"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."


—Muriel Rukeyser

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New York Times on Kennedy Detail Secret Service Agent Winston Lawson

SSA Win Lawson, the advance man for the Texas trip, he rode ahead of Kennedy’s limo, helped lift the president onto a stretcher and then lived a half-century with regrets.

Mr. Lawson, left, was on duty during the burial of President Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery on Nov. 25, 1963, three days after the assassination. Credit...Cecil Stoughton/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Winston Lawson had been a Secret Service agent for four years when, on Nov. 22, 1963, he was in an unmarked police car in Dallas just ahead of President John F. Kennedy’s open limousine.

Within an hour or so, Kennedy would be dead, leaving Mr. Lawson to wonder for the next half-century whether he had done everything possible to keep the president safe.

“At times I wish I had never been born,” he said in an interview in 2013 with WTVR, a television station in Richmond, Va., on the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination.

Mr. Lawson, who died on Nov. 7 in Norfolk, Va., at 91, had not only been guarding Kennedy in Dallas; he had been the advance agent for the presidential trip to Texas. Known for his attention to detail, he had planned security and travel routes for the trip, as he had for Kennedy in other cities in both the United States and Europe.

In Dallas, he worked with the local police to choose the route the motorcade would take from Love Field, where Kennedy had landed that morning from Fort Worth, through downtown Dallas and on to the Dallas Trade Mart, where Kennedy was to speak.

“It allowed us to go downtown, which was wanted back in Washington, D.C.,” Mr. Lawson said in 1964 in testimony to the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination and concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman. “It afforded us wide streets most of the way, because of the buses that were in the motorcade.”

He calculated that the trip from the airport to the trade mart, about 10 miles, would take 45 minutes, given how slow the motorcade would proceed.

Credit...Robert Knudsen/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Mr. Lawson — who rode in the front passenger seat of the lead car, a light-colored sedan being driven by Jesse Curry, the Dallas police chief — scanned the thickening crowds for potential trouble and kept turning around to check on Kennedy through the rear window, he told the commission.

After the motorcade turned onto Elm Street along Dealey Plaza and passed the Texas School Book Depository, Mr. Lawson heard the first shot from behind. In his testimony he was asked by the commission member John J. McCloy, a banker and diplomat, if he had seen anyone in the windows of the building. (Oswald had shot the president from a sixth-floor window.)

“No, sir,” Mr. Lawson said. “Just as we started around that corner, I asked Chief Curry if it was not true that we were probably five minutes from the Trade Mart.”

When two more shots were fired, Mr. Lawson turned around to see another Secret Service agent standing in the car behind Kennedy’s limo holding an automatic weapon. Had the agent just fired?

A motorcycle officer then pulled up to the lead car, telling Mr. Lawson and Chief Curry that the president had been shot. An order immediately crackled over Mr. Lawson’s two-way radio: Rush to the nearest hospital.

When the lead car and the limousine arrived at Parkland Memorial Hospital, Mr. Lawson dashed into the emergency entrance and saw medical personnel pushing two stretchers toward him — one for Kennedy and one for Gov. John B. Connally of Texas, who had been in the president’s limousine and also wounded.

When he reached the stretchers, Mr. Lawson testified, he “put one hand on each one as they pushed and I pulled.”

Mr. Connally was placed on the first stretcher. Mr. Lawson and three others, including the Kennedy aide Dave Powers, lifted the mortally wounded president from the back seat of the limousine onto the second stretcher.

“They really couldn’t do much,” Mr. Lawson recalled in the WTVR interview. “He was quite gray.”

He waited outside Trauma Room 1 as doctors worked unsuccessfully on Kennedy’s neck and head wounds. At 1 p.m. they declared the president dead.

Mr. Lawson later rode in a police car that escorted the Kennedy hearse — carrying the first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, as well — to Love Field for Air Force One’s flight back to Washington. He stood guard outside the plane until it took off.


Returning from Love Field, Mr. Lawson went to the Dallas Police Headquarters. By then Oswald had been arrested and interrogated by detectives there, but Mr. Lawson arrived in time to observe as Forrest Sorrels, the Secret Service agent in charge of the Dallas district, interviewed the suspect.

“What was the attitude of Oswald during this period?” Representative Gerald R. Ford of Michigan, a member of the Warren Commission and the future Republican president, asked Mr. Lawson.

“Oswald just answered the questions as asked to him,” Mr. Lawson testified. “He didn’t volunteer any information. He sat there stoically, not much of an expression on his face.”

Winston George Lawson (who was known as Win) was born on Oct. 15, 1928, in Dunkirk, N.Y., on Lake Erie, and raised in nearby Portland, N.Y. His father, Merle, was an accountant, and his mother, Cecile (Post) Lawson, was a schoolteacher who worked as a guard in a machine gun factory during World War II.

After graduating from the University of Buffalo (now part of the State University of New York) with a bachelor’s degree in history and government, Mr. Lawson worked as a carpet salesman and sales representative at the Carnation Milk Company before serving in Army counterintelligence.

After his discharge he returned to Carnation and had several other jobs before the Secret Service accepted him as an agent in 1959 in its field office in Syracuse, N.Y. He was assigned to the White House detail in 1961 and remained with the agency for the next 20 years.

He later worked for the Defense Department, doing background checks, and provided security for the evangelists Billy Graham and his son Franklin.

Mr. Lawson’s death, which was not widely reported at the time, was caused by coronary artery disease, his son, Jeff, said. Mr. Lawson is also survived by his wife, Barbara (Barrett) Lawson; a daughter, Andrea Lawson; four grandchildren; three step-grandchildren and his brother, Merlin.

Mr. Lawson said that his lingering anguish over Kennedy’s death had been assuaged by support from fellow agents.

“They would say to me — and it’s hard for me to say without breaking down or tears coming to my eyes,” he told The Dallas Morning News in 2003 — “‘Win, if it had to happen to anyone, we’re glad it happened to you.’

“Because I was known for doing the best, most thorough advance in the entire agency.”

Richard Sandomir is an obituaries writer. He previously wrote about sports media and sports business. He is also the author of several books, including “The Pride of the Yankees: Lou Gehrig, Gary Cooper and the Making of a Classic.” @RichSandomir

Reposted from The New York Times

NEW From Story Merchant Books! FATHER CHRISTMAS: A TRUE STORY by ROWDY HERRINGTON



Father Christmas is an unforgettable coming-of-age story that will bring families together with inspirational holiday cheer and nostalgia for the comfort of Santa Claus.

In the coal mining town of Brilliant, Ohio during the Great Depression, 10-year-old Annie O’Neill is finally allowed to stay up on Christmas Eve, bursting with excitement and wonder at finally catching a glimpse of Father Christmas himself! Though her family struggles to make ends meet, Santa Claus always leaves Annie and her siblings presents that bring joy and laughter for the whole family.

When Annie’s Father returns home from a long shift at the coal mine on Christmas Eve, Annie makes a life-changing discovery about who Santa Claus really is. As her heart wrestles with reality and make-believe, Annie’s profound discovery about the real Father Christmas will touch the hearts of people everywhere. As she gracefully releases her innocence, Annie learns the true meaning of Christmas is what lies in your heart.

“A beautifully-written tribute to fathers and their daughters, mothers and their sons, and the true spirit of Christmas. It will touch your heart.”— Malcolm McDowell

"This beautiful family story makes me believe in Santa Claus." — Norman Stephens, former head Warner Television, Village Roadshow

"Herrington is a born storyteller. His skills are in full display here as he reminds us all, in the tradition of O’Henry, Dickens, and the Grimms, how the Christmas season can restore our faith in each other." — John Harrison, writer/director Frank Herbert’s Dune


Op-ed: After 200 years, Herman Melville is still relevant By: Aaron Sachs, Cornell University



This issue of Classics Illustrated, published by the Gilberton Company, Inc. in April 1947, contains an adaptation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The cover art by Louis Zansky depicts the crew of the Peoquod battling the white whale Moby Dick. (Gift of Olivia V. Crisson and Phillip M.S. Crisson in honor of Peter Bozzer, now in the collections of the National Museum of American History)
Outside of American literature courses, it doesn’t seem likely that many Americans are reading Herman Melville these days.

I propose that you pick up one of his novels, because his work has never been more timely. This is the perfect cultural moment for another Melville revival.

The original Melville revival started exactly a century ago, after Melville’s works had languished in obscurity for some 60 years. In the immediate aftermath of World War I, scholars found his vision of social turmoil to be uncannily relevant.

Once again, Melville could help Americans grapple with dark times – and not just because he composed classic works of universal truths about good and evil. Melville still matters because he was directly engaged with the very aspects of modern American life that continue to haunt the country in the 21st century.

Melville’s books deal with a host of issues that are relevant today, from race relations and immigration to the mechanization of everyday life.

Yet these aren’t the works of a hopeless tragedian. Rather, Melville was a determined realist.

The typical Melville character is depressed and alienated, overwhelmed by societal changes. But he also endures.

Ultimately, “Moby-Dick” is about the quest of the narrator, Ishmael, the story’s lone survivor, to make meaning out of trauma and keep the human story going.

Ishmael goes to sea in the first place because he’s feeling a particularly modern form of angst. He walks the streets of Manhattan wanting to knock people’s hats off, furious that the only available jobs in the new capitalist economy leave workers “tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks.” The whaling ship is no paradise, but at least it affords him a chance to work in the open air with people of all races, from all over the world.

When the crewmen sit in a circle squeezing lumps of whale sperm into oil, they find themselves clasping each other’s hands, developing “an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving feeling.”

Then there’s Melville’s novel “Redburn,” one of the author’s lesser-known works. It’s mostly a story of disillusionment: A young naïf joins the merchant marine to see the world, and in Britain all he finds are “masses of squalid men, women, and children” spilling out from the factories. The narrator is abused by the ship’s cynical crew and swindled out of his wages.

But his hard experience nonetheless broadens his sympathies. As he sails home to New York with some Irish families fleeing the famine, he remarks:

“Let us waive that agitated national topic, as to whether such multitudes of foreign poor should be landed on our American shores; let us waive it, with the one only thought, that if they can get here, they have God’s right to come…. For the whole world is the patrimony of the whole world.”

Melville’s fall and rise

In November 1851, when “Moby-Dick” was published, Melville was among the best-known authors in the English-speaking world. But his reputation started to decline just months later, when a review of his next book, “Pierre,” bore the headline, “Herman Melville Crazy.”

That opinion was not atypical. By 1857, Melville had mostly stopped writing; his publisher was bankrupt; and those Americans who still knew his name may well have thought he’d been institutionalized.

Yet in 1919 – the year of Melville’s centennial – scholars started returning to his work. They found a writer of grim, tangled epics delving into the social tensions that would ultimately lead to the Civil War.

It just so happened that 1919 was a year of labor strife, mail bombs, weekly lynchings, and race riots in 26 cities. There were crackdowns on foreigners, privacy, and civil liberties, not to mention the lingering trauma of World War I and the Spanish flu pandemic.

Over the ensuing three decades – an era that included the Great Depression and World War II – Melville was canonized, and all of his works were reprinted in popular editions.

“I owe a debt to Melville,” wrote critic and historian Lewis Mumford, “because my wrestling with him, my efforts to plumb his own tragic sense of life, were the best preparations I could have had for facing our present world.”

"Moby Dick," a collection of nose art from B-24s from the 90th Bomb Group. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive) Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive


Why Melville still matters

America is now dealing with its own dark times, full of foreboding over climate change, extreme class divisions, racial and religious bigotry, refugee crises, mass shootings, and near-constant warfare.

Go back and read Melville, and you’ll find apt depictions of white privilege and obliviousness in “Benito Cereno.” Melville paints consumer capitalism as an elaborate con game in “The Confidence-Man,” while excoriating America’s imperial ambitions in “Typee” and “Omoo.” He was even inspired to break his silence at the end of the Civil War and write an earnest plea for “Re-establishment” and “Reconstruction.”

“Those of us who always abhorred slavery as an atheistical iniquity,” he wrote, “gladly we join the exulting chorus of humanity over its downfall.” But now it was time to find ways for everyone to get along.

His 1866 book “Battle-Pieces,” though full of bitter fragments, has a final section dominated by idealistic nouns: common sense and Christian charity, patriotic passion, moderation, generosity of sentiment, benevolence, kindliness, freedom, sympathies, solicitude, amity, reciprocal respect, decency, peace, sincerity, faith. Melville was trying to remind Americans that in democracies there is a perpetual need to carve out common ground.

It’s not that society doesn’t or shouldn’t change; it’s that change and continuity play off each other in surprising and sometimes bracing ways.

In dark times, the rediscovery that human beings have almost always had to confront terrible challenges can produce powerful emotions.

You might feel like knocking someone’s hat off. But you might also feel like giving the Ishmaels of the world a gentle squeeze of the hand.

And in doing so, you might help to keep the human story going.


Dr. Aaron Sachs is a Professor of History at Cornell University, but his doctorate is in American Studies, which means he brings an interdisciplinary approach to his scholarship and teaching — History, English Literature, Science, Technology, Urban Planning and other fields. His views might not represent those of Navy Times or its staffers.


Read more 




The Brontë Society paid big money for a tiny, tiny book by Charlotte Brontë





After “years of chasing [it],” the Brontë Society has at last acquired the last in a series of very tiny books that Charlotte Brontë wrote in 1830, when she was 14. The Society paid €600,000 for the book at auction, after losing out on it to an “investment scheme” in 2011. This time, the Brontë Society received public donations thanks, in part, to an appeal from Dame Judi Dench.

The book measures 35mm x 61mm, and was part of a series of six entitled “The Young Men’s Magazines” (one of which has been missing since 1930). The books were written for the Brontë siblings’ toy soldiers (adorable), and the most recent acquisition contains three handwritten stories.

All five surviving tiny books will be reunited at the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Yorkshire. Tiny congratulations to all!

[via The Guardian]


Ken Atchity Quotes...

“If you have a dream, you have a responsibility to yourself and to us to make it come true. That’s the most important thing in your life. Don’t let anything stand in its way.”

― Kenneth John Atchity, The Messiah Matrix



Guest Post: Prevention — the goalie of the health care world by Dr. Dave Davis

My worry is that the current provincial government may reduce health-care costs without consideration for long term, down-the-road consequences

Hospital staff during the 2003 SARS crisis. Dave Davis worries that the current Ontario government could be putting cuts in place that jeopardize our ability to handle the next SARS-like crisis. - NYGH Archives


On the phone, my patient sounded as though her nose was plugged. Nasally. She said, "I've been sneezing, you know, Doctor. Runny nose, sore throat. Coughing a lot. I feel silly calling, but I heard about that poor nurse who died this week."

There was something else in her voice too: worry. The patient's daughter was a nurse, one of many who worked at the hospital where a second outbreak of SARS had claimed a staff member. Her daughter was unaffected, but she, my patient — well, you hear her.

I want to tell you two things about the call. Maybe three. OK, three.

The first: it was 2003, toward the end of the outbreak of Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS. Apart from the killer commute, I loved working in the large University of Toronto teaching clinic, seeing patients, teaching (and learning from) students and residents. I was as sleepless as my patient I think, but for a different reason: I was angry, frustrated that we had to close the clinic. And frightened too, a bit.

I still am. I'll tell you why in a second.

It was surreal: the clinic was closed for weeks, the product of the sinister, infectious, cold-mimicking SARS. Based in outpatient clinics and doctor's offices, most Ontario physicians were tied to their phones, as frustrated as I was. When we did return to work, we were gowned like astronauts, strangers in a strange land, our temperatures recorded outside the building before we were allowed in. SARS was a tragic thing: 40-plus deaths, many seriously harmed. It held many lessons, perhaps best captured by the calm, competent, late Donald Low:

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92467/

It was also, to a large extent, preventable.

Ontario didn't fare so well with SARS at the outset: our public health and regulatory framework had been seriously damaged by an overly cost-conscious government in the late nineties. In the town of Walkerton, for example, fiscal conservatives had reduced or privatized many inspection services, compromising water safety: seven people died, hundreds became ill. A false economy, a tragic outcome.

And something like SARS could happen again: take MERS for example. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome is a viral illness with a fatality rate of over 30 per cent, especially among the young. Caused by direct physical contact with camel saliva (so, pretty unlikely to affect us), this virus, like many, can morph into an illness spread by sneezing or coughing. That spread would be something to watch (and watch out for), like a wildfire spreading across the globe. Not a probability, but clearly a possibility: from the camel markets of Oman, to the huge nexus of Dubai, one of the world's busiest airports, to every point of the globe.

That brings me to the second thing — anxiety. In 2003, my patient and colleagues had reason for worry: patients made seriously ill from something that started out like a harmless cold; health-care workers and others dying from contact with patients. I remember one death in particular, a family physician who attended our University of Toronto's continuing education events. Like the firemen of 9/11, he was a brave first responder, who, as they say, "had to go back in," to look after his patients.

Anxiety is important, so much so that we teach family doctors to be aware of the one — diagnosis trap: identifying and treating only the biological or medical aspects of a patient's illness may be necessary, but certainly not sufficient for complete patient care. For almost any problem, there's an accompanying (often underlying) emotional component — worry, anxiety, depression. Even a broken arm has psychological and social implications: will the patient be able to work? Will she be able to afford her rent? How, exactly, did the broken arm happen?

Many of us carry that second element with us, silently, often unaddressed, bringing me to the third point. Today, a decade and a half after SARS, my worry is that the current provincial government may reduce health-care costs without consideration for long term, down-the-road consequences, without the awareness of the false economy of Walkerton. SARS speaks to us today as clearly as it did then: prevention, the unsung hero, is not sexy. It's also crucial. It's easily ignored or reduced to denigrating important things like restaurant inspections.

Prevention is the goalie of the health care world.

Let's hope — maybe demand is a better word — that no patient has to worry that a common cold, or any other virus, can kill her.


Dave Davis, MD, is a retired family doc and medical educator. His first novel, "A Potter's Tale," published by Story Merchant Books, Los Angeles, is available on Amazon in Canada, CA and the US. You can visit him at www.drdavedavis.com, or follow him @drauthor24





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