Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

The Constitution Room at the National Archives

On today’s bike ride I stopped by to see the United States Constitution at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration Building.  To find out why you’ll have to keep reading all the way to the end.

On this date in 1787, 39 of the 42 men who were gathered together in Philadelphia signed a document. That four-page document is now located down the street from my office displayed in temperature and environmentally controlled cases behind protective glass framed with titanium. And on today’s lunchtime bike ride I not only rode there, but also went inside to see the actual document that was present 226 years ago at that meeting in Philadelphia.

Today is the anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pensylvania. (Yes, I know Pennsylvania is spelled incorrectly in the previous sentence, but it was also spelled wrong in the Constitution.)

As dictated by Article VII, the document would not become binding until it was ratified by nine of the 13 states. Beginning on December 7, five states–Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut–ratified it in quick succession. However, other states, especially Massachusetts, opposed the document, as it failed to reserve undelegated powers to the states and lacked constitutional protection of basic political rights, such as freedom of speech, religion, and the press. In February 1788, a compromise was reached under which Massachusetts and other states would agree to ratify the document with the assurance that amendments would be immediately proposed. The Constitution was thus narrowly ratified in Massachusetts, followed by Maryland and South Carolina. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the document, and it was subsequently agreed that government under the U.S. Constitution would begin on March 4, 1789. In June, Virginia ratified the Constitution, followed by New York in July.

In addition to Pensylvania being spelled incorrectly, here are some other interesting facts about the Constitution:  

  • The Constitution contains 4,543 words, including the signatures and has four sheets, 28-3/4 inches by 23-5/8 inches each. It contains 7,591 words including the 27 amendments.
  • The U.S. Constitution is the oldest working and shortest written Constitution of any major government in the world.
  • The word “democracy” does not appear once in the Constitution.
    Benjamin Franklin made a suggestion at the Constitutional Convention that the sessions be opened with a prayer. The delegates refused to accept the motion stating that there was not enough money to hire a chaplain.
  • Thomas Jefferson did not sign the Constitution. He was in France during the Convention, where he served as the U.S. minister. John Adams was serving as the U.S. minister to Great Britain during the Constitutional Convention and did not attend either.
  • The Constitution was “penned” by Jacob Shallus, A Pennsylvania General Assembly clerk, for $30 ($726 today).
  • Patrick Henry was elected as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, but declined, because he “smelt a rat.”
  • There was a proposal at the Constitutional Convention to limit the standing army for the country to 5,000 men. George Washington sarcastically agreed with this proposal as long as a stipulation was added that no invading army could number more than 3,000 troops!
  • James Madison, “the father of the Constitution,” was the first to arrive in Philadelphia for the Constitutional Convention. He arrived in February, three months before the convention began, bearing the blueprint for the new Constitution.
  • Because of his poor health, Benjamin Franklin needed help to sign the Constitution. As he did so, tears streamed down his face. Franklin, at 81 years old, was also the oldest person to sign the Constitution. The youngest was Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey, who was 26.
  • Of the forty-two delegates who attended most of the meetings, thirty-nine actually signed the Constitution. Edmund Randolph and George Mason of Virginia and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts refused to sign due in part due to the lack of a bill of rights.
  • A proclamation by President George Washington and a congressional resolution established the first national Thanksgiving Day on November 26, 1789. The reason for the holiday was to give “thanks” for the new Constitution.
  • George Washington and James Madison were the only presidents who signed the Constitution.
  • At the time of the Constitutional Convention Philadelphia was the most modern city in America and the largest city in North America. It had a population of 40,000 people, 7,000 street lamps, 33 churches, 10 newspapers, and a university.
  • As Benjamin Franklin left the Pennsylvania State House after the final meeting of the Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787, he was approached by the wife of the mayor of Philadelphia. She was curious as to what the new government would be. Franklin replied, “A republic, madam. If you can keep it.” .

And finally, Constitution Day is celebrated on September 17, the anniversary of the day the framers signed the document. That’s today, so Happy Constitution Day!

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration Building

NOTE: They do not allow photography of any kind inside the National Archives building, which is why I don’t have a photo of the Constitution.. However, I surreptitiously took the above photo of the Constitution Room on my way out. .

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Putting FBI Headquarters in My Bike’s Rearview Mirror

After six and a half years of going out for a bike ride each day during my lunch break from work and then writing about it in this blog, things are changing.  Actually, they have been changing for awhile.  Some minor health issues during the past year kept me from riding as much as I traditionally had.  And then back in March the coronavirus pandemic hit.  And instead of going in to my office, I was ordered to telework from home.  This, combined with lockdowns, closures, social distancing and everything else that has been going on, temporarily kept me from riding and writing at all.  And now the biggest change of them all has occurred.  Today, after working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for the past 32 years, I retired.

And based on these changes, this blog will be changing too.  Instead of short bike rides during my lunch hour, I will be able to start going for longer rides.  And this will enable me to ride to places where I otherwise would not be able to go.  And instead of the bike I kept in the basement parking garage of my office building, I will be riding a wider variety of my bikes that I keep at home.

Additionally, now that I will have the time and the freedom to ride when, where and what I want, I will soon begin training for long-distance rides and the multi-day bike touring that I have been planning for some time, but not been able to fit into my schedule.  It will take some training to get back to the level of physical fitness I was at just a year or so ago.  And that will take some time.  But starting today I will have a lot of that.

Not everything will be changing, however.  I will still be riding to various places throughout D.C. like I always have.  It’s much too interesting a city to stop exploring it.  There are still many statues and monuments I have yet to see and find out more about.  There are many murals and pieces of public artwork I have yet to take in and appreciate.  And there are a whole bunch of restaurants I have yet to experience.  And now that I’ll have plenty of time to leisurely enjoy a meal, I hope to visit more of these than I was blt to in the past.  There are so many things and events and places I have yet to see, I look forward to retirement enabling me to continue riding around the city and then write about what I see, what I learn, and what I think about as I continue to explore our nation’s capital one ride at a time.

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FBI Headquarters, Where I spent the Last 32 Years

 

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Some of My Bikes that I’ll be Riding for the Next 32 Years

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The Million Mask March and Guy Fawkes

The hacktivist group Anonymous announced they would be gathering at The Washington Monument at 9:00am this morning to begin a protest in Downtown D.C.  It’s an annual protest that is in its 7th year here in D.C. (23rd year worldwide), and is part of an annual global protest associated with Anonymous. The protest has come to be known as the Million Mask March, or “Operation Vendetta,” and takes place each year on Guy Fawkes Day, the 5th of November.  I’ve been to one of these protests a few years ago. So I decided to learn some more about the group and protest, and then to go and observe this year’s protest.

The motives for each year’s march varies, but are usually broad in scope and include some consistent themes and beliefs that are prevalent in the Anonymous movement. They include: corruption in politics and governments; banks, corporations, and big pharma companies; government surveillance; demilitarization; capitalist greed; climate change; internet censorship; police violence; the erosion of civil liberties; self-governance, and; the treatment of vulnerable groups like migrants, disabled people, and those living in poverty.

Anonymous also ascribes to what many people would call “conspiracy theories.” According to the web site for the Million Mask March the group contends that: Jackie Kennedy, and not Lee Harvey Oswald, shot John F. Kennedy; Julian Assange was an orphan raised in a CIA child sex slave camp and was framed in the 9/11 attacks, and; Jeffrey Epstein, the American financier and convicted sex offender who was recently reported to have committed suicide while in Federal custody is, in fact, not dead but living on a ranch under the protection of the Federal government.

Anonymous associates itself with Guy Fawkes, and those attending protests usually wear Guy Fawkes masks. And they schedule their main protest on Guy Fawkes Day (which is also known as Bonfire Night and Firework Night). Guy Fawkes Day is an annual commemoration observed primarily in the United Kingdom. Its history began with the events of November 5, 1605, when a man named Guy Fawkes, a participant in what became known as the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords. Celebrating the fact that King James the First had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London; and months later, the introduction of the Observance of the 5th of November Act enforced an annual public day of thanksgiving for the plot’s failure.

Fawkes was sentenced to be executed for his part in trying to assassinate the king. But shortly before the sentence was scheduled to be carried out, Fawkes fell from the scaffold where he was to be hanged and broke his neck, thus avoiding the agony of being hanged, drawn and quartered.

So after learning about the planned protest and the group, I took an early break from work today and went down to The Washington Monument at 9:00am to observe the Million Mask March. I got there at about 8:45am, but didn’t see anyone wearing a Fawkes mask, or that looked like they were there for a protest. But I was early. So I waited. It wasn’t particularly crowded at the monument. In fact there were no more than a couple of dozen tourist coming and going. I waited for over an hour but no protesters showed up. I eventually gave up and went back to work. I checked a site that was supposed to be live streaming the march. But I got a message that read, “404 – Page Not Found.” And later, after the march was scheduled to have concluded, I checked the Facebook page that was set up for the march. Despite multiple posts made today, there were no posts or photos of the march.

So, I find it ironically interesting that the group aligns itself Guy Fawkes, a man and a day famous for failure. If the purpose of the march was to influence people and communicate with the public, today’s march was as much a failure as Fawkes and The Gunpowder Plot.

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Operation Eagle Claw Memorial

I remember the fall of 1979.  I was a senior in high school.  And it was an eventful time.  Some of the events seemed more significant at the time than they would be in the long run, such as when the Pittsburgh Pirates  defeated the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.  It was before the Washington Nationals existed.  So the Orioles were as close to a local team as we had. 

Other events from that time became ingrained in my memory because of how they affected me on a personal level, such as when several fans of The Who were killed at a concert at the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio.  A combination of “festival” (unassigned) seating and too few entrances being opened resulted in eleven kids being trampled to death when the crowd surged forward trying to enter the concert.  Those kids were all approximately my age, and I remember thinking that it could have been me.

Still other events were even more significant in nature and would have rippling effects on history.  One of those events would come to be known as the “Iran hostage crisis.”  It started on November 4th, 40 years ago today, when hundreds of Iranian Islamic fundamentalists who supported the Iranian Revolution under the Ayatollah Khomeini, mostly students, took over the United States Embassy in Tehran and took 66 Americans hostage, demanding that the U.S. send the former Shah of Iran back to stand trial.  or days nothing was known of the hostages’ condition until their captors finally released all female and black hostages. Later, one other man was released for medical reasons, leaving 53 Americans captives.

By spring of the following year the situation had reached a standstill.  All diplomatic attempts to secure their release had failed.  So President Jimmy Carter authorized a secret joint-services military operation on April 25, 1980, to rescue the hostages.  The plan, known as Operation Eagle Claw (Operation Tabas in Iran), called for a rendezvous of helicopters and cargo planes at a remote desert site in Iran, known as Desert One, before attempting the actually rescue of the hostages. However, the mission was aborted when two of the aircraft collided.  The ensuing explosion and fire claimed the lives of eight American service personnel.  They included three Marines:  Sergeant John D. Harvey, Corporal George N. Holmes Jr., Staff Sergeant Dewey Johnson; and five Air Force personnel:  Major Richard L. Bakke, Major Harold L. Lewis Jr., Technical Sergeant Joel C. Mayo, Captain Lyn D. McIntosh, and Captain Charles T. McMillan.  Their bodies could not be recovered before the surviving aircraft had to abandon the desert staging area. Shortly thereafter the eight bodies were returned to the United States. 

The failed rescue operation resulted in some rather undesirable consequences. Firstly, the hostages were scattered across Iran, to make another rescue mission impossible. Also, the US government received heavy criticism from governments around the world for making such blunders in a very critical situation. As a matter of fact, experts and President Carter himself believe that the failure of Operation Eagle Claw was a major reason he lost the presidential election to Ronald Reagan.

Only 20 minutes before Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President on January 20, 1981, Iran finally released the hostages.  They were held for 444 days, making it the longest hostage crisis in recorded history.  

On this lunchtime bike ride I visited a monument dedicated to the memory of the gallant servicemen, who died in the valiant effort to rescue the American hostages.  It is located in Arlington National Cemetery, near the Memorial Amphitheater.  The monument consists of a white stone marker that bears a bronze plaque listing the names and ranks of the three Marines and the five airmen killed in Operation Eagle Claw.

NOTE:  Although it was a failed mission and its widespread failure would be a moment of profound humiliation for the United States, the operation has since become known as the “most successful failed mission in history.”  Many tactics and procedures were first used and developed by the military personnel of Operation Eagle Claw, including blacked out landings, landing on unprepared runways, multi-aircraft air field seizure, clandestine insertion of small helicopters and many other procedures, some of which are still classified to this day.

Capital Harvest on the Plaza

During today’s lunch break I rode to the weekly farmer’s market, Capital Harvest on the Plaza (CHoP), located on the Woodrow Wilson Plaza at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP) in Downtown, D.C.  Actually, instead of “during” today’s lunch break it would be more accurate to say “for” today’s lunch break.  Because I went there to eat lunch at one of the many eateries that sets up as part of the farmer’s market.

In addition to ready-to-eat, farm-fresh edibles and artisanal novelties, the weekly farmers market allows local farmers, artisans, and producers to sell home grown, fresh organic fruits, vegetables, meat, and other locally produced food, as well as flowers and canned and baked goods, at an affordable price.  You can also stop by their information booth and stock up on recipes and tips for maintaining a healthy and socially responsible lifestyle.

The CHoP Farmers Market is open Fridays, spring through fall, from May 3 to November 22, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., and is accessible via metro by either the Federal Triangle (blue/orange/silver lines) or Metro Center (red/blue/orange/silver lines). Parking is available onsite in the Reagan Building’s underground parking garage.  But, of course, I prefer to ride a bike there.

There are also a number of other good farmer’s markets in the city that are also open during the workweek, including: the U.S. Department of Agriculture Outdoor Farmers Market, located next to the U.S.D.A. Headquarters at 12th and Independence Avenue in southwest D.C. (also open Fridays); the Freshfarm by the White House Market located at 812 Vermont Avenue in northwest, D.C. (open Thursdays); the Penn Quarter Market, located at 801 F Street in northwest D.C. (also open on Thursdays); the Foggy Bottom Market, located at 901 23rd Street in northwest, D.C. (open Wednesdays); the Rose Park Recreation Center Farmers Market, located at 1499 27th Street in Georgetown (also open on Wednesdays), and; the CityCenterDC Market, located at 1098 New York Avenue in northwest, D.C. (open Tuesdays).  There are additional farmers markets throughout the city that are open on the weekends as well.  Now, if I could just find a good farmers market open on Mondays.

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

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ShutDownDC Protest

Today I encountered a protest. That’s not unusual, however. The same can be said almost any day of the week depending on where in you are here in the city. But today’s protest occurred at various locations around D.C. There was a similar protest at the beginning of this week as well. Entitled “ShutDownDC,” the protests were timed for the beginning and end of the week, along with strikes in a number of other cities, in order to coincide with the start of the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York.

A coalition of several climate change and social justice groups participated in this week’s protests. The groups included climate change organizations: “Rising Tide North America” and “Extinction Rebellion DC.”  But it also included such diverse groups as “Code Pink: Women for Peace,” which describes itself as a grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end U.S.-funded wars and occupations, to challenge militarism globally and to redirect the resources used for those things; the “Democratic Socialists of America,” the largest socialist organization in the United States; “World BEYOND War,” a “global nonviolent movement to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace”; “Werk for Peace,” a queer and transgender rights movement, and; Black Lives Matter. According to a website for the events, the purpose of the protests were “to demand an immediate end to the age of fossil fuels, and a swift and just transition to renewable energy.”

On Monday the protesters split up and blocked various major intersections and other key infrastructure in the city in an attempt to disrupt traffic and gridlock the city during morning rush hour. Today’s protest took the form of a march, causing rolling street closures and traffic backups. It started and ended at McPherson Square. Along the way they paused in front of certain companies and organizations in order to “call them out as fossil fuel villains.” They included the investment management company BlackRock, located about a block northeast of the White House. which the protest group accuses of being “the world’s largest investor in fossil fuels and deforestation”; the Environmental Protection Agency building on Pennsylvania Avenue, which they describe as stopping at nothing to destroy existing climate protections; the Trump International Hotel, which they say is a symbol of corporate influence in U.S. politics; and a branch of Wells Fargo Bank, which they contend has put $151 billion into fossil fuel industries in the past three years during “a time when really we should be thinking about the managed decline of the fossil fuel industry.”  The intent of today’s march was to again disrupt traffic and cause gridlock for commuters during the morning rush hour.

In general, a protest is a way of making opinions heard in an attempt to influence public opinion or government policy. In this case, however, I don’t think the protests were very effective in achieving that goal. When a protest is designed to disrupt traffic and inconvenience the average working person who is just trying to go to work to support themselves and their families, you lose the support of the very people you are trying to influence. You fail to influence or gain the support of the grassroots people needed to sway public opinion and influence government and corporate action.  And you can end up looking like self-absorbed attention seekers.

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

The Poppy Wall of Honor

During today’s last lunchtime bike ride before Memorial Day, I was riding along the National Mall near The National World War II Memorial when I saw some sort of red display in the distance on the southwestern side of The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. So, naturally, I rode over to get a better look and find out about it. It turned out to be a new, temporary monument in honor of Memorial Day called The Poppy Wall of Honor.

Since World War I, more than 645,000 men and women have given their lives in combat to defend our freedom. And the poppy flower serves as a symbol of that sacrifice. Wearing a poppy flower, known as a Remembrance Poppy, is done on Memorial Day and Veterans Day as a way to honor these fallen heroes. I remember my Dad always had a remembrance poppy at both Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

My Dad would also recite a poem from memory entitled “In Flanders Fields,” written by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian Physician during the First World War. McCrae was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Lieutenant Alexis Helmer. According to legend, fellow soldiers retrieved the poem after McCrae, initially dissatisfied with his work, discarded it.

“In Flanders Fields” was first published on December 8th of 1915. And it became so popular that the poem and poppy became prominent Remembrance Day symbols throughout the Commonwealth of Nations, particularly in Canada. The poem is also widely known in the United States, where it is associated with Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Inspired by the poem, the poppy flower also became an American symbol of remembrance in 1920 when it was brought forward by Moina Michael, an American professor and volunteer for the American YWCA, during the National American Legion Conference.

Sponsored by the USAA Company in cooperation with the National Park Service, The Poppy Wall of Honor is a 133-foot-long, 8 1/2 foot-tall translucent structure filled with more than 645,000 synthetic Remembrance Poppy Flowers, one for each fallen American service member. This year the exhibit also honors the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

The Poppy Wall of Honor is open to the public daily for viewing from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., through Memorial Day. But if you can’t visit it in person, there’s also an online virtual reality experience for viewers to explore.

 

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

The Poppy Wall of Honor

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you, from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow,
In Flanders fields.

Bike to Work Day 2019

Each year the month of May is National Bike Month.  This week, May 13 through 17, is Bike to Work Week.  And today is Bike to Work DayThe League of American Bicyclists began Bike to Work Day as part of Bike Month in 1956.  Over the years, the day has grown into a widespread event with countless bicyclists nationwide taking to streets and trails in an effort to get commuters to try bicycling to work as a healthy and safe alternative to driving a car.

In the greater D.C. region, Bike to Work Day has grown from a small group of just a few hundred participants in 2001 to more than 18,700 riders in 2017.  There was a slight dip in participation last year.  The event is always held rain or shine, and due to thunderstorms that occurred last year throughout the preceding week as well as on Bike to Work Day itself, fewer riders came out.  But this year’s 19th annual event, which was again coordinated locally by Commuter Connections and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), will hopefully top 19,000 and set a new record.

Although I am unable to commute on a bicycle, I celebrated Bike to Work Day by coming to work this morning, getting my bike out of my office building’s parking garage, and went out and rode around for a while on some of the main bike commuter routes in the city.

Each year WABA, along with a number of local bike shops and organizations, sponsor 115 pit stops along many of the commuter routes in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The pit stop which I signed up for was located at Freedom Plaza, the same pit stop where I’ve stopped for the last several years.  By being one of the first 20,000 people to sign up, I was able to pick up a free T-shirt at the pit stop.  And by signing up and stopping at the pit stop I was also entered into a raffle for a new bike.

I also rode by some of the other pit stops this morning.  They were a little less crowded than previous years’ pit stops have been, but I was able to pick up some free leftover T-shirts from previous years’ bike to Work Days.  I also enjoyed a nice breakfast consisting of one of the absolute best bagels I’ve had in a long time, courtesy of Bethesda Bagels, along with a fresh orange and a banana.  Fresh fruit juices, coffee or tea was also available, as well as some granola bars and other snack items, which I picked up for later.  I was also given a coupon for a free lunch at Nando’s, a restaurant that specializes in Portuguese flame-grilled PERi-PERi (also known as the African Bird’s Eye chili) chicken.

After filling up on food, and relaxing and listening to some of the music for a while, I then enjoyed a leisurely ride around the city.  And I filled up on “swag” along the way.  Various sponsors and promotors gave away free items like sunglasses, hats, water bottles, tire repair and changing kits, bike tools, bike lights and bells, bike reflectors and reflective arm bands to be seen better while riding, area maps, cell phone accessories, small bottles of hand sanitizer, and coupons for free bike and scooter rentals.  And at the pit stop in the courtyard of the National Geographic Museum they were giving away surplus items such as decks of cards, games, books, and DVDs.

But Bike to Work Day here in D.C. is more than just 20,000 cool people riding bikes and enjoying music, food and lots of free stuff.  (As if that wasn’t enough.)  The planners help newer riders by organizing bike convoys, which are led by experienced bicycle commuters and travel through popular employment centers.  They provide information about classes and seminars throughout the area for riders with a wide range of skill sets, from beginners to the more experienced.  They also set up online discussion groups to answer any questions people may have.  As I stated previously, Bike to Work Day provides more than just fun.  It provides valuable information and resources to people to help them ride safely in the city year-round.

 

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

Note:  Despite it being Bike to Work Day, there were still plenty of drivers out there that think stopping or parking in the bike lanes is okay.  Like the driver of this car.  The city is trying to develop ways to address this, including hiring additional officers to increase enforcement.  But as of today, the problem is still out there.  

Mementos Left at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial

This week is National Police Week, and tomorrow is Peace Officers Memorial Day. And during this time there is no more meaningful place to visit than The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial (NLEOM), located at 450 F Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Judiciary Square neighborhood. And that’s where I went during today’s lunch break.

Engravers Jim Lee and Kirk Bockman are responsible for adding the names of fallen law enforcement officers to the walls of the NLEOM here in D.C. And this year, they are adding the names of 371 officers, including 158 who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty in 2018.

An additional 213 officers who died earlier in history, but whose sacrifice had not been previously documented, were also added to the NLEOM this year. Among them is Chesterfield County (Va.) Sheriff Benjamin Branch; whose end of watch on April 29, 1786, making him the oldest known officer death on the memorial. In total, there are 21,910 officers’ names engraved on the Memorial, representing all 50 states, D.C., U.S. territories, federal law enforcement, and military police agencies.

And as it always is during National Police Week, there are hundreds of personal mementos left at the Memorial. It’s these personal mementos that I find to be one of the most poignant parts of the week. They go beyond numbers and statistics, beyond names engraved on the NLEOM’s walls, and give a glimpse of the actual people represented by the names on the Memorial. The mementos show us that these people are missed by their collegues, families, and other loved ones they left behind.

Pay close attention to the details in these photographs. The mementos and the memorial are not just about how their lives ended, but about how these heroes lived their lives. And this is the true meaning of this week.

 

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

Links to Previous Police Week Posts on this Blog

Today’s Blue Mass

On my lunchbreak at work today I attended the Blue Mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, located at 619 10th Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Penn Quarter neighborhood.  Celebrated annually, a Blue Mass is a service held to honor those in the “public safety field” (i.e. police officers, firefighters, correctional officers, 911 operators and EMS personnel), who died in the line of duty during the past year, and to pray for the safety in the coming year of those still serving.  And although held in a Catholic Church, the services are generally considered to be ecumenical or non-denominational.

Rev. Thomas Dade started the tradition as part of his duties with the Catholic Police and Fireman’s Society, and held the first ever Blue Mass on September 29, 1934, to coincide with Michaelmas, the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, the patron saint of police officers and military personnel.  And that first service was held in the very same church where today’s mass was celebrated.

Blue Masses are currently celebrated nationwide, with many of the services still being held in September.  But here in D.C., the service is now held each May, shortly before the beginning of National Police Week, which this year runs from this Sunday (May 12th) through the following Saturday (May 18th).

Before today’s Mass, hundreds of law enforcement officers and public safety officials gathered outside for a solemn processional into St. Patrick’s.  Units from various Federal, state, and local jurisdictions from across the country gathered in formation to pass under a huge American flag proudly hung over the street by two fire ladder trucks.  Also gathered outside were officers on horseback, in color guards, as well as in pipe and drum corps units. The Mass included an honor guard, bagpipers, and concluded with the solemn playing of “Taps” in memory of those who gave their lives in the past year.

The Mass was an opportunity for the community to show its gratitude to first responders and their families.  But that need not be limited to today’s service.  So when you see a first responder, especially this week or next week during National Police Week, let him or her know that you appreciate their service and sacrifice.  And say a prayer for their safety.

 

The Procession Into the Church

 

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

Psalm 91:11, “For He will give His angels [especial] charge over you to accompany and defend and preserve you in all your ways [of obedience and service].”

Police Officers’ Prayer to St. Michael, the Archangel

Dear Saint Michael, Your name means, “Who is Like a God”, and it indicates that You remained faithful when others rebelled against God. Help the police officers of our day who strive to stem the rebellion and evil that are rampant on all sides. Keep them faithful to their God as well as to their country and their fellow human beings.  Amen.

Firefighters’ Prayer to Saint Florian

Dear God, through the intercession of our patron, Saint Florian, have mercy on the souls of our comrades who have made the supreme sacrifice in the performance of their duty, and on all who have gone before us after years of faithful discharge of their responsibilities which now rest on ourselves. Give us Grace to prepare each day for our own summons to Your tribunal of justice. Into Your hands O Lord, I commend my spirit. Whenever You call me, I am ready to go. Merciful Father of all men and women, save me from all bodily harm, if it be Your will, but above all, help me to be loyal and true, respectful and honorable, obedient and valiant. Thus fortified by virtue, I shall have no fear, for I shall then belong to You and shall never be separated from You.  Amen.