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 9), and the attack was no different from previous attacks on other German cities.

The debate continues, with some people viewing the bombing as immoral – possibly a war crime – and others defending it as necessary to help end the war with Germany (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 9).

My own view is that Pufendorf’s and Vattel’s theories both justify the bombing of Dresden. Pufendorf is correct when he says that the side waging a just war (in this case, the Allies) may use any means necessary to secure the peace and “secure guarantees for . . . future security” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 152). Nazi Germany was a rogue nation that had invaded other countries, murdered millions of people, and imposed authoritarian rule against the will of the people. They were guilty of “trampling justice under foot . . . [and] despised and violated the rights of others” (Christov, 2018, pg. 160), in Vattel’s own words. So, Vattel is also correct when he says that “the interest of human society [should] authorize all the other nations to form a confederacy [in this case, the Allies] in order to humble and chastise the delinquents . . . the safety of the human race requires that [such a nation – the Germans] should be repressed” (Christov, 2018, pg. 160).

Is Preservation of Cultural or Artistic Enemy Cities Relevant in War – Or are they Secondary?

My personal view is that preserving cultural and artistic enemy cities is secondary because defending the safety of Allied nations, property, and human rights takes precedence and aligns with both Pufendorf’s and Vattel’s theories of just war and the right of self-defense. Germany was the aggressor. It was not the duty or priority of Allied forces to save their cultural and artistic centers (Christov, 2018, pg. 160; Glanville, 2018, pg. 152).

Is it Justifiable to Bomb a City to Weaken the Enemy Civilian Morale – Even if the City has Marginal Industrial Significance?

Although the Nazis claimed that Dresden was only a cultural center, the Allies considered it an important transportation center for the Nazis and sought to help Soviet forces on the Eastern Front by destroying it (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 3). The bombing weakened civilian morale but also undermined the Nazi’s efforts on the Eastern Front. Since civilians in Dresden supported the Nazi cause, they were also enemies of the Allied forces and subject to punishment by Allied war efforts. In my opinion, Vattel would have seen the bombing of Dresden as necessary “in order to humble and chastise the delinquents” (Christov, 2018, pg. 160).

Works Cited

Christov, T. (2018). Emer de vattel (1714-1767). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll (Eds.),

       Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (156-167). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Glanville, L. (2018). Samuel pufendorf (1632-1694). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll (Eds.),

       Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (144-155). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Luckhurst, T. (2020, February). Dresden: The world war two bombing 75 years on. BBC.com.

       Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-51448486

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

November 10, 2021; May 27, 2022

Copyright 2021-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

27 Comments »

Love Your Mother!

(GAIA)

Gaia was the Greek goddess of the Earth who was born out of Chaos at the beginning of creation. Through her mating with Uranus, the celestial gods were born. Her dalliance with Pontos brought forth the sea gods. Through Tartaros, she birthed the giants. All humans and animals were created from her material being.

The Greeks viewed the Earth as a flat disk surrounded by a river. Overhead, the Earth was protected by a heavenly dome. Underneath, a deep pit formed the dome of the Underworld. Gaia was the Mother who nourished and nurtured the Earth and everything on it. The seas and mountains anchored securely on her great and abundant breasts.

Humans are not separate from nature. We are as dependent on Mother Earth for our sustenance as any other creature. But the human ego, pumped up by advanced technology, has deceived us into believing that we are above it all. We are so powerful, intelligent, and all-knowing, that we can control nature, the weather, and all aspects of the natural order. We are the Masters of the Universe, ready to hop onto the next spaceship to another planet. The problem is that we will take all of our problems and our egos with us.

In the 1970s, scientists claimed that the Earth was headed for another Ice Age and had all the data to back it up. So far, it hasn’t happened. They claimed that the Earth would run out of petroleum in 25 years. It never happened. They claimed that the Earth was going to be so over-populated in the future that famine would be widespread. Except for the political manipulation of politicians, this has not happened.

In the 1990s, we began to see books like The Coming Plague (1994) and The Coming Global Superstorm (1999) which predicted widespread existential threats like devastating disease and severe weather patterns that would wipe out the human race. No natural event has ever occurred in the history of mankind which had the capability to wipe out the entire human race. (Please note that I’m not talking about the dinosaurs here.) COVID was never virulent enough to rise to that occasion, as inconvenient and life-changing as it has been. (And there is no evidence that COVID originated from climate change, as some people are claiming. It could just as likely have originated from a lab, as some evidence suggests, or arisen naturally as a result of mutation, which is the most logical conclusion.) And, the wildfires, hurricanes, and tornados we have experienced have been contained as local events.

When scientists first labeled climate change as “global warming,” they neglected to explain to the general public how that actually works, and people were confused by what they actually experienced; so they re-labeled it as “climate change” to make it easier to understand. Essentially, it means that when one part of the planet grows warmer and changes the local environment, other changes occur in other parts of the planet – but NOT NECESSARILY THE SAME CHANGES. For example, record heat in one part of the planet may be accompanied by record cold in another part, even if the overall temperature of the planet has increased. Increased drought in one area may be accompanied by increased precipitation in another. Climate (long-term conditions) and weather (short-term conditions) involve much more than just temperature. Wind and ocean currents play a big part. An extreme event would be a sudden and unstoppable shift in climate. This scenario was touched upon in the movie The Day After Tomorrow (2004), where North America was suddenly covered with ice, and people were forced to migrate south to Mexico. (This movie, by the way, is based on the book, The Coming Global Superstorm.)

Our Mother Earth also has mechanisms in place to control population (disease, infertility, old age, predation, and natural death). The human ego is so out of control that we have come to a point where we believe that nobody should ever get sick and nobody should ever die. This attitude has been clearly evident during the COVID pandemic. One of the most important things I learned as a registered nurse and healthcare worker is that you can’t save everybody, and in fact, you shouldn’t save everybody. This sounds cold-hearted, but it’s a fact of life. The world is out of balance because of human interference in the natural order.

On Earth Day and everyday, remember and love your Mother – she who nourishes and sustains your very existence. But please don’t spread the seeds of hysteria, fear, panic, and anxiety. When Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others began telling young people that we were all going to die in 12 years because of climate change, we began receiving young people into our inpatient mental health unit who were so distraught and eaten up with anxiety, paranoia, and fear that some of them were on the verge of suicide. Deliberately spreading this kind of fear-mongering rhetoric is irresponsible, cruel, and unacceptable. It’s pollution of a different sort.

Recycle what you can, plant trees, pick up litter, and keep your environment clean and free from as many toxins as possible. Work to help endangered species and places to thrive. Help clean up our oceans, rivers, and lakes. Conserve water! Reduce your use of plastic. Use energy-efficient vehicles, appliances, and lighting. Drive electric vehicles, if that’s your style, but remember that those batteries create toxic waste (ALL BATTERIES create toxic waste). Electronic computers, cellphones, and other devices also create toxic waste and use elements like lithium that have to be mined from the earth. Mining leads to erosion and deforestation. Convert to solar, wind, and all-electric, if you want. But remember that even these technologies have their environmental downside. For example, the breakdown of energy sources used to generate electricity is as follows, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration: natural gas 40%, nuclear energy 20%, renewable energy 20%, coal 19%, petroleum 1%. Using electricity does not eliminate fossil fuels and nuclear energy from the equation. Anybody who tells you otherwise (including politicians and climate activists) has not done their homework. Furthermore, humans and animals are carbon-based entities. Plants depend on CO2 to produce oxygen. We could never live in a carbon-free world because that, in itself, would be an existential threat.

On April 22, we honor our planet. Happy Earth Day!

Dawn Pisturino

April 21, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

41 Comments »

Humanitarian Aid and Peacekeeping in Somalia, 1992-1994

(Famine in Somalia, December 13, 1992. Photo by Yannis Behrakis, REUTERS.)

Jean Bethke Elshtain’s book, Women and War, insisted that “the roles men and women play in war are represented and narrated in the stories we tell about ourselves” (Rengger, 2018, pg. 218). Women are represented as “beautiful souls” and men as “just warriors,” but ethicist Elshtain felt that this was too simplistic and that the roles were “more ambiguous and complex” (Rengger, 2018, pg. 218) in reality. She believed that St. Augustine had the best understanding of humans and their relationship to war and peace because he saw that humans are fragile and limited in their ability to control the world and human impulses. She further elaborates on this theme in Augustine and the Limits of Politics. (Rengger, 2018, pg. 218-220) By the time she wrote Just War Against Terror, she was convinced that the United States had to embrace its role of most powerful nation and step up to the plate to address terrorism (Rengger, 2018, pg. 220,221).

Based on her beliefs, I believe she would have encouraged the United States’ involvement in Somalia. In an interview with Dissent magazine (2005), she said:

“Beginning with that principle of equal regard, faced with a terrible situation, an enormity, one is obliged to think about what is happening, and to conclude that the people dying are human beings and as such equal in moral regard to us. So we are then obliged to consider this horrible situation and think about whether there is something we can do to stop it. Would the use of force make a difference in this situation? Minimally you are obliged to do that. Perhaps the use of force would not. But one must not just evade the question. Another minimal requirement is that if you have decided that you can’t intervene you are obliged to explain why that is, in light of the principle of equal moral regard.”

However, she would have recognized our limitations and possibilities for human inadequacy when dealing with the situation in Somalia.

The Role of the United Nations and the United States in Somalia

In 1969, Mohamed Siad Barre came to power in Somalia through a military coup. The regime became more and more repressive, and opposition forces removed him from office in January 1991. “The country descended into chaos, and a humanitarian crisis of staggering proportions began to unfold” (Department of State, 2021, pg. 1). The Somali people faced “the combination of civil war, a famine after a poor harvest, and a prolonged drought” (Mugabi, 2018, pg. 2).

The United Nations and the United States attempted to aid the Somali people in 1992, but “intense fighting between the warlords impeded the delivery of aid to those who needed it most, and so the United Nations contemplated stronger action” (Department of State, 2021, pg. 2).

“There was a fairly lengthy period in which preventative diplomacy and the focused attention of the international community could have headed off the catastrophe in Somalia” (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 5). The United Nations and the international community could have engaged in diplomatic negotiations when: 1) the Somali National Movement (SNM) was repressed by Barre in 1988 and the situation exposed by Amnesty International and Africa Watch; 2) the Manifesto Group arose in 1990 and suggestions by the Inter-African Group “that the UN appoint a special envoy to conduct ‘shutter diplomacy’ in the Horn” (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 6) were squashed; 3) Barre left office in January 1991 with no replacement government in place and the UN declined to get involved until a year later, when it passed its first resolution on Somalia (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 6).

From January to March 1992, UN resolutions “called for an arms embargo and increased humanitarian aid, and urged the parties to agree to a cease-fire, which they did through an UN-sponsored meeting in New York in February” (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 6). In April, the Security Council approved UNOSOM, which “was intended to provide humanitarian help and facilitate the end of hostilities in Somalia” (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 6). However, these efforts met with resistance from warlord militia leaders Aideed and Ali Mahdi. In August, Operation Provide Relief was implemented which authorized the United States to deliver humanitarian aid and bring in five hundred peacekeepers (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 7). Later, a Hundred Day Plan was devised to bring together UN agencies and NGOs to deliver aid, but continued violence interfered with the plan (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 7).

Bureaucracy at the United Nations also held up operations. “Food and medicine could not be distributed because of looting . . . [and] famine intensified as the civil war continued” (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 7). People around the world reacted emotionally to the famine in Somalia, and “President George [H.W.] Bush announced the initiation of Operation Restore Hope” (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 7) on December 4, 1992. The United Task Force (UNITAF) was “a multinational coalition of military units under the command and control of the American military” (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 8) authorized by a United Nations resolution (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 8). UNITAF’s goal was to provide “security in the service of humanitarian ends for a brief period” (United States Institute of Peace. 1994, pg. 8) in compliance with Chapter VII of the United Nations charter and allowed the use of force (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 8-11).

Unfortunately, conflicts arose between the United Nations and UNITAF which impeded the efficiency of these efforts. Secretary General Boutros Ghali insisted on nationwide disarmament in Somalia with the United States in charge of implementation, but UNITAF refused. The task force was more interested in a cease-fire.  The UN also insisted on top-down reconstruction of the country, whereas the United States believed that reconstruction should begin at the local level. The UN refused to take long-term responsibility in the operation, insisting that UNITAF held that responsibility. The United States countered “that the project was limited not only in scope but in time, and that when certain humanitarian and security goals had been met, responsibility for Somalia would be turned back over to a ‘regular UN peacekeeping force’” (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 10). When Ghali created the peacekeeping force, UNOSOM II, the United States agreed to participate (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 9,10).

On May 4, 1993, UNOSOM II assumed all military responsibilities in Somalia and became “the first UN peacekeeping force authorized under the provisions of Chapter VII of the UN charter” (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 11). The new goal for the force was rebuilding Somalia and safeguarding the peace.

After Aideed and his soldiers killed twenty-four Pakistani and three American peacekeepers, the United Nations and United States agreed to go after Aideed. The effort resulted in the raid of Mogadishu on October 3, 1993, which killed eighteen American soldiers. By the end of March 1994, all U.S. troops had been withdrawn from Somalia (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 12).

Responsibility of the International Community

The United Nations had a definite responsibility to address the humanitarian crisis in Somalia and to make an attempt to end the violence. This is the designated function of the United Nations. People around the world, shocked by the starvation in Somalia, were demanding action. The United States, as the most powerful country with the most resources, was obligated to get involved. Politically and morally, it was the right thing to do.

Jean Bethke Elshtain, as a proponent of St. Augustine and his writings, would have supported it because Augustine stressed love of neighbor and extending charity to others. To ignore the situation would have been immoral and inhuman.

The problem with Somalia isn’t that nations got involved. The problem is that the fierceness and tenacity of the warlord militias was underestimated, and bureaucracy and internal disagreements were allowed to undermine the operation, as outlined by the United States Institute of Peace. But both St. Augustine and Elshtain would have recognized that humans are imperfect creatures living in an imperfect world, and as such, there is only so much we can do to contain and control chaos.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

December 15, 2021; March 11, 2022

Copyright 2021-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Works Cited

Department of State. Office of the Historian. (2021). Milestones: 1993-2000: Somalia,

       1992-1993. Department of State. Retrieved from

       http://www.history.state.gov/milestones/1993-2000/somalia

Dissent, The Editors. (2005, Summer). Interview with jean bethke elshtain. Dissent. Retrieved

       from http://www.dissentmagazine.org/wp-content/files_mf/1390329368d1Interview.pdf

Mugabi, I. (2018, December). Opinion: How George h.w. bush’s failed somalia intervention

       shaped us-africa ties. DW. Retrieved from

       http://www.dw.com/en/opinion-how-george-hwbushs-failed-somalia-intervention-shaped-

       us-africa-ties/a-46598215

Rengger, N. (2018). Jean bethke elshtain (1941-2013). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll

       (Eds.), Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (216-226). Abingdon, Oxon:  

       Routledge

Special Report. (1994). Restoring hope: The real lessons of Somalia for the future of                                                                                                                                       

       intervention. United states institute of peace. Retrieved from

       http://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/sr950000.pdf

5 Comments »

III. The Heart in Anguish – a Poem

III. The Heart in Anguish

by Dawn Pisturino

Here in my heart
Is a tiny prayer
That the world would
Grow in kindness and love,
That the pain of a million
Voices would cease,
And laughter run wild
Over all the world.

I closed my mind and heart
Because I could not bear
To hear the tears
Or feel the pain around me.
I lived in a void
For many years,
But nothing changed.
The world remained the same,
Even when I was not.

I lived in the safe world
Of grocery stores and J.C. Penney,
Counting my money,
And learning how to spend it.
I bore my child
And adored my loving husband.
They became for me
My fixtures, my sanity,
The sum total of my life.
But life does not end
With safety and happiness,
For while you are safe,
Others are in danger.
While you are happy,
Others suffer.
And it is not right,
No, it is not right
To shut the door behind you.

A heart in anguish
Is a heart which feels
The pain of a million suffering people
And knows that death is near.
A heart in anguish
Touches the open wound,
Binds the broken limb,
Tastes the salty tears,
And does it lovingly,
Reverently, without fear.
The heart in anguish knows life
And death and suffering,
But lives ultimately, and dies happy.

Dawn Pisturino
1985; March 9, 2022
Copyright 1985-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

16 Comments »

I. A World in Anguish – a Poem

(Photo from Pixabay)

A World in Anguish

by Dawn Pisturino

A world in anguish

Is a world at war,

Suffering the throes of poverty,

Living in fear,

Desperate for freedom

From unfeeling despots;

One man kills another

And crowds cheer for more:

A bloody holocaust screams

The victory cry.

Women weep for children

Dying in the womb,

And fathers beat

Their screaming brats in rage,

Placating the demon-gods.

The dark-faced villain

In the streets

Pushes his deadly wares

To the wayward and unsuspecting,

Supplies the knowing,

And murders the human spirit.

The Godly are intimidated

By the unholy-ungodly

And cry out in vain for vengeance.

God does not hear

Or does not want to.

“Let them fight their own battles,”

He must say; and looks down

In amusement at the skirmish of ants

Crawling in the streets.

It is not a funny sight, no,

But a sorry commentary

On the uselessness of the human species.

God Himself must weep

At the awful destruction wrought

By pitiful creatures.

It is not worth His powerful strength

To save them or His loving heart

To love them or His abounding mercy

To forgive them.

Let those who will survive, survive.

Death to the others.

The battle is just begun.

Dawn Pisturino

September 20, 1985; March 7, 2022

Copyright 1985-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

21 Comments »

People will Never Forget

(Artwork from Parle Magazine [http://www.parlemag.com])

Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

COVID-19 put the whole world into a panic. There’s been a lot of verbal abuse, finger pointing, bullying, outright lying, extreme government overreach, hysteria, hypochondria, anxiety, hostility, and fear to last a lifetime. Everybody’s life has been upset in one way or another, with no end in sight. We’ve seen people at their worst.

The question is: if the pandemic ended tomorrow, how would we heal the broken relationships, reverse the mistrust that people feel, overcome the lies, forgive the hurtful words and accusations, and unite as a people? The damage has already been done. People turned on each other like rabid dogs. Some people are still expressing their hatred; their desire to hurt others; their need to segregate; their willingness to kill others who don’t comply with their demands.

The long-term social effects of COVID-19 — and the inept and malicious way in which it has been handled — is a mountain we still have to climb. Will you trust your doctor again? Your teacher? Government bureaucracy? The CDC? DHHS? NIH? The president? Congress? Facebook? Twitter? Big Pharma? Corporate America? The twisted media? The unions? Your interfering ex-friends? Your spying neighbors? Your stressed-out boss? Divisive family members? Attention-seeking celebrities? Will you ever trust ANYONE again?

Will you ever feel safe again? Feel healthy again? Or will you live in fear of the next germ that shows up to affect our lives? Will you still douse yourself in hand sanitizer and wash your hands 10 times a day? Will you still stay 6 feet away from everybody, thereby preventing new relationships into your life? Will you keep popping the tranquilizers, sipping the booze, smoking the weed to alleviate your anxiety? Will you suffer from permanent social anxiety and fear as a result of your experience with the pandemic?

What about the children? Will they be able to trust our authority figures again? Their teachers? Their parents? Their pediatricians? Will they have long-term anxiety and lung problems from wearing masks all day? From social isolation? Inadequate learning? Have they lost valuable social and language skills that would have contributed to their success in life?

And who’s addressing these issues? And does anybody really care?

Dawn Pisturino, RN

January 31, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

12 Comments »

The Spencer Collection at the New York Public Library

(Spencer Collection, The New York Public Library. (1649 – 1700). Zwölff geistliche Andachten, dari[n]nen gar schöne trostreiche Gebet begriffen Retrieved from https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/22c7e880-8efc-0137-d9aa-73feabfb4c3a)

~

William Augustus Spencer, Esquire (1855-1912) was my seventh cousin, five times removed, who descended from the Honorable Ambrose Spencer. Ambrose served as the Attorney General of New York from 1802 to 1804 and a House Representative in the Twenty-first Congress from 1829 to 1831. William grew up wealthy, collected rare French books, and was eventually disowned by his family for marrying a poor French singer. There are no photos of him, as the story goes, because they were all destroyed by his family in a fit of rage. He married Marie Eugenie Demougeot in London in 1884. They had no children. The other key person in their life was Marie’s French maid, Eugenie Elise Lurette.

William Spencer rubbed shoulders with the Astor family, and his nephew married the sister-in-law of Colonel John Jacob Astor IV. The interesting part of this story is that both William A. Spencer and John Jacob Astor died on the Titanic when it sank on April 14/15, 1912.

William’s wife, Marie, and her maid, Eugenie, managed to escape on Lifeboat Number 6, which was also occupied by the Unsinkable Molly Brown (Margaret Brown), who had made her fortune in the Colorado gold mines. Brown received much public attention for her efforts to save other passengers.

William’s body was never recovered. A cenotaph was created to memorialize his death.

William left all of his books and a large sum of money to the newly-established New York Public Library in his will. Read all about it below:

~

A Passenger to Remember: Introducing the

Spencer Collection

by Kathie Coblentz, Rare Materials Cataloger,

Spencer Collection, Stephen A. Schwarzman

Building, June 4, 2010

“A collection … of the finest illustrated books that can be procured, of any country and in any language … bound in handsome bindings representing the work of the most noted book-binders of all countries…”

* * *

“Sometime in 1910, according to an often-repeated story that has acquired the status of legend, William Augustus Spencer visited the new central building of the New York Public Library, still under construction at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. He was impressed—so impressed that he vowed there and then that he would bequeath his personal collection of fine illustrated books in fine bindings to the Library. He then returned to Paris, where he made his home. For his next visit to New York, in April 1912, he booked passage from Cherbourg, France, on the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic.

“Spencer was not among the passengers who were saved on the terrible night of April 14. But he had made good on his promise, and when details of his estate were made public, it was found that he had left the Library “a library composed chiefly of French books,” whose value was appraised at $40,779. But this represented only a part of his bequest to the Library; there was more in cash. Moreover, one clause in his will would soon augment the value of his gift considerably.

William A. Spencer's obituary,published in the New York Times, May 9, 1912

William A. Spencer’s obituary,
published in the New York Times, May 9, 1912

“The Spencer Collection of the New York Public Library was duly established, and its kernel, Spencer’s own books, went on display in the year following their donor’s demise. Details may be found in an article by Henry W. Kent in the Bulletin of the New York Public Library, v. 18, no. 6 (June 1914); a catalog of the collection follows. Images of many of Spencer’s own bindings are available in the Library’s Digital Gallery.

“But Spencer’s own books, though they impressively document a certain era in taste in bookbinding and book illustration, represent only a small part of his legacy. In Chapter 18 of Harry Miller Lydenberg’s History of the New York Public Library (1923), available online in its pre-publication form in the Library’s Bulletin for July 1921, the details of the bequest clause in his will were given. Here’s an excerpt:

[Spencer’s] plans for the development of the collection were set forth at length in the tenth clause of his will. Here he directed his executors to convey to the Library on the death of his wife one half his residuary estate, to be invested as a separate fund, the income of which was to be used for “the purchase of handsomely illustrated books” which were to be handsomely bound if not purchased in this condition. He went on to say: “In short it is my wish, if the Trustees of The New York Public Library accept this bequest, that they form a collection thereby increasing the bequest made in the eighth clause of this my Last Will and Testament, of the finest illustrated books that can be procured, of any country and in any language, and that these books be bound in handsome binding representing the work of the most noted book-binders of all countries, thus constituting a collection representative of the arts of illustration and bookbinding.

“Mrs. Spencer died on October 13, 1913, and the fund for the development of the Spencer Collection was duly established. The principles set forth in the will of William Augustus Spencer have guided the Collection’s curators ever since in their quest for the crème de la crème of the world’s bibliophiliac treasures, and the result today is a collection of fine illustrated books, fine bindings, and illuminated manuscripts that is perhaps unsurpassed in beauty, breadth, depth and scope in any public institution in the United States, if not the world.

The Spencer Collection, like other special collections of the New York Public Library, is open to the public, but special permission to use it must be requested in advance.

“In blog posts to follow, I will present some of my own personal favorites among the Spencer Collection treasures that have passed through my hands, as one of the lucky people whose job description includes toiling as a cataloger of these volumes.”

View all posts by Kathie Coblentz

About the Spencer Collection

“The Spencer Collection surveys the illustrated word and book bindings of all periods and all countries and cultures, from medieval manuscripts, Japanese scrolls, and Indian miniatures to monuments in Renaissance printing, illustration, and binding to contemporary livres d’artistes.

“Readers wishing to consult the The Library’s Renaissance and Medieval Manuscripts are required to request and receive permission in writing before their research visits. Please see this page for more information.

“Although not administratively part of the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, the Spencer Collection materials are available through the Prints and Photographs Study Room (308) with 24 hours notice and a card of admission obtained from the Print Collection. Spencer Collection items catalogued after 1972 can be found in the Library’s online catalog. For pre-1972 holdings, consult the Dictionary Catalog and Shelf List of the Spencer Collection of Illustrated Books and Manuscripts and Fine Bindings (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1971), found at the Print Room Desk in Room 308 and in the General Research Division, Room 315 with the call number Pub. Cat. Z1023 .N572 1971.

“For further information or to request material from the Spencer Collection: 212-930-0817; fax: 212-930-0530; email: prints@nypl.org.”

~ The New York Public Library ~

In commemoration of my distant cousin, William Augustus Spencer, and his beautiful legacy to the New York Public Library and the world of books. May he rest in peace.

Dawn Pisturino

January 6, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

12 Comments »

Reprise: The Best Gift

After nine years of marriage, Mary knew that the holidays were not a good time to ask her husband for a favor. Money was tight. The children were out of school. Her husband’s large, extended family had decided – at the last minute, of course – to honor them with their considerable presence at Christmas dinner. Christmas Day was only a week away, and Mary felt frazzled, overwhelmed, and out of sorts. She lay down on the small double bed in the master bedroom to take a nap.

It was Sunday afternoon. Betsy, 6, and Lauren, 8, were busy decorating sugar cookies in the kitchen. Their childish laughter rang through the house, a happy reminder of Christmas. Mary’s 12-year-old nephew, Jordan, lay on the carpeted living room floor playing video games. An occasional triumphant shout blended with the sound of video gunfire. Earlier in the day, he had announced his decision not to participate in any of his cousins’ childish activities. He was too old to decorate Christmas cookies, he declared; although Mary noted with a smile that he was not too old to consume half a dozen with a tall glass of milk. But he was a good boy, and Mary was happy to have the extra baby-sitting money. She had agreed to take him for the entire week while her sister was in the hospital having gallbladder surgery.

Mary wasn’t quite sure where her husband Todd had gone. He had left early in the morning before everyone was awake, leaving a note on the kitchen counter that he would be back later. She figured he was doing last minute Christmas shopping at the mall and would come home soon laden with packages. The children would greet him at the door, demanding to feel, prod, shake, rattle, and listen to each gaily wrapped gift. Then they would carefully lay them under the decorated artificial pine tree in the living room and continue to feel, prod, shake, rattle, and listen to them every day until Christmas.

Mary prayed as hard as she could that he would not go overboard spending their hard-earned money on Christmas gifts. They simply could not afford it, especially when they were expecting their third child in a couple of months.

Mary ran her hands over her swollen belly and sighed. She was not prepared to face another round of baby bottles and diapers — even if this one was a boy. She was tired and disappointed with her life. The constant pressure to pay bills, the ever-present fear of Todd being laid off, the nagging worry over providing an adequate future for the girls — the stress was tearing her apart and wearing her down. And soon there would be one more responsibility to face. She just didn’t feel up to it.

When Todd came home, she would beg him for this one favor: one of them needed to get sterilized. She didn’t care which one, but somehow, they had to come to some agreement. She didn’t want more children. They couldn’t afford anymore. She wanted to provide for the ones they had already.

Outside, the wind began to howl, and the softly falling snow grew thicker. She could no longer see the trees through the bedroom window. She shivered and drew the blanket tighter around her swollen body. Please drive carefully, she silently prayed.

* * *

“Mommy, mommy, we’re hungry!” cried the girls, jumping onto the bed.

Mary groaned and rolled over. The bedroom was dark. She glanced at the neon orange face of the alarm clock on the nightstand. Six o’clock. Todd should have come home by now.

Reluctantly, she got up and followed the girls into the kitchen. She grabbed a box of macaroni and cheese and a can of green peas out of the cupboard and began to prepare dinner. While she waited for the water in the pan to boil, she grabbed her cell phone and called Todd. She heard a few distant rings, then nothing. She tried again with the same result. Damn this snow, she cursed under her breath. She reached for the portable phone on the kitchen counter. No dial tone. Damn! She slammed down the receiver. There was no way to get hold of her husband.

“Mommy, when’s daddy coming home?” whined six-year-old Betsy, clinging to her shirt.

“I don’t know, sweetheart. We just have to be patient. Go into the living room with Lauren and Jordan. Dinner will be ready soon.” But inside, Mary did not want to be patient. She wanted to scream, Where is he? A feeling of dread came over her. Todd would have called if something was wrong — if he was able to call. And that’s what was worrying her. He had no way to communicate with her.

She poured the dry macaroni into boiling water, then placed the peas into a bowl and set it in the microwave. She set the dial for three minutes and waited. In the living room, she heard the familiar voice of Burl Ives singing cheery Christmas songs on TV. If only Todd were here . . .

When dinner was ready, she poked her head through the living room door to call the children to the table. The room was dark, and one of them – Jordan, probably – had plugged in the Christmas tree lights. Their soft glow filled the room with radiant colors. Mary smiled, allowing the gentle peace of Christmas to fill her heart. A small delay, that’s all. He’ll be here soon.

“Dinner, everyone! Put the video on pause and come to the table.”

The two girls ran to the table and scrambled into their chairs. Jordan pushed the pause button, then walked slowly into the kitchen and sat down. “When’s Uncle Todd coming home,” he asked glumly. “I want to play video games with him!”

“Any time now,” Mary responded cheerfully, dishing up a plateful of macaroni and cheese. “So, Jordan, it sounded like you were winning this afternoon!”

He took the plate from her hands. “Aw, I do okay.”

Outside the wind howled, and Mary thought she heard a faint knocking sound. Could it be . . .

“Hey! Somebody’s at the front door!” Jordan shouted. “Maybe it’s Uncle Todd!” And he was off and running before Mary could stop him.

“I wanna go see!” shouted Lauren.

“Me, too!”chimed in Betsy; and both girls raced into the living room.

“Wait!” Mary cried. “It could be a stranger!”

She hurried after the children. Jordan flipped on the outside light and opened the front door. In the doorway stood a State Trooper wearing a heavy jacket, thick boots, and gloves dusted with snow.

“Mrs. Abbott?” he inquired gravely.

Mary’s heart sank. “I’m Mrs. Abbott.”

“Ma’am, I’m sorry to bother you like this, but I’ve got some bad news for you.”

Tears welled up in Mary’s eyes, but she held her voice steady. “Won’t you come in, officer?”

“Thank you, ma’am. It’s mighty cold out here.” He stomped the snow off his boots and entered the foyer.

“Ma’am, I’m awfully sorry to tell you this –“

“The children, officer –“

“Yes, ma’am. Maybe we can send them into another room for a few minutes.”

“Children, you heard the officer. Go back into the kitchen and eat your supper.”

“Aw, I want to stay here!” Jordan grumbled.

“No, I need you to go into the kitchen. Now!”

Jordan mumbled something under his breath but turned and walked away. The girls reluctantly followed.

“As I was saying, ma’am, I have some awfully bad news for you. Your husband, Todd Abbott, was killed in a car crash an hour ago. He missed the turn down on Miles Creek Road and slammed right into that old oak tree in the bend. He died instantly from the looks of it. An ambulance took him to Mercy Hospital. He’s laying in the morgue there. You’ll need to come identify the body as soon as you can.”

Mary stared at him in horror. “No! It can’t be!” she cried. “It can’t be . . .”

* * *

In the days that followed, Mary stopped living. She refused to get out of bed. Taking the sedative prescribed by Dr. Lawrence, she kept herself sedated, locked in her room, lost to the world, oblivious to her own existence. All she wanted was to sleep – long, deep, and hard – until all the agonizing pain and suffering deep inside had shriveled up and disappeared. She wanted to blot out all the memories of her life, every thought and feeling, and to never think or feel again.

* * *

“He’s dead,” Jordan said quietly, bursting into tears. “I’m never going to see him again.” The two girls, not fully understanding, began to wail.

“I want my daddy! I want my daddy!” they screamed in unison. “Mommy! Mommy!”

“Shhh . . . Hush now, my darlings. Grandma’s here.” With a heavy heart, she drew the little ones close to her breast and held them tight. They sobbed hysterically, wetting her sweater, until sleep overcame them and offered a temporary shelter from their grief.

* * *

After three days, Mary emerged from the darkness of her bedroom. Stumbling down the hallway in her old flannel bathrobe, she made her way to the kitchen and poured herself a cup of black coffee. Her hands shook slightly, and her mother stared at her in shock.

“Mary, you look terrible! Come sit down. Do you want some eggs?”

“No, I’m not hungry.”

“Then come sit down and talk.”

“I don’t think I can do that yet.”

She stood over the kitchen sink and stared out the window. The day was crystal clear with a cloudless, vivid blue sky. Bright sunshine made the clean white snow sparkle with millions of tiny diamonds. It was a perfect winter day, just right for making snowmen and snow angels and drinking hot chocolate; sledding down Jackson Hill; ice skating on Fisher’s pond; building snow forts and throwing snowballs.

“He’s gone, mother, and I don’t know what to do. How can I go on? He was my whole life. And the kids — good Lord, what kind of god takes a wonderful daddy like Todd away from his children? I don’t understand it. It’s too cruel. Those kids are never going to be the same again.”

“They’ll get through it, Mary — and so will you. You’ll do it because you have to — for the sake of those little girls — and the new one that’s coming.”

Mary turned around angrily. “I don’t even want this child! Do you know what I wanted to do? I wanted one of us to get sterilized. I don’t want anymore children! I can’t even provide for the ones I have. How am I going to support three children working part-time at the video store? Todd’s life insurance will help, but there’s the house payment, and now we need another car, and the utilities, and food — and how am I going to pay for medical insurance? I don’t even know if Todd’s medical insurance is going to cover the delivery, now that he’s gone!”

“Careful, Mary, or that baby will grow up knowing you resent it. It’s not fair to blame the child for what’s happened.”

“I’m sorry, mother, but I do resent it! I didn’t want it in the first place — and now, with all this — I just can’t handle it!”

“It’s still Todd’s baby, Mary. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”

* * *

The small bronze box on display at the front of the memorial chapel was engraved with these words: “Together Forever.” Two hearts intertwined, and Todd’s name, birth date, and date of death were engraved inside one of them. Mary gazed tearfully at the 8 x 10 color photo of her husband displayed next to the urn and fingered the thin gold wedding band hanging on a gold chain around her neck. Someday, she promised, my ashes will be added to yours, and we will be together forever.

She lit a small votive candle and placed it before the framed photograph. Then silently, reverently, she reached out and touched the smooth glass inside the frame, mentally stroking the familiar features of her husband’s face. Together forever . . .

She hugged her swollen belly and felt the child inside her move. If it’s a boy, I’ll name him after you. Todd Douglas Abbott. He might even look like you! I hope he looks like you, she prayed. She closed her eyes and wept.

She remembered the day when the doctor called to tell her the good news. Congratulations, Mrs. Abbott, you’re pregnant! She had been angry at the doctor and angry at Todd. The doctor tried to reassure her that everything would be okay, but she refused to listen and hung up the phone. She crawled into bed and stayed there all afternoon, crying about her condition. When Todd came home from work, she lashed into him with angry words, blaming him, and calling him names. Instead of fighting back, he merely looked at her with a deep sympathy and understanding that calmed her down, then took her in his arms and reassured her, like the doctor, that everything would be okay. He promised her that everything would be okay . . . and now he was dead. How could she ever forgive him for lying to her? Most importantly, how could she ever forgive herself for despising him and hating this child?

Somebody touched her gently on the shoulder. “I’m so sorry, Mary.”

She turned around and looked into the deeply lined, tear-stained face of Todd’s mother. “It’s all so horrible,” Mary sobbed, throwing her arms around her.

“Yes, it is.” Todd’s mother hugged her warmly. “He was my baby, Mary. I couldn’t have anymore children after he was born. It made him more special, somehow. Just like your little one. He’s Todd’s last gift to you — the best gift! Love him, Mary; really love him. Just like you loved Todd. Because there’ll never be anymore of him in this world.” Her voice broke, and she wiped the tears from her eyes with a handkerchief.

The best gift. The words echoed in Mary’s heart. Suddenly, she understood. Looking down at her swollen belly, the agonizing pain and anger melted away, and a deep love filled her: love for her husband, her family, and this beautiful child who would carry on Todd’s legacy. A bright spark of hope lifted her up, releasing her from her fears. She grabbed her mother-in-law’s hands and placed them over her belly, tears streaming down her face.

“We’ll love him together,” she said softly.

Dawn Pisturino

Copyright 2007-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

The first line of this story was provided by The First Line as a writing prompt.

7 Comments »

Community Engagement: The Boston Marathon Bombing

Photo Credit: Britannica

The Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, 2013 changed how police departments communicate with the public during important emergency events. For the first time, social media played a critical role in communicating information about the bombings and capturing the culprits (Haddow, 2017).

On the day of the bombings, Commissioner of Police Ed Davis held a press conference. He calmly explained what happened and reassured the public that Boston had a comprehensive emergency response plan in place. The FBI, State Police, National Guard, and ATF were already in the city, offering their services. The Commissioner exuded confidence, control, and common sense. He asked for the public’s help in capturing the perpetrators (Global Breaking News, 2013).

Commissioner of Police Ed Davis and the Boston Police Department were committed to providing accurate, timely information to the public and keeping the lines of two-way communication open. He asked people to stay home and away from crowds for their own safety. He asked people to call the Mayor’s hotline and the Boston PD TIPS line with information (Global Breaking News, 2013).

The Boston Police Department was a leader in using social media to communicate with the public. Photos, videos, and information were shared through Twitter, Facebook, and websites. Inaccurate information was quickly corrected. It was noted by Bar-Tur that “BPD’s presence online helps reinvent the whole notion of community policing for the 21st century” (Haddow, p. 185, 2017). When the Tsarnaev brothers were finally caught, Boston Police Department tweeted a resounding “CAPTURED!!!” (Haddow, p. 185, 2017).

Instead of cowering in fear and feeling powerless, the Boston community was kept involved. This community empowerment contributed to situational awareness and the recovery of Boston after the event.

Global Breaking News. (Presenter). (2013, April 15). First press conference boston marathon

       bomb attack [Video file].Retrieved from (link not working):

Haddow, G.D., Bullock, J.A., & Coppola, D.P. (2017). Introduction to emergency

       management. (6th ed.). Cambridge, MA: Elsevier.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

October 7, 2019

Copyright 2019-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

4 Comments »

Giuliani vs. Nagin: How Mayors Respond to Disasters

New York Daily News Photo

Both the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 in New York City and Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005 were major disasters. One was a manmade disaster and the other a natural disaster. In New York City, the damage was contained in Manhattan. But in New Orleans, the damage was widespread and uncontrolled.

On the night of September 11, 2001, Mayor Rudy Giuliani held a press conference to inform citizens of New York City and the entire nation of what happened, the response to the event, and future recovery. He talked about his own experiences during the event and how he and the people with him survived.

Mayor Giuliani presented himself as calm, rational, and confident. He maintained his composure and self-control. He made it clear to the public that everything was under control. He reassured them that everything was okay, and they were safe.

His message was positive and hopeful. He honored the victims and praised the people who had evacuated in a peaceful and civilized manner and helped each other along the way. He emphasized how proud he was of the people and first responders of New York City.

Giuliani became emotional when talking about the first responders and fire and police personnel who died. He asked everyone to pray for the victims and to be grateful that they were alive.

Towards the end of the news conference, he stressed that members of the Muslim community would be protected. He condemned all acts of vigilante violence and retaliation. He asked people who worked in Manhattan to stay home from work.

The mayor projected a feeling of hope, security, and confidence that the U.S. government would deal with the perpetrators and New York City would rebuild and be stronger than before.

Three days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans, Mayor Ray Nagin made an impassioned plea on WWL Radio for help. He described the horrific conditions in New Orleans and the lack of response by FEMA and the federal government. His anger and frustration were real. He was clearly traumatized by events.

When I was listening to him, I kept thinking that here is a man who feels powerless. There was apparently no clear chain of command or designated people in authority. Mayor Nagin was there, on the ground, asking for the authority to do something from people who seemed indifferent to the situation. He reminded everyone that FEMA knew about the problems with the pumping stations and did nothing. He wanted to know when the help promised by the federal government was coming. He deplored the fact that valuable resources were being wasted on looters and lawlessness instead of rescuing and helping victims.

At the end of the broadcast, he called on the public to be active in contacting authorities and demanding help for New Orleans. He contrasted the immediate response and aftermath of 9/11 to the lack of response to New Orleans. He was outraged.

Mayor Nagin had every right to be outraged by the slow response to Hurricane Katrina. And maybe his angry message was what it took to get things done.

Authentic History. (Presenter). (2011, January 11). 9/11 news coverage: 10:00 pm: Mayor rudy

       giuliani press conference [Video file]. Retrieved from  

       http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DZw0Q6WUsA.

Froomkin, M. (Presenter). (2005, September 2). Interview with mayor ray nagin of new orleans

       [Audio file]. Retrieved from

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

October 7, 2019

Copyright 2019-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

3 Comments »

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