Friday, September 11, 2009

Lest We Forget: Ezra Aviles

In 2006 I posted this entry in memory of Ezra Aviles. I'm proud to do so today so that this ordinary man who did the extraordinary on this day in 2001 will be remembered.

Today I join with thousands of fellow Americans to honor those killed in the terrorist attacks of September 11. I dedicate this post to Ezra Aviles, 41, of Commack, NY, who worked for the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey at the World Trade Center.

From the Newsday website:

Ezra Aviles
He Worked to the Last Seconds

October 11, 2001

As the first hijacked plane struck One World Trade Center, Ezra Aviles was on the phone calling Port Authority officials from the 61st floor, describing the plane crash, giving emergency guidelines and warning colleagues to stay away from the building.

Aviles, a Port Authority senior manager for strategic planning and development, had seen American Airlines Flight 11 pass his windows before it plowed into the North Tower some floors above. Rather than flee for safety, Aviles stayed on the phone informing police of what was happening. He also briefly called his wife, Mildred, in Commack at about 8:50 a.m., but continued working, helping others to escape. His body was found in the rubble four days after the collapse of the towers.

Lewis Eisenberg, chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, praised Aviles' heroic action, calling it "the best of America in the worst of times." He listened to Aviles' voice-mail messages on his cell phone as he toured the wreckage.

Aviles, 41, formerly assistant commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, had responded to the previous terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, when six died and many suffered smoke inhalation. An expert on building materials and air quality control, he came to the Port Authority six years ago where he "hoped he could do something to make a difference," said family friend Debra Ferguson.

A geologist, Aviles was also a dedicated environmentalist. His daughter, Jacqueline, 13, who eulogized her father at services Sept. 19 at Christ the King Church in Commack, said, "We have all been impacted by his passionate pursuit of a better environment for all and future generations ... he made the ultimate sacrifice by placing the lives of his fellow co-workers before his own. My dad is a hero never to be forgotten, a peaceful warrior of the 21st century."

Another daughter, Kathryn, observed her fourth birthday Sept. 30. She was given a party and gifts at the Pumpkin Patch Day Nursery in Commack, where she attends with her 2-year-old brother, Andrew.

"Ezra's first priority was his family," said his wife's aunt, Carmen Rivera of Puerto Rico. "He would not schedule any meetings on the first day of school so he could take his children to school, and he would always be there when one of his children had a dance recital or a soccer game."

His co-workers "absolutely adored him. He would make them laugh. He was always in a good mood," Rivera said. A busload of Port Authority workers attended his funeral.

Born in Far Rockaway, Aviles graduated from Beach Channel High School. He met his wife, the former Mildred Marti, when both were students at York College. He earned his bachelor of science degree at York and a master's degree in geology from Brooklyn College. They were married 21 years. --Rhoda Amon (Newsday)

This link will take you to a page where those who knew Mr. Aviles recorded their memories about him and offered condolences to his family. The portrait these leave is of an ordinary man; a man who cared for his wife and his family; a man who was not looking to become a hero.

But, like the passengers on Flight 93, when the call for heroism came, he answered it.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Movie Review: The Time Traveler's Wife

I reviewed the novel here. When I heard it was going to be a movie, I wondered how the story would be handled. There's a lot of jumping around and changes in point-of-view, switching from Henry to Clare and back again. How would a movie audience not become confused?

Screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin did an excellent job. The movie begins with young Henry DeTamble in the car with his mother, an opera singer, on a fateful Christmas Eve, when Henry discovers his ability to move through time. An older Henry (Eric Bana) meets him at the side of the road, bringing a blanket, and reassuring young Henry that, although this experience is strange, it will be okay.

Flash forward several years. A young student, Clare Abshire (Rachel McAdams), needs a book in the Collections section. She is referred to the librarian, whom she recognizes as Henry. However, Henry hasn't met her yet, so he's confused. Over dinner, Clare explains how she knows Henry from her childhood. And why his time-traveling doesn't surprise her.

It does surprise the boyfriend of her roommate, however. Gomez (Ron Livingston) is very protective of Clare. When he sees Henry fighting in alley while wearing a pink ruffled top and cutoff shorts, he has a few questions. He has a few more when Henry breaks into a surplus store and when Henry disappears. Gomez tries to tell Clare, but, of course, she knows all about Henry's traveling.

Henry's travel causes several awkward moments, especially since he seems to "travel" during times of stress. His traveling has also created a rift with his father (Arliss Howard), who wants to know why Henry can't prevent his mother's death. And, apparently, time traveling is genetic. Clare has several miscarriages as the developing fetus "travels" out of her uterus. (Why this didn't happen with Henry--or where his time travel gene came from--is never explained, which bugs me a bit.)

The emotions and relationships among the characters are well done and realistic, especially when Henry and Clare deal with the miscarriages. There is one, almost obligatory, slam against Clare's father who is "a Republican and he hunts." Of course, the fact that this particular Republican paid for Clare to study art in college is never mentioned. Ignore that and the miscarriage/gene plot hole and enjoy the movie.

The ending, although different from the book, is poignant and satisfactory.

There are some sex scenes which are more sensual than sex. When Henry time travels, he arrives nude, but these are also tastefully done. There is one phrase ("Oh, sh..!") that recurs, but usually in situations where I'd say the same thing. It's rated PG-13, which seems appropriate, but I don't think many younger teens would enjoy it.

I made Hubs take me to this movie. To quote him, "This is a chick flick a guy can enjoy!" There's the science fiction element, it's not mushy, and there is some action--Henry is definitely not a beta male.

On the March Hare scale: 4.5 out of 5 Golden Tickets

Crossposted at Catholic Media Review

Annoying Ad Award for EFCA

The California Nurses Association (CNA--a union) has been running an ad over and over on my favorite radio station and, frankly, it's bugging the heck outta me.

The ad first talks about the important work nurses do. That they do. But then the ad talks about "silencing" nurses and not allowing them to speak up on behalf of their patients. The announcer--a female--urges Senator Feinstein to co-sponsor the "Employee Free Choice Act" because "You are either on the side of the angels... or you're not."

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) is also known as the Card Check Bill--if enough employees sign a card stating they would like union representation, then there is no secret ballot. The union is in.

I'm not sure why the CNA feels that they need the EFCA; I thought the nurses were unionized in most of the hospitals in the state, if not all of them. And how will EFCA enhance the ability of nurses to advocate for patients? The only way I can think of is by insisting on certain nurse-to-patient ratios, which they already do.

But what I really find offensive is the line about being "on the side of the angels." WTF? This sounds like emotional blackmail to me. And the ad is definitely not making more sympathetic towards the CNA.

In fact, I wonder how many nurses actually support the CNA using their dues this way?