Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

The Department of Justice Building

Many people are not aware that eight Nazi saboteurs landed on our country’s shores early during World War II with the intent to commit sabotage.  Their names were George John Dasch, Ernst Peter Burger, Herbert Haupt, Heinrich Heinck, Eddie Kerling, Herman Otto Neubauer, Richard Quirin, and Werner Thiel.  Even fewer are aware that during this week in 1942, six of those saboteurs were executed here in D.C.

Operation Pastorius was a failed German plan for sabotage inside the U.S. during World War II. The operation was staged in June of 1942 and was to be directed against strategic American homeland targets.  In all, eight saboteurs were dropped off near shore by Nazi submarines and were able to make it to the U.S. mainland — four of them near Long Island, New York and the other four near Jacksonville, Florida.  After one of them turned himself in, the largest manhunt in the history of the FBI began for the remaining seven.  Within nine days, all of the saboteurs were captured.

Fearful that a civilian court would be too lenient, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Proclamation 2561 on July 2, 1942, creating a military tribunal to prosecute the German agents under a veil of secrecy.  Lawyers for the accused attempted to have the case tried in a civilian court but were rebuffed by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that was later cited as a precedent for trial by military tribunal of any unlawful combatant against the U.S., including those currently being held in the military prison at Guantanamo Bay as part of the War on Terror.

The military tribunal took place in July of 1942 in Assembly Hall # 1 on the fifth floor of the U.S. Justice Department building on Pennsylvania Avenue.  All eight would-be saboteurs pleaded innocent, denouncing any allegiance to Adolph Hitler or the Third Reich. The prosecution, headed by the U.S. Attorney General, asked for the tribunal, consisting of seven military generals, for the death penalty.  All eight Germans were found guilty.   Exactly one month later, based on the Presidentially approved recommendation of the military tribunal, six of the eight were executed in the electric chair on the third floor of the D.C. Jail.  They were subsequently buried in a potter’s field called Blue Plains in the Anacostia area of D.C.  The other two Germans, George John Dasch and Ernst Peter Burger, were sentenced to terms of 30 years to life at hard labor.

On today’s bike ride, I went by the U.S. Department of Justice Building where the first military tribunal against an enemy combatant was held.  I also rode by the District of Columbia jail, where they were executed in the electric chair on the third floor.  I also rode to the Anacostia neighborhood in southeast D.C., where those who were executed were buried in unmarked graves in a potters field.

A look at the statistics will show how things have changed dramatically over the past 71 years.  During World War II, there were a total of eight enemy combatants charged by the U.S.   All eight were tried, convicted and sentenced, and the sentences were carried out.  There were only 57 days between June 12th when the Germans first landed on U.S. soil with plans to commit sabotage, until their sentences were carried out and they were executed or began serving their prison sentences on August 8th.

By comparison, the statistics for today’s enemy combatants is much different.  In the current military tribunal process, the shortest time between initial capture and conviction was five years, three months and the longest time nine years, seven months.

To date, 779 detainees have been held at the Guantanamo Bay facility since the War on Terror began after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  Of the 779 detainees, roughly 600 were eventually released without charges, many after being detained for years.  The total number of detainees currently remaining at Guantanamo stands at 41, although 5 of the 41 detainees have been approved by the U.S. for release to home or third countries but remain at Guantanamo.  There have been 15 children under age 18 who have been held at Guantanamo.  Nine Guantanamo detainees have died while in custody, six by suspected suicide. Only seven detainees have been convicted in the War on Terror military tribunals.  And of the 41 detainees that currently remain at Guantanamo, 26 have not yet been charged with a crime.

Today’s ride reinforced for me how important it is to know what your government has done, and is doing.

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Above are the FBI mugshot photos for: 1.George John Dasch;  2. Ernst Peter Burger;  3. Herbert Haupt;  4. Heinrich Heinck; 5. Eddie Kerling; 6. Herman Otto Neubauer; 7. Richard Quirin, and; 8. Werner Thiel.

Protestor in Front of the White House

National Bike to Work Day 2017

Today is National Bike to Work Day.  The League of American Bicyclists began Bike to Work Day in 1956 as part of National Bike Month, which makes today the 61st annual event.  The metropolitan D.C. area has been participating for over a decade.  It was originally started here in 2001 by The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), of which I am a member, and is now also co-sponsored by Commuter Connections, a regional network of transportation organizations coordinated by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Unfortunately, commuting to work by bike is not an option for me due to the proximity of where I live to where I work.  I do, however, attempt to commute to work responsibly by operating a vanpool service.  And to show support for the concept of riding a bike to work, my traditional practice on National Bike to Work Day is to arrive at work, get one of the bikes that I keep at the office to ride during my lunch breaks, and then go out and ride, and hang out with the commuters and other like-minded bicyclists at the Bike To Work Day pit stops.

Each year WABA, along with local bike shops and organizations, sponsor pit stops along many of the commuter routes in the area.  So I first ride to the nearby pit stop at Freedom Plaza.  I am able to have breakfast at one of the stops, where they hand out fresh fruit, granola bars, locally-baked bagels, and all kinds of other items.  They also give away other free items like T-shirts, water bottles, sunglasses, tire repair kits, bike lights and bells, area maps, etc., as well as a chance to win a new bike and other prizes in various drawings.  Then I ride around to some of the other 84 area pit stops that they set up throughout D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.  So I take a little time off from work and make a morning of it.

Bike to Work Day is a clean, fun and healthy way to get to work. But even if you’re unable to commute via bicycle, use can use the day as a spark to getting out there and riding a bike more.  Or maybe riding again if it has been a while since you were on a bike.  Whether it’s for recreation, exercise, running errands, or for any other reason, riding a bike not only has its benefits for both the rider and the environment, but it’s also fun.  As a former resident of D.C. named John F. Kennedy was once quoted as saying, “Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride.”

         

          

         

         

        

         

        
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

National Police Week Tributes (Part 2)

I enjoy various aspects of how National Police Week and Peace Officers Memorial Day are recognized here in D.C.  Things such as The Annual Blue Mass at Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church and the National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service provide a level of solemnity.  And the arrival of the Police Unity Tour, and seeing different National Police Week Vehicles on the streets of the city, are also highlights.  But perhaps the most meaningful and poignant aspect of the occasion is the leaving of mementos and tributes by visitors to The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

As I walked through the memorial and took in both the memorial and the tributes people have left there this week, I try to imagine the stories behind the items.  Some of the items are very official looking, and remind me of the honor due to the officer memorialized there, and the debt of gratitude owed to not only that person but all the others who are also inscribed on the walls of the memorial.  Examples of this include plaques, flags and patches.  Other items left at the walls are so personal and intimate in nature, such as photographs, letters and stuffed animals, that I feel almost like I’m intruding.  I was also particularly moved by the helmet for a police bike officer which someone had left, along with blue and white roses which had been laid on top of it.  Regardless of the official or personal nature of the tributes, all of the items left at the memorial add to the experience, and make visiting the memorial during this week especially worthwhile.

Finally, as this year’s National Police Week is coming to a conclusion, I’d like to encourage everyone to please take a moment to remember all of the Federal, state and local law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the safety and protection of our nation, as well as the more than 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers currently serving throughout this country.

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

National Police Week Tributes

There are currently more than 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers serving in the United States, about 12 percent of whom are female.  These are the highest numbers ever.  And according to the preliminary FBI’s Uniform Crime Report from January 2015 to June 2016, an estimated 507,792 violent crimes occurred nationwide, an increase of 5.3%.  So with an increasing number of officers dealing with this much violence, which is also on the increase, the consequences can all too often be tragic.

Since the first known line-of-duty death in 1791, more than 20,000 U.S. law enforcement officers have made the ultimate sacrifice.  As of April of this year there were 21,183 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty whose names are engraved on the walls of The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.  This includes 768 officers from New York City, the police department that has lost more officers in the line of duty than any other. Texas has lost 1,706 officers, more than any other state. The state with the fewest deaths is Vermont, with 23.  In addition to local law enforcement officers, the total number also includes 1,117 Federal officers, as well as 689 correctional officers and 39 military law enforcement officers. These numbers include 309 female officers, six of whom were killed in 2016, including a local female police officer named Ashley Guindon, who was killed in February of last year on her first day on the job.

With this week being designated as National Police Week, and the corresponding activities going on here in D.C. during this time, there has been a significant increase in  the number of visitors to the memorial.  And many of the visitors include families of the fallen as well as fellow police officers who knew or had a close connection to the officers being honored at the memorial.  So with the increased number of visitors with direct connections to the fallen officers whose names are chiseled on the walls of the memorial, the number of tributes being left at the memorial increases during this week.

I wrote in this blog last year about Tributes Left at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, but because of the ever changing nature of the visitors to the memorial and the tributes which are left there, I visited the memorial again this year.  The following photos show some of the thousands of those tributes.  I find them interesting because some are official in nature, such as plaques, uniforms, or even car doors from police cruisers.  Others, however, are very personal.  These include family photos, letters from children, and even stuffed animals.  Cumulatively the tributes show the magnitude of the commitment and sacrifice of the fallen officers, who were more than just names on a wall.  They were people.  And these people truly deserve to be honored.

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

Note:  There was such and outpouring of respect, as evidenced by the number of tributes left at the memorial, that when I finished my visit I realized I had so many photos that it would be best to break it up into a couple of days.  So come back tomorrow for  part two of National Police Week Tributes.

National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service

This week is National Police Week, which began yesterday and ends this Saturday.  And today is National Peace Officers Memorial Day.  In observance of the event, during my lunchtime outing I attended today’s National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service, which was held on the West Front of the United States Capitol Building (MAP).

Today’s memorial service, sponsored by the Grand Lodge Fraternal Order of Police and the Grand Lodge Fraternal Order of Police Auxiliary, was the 36th annual national service to honor law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty during the previous year.  Overall, 118 officers who died in 2016, and 66 were “victims of malicious attacks.” That represents an increase of almost 40 percent from the previous year.

As is traditional, President Donald Trump issued a proclamation to: designate May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day; to direct government officials to display the United States flag at half staff on all government buildings; and to invite state and local governments and the people to observe the day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.  The ceremony I attended at the Capitol Building began at 11:00am, and was attended for the very first time by both the President and the Vice President.

The activities began with a lining of the route by hundreds of various motorcycles officers from around the country as busload after busload of spouse and other family members of fallen officers proceeded down Independence Avenue and across the front of the Capitol Building along 3rd Street before entering onto the Capitol Grounds to attend the ceremony.

The highlight of the service for me was when President Trump spoke about Officer Ashley Guindon, a local police officer who was shot and killed in the line of duty last February on her very first day on the job, having been sworn in just the day before.  My youngest daughter and I went out to pay our respects and help line the route when she was killed.

Some of the other highlights for me of the service included the music.  The service opened with the singing of the Star Spangled Banner by a retired New York City Police Officer, and country music star Kellie Pickler also sang.  The rest of the service included addresses number of speakers, including President Trump, Vice President Pence, othrpoliticians, law enforcement officials, and clergy.  Finally, a Wreath Laying Ceremony at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial was held immediately following the memorial service.  The service and wreath laying were very moving and thought provoking, and served to remind us all of the service and sacrifice of those sworn to protect and serve.

         

         

         

         

         
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

Sometimes it’s the little things and details that will catch my eye. Here’s one last photo from today’s National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service that I think is particularly poignant and provocative.  It’s of the wife of a fallen officer who was sitting in the grass and leaning back, and I think it hints that there is a very emotional story behind the image.

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Beirut Barracks Memorial

It was great early-spring weather for a bike ride today.  There was no longer any sign of the recent cold, rainy conditions that took away the cherry blossoms.  Instead, the skies were clear.  There was a slight breeze.  And the temperature was just warm enough to hint of summer’s approach.  So on this lunchtime bike ride I rode over to Arlington National Cemetery (MAP), and went for a long walk on the grounds.  And it was during this walk that I visited the Beirut Barracks Memorial.

The Beirut Barracks Memorial honors the 241 American servicemen, comprised of 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers, who were killed in the October 23, 1983 terrorist bombing of the Marines barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. The bombing occurred during the Lebanese Civil War, when two truck bombs carrying what the FBI called the largest non-nuclear bomb in history, detonated by suicide bombers affiliated with a splinter group of the Iranian-and Syrian-supported Hezbollah organization, struck separate buildings housing United States and French military members of the Multinational Peacekeeping Force in Lebanon killing the U.S. servicemen, as well as 58 French peacekeepers, six civilians, and the two suicide attackers.

The memorial consists of a Lebanese cedar tree and a stone marker which reads, “‘Let Peace Take Root’  This cedar of Lebanon tree grows on living memory of the Americans killed in the Beirut terrorist attach and all victims of terrorism throughout the world.  Dedicated during the first memorial ceremony for these victims.  Given by: No Great Love. October 23, 1984.  A Time of Remembrance.”  And it is located in the green expanse of Arlington National’s Section 59, near the final resting place of some of the first Americans to shed blood in the fight against Middle East terrorism.  Twenty-one service members who lost their lives in the Beirut Barracks Bombing are also buried in Section 59 near the memorial.

BeirutBarracksMemorial02[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

This Year’s Cherry Blossoms Watch

On of the favorite local early-spring pastimes in the D.C. area is the “cherry blossom watch.”  This involves observing the progress of the Yoshino cherry trees surrounding the Tidal Basin as they approach “peak bloom.”  Peak bloom is traditionally defined as the day when 70 percent of the blossoms are open on the famous trees.  But because approximately half the blossoms on the trees were killed when unseasonably cold weather returned just as they were about to reach peak bloom, that didn’t happen.  Instead, this year definition had to be slightly altered.  Officials defined peak bloom for 2017 as the day 70 percent of the remaining blossoms were open.  And that occurred a few days ago.

As expected, the bloom this year was a little more subdued than usual simply because of the diminished number of buds that survived the weather.  However, the trees put on a beautiful show nonetheless.  Over the past few days since the peak bloom the blossoms have gradually been going from white to their iconic pale pink.  But the blossoms are also becoming quite fragile.  And with a prediction of one hundred percent chance of rain tomorrow, the rain will most likely knock the remaining petals off and blanketing the ground with so many petals it looks like blossom snow.

If it’s possible for you to get down here to the Tidal Basin by the end of the day today, you will still be able to see the last part of this year ‘s blooming cycle.  Otherwise, I hope you will enjoy the following photos that I took this year.  You can also see  my blog posts with photos of the cherry blossoms from previous years.

          

         

          

         

          

         

 [Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

Another Anniversary

Posted: February 6, 2017 in Events
Tags: , , ,

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Today this blog is three years old.  And on this anniversary of when I began writing about the daily bike rides I take during my lunch breaks at work, I find myself still having as much fun as I did when I started.  In fact, I’m having as much fun as when I was a kid riding my first bike, which was a bright green Schwinn Stingray coaster bike with a vinyl banana seat, U-shaped handle bars, a medium height sissy bar, chrome fenders and white-wall tires.  The bikes I ride now are different than the one I rode then.  And so am I.  But the enjoyment is still the same.

My original goal when I began this blog was to try to find and write about at least 365 different monuments, statues, memorials, and other places and events in D.C. that I think are interesting.  I thought that number would make it a compilation of one year’s worth of daily attractions for people to visit in the D.C. area.  But the D.C. area has so much to offer that even after I reached my goal I continued riding and writing.  As of today there are blog posts about 441 bike rides to different places.

And there is no end in sight.  There are literally hundreds of more monuments, memorials, statues, places or events that I have either already visited and not yet written about, or have identified and am planning to visit in the future.  In fact, I already know of more places I still want to ride to than the number I have already written about.  So I should be able to keep writing for the foreseeable future.  I just hope to be able to go to all of them before I retire, because I am eligible in only 571 days.

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Last night in preparation for the arrival of the first snow of the season, salt trucks were out treating local roads.  And today it felt like I got some of that salt in an open wound when I unexpectedly came across this street sign while out on today’s lunchtime bike ride in D.C.   Freezing temperatures and less than ideal weather conditions here in D.C. are difficult enough to endure without being reminded of the sunny skies and mild climate in Key West, where today it’s 71 degrees, with zero percent chance of precipitation and a mild breeze coming in off the ocean.

Even in ideal conditions riding a bike year-round in D.C. has its challenges.  But riding when it’s snowing, or there is still snow on the ground, can be particularly challenging.  Mounds of snow deposited by snowplows clearing the streets can accumulate and create unexpected barriers.  Snowdrifts can narrow streets and take away the extra room on the right where bikes routinely travel as they share the road with other vehicles.  And melting snow or patches of ice can create unusually slick conditions on roads and bike trails.  So here are a few tips to you help stay safe while riding in wintertime.

  • If you’re fortunate enough to have options, make sure and choose the right bike.  Don’t use that high-end road bike with the thin tires.  Instead, go with wider tires, like on a fat bike. The wide rubber will help with traction and stability. If you don’t have a fat bike, ride an older bike.  Sand, salt, and grit can clog up and destroy gears and other moving parts.  And outfit your bike with fenders and bright lights, and maybe winter tires with carbide-studded tires for increased grip on snow and ice.
  • Prepare your bike.  Make sure whatever bike you’re using is clean and properly maintained.  Keep your chain and gear cassette lubricated for best operation.  And if you have a place, like a garage or shed, store it in a cold place.  A room-temperature bike in new snow can cause ice to form more easily on brakes and gears.
  • Prepare yourself.  Protect your core by layering, which is the key to both staying warm and managing sweat in the cold.  And keep your hands and feet protected too.  Wear gloves or other handwear, and employ insulated footwear to keep your feet dry and warm.  Frozen fingers and toes are common issues for the unprepared.  Lastly, protect your head.  Try to avoid jacket hoods, which can funnel cold air to you as you ride.  Balaclavas or tight-fitting fleece or knitted skull caps work best.  And consider a larger size helmet to fit over the added insulation.
  • Stay aware of road conditions.  And follow the path of the plow. If the roads are plowed, this is the best path.  Sand, salt, sun, and snowplows eliminate ice and snow from pavement when it snows. Better yet, use marked bike lanes or paths when they’re available and clear.  In many major cities, including D.C., bike trails are regularly plowed as well.  But wherever you’re riding, stay away from the edges and look for the dry pavement.
  • Ride defensively.  Drivers are focusing more on their vehicle and the road than they are one you.
  • Ride steady.  Slow down and stay loose, especially in those slippery stretches.  Brake only on the rear wheel to avoid spinouts on slick surfaces.  And be more prepared than usual to take your feet off the pedals because it’s more likely for the bike to fishtail or tilt in wintery conditions.
  • And lastly, don’t be a hero.  Just because you chose to start a ride doesn’t mean you have to finish it.  Switch to public transportation should your snowy ride start proving to be too much for you.  Don’t be ashamed to abandon your bike ride and hop a ride to where you’re going.  Many subway trains and public buses, including here in D.C. depending on the time, allow riders to bring their bikes with them.  So ride near public transportation routes and be aware of your bail-out points along the way.

So if you are not fortunate enough to be 1,509 miles away from here in Key West, or in some other warm and ideal location, don’t let the winter weather stop you from riding.  Consider the above suggestions, and then enjoy the ride.

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The First Public Performance of The Star Spangled Banner

On this bike ride as I was riding east in the protected bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the U.S. Capitol Building, I happened to see a small plaque on the front of a building.  Out of curiosity I circled back and stopped to see what it was.  And as it turns out the plaque, located 601 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP), commemorates the location where “The Star Spangled Banner” was sung in public for the first time.

The Star-Spangled Banner” is the national anthem of the United States.  It was recognized for official use by the United States Navy in 1889, and by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916.  And it was made the national anthem by a Congressional resolution on March 3, 1931, which was signed by President Herbert Hoover.

The song’s lyrics come from a poem entitled “Defence of Fort M’Henry”, which was written in September of 1814 by Francis Scott Key, who just a few block past the western end of Pennsylvania Avenue has a memorial park named after him.  Key was inspired to write the poem by the sight of a large American flag flying above Fort McHenry during its bombardment by the British Royal Navy during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812.  The words were later set to the tune of a British song which was already popular in the United States entitled “To Anacreon in Heaven”, written by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society, a men’s social club in London.

Despite the fact that the song is notoriously difficult for nonprofessionals to sing because of its wide range, The Star Spangled Banner today is traditionally sung most often at the beginning of many public sporting events in the United States, as well as other types of public gatherings.  But on this bike ride, I discovered where the patriotic song was sung in public for the first time a little over two hundred years ago.

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The plaque reads, “On this site in 1814, “The Star Spangled Banner” was first sung on public.  The most famous of several hotels on this block was Brown’s Marble Hotel (1851 – 1935), an innovative greek revival landmark, where John Tyler and Abraham Lincoln were guests.  In the 1830’s, Beverly Snow, a free black, operated the epicurean restaurant on the corner of 6th Street.  The Atlanta Coast Line Railroad Building was completed at the same location in 1863.  Its façade was incorporated into the present office building, erected by the B.F. Saul Company in 1985.”