April 19th, 2019

As I sit here writing this, I cannot help but reflect on the significance of this day.

In Christianity, today marks Good Friday, the day that Jesus Christ went to the cross to pay for our collective sins. In doing the research for my book, Where Was God?, I delved deeper into this horrific event. It is truly a very humbling experience when you realize just how much pain and suffering was endured for us. As much as I thought I knew the story, I came away with not only a deeper appreciation of what Christ did for us, but also a deeper understanding of the history behind it.  I think this is something that most people do not truly understand. Sometimes I feel that we treat Him as a mystical figure, instead of a historical one.

Sadly, most do not understand that there is history to the story of Christ. Among New Testament scholars, there is little doubt that Jesus Christ lived. While the most detailed story of Jesus’ life is contained in the four Gospels, they are not our only source. First-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus referenced Jesus twice in his twenty volume history of the Jewish people. Additionally, Tacitus, the first-century Roman senator and historian, referred to Him in his history of Rome.  There are other anecdotal references to Jesus from a wide variety of non-biased sources. Even beyond Christianity, members of the Jewish and Muslim faiths also acknowledge the existence of Jesus.

If you are interested in learning more, I would highly recommend taking a look at, Where Was God?

Today also marks two very significant events in American History.

On April 19th, 1775, British troops, who had been sent to seize colonial weapons, fired the first shots of the American Revolutionary War, when they confronted about eighty militia members at Lexington, Massachusetts.  Eight militiamen were killed in the initial confrontation at Lexington, but upon arriving in Concord the English were met with a much larger force of around four hundred. These two battles would set the stage for the war that would ultimately secure American independence.

On April 19th, 1995, America was shaken to its core by the terror attack at the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. This attack left nearly seven hundred injured and one hundred and sixty-eight dead, including four members of the United States Secret Service. At the time I was a member of the NYPD’s Intelligence Division and was sitting inside a USSS Suburban, on a protection detail, when the call came over the radio about the attack. There are no words to describe the feelings you get, as you are processing the fact that your country is under attack, and wondering if you are next. It was an unfortunate experience I would face again on September 11th.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." – George Santayana (Vol. I, Reason in Common Sense)

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Has Your Elected Official Forgotten the Victims of 9/11?

I wish I could devote all of my time writing my latest novel or providing you with entertaining blog posts relating to my books and characters, but sadly I find myself having to turn to you and beg for your support in a much larger issue: The Heroes and Victims of the September 11th Terror Attacks.

Every September 11th, our elected representatives love to get out in front of the cameras and proclaim that we American’s should never forget the victims of the horrific terrorist attack and that we should always remember the heroes of that day. Yet that is exactly what they do beginning September 12th. Apparently, the only ones needing a reminder are those in government.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is on the brink of collapse strictly because Congress failed to adequately fund it.  Simply put, without proper funding, the program will close in 2020. This will leave many within the 9/11 community without treatment for the toxins they were exposed to, even though the government lied and said the air was safe. In addition, many rely on the promised compensation because they are dying from attributed illnesses and know their families will need this money after they are gone. Imagine for a moment a first responder on the brink of losing their homes, simply because they rushed to the aid of their fellow American’s.

Yet our vaunted politicians in Congress provided less than $5 billion dollars for a program that was not set to expire till 2090, yet they provide $45 - $50 billion ANNUALLY in foreign aid.

Since the attacks of September 11th, the United States has sent nearly $100 billion dollars in aid to Afghanistan, the country from which the attacks were planned and launched.  It is unconscionably that our representatives treat foreign countries better than their own American citizens.

Tell Congress to treat our 9/11 victims and heroes with at least the same dignity and respect that is given to foreign countries.

The link below provides a way for you to see whether or not your elected representatives have supported the funding of the Zadroga Bill. All you have to do is put in your address and it will tell you immediately.

CLICK HERE TO SEE IF YOUR REPRESENTATIVE SUPPORT THE ZADROGA BILL?

Let them know that even though they may have forgotten, you haven’t!! Never Forget should be more than a catchy hashtag.

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VCF-citizens-for-the-extension-of-the-james-zadroga-act.jpg

Throwback Thursday - Behind the Scenes (NYPD Intelligence)

Readers of my books know that I reference a lot of different places and agencies. Many of them are part of the backstory for my characters, so I thought I would start something new called: Throwback Thursday.

From time to time I will present you with a brief history of one of the units or locations I write about, to help you get a better understanding of the character’s story.  Today’s Throwback Thursday post pertains to something near and dear to my heart: NYPD intelligence.

In Perfect Pawn, readers are introduced to retired NYPD Detective James Maguire. For a period of time he was assigned to the NYPD’s Intelligence Division (now known as the Intelligence Bureau). What many do not know is that the command’s roots can be traced back to Lieutenant Giuseppe ‘Joe’ Petrosino and the Italian Squad. Lt. Petrosino was instrumental in pursuing the organized crime group known as the ‘Black Hand.’ Petrosino was killed while investigating the group in Palermo, Sicily.

It would be nearly fifty more years till the Intelligence Division would be tasked with providing dignitary protection, but in an ironic twist, during his infiltration of an Italian anarchist group, Petrosino uncovered a plot to assassinate then President William McKinley. Petrosino alerted the Secret Service, but the President ignored the warning, even after then Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt, who had been an NYPD Commissioner, vouched for Petrosino and his abilities. As warned, the group followed through and McKinley was assassinated during his visit to the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo on September 6, 1901.

Following Petrosino’s own assignation, by the Black Hand in 1909, Acting Detective Sergeant Charles Corrao took over the Italian Squad. At that time the city was dealing with a string of attacks with explosives, as the Black Hand had now begun to use bombs as a means of extortion.  On one occasion Corrao grabbed a bomb from Black Hand member Giovanni Rizzo’s hand and defused it while the man fled. After a subsequent chase, and an exchange of gunfire between the two, Rizzo was captured.  For his actions, Charles Corrao was awarded the newly adopted NYPD Medal of Honor and the Rhinelander Medal for Valor on May 18, 1912. The NYPD’s Bomb Squad has its foundation in these early bomb investigations.

As the years progressed, the role of the Intelligence Bureau would adapt and expand. What started with investigating Italian organized crime (the Black Hand Squad) soon included communist activities (the Red Hand Squad). The Red Squad then became known as the Bureau of Special Services and Investigations (BOSSI), which was focused on domestic groups like the Black Panther Party, Weather Underground and the Students for a Democratic Society. Along the way, they picked up the dignitary protection assignment. In the early 70’s BOSSI was reorganized and retitled the Intelligence Division. Following the September 11th Terror Attacks it was expanded to a global unit and renamed the Intelligence Bureau.

My time in the Intelligence Division was an incredible part of my career with the NYPD, so it is only fair that it also plays a pivotal part in the character of Maguire. I’ve stood next to presidents, the Pope, and more foreign and domestic dignitaries than I can count. I’ve ridden in motorcades and I’ve watched them with a birds-eye-view from helicopters. It is simultaneously exhilarating and nerve-wracking. One of the things you learn quickly is to never be complacent.

One story that drove that point home rather quickly occurred back around 1995/6. The Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, was traveling in his motorcade. At the time, because of the elevated threat risk, the Israeli PM got what amounted to a Vice-Presidential level motorcade package.

At the last minute we got word that a decision had been made to take the secondary route, which involved the Belt Parkway.  I was assigned to huntsman, the helicopter which provides aerial surveillance along the motorcade route, and things were going along quiet well; at least until the thought occurred to me that traffic was really, really light coming from the opposite direction…… Anyone who has spent 15 minutes in New York City can tell you that traffic is never light.

I instructed the motorcade to slow down and told the pilot to head forward to see what was causing the delay. My initial thought was a motor vehicle accident, which would bring the motorcade to a halt unless we got a lane cleared. My fears were surpassed when I gazed out the front window of the helo and saw that the Mill Basin drawbridge was in the upright position as a large vessel lazily made its way in from the Atlantic Ocean.

Oops.

This resulted in an immediate frenzy of colorful communication between me and my USSS counterpart, as we tried to get the motorcade to come to an almost screeching halt. I will never forget the sight of the motorcycle officers, from the Highway Patrol, racing up to the drawbridge to get them to drop it back down in place.  How we managed to unscrew that one in time, remains a mystery, but we did. The motorcade never stopped moving and I don’t remember ever using the Belt Parkway for as long as I was in the Division.

In Chapter Five of Perfect Pawn I provide the reader a glimpse into the world of presidential protection. For many, it is the closest they will ever get to being inside the bubble. It was from this period of time in my career that I drew on inspiration for not only the role of Maguire, but his friend, Rich Stargold, who is a composite of some of the people I worked with in the Secret Service.

Someone once asked me if I missed it and my answer is: Yes, every single day.

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72 Poplar Street, Brooklyn, NY (Former home of the Intelligence Division) - Author Photo

72 Poplar Street, Brooklyn, NY (Former home of the Intelligence Division) - Author Photo

Interview: INFOWIND News

I had the opportunity to sit down and have a chat with Chip Peterson over at INFOWIND News. We discussed a number of things including my career with the NYPD, my response to the September 11th terror attack at the World Trade Center, politics and my career as an author. I hope you enjoy it.


September 11th – Yes, they have FORGOTTEN

Update – I wish I didn’t have to write this update, but I do.

As a mystery author, I often include salacious political twists in my storylines, but I am finding that sometimes art doesn’t come close to matching the twisted machinations of what goes on in the back rooms of Washington, D.C.

Back in October 2018, I wrote a post titled: NEVER FORGET THE HEROES. It dealt with the need of Congress to address the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Act (S. 3591 / H.R. 7062), which is scheduled to run out of money in 2020.

If you are like me, you have to wonder why programs such as this are always facing financial peril, yet we never seem to run out of money to fund pressing issues like spending $15 million to study the effectiveness of golf equipment in space or a $43 million gas station in Afghanistan.  Hell, I recall reading one report where the Department of Defense purchased, and then left unused, approximately 270,000 commercial airline tickets at a total cost of $100 million. To compound the problem, the bean-counters over at the Pentagon never bothered to get a refund for the fully refundable tickets. Of course they didn’t and why should they? It is a clear case of: OPM – Other People’s Money, namely YOURS.

If Americans spent just one afternoon casually perusing the voluminous articles there are on wasteful congressional (and overall governmental) spending, Washington D.C. would be a charred, barren wasteland by morning. Yet, when it comes to funding a bill that would provide compensation and medical coverage for the victims of the deadliest terror attack in United States history, the congress seems to have a really hard time trying to find the money. But how much money are we talking about?

Well, the last re-authorization of the bill, in 2015, allocated just under $5 billion to fund it till 2020. Now, this might sound like a lot of money, and it is, except for when you consider some other interesting spending  facts. In 2016, the last full fiscal year analyzed, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) determined that the United States provided roughly $49 billion in foreign aid. So in just one year we provided nearly 10x the funding to foreign nations than we allocated to caring for our sick and dying first responders.  Yet even this staggering amount of $49 billion in foreign aid still only accounted for about 1.2 percent of the total annual federal budget.

If you think this is bad, consider the following.

Afghanistan, the country from where 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden orchestrated the terror attacks has received the following funding since 2001:

2001 - $92 million

2002 – $508 million

2003 – $984 million

2004 – $1.9 billion

2005 – $1.7 billion

2006 – $3.4 billion

2007 – $4.9 billion

2008 – $8.3 billion

2009 – $8.6 billion

2010 – $7.8 billion

2011 – $11 billion

2012 – $10 billion

2013 – $10 billion

2014 – $7.1 billion

2015 – $9.1 billion

2016 – $4.2 billion

2017 – $4.9 billion

(Source: USAID https://explorer.usaid.gov/cd/AFG disbursements)

For those mathematically inclined, that is nearly $100 billion in funding to the very same country from which the attack was planned. Now you can see why many of the victims feel as if we are being left alone to die. Victims have to beg for funding while money is being thrown hand over fist at our attacker. Hell, we even have to BEG for support from our own elected representatives; which brings me right back to my original post.

In October 2018, I reached out to my congressional representative, Rodney Davis (R-IL), through his official government website and asked him to co-sponsor H.R. 7062. It seemed like a no-brainer to me, since he actually represents a first responder who was directly impacted by the attack. I contacted him and I waited…… and I waited. In the three months since, my wife has contacted his office twice and received correspondence from his office.

Me? Not so much.

I guess an NYPD 9/11 survivor with cancer doesn’t merit a stamp.

Perhaps I am better off. The form-letter version I received from him, the last time around, pretty much made my blood boil.

Rodney has spoken out in the past about the attack, but, just like other politicians, he only seems to #NeverForget when the cameras are rolling. Unfortunately, I #REMEMBER every single day. Something else I will remember is Election Day 2020 and I will do my utmost, to remind everyone I know in the 13th Congressional District, to send a message to Rep. Davis. In fact, I still have a few local reporters on my speed-dial and I am sure they would love to do a timely piece.

To find out if your elected representatives have supported 9/11 victims, please visit the following link:

http://www.renew911health.org/take-action/take-action-contact-your-members-of-congress/

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