Thursday, July 25, 2013

I Can See For Miles ...

Interesting blog post "I Can See For Miles"
I can see for miles and miles
I can see for miles and miles
I can see for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles

170 souls. All but forgotten.

Except for the families of the victims. They remembered. They will never forget.
And so they built a memorial to the victims, a memorial that deserves to be seen. Go see it now.

Thanks to

Thursday, July 18, 2013

India lunch deaths children buried in Bihar school

Heart goes out to parents of innocent children who died in Bihar school tragedy! Grief of loosing a child is not something any parent should endure!

Nineteen of the 23 children who died after eating a tainted free school meal in India's Bihar state have been buried in and around the school grounds.

Angry parents say they want the graves to serve as a reminder that the children died due to state negligence.

Two days after Dharmasati Gandaman lost so many of its children, the villagers have yet to be visited by any senior police or administration official.  I visited at lunch time and found more than 100 villagers gathered at the school, waiting for someone official to come and speak to them, and offer them some solace.

Even while government officials turn a blind eye, at least the media continues to stay focused on this issue.  BBC reports: India lunch deaths children buried in Bihar school

With 125 children on its rolls, the school has just two teachers, including the headmistress who is nowhere to be found.

"People must not ever forget that our children died inside the school because of the government's negligence," Rangeela Prasad Yadav, whose 11-year-old grand-daughter Mamata was among the dead, told the BBC.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Asiana flight attendants hailed as heroes

It is fascinating to read accounts of heroism of Asiana flight attendants! CNN link
We are glad to have Veteran flight attendants like Lee Yoon Hye who can step up under pressure and ensure safety of passengers.
“According to the airline, flight attendants helped passengers get off the plane safely. They opened doors, deployed slides and helped passengers escape, according to JoongAng Daily, a South Korean newspaper. As soon as the plane stopped, Lee knocked on the cockpit door to make sure the pilots were OK.” Once evacuation began, Lee said she had a plan. "I was not thinking, but acting," she said. "As soon as I heard 'emergency escape,' I conducted the evacuation." "When there was a fire, I was just thinking to extinguish it, not thinking that it's too dangerous or 'What am I going to do?'"

Recent articles in media suggest that “Asiana flight attendants undergo three months of training including emergencies and terrorist training before their first flight.” Perhaps all global airlines do. However, the difference when it comes to life-and-death in emergency situations is the maturity. Passengers on this Asiana flight had the benefit of Lee Yoon Hye’s years of experience in the industry.

I only wish we had similar experienced and perceptive and well-grounded flight attendants on all international flights.

Reaction of air-crew is perhaps one aspect of Jet Airways flight 229 that I continue to reflect on, even five years after the incident. Would the presence of a super-hero flight attendant would have saved the life of little Aditya?

Hard to second guess.

Bottomline, it is heartening to see good training, presence of mind coming to play in saving dozens of lives during trying times!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Class Photo that Broke a Mother’s Heart

It's one of those things that you don't get, until you get it. Unless you are eternally empathetic, you look at this photo and don't see much wrong at all. 

To Anne Belanger, mother of Miles, the photo is unbearable to look at. 

When the class portrait for her son's Grade 2 class came home, she opened it excitedly, and immediately shoved it back in the envelope. She couldn't look at it. It broke her heart.
Anne's son, Miles, has Spinal Muscular Atrophy. At the age of 13 months, his parents were told that Miles would never walk, he has spent his life in a wheelchair.
Miles knows he's different than the rest of the kids, but he still tries to fit in. So there he is, on the far side of the image, neck craning as far as he can to stretch into the frame with the rest of his friends. He's beaming. It's school picture day and he's thrilled.
But the photo still broke Anne's heart. The photo was a clear example of how set apart her son is from society. Instead of a big group hug photo with Miles at the center, and classmates and teachers all around, a fully inclusive image, he was stuffed off to the side, some 3 feet away. An after thought, it seems.
It's one of those things that you don't get, until you get it.
The photographer was probably shooting hundreds of students that day, they have a template of how to shoot a class photo. Everyone lines up on the benches, and faces forward. They put the wheelchair as close as possible, and took the picture. Then the next class rolled in, and the routine likely continued all day with nobody thinking anything was wrong. 
Anne approached the photography studio, and at first nobody saw it as an issue, or tried to explain it away. After repeated attempts at reconciliation, the studio agreed to come back and retake the photo this week. Miles was taken out of his chair and placed on a bench with a caregiver at his side to give him balance. He beamed again.
It's one of those things that you don't get, until you get it. We want our kids to be empathetic, caring, and observant of the needs of others. It's a lesson many adults could well learn themselves.
FOOTNOTE: As you can expect with a sensational headline like this, Miles' story has gone viral. Miles' dad, Don Ambridge, wants everyone to know that the school is not to be blamed for this issue. "I just want folks to know the school reacted very quickly and compassionately," he told me.
The photographer, once they had the situation fully explained, also made efforts to right the wrong. "[It's a] general lack of understanding," Ambridge said. "Has to change, but no malicious intent in my view."
This is a case of awareness, of walking a mile in someone's shoes or, perhaps, sitting a few minutes in someone's chair.

Image via Don Ambridge, used with permission.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Book Review : Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel: Questions, Answers, and Reflections

Fascinating airline anecdotes and trivia

Having followed Patrick Smith's blog for quite a while, and I had to pick up Cockpit Confidential. It is a fascinating book if you enjoy air travel, especially if you happen to be a bit curious about the workings of airlines, airports and air crew.

Air travel fascinates many of us including seasoned road warriors like me. Even experiencing personal tragedy on an international flight has not diminished my fascination for flying, flights and airports. I had reached out to the Mr. Smith requesting a review and feedback on my experience and observations (ref:A Child Lost in Flight ). I was grateful for his candid and thoughtful response regarding in-flight incidents

The book follows a Q&A format where Patrick answers questions passengers are typically curious about. The book is grouped into logical topics and is interspersed with trivia. His narrative, anecdotes and responses to questions are easy to read, with very little airline jargon, a style familiar to readers of AskThePilot blog. The only section with some airline jargon - How to Speak Airline - is the one that attempts to demystify typical in-flight announcements.

Patrick weaves humor through the narrative. He concludes the section on three letter Airport codes warning readers "if ever you're traveling FUK-DAM-HEL, avoid speaking in acronyms while checking in." HEL Yah!

A must read for aviation enthusiasts.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

In Tornado's Wake, Worried Parents Seek out Kids

The parents and guardians stood in the muddy grass outside an Oklahoma City area church, listening as someone with a bullhorn called out the names of children who were being dropped off — survivors of a deadly tornado that barreled through their community.
For many families, the ordeal ended in bear hugs and tears of joy as loved ones reunited. Others were left to wait in the darkness, hoping for good news while fearing the worst.
At least seven children are among the 24 reported dead so far in Moore, the Oklahoma City suburb ravaged by Monday's tornado that packed winds of up to 200 mph. The twister reduced one elementary school to a heaping mound of rubble and heavily damaged another while also flattening block after block of homes. Officials earlier said more than 50 people had died, including 20 children. The medical examiner's office revised that death toll Tuesday morning, saying some victims were maybe counted twice in the initial confusion after the storm.
At St. Andrews United Methodist Church, parents stared into the distance as they waited, some holding the hands of young children who were missing siblings.
Tonya Sharp and Deanna Wallace sat at a table in the church's gymnasium waiting for their teenage daughters. As Sharp and Wallace spoke, a line of students walked in.
Severe Weather.JPEG
Wallace spotted her 16-year-old daughter, who came quickly her way and jumped into her mother's arms, pushing her several steps backward in the process. But Sharp didn't see her daughter, a 17-year-old who has epilepsy. She worried her daughter hadn't taken her medicine.
"I don't know where she's at," Sharp said. Later, she went to speak to officials who helped her register so she could be notified as soon as her daughter was found.
Shelli Smith had to walk miles to find her children. She was reunited with her 14-year-old daughter, Tiauna, around 5 p.m. Monday, but hadn't yet seen her 16-year-old son, TJ, since he left for school that morning.
TJ's phone had died, but he borrowed a classmate's phone to tell his mother where he was. However, Smith couldn't get to him due to the roadblocks. So she parked her car and started walking.
It took her three hours, but a little after sunset, she found him. She grabbed her son and squeezed him in a tight hug that lasted for several seconds before letting go. TJ hugged his sister, and then hugged his mom again.
The family had a long walk back to their car and then home, but she said she didn't mind.
"I was trying to get him and they wouldn't let me," she said, adding later: "I was like, 'You know what? I'm going to get my son.'"
Renee Lee summed up the struggle for many parents with multiple children — find the ones who they hadn't yet seen, while calming the younger ones they had with them.
Lee is the mother of two daughters Sydney Walker, 16, and Hannah Lee, 8. When the storm came, she tried to pick Sydney up from school. Sydney told her on the phone that they wouldn't let her come in. While Lee and her younger daughter waited in their home, which wasn't hit, Sydney was safe in the room at a local high school.
Lee said she believed Sydney wasn't hurt and seemed resigned to the severe weather outbreaks.
"There's been so many of them, it doesn't even faze me," she said. "You just do what you gotta do. It's part of living here."
Associated Press reporters Jeannie Nuss and Chuck Bartels in Little Rock, Ark., contributed to this report.
- ABC News

Prayers are with victims and families of tornado in Oklahoma.

We can only pray that families find strength after the tragedy!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mothers day musing on miracle in Bangladesh

While the tragedy in Bangladesh was heart wrenching, it was also extremely heartening to read of the story of survival.
Reshma Begum, a young mother of a five-year-old child  survived the tragedy, making all of us believers in miracles.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Dignity and death. Is there is difference between burying a dead man and a dead terrorist?

The media in America was all abuzz with strong views on the plight of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body. (Ref LA Times)

At the outset, one must start by saying that the act of terror committed by Tsarnaev was unconscionable.  And one might also go as far as suggesting that his untimely death was a consequence of his actions; as you sow, so you reap if you will.

One can also argue that his death provides a sense of closure, at least to him and his family. If closure were even the right word to use, especially since the families of the three killed in Boston and more than 140 victims hurt in Boston Marathon bombing will continue to question the senseless of this all.  But that is not the issue here.

At the heart is the question if an accused terror suspect killed during a manhunt can and should be buried in this land. Remember, Tsarnaev has not been tried or sentenced by a court of law but nevertheless strong evidence points to his culpability in the crime.

  • Murder suspects and criminals of all stripes, even those die in jail or die at the hands of jailors are routinely buried, many in a low-key manner. Massachusetts Funeral Directors Assn. spokesman David Walkinshaw was quoted saying "If you look back, historically, to cases of mass murderers and things of the like, usually after the death of the person involved, the media coverage of the person goes away … and the body is usually taken care of by the state or the next of kin, but it’s usually done very quietly” said Walkinshaw, noting that cremation is a common route in such cases.
  • Islamic angle:   Cremation is typically disfavored in Islamic burial customs. Tamerlan Tsarnaev happened to be a Muslim. There again, one might argue that criminals or suspected criminals who happened to be Muslim have also been buried on American soil.
  • Foreign angle: American legal system and  the public favors bringing criminals and terrorists to justice, in American courts where possible. For example, suspects of the infamous 9/11 terror attack are being tried New York. What happens if/when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York happen to die? Will there again be a debate around returning their “bodies” to their native lands?

I guess there are no simple questions or answers here. However, passion in the heat of the moment should not overrule basic human sensibilities. Burying the dead is a basic human act.
Surely we can show we are more dignified towards the dead than those who plot against us. This is an opportunity for Americans to stand up and show we are better than terrorists!

Other links
  • Officials pass the buck on burying Tamerlan Tsarnaev - LA Times
  • Marathon Suspect’s Body Is Ready for Burial. The Question Remains: Where?  NY Times blog
  • Where do we put Tamerlan Tsarnaev? - Washington Post blog

Monday, April 29, 2013

Why do we write?

I came across this quote that highlights the question "Why do we write?"

"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."

Maya Angelou, American poet (1928-present)

Sunday, March 31, 2013

In Memoir Of Child's Death, A Mother Seeks Meaning

Moving story.

When Emily Rapp first discovers that her 9-month-old son, Ronan, has Tay-Sachs, an incurable and fatal disease that gradually robs a child of his nervous system, she wets herself; the floor and walls of the doctor's office seem to melt and liquefy; and she thinks, "weirdly," about her son's namesake, a boy she once knew whose name she would write in longhand "like a lovesick teenager." She recalls Emily Dickinson's poem in which a mind has been cleaved beyond repair, and calls out for her mother.
Check out rest of the article on NPR

Link to book on amazon "The Still Point of the Turning World"

Monday, February 18, 2013

Shocking: Child on a flight (allegedly) slapped by a fellow passenger

There are a number of articles in the media about an infant allegedly slapped by a fellow passenger on a flight.

The toddler's mother, Jessica Bennett, told ABC News she was sitting in the aisle seat of  row 28, alongside Joe Hundley, 60, a stranger. Hundley, who is the president of an aircraft parts company in Idaho, then allegedly smacked Jonah, a child!

The incident is shocking for several reasons:
  • Children can get stressed out more than adults and need love and care: having an adult stranger “slap” a child can be a traumatic experience
  • Passengers, already stressed out by their travel may be aggravated by that of fellow. Many don’t have the heart or sense to step outside their comfort zone and help fellow passengers
Shocking as this recent incident is, it does not seem to be an isolated incident. My wife and I were reflecting on this incident during lunch. It has been over four years since we lost our baby while on an international flight. (ref eBook: a child lost in flight) Although fellow passengers on that flight were not as unruly as Mr. Hundley allegedly was, most weren’t sympathetic either.
Bottomline: Flying and travel is stressful even during best of times and more so when one is traveling with an infant or child
  • Mom 'Scared to Death' After Stranger Allegedly Slapped Her Infant on Flight (GMA)
  • Unruly flier, accused of slapping tot, now out of work (USA Today)
  • Man charged with slapping crying boy, uttering racial slur on Delta flight (cnn)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Author interview of "A child lost in flight"

Author interview of "A child lost in flight" published online on Jessica Kong's blog "Sea-anan Empire"

What has been the most difficult part about being a writer?  The most difficult part of being a write is to get the word out. There are thousands of books published every day, many of them self published. Standing out from the crowd is getting harder, especially for novice authors.