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Category: Opinion


Fate spared one worker at Congoleum-Nairn blast

To the Editor:

I am one of the “older folks” who remembers the explosion at the Congoleum-Nairn. I was 10 years old at the time. Both of my parents were employed at the plant. My father worked there for many years and my mother joined him when the Nairn began war work. Yes, they did make more than camouflage netting. My mother learned how to run a lathe and made the nose cones for bazookas! (Ammunition was filled in elsewhere.) My parents worked opposite shifts day/ evening so one of them could be home with me. However, on the day of the explosion I was at the shore for a week as the guest of my aunt and uncle. When the news reached us I realized that one or the other of my parents would have been at work. Our family did not have a phone nor did the bungalow at the shore. It was a great relief when I received a letter a few days later from my mother stating that my dad – for the first time ever – was assigned to the midnight shift that week.

My father was a volunteer member of the Nairn’s emergency squad. I learned that he immediately donned his hard hat and headed down hill from our house on Highland Ave. He was one of those workers looking through the rubble and debris for bodies.

I’m still a Kearny resident and often pass the remaining Nairn buildings. When I do, I thank God my Dad was on the midnight shift for one week of the 39 years he was employed.

Joan Miller McCann


Thoughts & Views: A perspective on ‘stop-and-frisk’

A federal court has concluded that the New York Police Department’s stopand- frisk policy violates the constitutional rights of minorities – predominantly blacks and Latinos – who, each time they were accosted by police – were victimized by a “demeaning and humiliating experience.”

The Bloomberg administration has challenged that finding, reasoning that the policy has been an essential part of the NYPD toolbox in significantly reducing crime by taking guns off the streets and trimming the number of murders over the past decade.

An appeal of the ruling has yet to be heard.

It may be instructive to recall (with help from Wikipedia) that the stop-and-frisk policy was sanctioned by the nation’s highest tribunal in a landmark case known as Terry v. Ohio which stemmed from an incident that happened on Oct. 31, 1963, in downtown Cleveland when city Det. Martin McFadden observed two men – John Terry and Richard Chilton – repeatedly pacing back and forth along the same path, pausing to look into a store window.

Terry and Chilton then met a third man and the three talked briefly before the third man left. All three then met in front of another store a few blocks away. At that point, the detective, suspecting the men were “casing a job,” identified himself to the pair, spun Terry around, patted him down and felt a bulge in his coat pocket. After ordering all three inside the store, McFadden took off Terry’s coat and pulled out a gun from the pocket. He also removed a gun from Chilton’s coat pocket.

Terry and Chilton were charged with carrying concealed weapons but the suspects’ defense moved to suppress the use of the seized weapons as evidence on the grounds that the search and seizure violated the Fourth Amendment and the suspects’ right to privacy. But the court rejected that argument, reasoning that McFadden had cause to believe that Terry and Chilton were acting suspiciously and that McFadden had the right to search them for his own protection on the belief that they might be armed.

On June 10, 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court, then led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, affirmed a prior ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court that police may stop someone if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that that person has committed or is about to commit a crime, and may search that person’s outer clothing for weapons if they have reasonable suspicion that the person “may be armed and presently dangerous.”

But, as a Wikipedia entry on the case notes, this search must be based, not on an officer’s “hunch,” but on “specific and articulable facts.”

Associate Justice William O. Douglas, an extreme liberal, was the lone dissenter, saying: “To give the police greater power than a magistrate [to authorize such a search] is to take a long step down the totalitarian path. Perhaps such a step is desirable to cope with modern forms of lawlessness. But if it is taken, it should be the deliberate choice of the people through a constitutional amendment.”

The court’s majority recognized that permitting an officer to conduct a search “… while the citizen stands helpless, perhaps facing a wall with his hands raised … is a serious intrusion upon the sanctity of the person, which may inflict great indignity and arouse strong resentment, and it is not to be taken lightly.”

Asked his thoughts on the subject, Kearny Police Chief John Dowie – who recommended that his questioner look up the Terry case for background – said the policy has value. “It’s been proven in New York that it has cut down on crime,” he said.

“We’ve got damn good street crime cops in Kearny,” Dowie said. “In a place like Kearny, you get to know the criminality, their specialties. It’s good to keep the pressure up on them, let them know they’re being watched.”

And, Dowie said, if an officer has a “reasonable suspicion” (there’s that legal phrase again) that something’s wrong, then they have “probable cause” to act. The trigger for that action could be a “bulge in a coat, a suspected “hand-to-hand drug transaction,” or knowledge about an individual’s “past history.”

But the key for the officer involved is acting within the scope of the law, Dowie said. “Anytime you’re making an arrest,” and particularly if a stop-and-frisk is involved, “the officer should be thinking, “Is this defensible in court?’

’’As for the possibility of cops “targeting” certain ethnic elements of the population, Dowie observed that, “A lot of the technology we’ve been afforded takes the element of alleged harassment out of [the equation]. If your license plate reader goes off at 3 a.m., you’re not going to know if the driver is white, black, whatever.”

If U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin in New York has her way, officers in certain designated precincts in representative boroughs may be going on patrol with small cameras affixed to them as a way of documenting any stop-and- frisks.

We will await, with interest, results of the city’s appeal.

– Ron Leir

Thoughts & Views: In praise of lousy prose

If you love good writing, you probably also love bad writing–providing it’s deliberately bad. It takes a good writer to deliberately create bad writing. Which is why fans of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest wait impatiently every year for the prizes to be awarded.

The contest, named for 19th century British novelist Edward George Bulwer-Lytton — who coined “it was a dark and stormy night” — has been around since 1982. Sponsored by the English Department at San Jose State University, the competition challenges entrants to compose “the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels.”

Here are some of my favorities among the recently announced 2013 winners. As usual, I find the runners-up funnier than the top choices, so my picks are not necessarily the judges’.

In the Adventure category:

“As the sun dropped below the horizon, the safari guide confirmed the approaching cape buffaloes were herbivores, which calmed everyone in the group, except for Herb, of course.” — Ron D. Smith, Louisville, Ky. 

Crime writing:

“It was such a beautiful night; the bright moonlight illuminated the sky, the thick clouds floated leisurely by just above the silhouette of the tall, majestic trees, and I was viewing it all from the front row seat of the bullet hole in my car trunk.” — Tonya Lavel, Barbados, W.I.

“Observing how the corpse’s blood streaked the melting vanilla ice cream, Frank wanted to snap his pen in half and add drops of blue ink to the mix, completing the color trio of the American flag — or the French flag, given that the body had just fallen from the top of the Las Vegas Eiffel Tower onto a creme glacee cart.” — Alanna Smith, Wappingers Falls, N.Y.


“There once was a nasty, evil troll who lived beneath a bridge and took pleasure in collecting gold from the unsuspecting users of the infrastructure; however, no one used the bridge because an evil troll lived under it so the troll didn’t do much of anything.” — Rachel Flanigan, Honolulu

“This was going to be a science fiction novel until I realized that you actually have to know some real science for it to work well, so I changed it to a fantasy novel instead, because that way I can just make up the rules as I go, unhampered by the laws of physics or chemistry, as if you knew what they were anyway.” — Thor F. Carden, Madison Tenn.

Historical Fiction:

“It was a long shot by any measure, good bowman though he was, and he didn’t want to risk it with his kid, but a lot was on the line, and that big, red apple was square on his dear boy’s head, and he had to shoot it off . . . then everything went still, and William Tell heard the sound of music, quiet, then gently rising, like an overture.” — John Holmes, St. Petersburg, Fla.

“General Lee arranged for the dreaded surrender yet capitalized on his opponents’ weaknesses to the very end, striking a tiny parting blow for the Army of Northern Virginia (chuckling to himself) as he remembered from Academy days how many Union commanders had struggled with spelling even common words, and so ran his finger along the map and settled on Appomattox.” — Randal Pilz, Milton, Fla.

Purple Prose:

“There is a special pinkness to the sky as the sun rises on a crisp January morning, kissing the clouds, warming the fields, and waking the livestock, who move quietly to their feet and begin to mill about their pens, like patrons in a crowded theater lobby who, instead of waiting to see the show, are waiting to be made into steaks or bacon.” — Ward Willats, Felton, Calif.


“Our tale begins with the encounter of two gentlemen; I’m going to describe the second gentleman first.” — Mark Donnelly, County Wicklow, Ireland

“Tony was unsure if the voice had said ‘Sven’ or ‘Ten’, but no one had ever called him Sven, and the ceiling lights were shining directly into his eyes, and recognizing the familiar sad, yet concerned, look on the referee’s face, he was gonna go with ‘Ten’.”– Warren Blair, Ashburn, Va.

Vile Puns:

“What the Highway Department’s chief IT guy for the new computerized roadway hated most was listening to the ‘smart’ components complain about being mixed with asphalt instead of silicon and made into speed bumps instead of graceful vases, like the one today from chip J176: ‘I coulda had glass; I coulda been a container; I coulda been some bottle, instead of a bump, which is what I am’.” — Brian Brandt, Lansdale, Pa.

“The veterinarian had suggested the tasty yellow fruit as a way to cure the undiagnosed lack of appetite that was ebbing away the very life of his fluffy little friend and Mark was fraught with anguish as he kept wondering, ‘Will a chick eat a banana?’” — Nancy Hoffman, Peaks Island, Maine

For more, much more, visit www.bulwer-lytton.com “where ‘www’ means ‘wretched writers welcome’.”

– Karen Zautyk

Thoughts & Views: This brand of ‘Tea’ too bitter for my taste

In the 1962 film, “The Manchurian Candidate,” a fictional right-wing U.S. senator named John Iselin takes every opportunity to sound the alarm about Communists in the Defense Department to promote himself in the public eye.

Today, members of the Tea Party – the Republican right wing – are sounding an alarm about reckless spending that’s scaring the crap out of moderate Republicans, because they figure the electorate’s going to turn them out if they don’t trod on Uncle Sam’s wasteful ways.

Back at the original Boston Tea Party, historians say, some scalawags tossed British tea into Boston Harbor because it was taxed by Parliament and not by the Colonies. Seems even then, taxes got a bad name.

But today’s Tea-totallers want to abstain from spending and from government intervention, period.

Whether that’s Obamacare, increasing the minimum wage, providing college tuition grants, or giving undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, gun control measures … it doesn’t matter – they’re against it.

They’ve done their best to deadlock Congress into immobility and budget sequestration. Well, if there are to be cuts across the board, then by all means, let there be cuts made to congressional salaries and health benefits.

(President Obama has reportedly committed to providing health insurance coverage for members of Congress and their aides so they don’t have to trudge to the insurance exchange like the rest of us, so never mind about that part of it.)

Generally speaking, the Tea Partyers figure the less government in our lives, the better we are for it.

Well, I say they’re misreading their Tea leaves.

I know of two friends, originally from the New York/ New Jersey metro area who are college educated, hard workers, in their 50s and 60s, who’ve been drummed out of the marketplace.

One, who lost a job in publishing as a result of the industry downsizing, has spent five years in temp jobs in California and Oregon before landing a health care-related job in North Carolina; the other had a state job in Alaska before relocating to Nevada and Oregon in search of employment opportunities for the past two years.

In the process, they’ve collected unemployment, gone through their savings, borrowed, burned up computer terminals sending out hundreds of job applications, only to be told they’re overqualified or there are no openings.

Since the advent of the national recession in 2008, there have been countless other Americans cast out with no real safety net to catch them. And, no doubt, the Tea Partyers will say don’t expect the government to bail you out.

But what has corporate America done to help? Since the big banks are still keeping a tight lid on their assets, the private sector has generally been handcuffed in efforts to grow and expand.

Enlightened governments of Canada, Scandinavia, Europe have stepped up to try to improve the quality of life for their citizens, particularly with medical care, education, worker rights and public transportation.

We’re capable of doing that, too. We need only to readjust our national priorities.

It’s time to throw the Tea Partyers overboard.

– Ron Leir

Thoughts & Views: Now don’t get all squirrelly



Mulling possible topics for this week’s column, I first thought of Anthony Weiner. But the man is such an egotism-warped, morally/ethically/ truthiness-challenged fool, writing about him would be too depressing.

Instead, I am writing about the Black Death.

Also known as the bubonic plague.

The Black Death, carried by fleas that were infesting the rats that were infesting merchant ships, is thought to have originated in Asia in the 14th century. According to Wikipedia, by the mid-century it had spread to Europe, first via the Silk Road and then into multiple ports on the aforementioned ships.

The peak plague years were 1348-1350. An estimated 75 million to 200 million people died. By other estimates, the plague killed 30% to 60% of Europe’s total population.

I have often wondered why the disease just disappeared.

Well, guess what? It didn’t. It’s still around.

Right now, it’s apparently up in the hills above Los Angeles, where four campgrounds in the Angeles National Forest were closed last week after a plague-infected squirrel was found dead in a trap. (I have warned you, my readers, before: Camping–indeed any outdoor activity in spooky, woody places–is not wise. There are bears out there. And serial killers. And now, plagueinfected squirrels.)

I had to learn about the squirrel from Craig Ferguson since the local news channels, at least the ones I watched, did not see fit to report it, being more concerned with interminable weather reports.

At first, I was frightened. But then I learned something extraordinary: The Black Death is now readily curable. Thanks to antibiotics. Provided the victim is treated within 24 hours of the appearance of symptoms.

I find that amazing. I mean, I am aware of all our wonder drugs (by which I mean ones that actually work and don’t end up causing more problems than they cure), but to think that something that killed millions is now easily treated with some pills does astonish my small brain.

Info on plague symptoms and everything else you might want to know is available from the Centers for Disease Control’s Frequently Asked Questions About Plague website. I am not making that up. Check out www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/

And if you have a strong stomach and want to know what bubonic plague looks like, you can check Google images and see why it was also called the Black Death.

As for plague in the modern era: “Plague was first introduced into the United States in 1900, by rat-infested steamships that had sailed from affected areas, mostly from Asia,” the CDC says. “The last urban plague epidemic in the United States occurred in Los Angeles [!] from 1924 through 1925. Plague then spread from urban rats to rural rodent species, and became entrenched in many areas of the western United States.”

According to the CDC, five to 15 cases of plague in humans are recorded annually in the western states. Specific areas detailed on the FAQ website.

Reuters reported that the Los Angeles County Department of Health last week assured the public that “there have been only four cases of human plague in Los Angeles County residents since 1984, none of which were fatal.”

As for the Angeles National Forest, squirrel burrows are reportedly being dusted for fleas.

There. Now haven’t I brightened your day? Are you not reassured?

Now, why is it that the Spanish Flu, which in 1918-1920 killed 50 million to 100 million people worldwide, has never reappeared? Or has it? Or will it?

Just asking.

– Karen Zautyk


Protect us from the Passaic

To the Editor:

On July 23 on the news, Gov. Chris Christie clearly stated, “There will be other storms. Hopefully, not as severe as Sandy.” He was addressing those down the Shore. What, if anything, have you seen done from the Newark Basin up river to Harrison, Kearny, North Arlington, Lyndhurst, Rutherford? The state can build sound walls up and down every road in New Jersey but they can’t build a retaining wall along the Passaic River.

The sound on the highways wasn’t going to destroy peoples’ lives or cause the loss of belongings, family pictures, everything they worked for all their lives.

Federal, state and county government had no problem selling us down the river by allowing every form of contamination seep into our lives and for unknown reasons they refuse to save us from the river.

The Jersey Shore was a onetime issue and every agency ran to its rescue and continues to – we in this area have been hit four times primarily due to the lack of due diligence. With a wedged 30-foot boat, blocked channels, and much, much more, the erosion has gone unchecked.

Marie Cush


Thank you from Lyndhurst Health Department

The Lyndhurst Health Department would like to thank the following groups and businesses who helped make its first annual Senior Health Fair a great success: AAA, Al Ferrara of BCHS, Audiology and Hearing Aid Solutions, Clara Maass Medical Center, Dave Mihlon of Park Financial Group, Gentle Dental, Haley Chiropractic, JFVS, Kessler Rehabilitation Center, King’s Court, Rite Aid of Rutherford, Senior Helpers, Specialty Medical Services, Walgreens of North Arlington, Woman’s Club of Lyndhurst, and YMCA Area Meadowlands. The Health Department would also like to thank the Lyndhurst Pastry Shop and Shop Rite of Lyndhurst for the generous donations of cookies and fruit platters.

Sarah Anderson

Public Health Nurse/ Health Coordinator

Thoughts & Views: Still plenty of afflictions to cure, here & abroad

The time is out of joint – O cursed spite,

That ever I was born to set it right!

–“Hamlet”: Act 1, scene 5

You don’t need to be tipped off by any ghost to know that the world has gone mad these days with a global glut of insanity sufficient to send any sober-minded soul into the abyss.

Far be it from me to say that I’ve got the answers for the world’s ills but, at the very least, I can bring a reminder of some of the crises to your attention and perhaps a general outcry from the masses will help bring pressure on our public servants to right those wrongs.

Turmoil in Syria continues to call for intervention by the international community. With nearly 2 million of the country’s residents displaced by the civil war, and with many forced into crowded refugee camps, surely that should be enough to push the United Nations Security Council into action, to force the combatants to the negotiating table and crack down on the flow of weapons into the country.

Now, the Obama administration, with perhaps the best of intentions, says it supports arming the anti-al Assad insurgents – up to a point – but is that commitment a precursor to troops on the ground? Obama says it isn’t but who knows?

Meanwhile, the lives of Syrian citizens – people just trying to make a living, attend university, etc. – are being mightily disrupted and cities, along with ancient historic treasures, are being destroyed.

Something’s got to give.

So, too, with the peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel, being aided and abetted by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

If the negotiators for the Palestinians can be persuaded to acknowledge the existence and validity of the State of Israel and if those who speak for Israel can agree to compromise a bit on the borders issue, we could begin to see movement toward a two-state solution.

No easy thing, indeed, after so much enmity in the region and blood spilled. But reasonable adults can find a way to agree for the sake of peace.

In Russia, meanwhile, the recent conviction and sentencing of dissident Aleksei Navalny – who was found innocent by a court of allegations that he stole from a timber company – reminds us how the Putin regime treats those who dare speak out against officially-sanctioned corruption.

It should also remind us that our country’s democratic process – skewed though it is in favor of the banks and big corporations – still affords its citizens with an opportunity for due process and the right to be heard without facing the likely prospect of time behind bars.

And despite the operations of secret FISA courts in the U.S., the New Jersey Supreme Court has offered some solace to privacy advocates with its majority ruling that law enforcement agencies must first secure a warrant before asking Verizon to track a suspect through his or her cell phone transmissions.

Meanwhile, where is the Congress headed with plans for immigration reform?

On the one hand, one version of the bill being considered proposes to loosen current visa restrictions for foreign students, for those highly-skilled and for agricultural workers, for example, and would create a 13-year path to citizenship for those living here since prior to 2012. Advocates say these measures will boost our economy by allowing the government to collect substantial new tax revenues from the influx of prospective new citizens.

On the other hand, the bill would double the length of the security wall across our southern border and double the number of security agents, allegedly ensuring a 90% “capture” rate of those looking to enter the U.S. illegally.

Conservatives are against the provisions of the bill that would extend citizenship opportunities to those currently here without the proper documents, saying that is unfair to those who were born overseas and went through proper channels to establish themselves here legally.

But America has always been a beacon to those living in developing countries or in lands where poverty is the daily norm. Should we now be thinking of closing our doors to those aspiring to make a better life for themselves and their families?

Compared to the rest of the world, we are still a young country and still puzzling over how to interact with our neighbors in an ever-shrinking globe. And we are still a democratic republic with many of the republic’s virtues – though not perfect – still intact.

Let us endeavor to live up to those ideals, as best we can, in an imperfect world.

–Ron Leir


Displacing BOE president ill advised

To the Editor: At the July 12, 2013 special meeting of the Kearny Board of Education, the current board majority seated a new president. This action came as a result of the frivolous, self-serving removal of Bernadette McDonald at the previous meeting.

On June 17, board member George King blindsided Mrs. McDonald and some of the members by suddenly presenting a resolution to remove the sitting president for what he perceived as disrespectful behavior toward Superintendent Frank Ferraro. Mr. King’s assertion prompts several questions. Who assigned George King the task of assessing the demeanor of his peers? Since when does a less- than- perfect relationship between a superintendent and board president constitute grounds for removal?

Had Mr. King and his cohorts bothered to do the slightest bit of research before attempting to legitimize what can only be described as a “hatchet job,” they would have realized that state law (NJSA 18A:15-2) and their own by-laws define quite clearly the only valid reason for unseating a duly chosen presiding officer. The underpinning of both references is the precept that a board president can only be recalled for refusing to carry out the duties of the office. Not one of the members who voted against Mrs. McDonald cited even one instance of her refusal to carry out her duties — NOT ONE! So on what did Mr. King base his resolution? Was it the tone of her voice; the wording of an email; or his personal opinion of her attitude? Hardly objective!

I respectfully suggest that the difficulties between Superintendent Ferraro and President McDonald are not uncommon in the education community and that as two reasonable adults, given time and opportunity, they could have quietly and privately worked through them. The public dressing down of a woman who over the past 12 years has dedicated countless hours to our children and our schools, served no purpose except to demean her. Much to her credit, Bernadette stayed above the fray and is now pursuing legal measures to rectify the situation. Mr. King’s resolution and the subsequent vote did nothing to remedy the situation.

On the contrary, it has deepened the wedge between the two factions of the board. It certainly has not helped the relationship between Mrs. McDonald and Superintendent Ferraro. The time and effort expended on this issue would have been better spent on the important challenges facing our schools. In addition, it has prompted litigation, the defense of which will prove futile and costly to the Kearny Board of Education. Good job, guys!

Barbara Cifelli-Sherry


Thoughts & Views: Flying with the ‘comrades’

Is “fugitive intelligence leaker” Edward Snowden still languishing at Moscow Airport? As of press time, he was, but things do change.

Perhaps he has finally finagled asylum somewhere and perhaps he is fool enough to accept it.

However, this column is really not about Snowden, other than (moral issues aside) the pity I have for anyone trapped that long in any airport.

Everytime the Snowden/ Moscow Airport story airs, I get the shivers. And I shall tell you why.

I am a child of the Cold War. I grew up expecting to be obliterated at any given moment by H-bombs dropped from Soviet planes. I know all about “Duck and Cover” and what the symbol indicating an air raid shelter looks like and I have vivid memories of huddling under my desk at school during air raid drills and wondering why the teachers thought this would offer any protection at all. We kids knew better. We knew we’d be toast.

When the Iron Curtain was lifted and I had a chance to visit Moscow, I jumped at it. How better to finally overcome my childhood terrors than to confront them in their homeland?

It turned out to be a terror-free trip, but tinged always with a sense of unreality.

When I was in the city, I was with a gaggle of other journalists from around the world. But I had to travel to and from Moscow by myself. Travel arrangements had been made for me, but I was otherwise on my own.

I also had the “luck” to be booked on a Aeroflot flight that the Russians referred to the state airline as Aeroflop.

Still, it could have been worse. I had been given a first-class ticket, though I was warned that on the return flight I’d be in coach. I could not imagine what coach was like, since (way back then; I am certain Aeroflot has improved vastly) “first class” was awful.

No movies, no headphones, no lights for most of the night, so you couldn’t even read. Did we get vodka? I can’t recall. Maybe we got too much. I also cannot recall what they fed us, though I had suspicions that somewhere back in coach, they were grilling goats.

In any case, I made it to Moscow safely, had a great time, and, the day before I was due to leave was told, wonder of wonders, that my return ticket had been upgraded and I would again be spared sitting in steerage.

In the pre-dawn dark next morning, once again all on my own, I got a taxi to the Moscow Airport. The driver was most friendly and I tipped him well, and he actually came into the airport with me to make sure I got to the right check-in counter. (Did I mention my Russian was limited to “Nyet” and “No problemo” and “Zhivago”?)

When it was my turn, I said to the counter clerk, “First class.” And she said, “Nyet!” We repeated this exchange several times, each of us getting more and more annoyed, until I finally gave up and entered the waiting area, convinced that’d I’d be soon grilling goats.

NOTHING in the airport was open. There were gates and bars on everything. You couldn’t even get a cup of coffee. So I just sat on a bench and studied the ticket that had betrayed me.

But lo! On the flight over, I had managed to decipher a cyrillic phrase that obviously indicated “First Class.” And there it was again!

The counter clerk had lied. She probably had expected a bribe, someone suggested later.

I lept to my feet and ran over to the steel fencing that separated the benches from an open area patrolled by soldiers or policemen (I couldn’t tell which; they all dressed alike and they all carried automatic rifles over their shoulders). One was walking by a few yards away, and I called out, in an angry voice: “EXCUUUSE me! Do you speak English?”

He stopped and said, quietly and in perfect English, “Do you speak Russian?”

He had gently put me in my place, and I couldn’t help but laugh, which broke the ice I had created. He came over, I explained my predicament and showed him my ticket, and he told me to follow him.

We walked, he on one side of the fence, me on the other, until we reached a gate. He let me out of my pen and guided me through a door. I found myself in what apparently was the airport police station.

My gallant rescuer began explaining things to the “desk sergeant,” in Russian of course, so I really had no idea what was being said. And then he told me I would be allowed back into the check-in area, but I first had to hand over my passport and visa. Which I did.

I was then shown to another door, walked through it alone, and it locked behind me. It was then I felt the jolt. One of my childhood nightmares had come true.

I was in Russia with no papers.

No proof of American citizenship.

No ID at all.

Visions of the gulag danced in my head.

Luckily, the witchy clerk must have been spoken to because, as soon as she saw me, she scurried over, spouting what sounded like apologies, took my ticket, circled that cyrillic phrase and stamped it.

I was vindicated, but I didn’t breathe again until I knocked on that locked door, was allowed entry and, finally, was given my documents.

My rescuer had gone back on his beat, so I could not thank him. But I shall never forget his kindness.

Or that momentary terror.

God bless the U.S.A.

–Karen Zautyk


A story about the Harrison East Newark Elks published July 3 contained two misstatements. First, as two readers noted, Larry Bennett held the office of exalted ruler during 2003-2004, followed by Lynn Luciano in 2004-2005; then Bennett continued in the post for the following nine years. Secondly, the name of a former Elks exalted ruler and current trustee that appeared in the story and photo should have read Larry Kelly. The Observer regrets the errors.