Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hart Island............and The Kingston Lounge........

There is a blog I'd like you to check out - the photographs depict precisely what I'm writing about..... that Hart Island is, can & will be a place of beauty, despite the sadness associated with it.  Check out      Who would have thought Hart Island has, in fact, so much beauty with the historical buildings and the stories behind them.  My brother, and the photos of Kingston Lounge, inspired me and, so, here I am.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

My brother, John, and how the journey began..........

I thought I'd share a little about how my brother came to be buried on Hart Island.  It will be 38 years January 19, 2010, that John's been body; his spirit has been with me all along, I just didn't know it til now.  It's hard to believe it, really.  He was barely 24 when he died and he'd be 63 years old this year.  The circumstances of his death, which I'm just now discovering, and his burial in Potter's Field, are really quite amazing.  Although John died on January 19th, our family did not find out til mid February 1972, and really quite by accident.  John was an in-patient at the Manhattan Psychiatric Unit since July 1971, diagnosed with schizophrenia while serving in the U.S. Air Force, and I had been in telephone contact with him since late 1971.  The last time I spoke with him  while at the hospital, he sounded good and was looking forward to coming home (to Los Angeles, Ca.).  Months had passed, it was now February 1972, and I realized I had not heard from him for a while.  So, I  called him at the Hospital.  At first, they didn't know who I was talking about when I asked to speak with him, and then after another try, I was told, straight out with no hesitation, and without knowing who I was, "I'm sorry, John Turner is deceased."   This is the god's honest truth..... this is how our family found out John was gone.  It was at this time we also found out John had already been buried...........on February 1, 1972 in Potter's Field.  Efforts were made by our mother to have him exhumed and re-buried in a Veteran's Cemetery in So. California, a fact I didn't find out until March 2009 when I discovered John's military file and other documents - another amazing story by itself.  Flash forward to January 2009 when certain events happened which started me on the journey I'm now on - to have John given the military burial he so richly deserved and still deserves........ nearly 38 years later.  I was initially told by the Dept. of Corrections, the overseer of Hart Island, exhumation after 10 years would not be possible, and I believed what I was told.  And, so, believing I would be unable to secure John remains, I embarked on a journey with the Veterans' Administration to get authorization to bury some of his very personal items - Bible, military cap, smoking pipes and tobacco, and other items (yes, I've kept all his things) instead.  I've even claimed that these personal items are technically  now his "remains"as they contain his fingerprints, his scent, his spirit, his DNA.  I've been fighting with the VA in D.C., and other politicians, both locally and in D.C., ever since.  But, then, when I was unable to get information on the circumstances and cause of John's death, I wrote directly to the doctor who performed my brother's autopsy in 1972.  This doctor came to be the world-renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden . To my shock and surprise, Dr. Baden  personally telephoned me and we've been communicating since November 2009.  Not only did he help me get my brother's autopsy report (which we never got), and I would finally know the surrounding facts and cause of death, but he offered his assistance by seeing "what we can do to get your brother exhumed".  And, so with that one letter, some doors have opened and the possibility of finding John's remains has become quite real.  I followed by writing to a Staten Island Councilman who, although he didn't have to, offered his assistance. Several other elected officials are now all helping to get John home.  If this weren't happening to me, I wouldn't believe it.  And, so, in a nutshell, this is how the journey I'm still on for my brother, John, has lead me to this...........Hart Island and it's preservation.  And, to Dr. Baden, if you ever read this, please know I will always and forever be grateful for your kindness and assistance. As a final note:  there are some who would like me to believe there is "absolutely no way" John's remains will ever be found. All I can say to them is........
"O ye of little faith."  Luke 12:27-28; Matthew 8:25-26.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The plan, Part II....................

Continuing on with the "resources"..  We've got people - check.  Let me go back first and let you know what I've been told of the reasons why Hart Island cannot be visited so easily, and such strict rules and regulations apply.  "Security".  For those who don't know, burials and exhumations are performed on a weekly basis by the inmates at Ryker's and, if I'm not mistaken, this is a once-a-week ritual - technicality but I need to confirm this.  Anyway, true, security would be an issue if you have both visitors and inmates on the Island at the same time - I can appreciate that.  So you don't have visitors on the day the inmates are there - makes sense, right?  Before I go further, I wanted to say these are my random thoughts; while I have done some research on all this, sometimes you just can't trust the written word - mine, of course, you can always trust - and so confirmation from a reliable source would need to be obtained.  Presuming I am correct, however, you simply do not have visitors on the day inmates are on the Island - end of story.  So,  there you have it - the biggest reason for not allowing visitors - security - but I think I've come up with a pretty good and simple solution, don't you think?  How about one week per month for visitors - no burials and/or exhumations for one week out of the month. And, how about hiring some retired police officers to act as security guards during those once-a-week public visits, as needed?  I may be naive but I think this can all be accomplished...... in time - don't you?  Okay, back to resources.  So, another resource required - money, of course!  This may seem like a hard one but, again, very possible. I personally don't believe the City of New York should be required, or expected to, pay for a project such as this.................but they could help, for sure.  When doing research on Ellis Island, and how her restoration began, I learned the idea of beautification/restoration was shot down more than a few times, money being one of the reasons.  Blah, blah, blah, it turns out the restoration of Ellis Island was pretty much funded by private contributions, and I quote, "American people contributed more than $500M.......... no government funds have been used".  With Ellis, President Reagan contacted Lee Iacocca, then Chairman of Chrysler Corp., to head a "private sector effort" to raise funds for restoration.  The rest is history.  I'm closing up shop now while I think about who I can contact about heading up a "private sector effort" to raise money for Hart Island's restoration.  I've got a few ideas and, with my big mouth and written words, I just may get through.  One person can (and just might) make a difference. Take care.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The plan...................

My thoughts are running wild re the "plan".  Not sure how I'm going to approach all this, but what I am sure of is this "project" is one that can be done!  Whoever is involved, whoever has the same desire as I, and whoever does whatever they do, it's just more validation for the restoration of the Island.  It takes more than just the idea itself - although that's a great start; for instance, you would not pose a problem without suggesting solution(s), or plan(s) to correct the situation, right? Right. And a solution, a plan, does not have to be elaborate and so out there the idea gets lost. The solutions to most problems are staring us right in the face and they're the simplest. We, as the complex people that we are, seem to go for the most difficult, most convoluted, and most ridiculous - and I'm no exception.  Anyway, some of those old-fashioned sayings, are correct; I wonder if age has something to do with that.  We get wiser as we age, or at least some of us do, and we forget the simple, the most logical.  And, so, in this instance, the first question to ask is "what resources are available?"  In closing, I will provide the most"logical" answer:  the Island is under the jurisdiction of New York's Department of Corrections; inmates at Ryker's Island are the Island's pall bearers and grave diggers (both for burials and exhumations); and so what is Ryker's Island's greatest commodity/resource? People.  And what very important resource is required for the "idea"?  People!  End of that "resource" for the day.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A little of what I've learned......

Some time has passed now since I've begun this Blog and I'm wondering what I'm doing.  Is this worth it? Will anyone even read this?  And, if they do, will they think I'm some crazy person passing the time of day writing about something she knows nothing about.  What will become of this?  Truthfully, it's the "crazy" people who seem to get things done, don't they?    I'm learning from my own personal journey and connnection to Hart Island we must never give up!  If you've read my Profile, you will get the gist of what my connection to Hart Island is ......... my dear brother, John, is buried on Hart Island.  It's going on 38 years January 19, 2010 that John's been on the Island but in 2009, I decided it was time to bring him home.  Can't explain it, don't know what happened, but a bolt hit me and ever since, I've been on a mission, never giving up, always being a pain in the butt, and irritating (I've no doubt) a lot of politicians and government officials. The "journey", while to some may seem like a short distance (in less than a year, I've accomplished quite a bit), the journey has actually been nearly 38 years in the making.  Timing is everything, both in the scope of life as the big picture, and life as in our little own world - timing was right and I was ready.

I've learned quite a bit about Hart Island, and learning more and more each day.  I've come to the conclusion that Hart Island's residents have many personal stories; stories that had a beginning and an ending so sad ......on Hart Island.  Do you  know over 800,000 souls have been buried on Hart Island throughout its 135-year history? And do you know there are thousands and thousands of babies and children buried there as well?  There is so much to learn about Hart Island and what I've learned thus far is not pretty.  In my research, I've come across many, many articles written, one of which by Clay Risen of the Morning News, in which he describes the thoughts of some who have visited the Island, " 'lonely' and 'creepy'".  I've no doubt this is!  Is this how Hart Island is to be remembered, forever and ever? As Ellis Island, is Hart Island not part of New York's history?  Doesn't Hart Island and its residents deserve some care and attention?  And, don't the relatives and friends of the Island's residents deserve to visit their loved ones?  I say "yes" to all of the above.  Hart Island deserves recognition, preservation and beautification, and I'm going to do my best to bring it's plight to the attention of someone, anyone, who might see my vision with a positivity that will carry along to a happy conclusion for all. 

Oh, I know,  I'm not the first to bring attention to the Island, and I won't be the last.  Not many, however, can claim the passion I have about a place I've never personally visited.  Not unless you've a loved one buried on the Island -  you can't visit, can't get closure, can't speak to your loved one -  it's hard for most to comprehend such passion.  I've never been a very spiritual person, and was one of those who believed once you're dead, you're dead.  No longer do I think that way.  It breaks my heart to know  my brother has not had one single person visit him, no flowers have ever been layed down and, other than the customary words spoken when buried, no one has stood over his grave and prayed for his soul.  Life is hard enough, but death should be a comforting thing, really.  I feel deeply my brother knows where he is -  in some god-forsaken land where no one seems to care - and he wants to come home, needs to come home and needs to be with family.  I'm working on that!  In the meantime, though, for all those who may never get off the Island, it is, and will remain, "home"; and, because of this fact, their final resting place must be sacred.  Those overseeing this final resting place for so many, and those who merely know about this place, need to stop and really think about it.

So, this is it for now.  As much as I'd like to devote all my time and energies to what I'm now calling my next "project", I do have a job and must get back to work.  Ta-ta for now.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Where do I/we start?

Okay, I've just posted a "comment" when I should have "posted" - oh well, I'm still learning how this all works.  I'm so computer literate - LOL.  Well, my "comment" actually says quite a bit but I will say one more thing for the evening - there is absolutely no reason on this earth that Hart Island cannot be restored, beautified and transformed into a place of respect and peace.  Money, money, money - the biggest excuse NOT to do anything. BUT, I ask you this - did not everything in this great big world we live in begin with an idea?  When someone, or some persons, thought of the idea of building the Brooklyn Bridge, I can assure you their first thought after that was "where will we get the money".  Bottom-line: everything began with an idea, a desire and a passion.  The money will come later.  Bye for now.