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The Rocky Point High School History Honors Society stand with Joe Cognitore along with a plaque commemorating the flag that now flies over the 9/11 Memorial in NYC. Photo from Rich Acritelli

Just recently, Joe Cognitore, commander of VFW Post 6249 in Rocky Point spoke to the Rocky Point High School History Honors Society. He addressed the tragic attacks of 9/11, 18 years ago and an uncovered part of ground zero that was presented to this North Shore area.  

Cognitore recalled a past beautiful fall day, the afternoon of Oct. 4, when the Rocky Point school district held a major patriotic and remembrance ceremony only weeks after the terror attacks. It was the goal of this school district to remember and honor all of those national and local people that were impacted by these attacks. As Americans watched the rescue and recovery efforts in the city, they were reminded of a new war that was waged against the Taliban and al-Qaida some 19 days after Manhattan was hit by supporters of terrorism.  Those days saw a tremendous burden weighing on the minds of citizens, and this program presented a united front to support all of our Americans at home and abroad.

Local residents filled the bleachers of Rocky Point High School and in front of them was a Town of Brookhaven concert mobile. The VFW post marched in the colors and presented our flag to a crowd that was overcome with the memory of the four graduates that were killed from these attacks. The sounds of “God Bless America,” the armed forces music and “America the Beautiful” were played to the crowd. Veterans were invited to stand to represent different branches of the armed services that were all on alert during the earliest moments of the War on Terror. There were all of the local, state and federal government representatives, World War II veterans, and Boy Scouts that were all present on this day to present a dynamic unity.

This camaraderie resembled the same feelings that Americans felt when the Japanese  attacked Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941.  Flags were flown all over the nation and people stuck bumper stickers on their cars in support of the residents of New York City. People wrapped yellow ribbons around trees for those soldiers who going to be deployed. Cognitore and the other organizers of that event decided on a unique angle to demonstrate patriotism. Calverton-based Sky Dive Long Island planned to make a jump over the skies of this school with a large flag that would be seen well above the heads of the people. Only a few weeks before this jump, it was discovered under the debris of Lower Manhattan. It was originally flown outside of the World Trade Center and it was located by a volunteer recovery worker.

The plane took off from Calverton with jumpers Curt Kellinger, a Port Authority police officer and Ray Maynard. The crew made a memorable landing with a tattered yet historic flag that landed on the Rocky Point football field. Once the flag made it to the ground, it was presented to a representative of the Port Authority and brought back to the city. That year, it was flown over Yankee Stadium during the World Series, at Super Bowl XXXVI and at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Even as this flag was scarred from the attacks of 9/11, it showed the resilience of our country to quickly rebound and rebuild.  The flag that once was displayed at Post 6249 has a permanent home at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. Today, millions of people have visited this well-known museum and they can see a flag that has strong roots of patriotism and remembrance to this North Shore community.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

The Rocky Point High School History Honors Society contributed to this story.

By Beverly C. Tyler

Many Long Islanders had the opportunity this past Saturday, on a beautiful fall day, to enjoy the stories of four Revolutionary War era women set in four historic buildings in Stony Brook and Setauket that are owned by the Ward Melville Heritage Organization. Titled Courageous Women of the Revolutionary War, the theatrical event presented a charming glimpse into the lives of these women portrayed by costumed professional actors.

Those who attended one of the three scheduled two-hour tours met at the WMHO Educational & Cultural Center in Stony Brook, received a bag containing program and historical details, WHMO materials and a snack and were directed to board one of four trolleys.

Assigned Bus A for the 11 a.m. tour we were greeted by Nancy Dorney, an active member of the Daughter of the American Revolution who explained the program and answered questions. At each stop we were greeted by another guide who ushered us into the historic building.

Our first stop was the circa 1725 Hawkins-Mount house in Stony Brook. We sat in the parlor and were soon greeted by Ruth Mills Hawkins who told us how difficult it was to raise her children, assist her husband Jonas in running the general store from their home, help cover his activities as a spy for the Culper Spy Ring, and do all of this with British forces in control of Long Island, watching their every move.

Outside the Hawkins-Mount house, WHMO’s Gabrielle Lindau showed tourgoers photos of the paint samples tried out on the walls of the upstairs room where William Sidney Mount worked on many of his paintings.

Next was the circa 1665 Joseph Brewster house where we met his wife Rebecca Mills Brewster, a fiery Irish lass who helped her husband run their tavern and inn while being reviled and insulted by British authorities.

In the circa 1709 Thompson House, we met Phebe Satterly Thompson, wife of Dr. Samuel Thompson, who was quite ill and described her symptoms, her husband’s work as a doctor and how she was dealing with her disease at a time when many of her neighbors were also infected.

Our last stop was the circa 1751 Stony Brook Grist Mill where we enjoyed the byplay between Miles the miller and Katie, an indentured servant from Cork, Ireland, who was living rough after the home she lived in was taken over by British troops. Everyone on our trolley thoroughly enjoyed the pleasant, instructive and well-organized tour, and the weather was delightful.

All photos by Beverly C. Tyler

Women pose at Village Chabad’s Mega Challah Bake last Sunday night in preparation for Rosh Hashana. Close to 100 women attended with over 200 pounds of flour, 200 eggs and 1,600 ounces of water used in the process. Photo by Peggy Gallery

By Rabbi Motti Grossbaum

Imagine you were given an opportunity to travel the entire world, every continent, every country at no cost. But there would be one condition; you would have to do it blindfolded. You can trek from Hawaii to the Swiss Alps, from the Amazon to Jerusalem, but it will all have to be done without you seeing any of it.

It’s a frustrating idea. Here you are going from place to place but to you, it all seems the same. The truth is, this dilemma does not just exist in the realm of space, it also exists in the realm of time.

Women pose at Village Chabad’s Mega Challah Bake last Sunday night in preparation for Rosh Hashana. Photo by Peggy Gallery

The Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) teaches us that just as every place has its own unique energy and purpose, which is why traveling is always filled with newness and adventure, every point in time has its own exclusive character and rhythm.

This week, this day, this very moment will never happen again; there will be many more moments to come, but none will be like this. One can go through life, day after day blindfolded, like listening to the same song on repeat. Or one can take off their blindfold, look at each day and recognize that the challenges and triumphs that are unfolding before them are unique. They have their own flavor and will never happen this exact way again.

This is what’s so significant about Rosh Hashana and the celebration of the Jewish New Year. During this holiday, the energy that will define the entire year ahead, the context in which everything will be achieved, enters into our world for the very first time.

Furthermore, the Kabbalah teaches, not only is this a new energy, each year it is an even greater energy than the year past. The potential and destiny that is waiting to be unlocked during this coming year is something the world has never seen.

All this happens with the blast of the shofar. The sound of the shofar is the sound of us piercing heaven and drawing down a year that is unlike any that’s ever been before. Its unique tone beacons us to take off our blindfold and witness the transition into a brand new year.

This year, we are given the opportunity to go on a magical journey of time to experience moments that are filled with fresh and untapped beauty. The choice is ours; we can slide right into the New Year blindfolded, completely unaware of the fact that we just entered into an entirely new dimension, or we can go hear the shofar and blow the blindfold off. We can open our hearts and pray for a year of health, redemption, prosperity and happy adventures!

Author Rabbi Motti Grossbaum serves at Village Chabad–Center for Jewish Life & Learning at 360 Nicolls Road in E. Setauket. For more information about High Holiday services and other programs and activities throughout the year, visit www.MyVillageChabad.com or call 631-585-0521.

By John Turner

This article is devoted to wood pewees everywhere.

The species names spill off the tongue quickly — “Oh, that’s a pink lady’s slipper … or a green darner … or a round-leaved sundew or great-crested flycatcher. Perhaps its a brook trout … or eastern chipmunk or a diamondback terrapin.” These names, and hundreds of thousands of others, are the scientifically established common names for these creatures, useful because they help to establish order, definition and identity. After all, we humans like to give every living thing a name as a means to begin to understand it and by so doing, legitimize its existence.

But these common names are almost always stated matter of factly, as if they are nothing more than dry words with nothing behind them. There’s no appreciation for the fascinating information these names convey, no thought about the creative and colorful descriptors they contain, illuminating some interesting aspect of the species. We say “diamondback terrapin” but fail to visualize the stunning concentric-ringed design of the diamond-shaped scutes on its top shell.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the “color” behind common names, relishing the rich universe of descriptive choices. Take the group of wildflowers known as “goldenrods” blooming now throughout Suffolk County. I smile just saying the name. I could struggle for hours, and would utterly fail, attempting to come up with a more apt and succinct name to describe this group of upright, buttery-yellow wildflowers common to Long Island’s fields and roadsides. Indeed, these plants are golden-colored with rodlike upright stems.

Many of the common names of species are descriptive to coloration — the white-throated sparrow has a bright white throat patch and the rufous-sided towhee has flanks the color of a brick, bathed in the warm light of sunset. Want to guess the color of a blue shark, white ibis or scarlet tanager? The color of the throat patch of a ruby-throated hummingbird? How about the skin and plumage patterns on a spotted salamander, barred owl or reticulated python?

Still, others names describe places where the species was first discovered or is most abundant. Thus, you have Cape May and Tennessee warblers, Mississippi kite, Carolina wren and Florida scrub-jay.

One species with a misperception regarding the geography of its common name is the Baltimore oriole. It gained its name not through its abundance or being first identified in Baltimore, Maryland, but rather from the fact the bird’s bright orange and black plumage matched the colors on the coat-of-arms of Lord Baltimore.

And then there’s the easy ones to understand — common names established to honor or recognize some person of prominence or fame. Hence, we have Wilson’s warbler and phalarope (Alexander Wilson has four North American birds named after him, more than any other person), Henslow’s sparrow, Swainson’s hawk and Audubon’s shearwater (what a great description of the bird’s flight habit of cutting the ocean’s surface with its wing tips as it dynamically soars in search of food).   

Still other names convey information about some anatomical or physical aspect of the organism; thus, you have weeping willow, shagbark hickory, gull-billed tern, scissor-tailed flycatcher and rough-stemmed goldenrod. And for sea creatures how can we ignore bottlenose dolphins or humpback whales?

Adding to the richness of species’ official common names are the numerous unofficial, alternative names associated with these species.  So for dodder, a golden-yellow parasitic vine common in Island fields and meadows where it grows in tangles atop other wildflowers, we have the following common names: hairweed, lady’s laces, wizard’s net, goldthread, angel hair, witches’ hair, devil’s hair, pull-down, strangleweed and my favorite devil’s guts.

If you want a bird example look no further than other names for the American woodcock: timberdoodle, whistling snipe, big mud snipe, mud bat, night peck, night partridge, bog-borer, bog Sucker, bog-bird, wood snipe, wood hen, siphon snipe, the whistler, hookum pake and the Labrador twister.

Dragonflies are a great group, filled with species having impressive and expressive common names. The group name of “dragonflies” is colorful enough — they must appear to be a flying, fire-breathing monster to any smaller airborne insect. Thus, we have ferocious and formidable dragonfly names such as sanddragons, sundragons, shadowdragons, snaketails, meadowhawks, pondhawks and dragon hunters (they like to eat other dragonflies). Contrast them with their diminutive, nonthreatening winged cousins, the damselflies, who have members with these names: jewel wings, bluets, spreadwings, rubyspots and, of course, the “dancers.” What damsel in distress wouldn’t want to be rescued by these gossamer-winged creatures?

The most colorful and descriptive common names of all? Moths are the best, hands down, reaching new levels in imagination, revealing that lepidopterists have quite the sense of humor. Lest you think I’m making this up go on the internet and check out the following moth species, found in the eastern United States, that have been formally described by science and given these names: the old maid, the thinker, the laugher, abrupt brother, the joker, and there’s the elegant prominent, hooked silver Y, sebaceous Hebrew character, striped chocolate-tip, approachable sallow, afflicted dagger, owl-eyed bird-dropping moth, sharp angle shades, the slowpoke, grateful midget and cloaked marvel.

Then there’s the intractable Quaker and the cynical Quaker, grieving woodland, the German cousin and the nutmeg. Lastly, there’s stormy arches and if you like this one, how about stormy’s cousins: neighborly arches, disparaged arches, bridled arches, explicit arches, laudable arches and implicit arches.

Let’s close with my all-time favorite common name, the wood pewee, a neo-tropical migrant that overwinters in South America. Living up to his spritely name he’s a small, nondescript flycatcher, whistling his distinctive up-slurred “pee-awee” from the end of a dead tree branch in the middle of a Long Island forest. His name defines his essence.

What’s your favorite name?

A resident of Setauket, John Turner is conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, author of “Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island” and president of Alula Birding & Natural History Tours.

Fire departments from Wading River to Mount Sinai came to the 9/11 Community Memorial in Shoreham Sept. 11, 2019 to commemorate that fateful day. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Rich Acritelli

Sitting down to write this story about 9/11, there is the constant reminder of how beautiful this day was with brilliant sunshine, warm weather and the buzz in the air of people going about their daily responsibilities.  It seems like yesterday that this same sort of memory that was some 18 years ago completely changed the course of American history. As people were handling their daily routines of putting their children on the bus and going to work, people in Manhattan and Washington, D.C., endured harrowing terrorism that shook the foundations of those cities. In the rural area of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the wreckage and the remains of Flight 93 were found.

Fire departments from Wading River to Mount Sinai came to the 9/11 Community Memorial in Shoreham Sept. 11, 2019 to commemorate that fateful day. Photo by Kyle Barr

Some 18 years later, families and friends still struggle with getting through this particular day. While there are students in our local schools who were not yet born when these attacks occurred, this terrible moment is still with us. As many of our students did not see the constant news coverage about the attacks waged on our nation by Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, 9/11 essentially became one of the longest days ever in our country. It remained with us for months and years, as our mind flashed images of the two planes that destroyed the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and Flight 93 that would have been used to target the Capitol or the White House.  

Americans were shocked at the news reports of the failed attempts of the shoe and underwear bombers to destroy other commercial airlines and anthrax that was sent to noted journalist Tom Brokaw. Today, young adults that like to attend popular concerts at Jones Beach do not remember the military presence in the Atlantic Ocean near the venue. The federal government ordered aircraft carriers that were in view of the amphitheater to fly fighter missions over major cities, including New York, to guard against the potential use of civilian aircraft that could possibly target major buildings and landmarks. In a total sense of shock, Americans were reeling from the earliest moments of terrorism that had clearly impacted our way of life.

Never before had Americans repeatedly watched the news coverage of citizens on American soil desperately running for their lives away from buildings that were collapsing around them. In many cases, they did not stop moving until they were across the Brooklyn Bridge, covered in dust and debris, with looks of despair on their faces. For months, North Shore rescue and demolition workers sifted through the wreckage of lower Manhattan to search for survivors and the remains of lost ones. In the tristate area there were daily reminders of 9/11 through the numerous funerals that were held for many of the 2,977 people that were killed.  And it was almost 19 days after the terrorists hit the U.S. that the military struck the Taliban and its allies in Afghanistan. Just this week alone, as peace talks continued between America and the Taliban, a car bomb derailed the negotiations and our soldiers are still operating to guard against terrorism in Afghanistan. While many local people are concerned that other parts of this country have forgotten about this date, 18 years ago showed the iron spirit of American resolve and willingness to help each other.

The Sound Beach Fire Department held its annual 9/11 ceremony Sept. 11. Photo by Greg Catalano

This was an attack that had never been waged against the U.S. before, but the American people presented an immense amount of comradery; caring for fellow citizens who were struggling from the attacks. At once, there was an outpouring of patriotism. Walmart was unable to keep up with the demand of its customers who wanted to purchase American flags.  People wrapped yellow ribbons around porches and trees and patriotic signs hung in businesses, schools and churches honoring the rescue workers at ground zero. Fire and emergency crews from every corner of this nation and Canada descended on Manhattan to help the New York City Fire Department. Both the New York Yankees and Mets participated in raising the spirits of the recovery workers by having their players meet with them in Lower Manhattan and honoring their tremendous sacrifices when baseball came back to America at Shea Stadium in Flushing, Queens. Huge flags were presented by the military that covered the length of Giants Stadium during the national anthem. When motorists crossed over the George Washington Bridge, it was done under a flag that could be seen for miles.   

President George W. Bush, through a heightened security presence, was at the World Series that had been pushed back due to the 9/11 attacks. He attended the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks game where he stood on the pitcher’s mound, presented a thumbs up to the crowd and threw a strike to the catcher. At this time, former New York Jet’s coach Herm Edwards was asked football questions about an upcoming game and he told the reporters with tears in his eyes that sports is not everything. As the Meadowlands is within sight of the city, the Jets could see the smoke rise from the wreckage. He stated his team’s thoughts and prayers were with the rescue workers at ground zero.  Today, you can visit the National 9/11 Memorial in New York City and see a powerful sports exhibit that is connected to these attacks and how our local teams used athletics to help provide a sense of comfort and distraction during this tragic time.

Fire departments from Wading River to Mount Sinai came to the 9/11 Community Memorial in Shoreham Sept. 11, 2019 to commemorate that fateful day. Photo by Kyle Barr

Just recently, local leaders from the FEAL Good Foundation were in Washington, D.C., to lobby the government to prevent the discontinuation of the Zadroga Bill.  Retired New York City Police Officer Anthony Flammia strenuously worked with other rescue workers to promote the importance of this legislation to congressional members from every part of the U.S. The organization was determined to pass legislation that continued to help rescue workers suffering from 9/11-related health conditions. Longtime comedian Jon Stewart stood next to men and women from the FEAL Good Foundation to place pressure on congressional leaders to put their differences aside and pass this vital bill. Stewart openly wondered how our government was prepared to turn its back on survivors that unflinchingly answered the call on this date. Shortly after speaking to a congressional committee, NYPD Detective Luis Alvarez passed away from the poor health condition that he had gained as a result of his time at and near ground zero.

Over the course of American history, there have been many serious events that our nation has had to rebound from through the will of its citizens. 18 years ago, this dynamic character of our country rose out of the darkest moments of terrorism to show the world that Americans will always stand together. May we always remember our rescue workers, War on Terror veterans and those Americans that are currently struggling with 9/11-related illnesses. 

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

Jack Licitra and friends at an outreach program, Inside Song, at SBU’s Staller Center in 2018. Photo from Staller Center

By Jack Licitra

Jack Licitra

Music is something to be enjoyed. It entertains us, excites us, soothes us. 

But is it possible that music can change our bodies and our minds? And what if the physical act of making music – the way we move our hands and our bodies, while we play – transforms consciousness? 

I believe it’s possible to shift the intention of music from just entertainment to something more meaningful. And the way we do this is: not just play music, or hear music, but use the music. Use it for healing. And in using music, you are using your own self as the instrument.

As a Reiki practitioner, I’ve seen how hand movements and symbols generate healing energy. And that poses the question: do musical patterns and rhythms and tempo and duration affect brain waves and heart rate? If these things do affect us in beneficial ways, maybe we can apply them specifically to helping people. 

In 2004 I was working at the Long Island State Veterans Home dementia unit in the evenings, playing music for older folks. It was hard to keep them engaged for long periods of time because of their impairments. Then I began to bring a tambourine. I was astonished to see that when I held a steady rhythm, our sessions went from 15 minutes to sometimes more than an hour. 

I already was aware that songs from their youth would elicit emotional responses, like singing along, dancing or even crying, but I was surprised to discover that rhythm could transform their consciousness. 

Fast forward to a few years ago. I was burned-out, exhausted and worried about generating enough income to support my family. So I was happy to be invited to play at an outdoor arts festival in Ithaca, even though it was many hours from my hometown of Garden City. But when I got there, I found that a rainstorm had damaged the fairgrounds, and attendance was dismal. I was playing to an empty field, basically. 

A drumming group was scheduled to play after me. As they showed up for their set, I invited them to jam with me. By the time their teacher arrived – a master drummer from Ghana – a small crowd had gathered and the rhythms were getting very intense. There was a moment when I noticed my hand was unconsciously strumming a pattern on the guitar. It was something I had never played before. Well, when I left there, I felt like my heart had been opened and refreshed. The music healed me.

To use music in this healing way, we take familiar melodies, rhythms and chord progressions and shift the intention to have a transformative impact. It may sound familiar to one’s ears, but because of the new way you’re cooking the ingredients, the impact is different.

I am fascinated by the kora (a traditional West African stringed instrument) and also Carnatic, or classical Indian, music. How do they affect the systems of the human body? It’s worth exploring.

We can make a shared community consciousness, when we use these musical healing tools together. 

Jack Licitra is a Sayville-based singer/songwriter/keyboardist and guitarist; music educator; founder of the music-teaching studio South Bay Arts in Bayport; and is available for musical programs at schools, libraries and other facilities. Join the musician at Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, 120 Main St., Setauket on Aug. 15 for a free outdoor family concert titled World of Stories: Pop Songs from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. No registration required.

Above, the author in front of the mirrorlike windows on Stony Brook’s South Campus with a dead Swainson’s thrush on the gravel in the foreground.

By John L. Turner

With the use of a helpful anchoring spoon, I swirled a large bundle of delicious linguine strands around the tines of my fork. As I brought the forkful of food forward, to meet its just fate as the first bite of a delicious pasta dinner, I looked up from the dining table to the view outside the large picture window in the adjacent living room. 

At that precise moment a blue jay (after all a birder is always birding!) launched from a low branch of an oak tree on the other side of the road, swooped across it and headed straight for the aforementioned window. Certainly it will veer to a side as it comes closer, or turn abruptly to perch on the roof, I thought to myself, but no such luck — it flew, beak first, directly into the window. It bounced off and down into the bushes in front.   

A female common yellow-throated warbler recovering after she struck the window of a building at SBU. Photo by John Turner

After shouting an expletive, I jumped from the dining room table and out the front door to see if the blue jay was alright. I anxiously scanned around and through the waist-high ornamental shrubs looking for what I expected to be a lifeless body that moments before had been so alive. I didn’t see it. I went behind the bushes, figuring perhaps it had fallen straight down. No bird. I looked through the web of branches. No bird. I looked under the shrubs, in the dirt in front of the shrubs and on the lawn. Still no bird. 

A solid 10-minute search while my pasta dinner grew cold produced nothing. I had to conclude the bird had survived the glancing blow to the window and after being momentarily stunned flew off. Standing near the sidewalk in the front yard I had the view the bird had experienced moments before — the window looked like an opening in the forest that reflected a dogwood tree on the right and taller oak trees in the distance. 

Most window strike victims are not as lucky as this blue jay was and as I soon learned what I had experienced is not uncommon — in fact it happens with frightening regularity, with estimates ranging from 1 to 3 million North American birds dying this way each and every day. This means an estimated 365 million to 1 billion birds dying from window strikes every year in the United States. 

The victims range from tiny to large, from dull to colorful. Hummingbirds are common victims and birds of prey, although less common, also collide with windows. The large group of birds referred to as songbirds — thrushes, vireos, warblers, sparrows and the like — form the largest bulk of collision victims. 

Migrant birds die more often than resident birds such as blue jays, the apparent reason being that resident birds better “know” their territory while migrant birds, transients in migratory habitats, don’t. 

Why do birds fly into windows and die in such large, almost unimaginable numbers? For the same reason people walk into glass doors, windows and dividers (often enough to produce a series of four-minute-long videos you can watch on YouTube!) — they don’t see the glass given its transparent qualities. 

For birds, though, a window’s transparency isn’t its only deadly feature. Its reflectivity can be worse. The reflected images in the window of trees, shrubs, sky and clouds fool birds into thinking they are the real thing. The result is a bird moving through space, at normal flying speeds, toward trees reflected in the distance until it abruptly meets the glass pane — most of the time with fatal results. 

This has occurred with increasing frequency as architects have moved toward using more and more highly reflective glass in building design, to produce dramatic views of the surrounding landscape. And the tall skyscrapers don’t pose the biggest problem — more than 90 percent of birds that perish from collisions do so by flying into the windows of homes and one- to four-story office buildings. It’s the lower stories of the building that reflect the features of the ambient environment creating the “fatal attraction” to birds. 

Amid all this death there is cause for optimism. The technology exists to make windows more bird friendly by creating the “visual interference” necessary for them to see the windows for what they are. 

For example, a number of exterior decal and sticker products are sold, ideal for home applications, that can be applied to a window’s outer surface (volunteers with the Four Harbors Audubon Society have placed more than 2,000 square decals on the windows of Endeavour Hall and other buildings on SUNY Stony Brook’s South Campus, thereby significantly reducing the number of songbirds dying from collisions with the highly reflective windows there). Better yet are readily available exterior window films that completely cover the window surface. 

Window manufacturers have also stepped up to the plate in making glass embedded with dots (called fritting) and with various other patterns. Even more promising are cutting edge window products reflecting patterns of ultraviolet light. Birds see UV light that we don’t; so these windows create the desired visual interference for birds but not for us — to us they look like normal windows.  

To his credit New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) has sponsored legislation, awaiting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) signature, that creates a “bird friendly building council” to research the issue and report back to the Legislature with a series of recommended strategies to reduce the carnage statewide, such as the use of bird-friendly building materials and design features in buildings; it’s Assembly bill A4055B/Senate bill S25B.   

I hope that you too care about reducing the number of vibrant and colorful songbirds that meet their untimely fate. If you do, please take a moment to pen a letter to Gov. Cuomo urging he sign the measure into law. His address is:  

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo

Governor of New York State

NYS State Capitol Building

Albany, NY 12224

Birdsong is a gift to us. If birds could also speak, the many species killed at windows would thank you for YOUR gift to them of caring enough to take the time and effort to support the bill.  

A resident of Setauket, John Turner is conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, author of “Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island” and president of Alula Birding & Natural History Tours.

The Mulford Farmhouse. Photo from East Hampton Historical Society

By Nomi Dayan

Nomi Dayan

Before George Washington, Paul Revere and Alexander Hamilton, the first – and feistiest! – patriots were none other than Long Island whalers. The first Colonists were English Puritans who arrived to the east end of Long Island in 1640. At the time, the area was considered an extension of Connecticut and New England – seen as remote and separate from the Dutch-ruled western end of Lange Eylant. 

These pioneers were initially farmers, but they quickly became seasonal entrepreneurs after they noticed their enormous marine neighbors spouting by their shores: blubber-rich right whales.

Whaling companies were launched during the winter months, hunting whales in rowboats on frigid beaches with the labor of local Native Americans. In large iron trypots on the sand, whaling crews stewed blubber until it melted into liquid gold – whale oil. Whale oil was used chiefly for illumination, and later in time, for a variety of manufacturing purposes. Oil even served as a currency (local schoolteachers were paid in whale oil). 

For the next 20 years, Colonists worked to perfect this trade. Whaling quickly became part of community life, with required whale-spotting shifts from able-bodied men. School even let out from December to April so children could help spot and process whales. Oil was shipped to New England rather than New Amsterdam to avoid Dutch taxes.

This trade route was suddenly halted when new commerce rules were set in place by England. The entire Long Island was now a part of New York. All goods were to be exported through New York City. The whale was a “royal fish,” from which the crown demanded a 20 to 50 percent tax. Eastenders were horrified.   

The battle between whalers and England began. Whalers were outraged at taxation without representation – foreshadowing the defiant Boston Tea Party a century later. They rebelled by turning Long Island into a smuggler’s haven, avoiding taxes by continuing to ship their oil to Boston or New London.  

The Mulford Farmhouse is one of the oldest in Suffolk County

A string of upset New York governors tried to enforce the tax – generally unsuccessfully. When the Duke of York investigated how many whales were caught in the past 6 years – and what his share was – he found no records had been kept. Lord Cornbury, a later New York governor, whined that “the illegal trade” was still carrying on between Long Island and New England. 

With Colonists’ protests falling on deaf ears, the towns of East Hampton, Southampton and Southold bypassed the governor of New York and submitted a petition to the court of England to be made a free corporation or continue under Connecticut rule. Their detailed list of complaints is similar to the tune of complaints in the Declaration of Independence. Their plea was denied. Their solution? Ignore the whale tax anyway. 

Colonists continued to smuggle the majority of oil to New England. New York merchants themselves were also flouting the law, which required all international trade to go through England. Instead, they traded directly with the West Indies, exchanging whale oil for rum, sugar and cocoa. 

Taking international trade into their own hands, New Yorkers who felt particularly courageous loaded up their ships and sailed with their goods to Madagascar, where there was an anarchist colony of none other than – pirates! Doing business with pirates was highly profitable, since it was all tax free. An inspector noted that in 1695, Long Island “was a receptacle for pirates and the people generally a lawless and unruly set.”

Whalers continued to protest. One of the pluckiest whalers who objected to the whale tax was Samuel Mulford of East Hampton, who lived from 1644 to 1725. He was a bold and somewhat quirky fellow. He championed the cause of the whalers, himself a financially successful owner of a whaling company of 24 men. 

Elected as a representative to New York Assembly in 1683, Mulford was expelled from the assembly twice for his outspoken demands; Colonists simply re-elected him and sent him back. When he sailed to London to protest the whale oil tax, he sewed fishhooks in his pockets to deter pickpockets during his long wait outside Buckingham Palace. 

Ultimately, the crown eased taxation. Mulford didn’t get to see this victory, as this announcement came five years after his death. Encouragingly, various acts were passed by the British Parliament to support the lucrative whaling industry, but Colonists’ frustrations toward their relationship with England never really went away. During the Revolutionary War, which brought whaling to a standstill, locals repurposed whaleboats for guerilla warfare against British efforts.

After America won its independence, a new era opened for whaling. In 1785, The Lucy left Sag Harbor to whale offshore Brazil; she returned with an unprecedented 360 barrels of whale oil. Americans took notice. To encourage trade, George Washington then authorized the first lighthouse in New York State to be built, the Montauk Lighthouse. The hundreds of whaleships that followed The Lucy would have sailed home from their global voyages directed by this lighthouse – illuminated by none other than whale oil.

Nomi Dayan is the executive director at The Whaling Museum & Education Center.

Above, Tom Cassidy as a 17-year-old lifeguard at Rockaway Beach in Queens. Photo from T. Cassidy

By Thomas M. Cassidy

Recently I visited West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook with a friend who’s assigned to the Coast Guard base at Montauk. It was high tide and Long Island Sound was very calm as I pointed to Bridgeport on the Connecticut side and the smokestacks in Northport on the Long Island side. As we got closer to the shoreline, I was jolted back 50 years to a memory of a young boy who almost drowned on a perfect beach day.

I was sitting on a lifeguard chair watching a few bathers playing in the calm water at West Meadow Beach. All of a sudden a young girl ran toward me screaming that her brother was drowning. I immediately scanned the beach and focused on every bather in my area and pleaded with her to tell me where he was. She pointed toward her mother who was standing a hundred yards passed the lifeguard-protected beach and pointing toward the water. Then I saw a little boy on an inflatable toy raft and the offshore breeze pushing him further out in Long Island Sound.

I stood; blew my whistle and ran as fast as I could on the beach toward the raft. When I got closer, I dove in the water and swam as fast as I could, hoping and praying that the boy wouldn’t fall off the raft. When I reached the raft, the boy was still on it. I told him everything’s okay and I was going to bring him back to his mom. Two other lifeguards arrived seconds after me and we safely brought the boy back to the beach.

Before I went back to my lifeguard stand, the frightened mother thanked me for saving her son’s life. She said that her son was floating right in front of her as she stood in knee deep water. She was momentarily distracted as she checked on her daughter who was sitting on the shoreline. When she turned around, the toy raft had drifted out to sea and she couldn’t catch up to it. She told her son to stay calm and she sent her daughter to ask the lifeguards for help. She kept saying that it happened so fast and her son never made a sound.

Summer vacation is a great time for people of all ages to enjoy a refreshing dip in the pool, lake or Long Island Sound. Just be aware that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 10 drownings every day in the United States. 

So stay alert when you, a friend or a family member is in the water and always swim at lifeguard-protected beaches and pools when possible. Sadly, this can be a life or death decision.

Thomas M. Cassidy is a resident of Setauket and author of several books including his latest, “Damage Control.”

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SEPA Mujer shows their support for immigrants by donning yellow bracelets. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Everyone has an opinion on how to handle the border crisis. Having recently gone directly to the southwest border to talk about solutions with U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, recent migrants and local politicians, several things are clear.

Perry Gershon. Photo from SCDC

First, contrary to some of the national narratives, most border crossers today come to ports of entry and seek asylum. They do not dart or swarm the locations between ports of entry. Yes, there are some scrambling crossers, but the entire crisis has tipped toward ports of entry, which is why more efficiently processing asylum claims is so important and increasingly difficult.

Second, while human and drug trafficking are serious issues, these individuals do not comprise the bulk of current illegal crossers, even as numbers of Central American refugees continue to rise. Our border laws are designed to deter those sneaking into the country, not managing large volumes turning themselves in — hoping for asylum.

The bulk of those at our borders are economic migrants, some of whom may be entitled to asylum, but all of whom are fleeing a part of this hemisphere overwhelmed by public corruption, poverty, violent crime, drug trafficking and general disorder. 

This suggests a need not only for better processing of asylum claims, and more systematic ways of housing asylum seekers, but finding better ways to incentivize these economic migrants to stay in their countries of origin, rather than seeking escape, refuge and opportunity here. Rather than abandoning rule of law programs in these unstable Central American countries, we should be reinforcing stability and the rule of law.

Third, agents in places like Arizona speak with one, clear, consistent voice. They are legally able to monitor and enforce our border, and capture and turn illegal crossers over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but they are not responsible for processing, long-term detention or deportation. In effect, they are a small cog in a big machine, and what they face daily is both severe and growing. What they cannot control is the process of crafting a much-needed political solution.

Finally, no one can seriously discuss the border without discussing drug trafficking. Again, a dose of reality is vital. Drugs entering the United States over the southwest border include heroin, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and fentanyl, as well as other synthetics. 

But these drugs are not typically hustled in the dark of night, between ports of entry, over big desert swatches. No, they are methodically trafficked through ports of entry — hidden in trucks and cars, and on rail cars. Many transporting these drugs are mules, beholden to powerful Mexican drug cartels. Poor people who desperately lack options often transport these drugs for the cartels or face death.  

Again, the answer must be multifaceted. First, we must work with the Mexican government to enforce their borders and get serious about stopping demand here. Second, we should provide more treatment for those seeking a way out of addiction. Third, and most important, we should be teaching kids to make smart and healthy choices by helping them never to feel desperate enough to turn to addiction.

What lessons can we draw from recent conversations from those on the front lines of our southwest border? Several are obvious. First, we need to have a more organized and efficient system to process the vast number of asylum seekers.

How do we do that? We need more administrative asylum judges, even if reassigned from other tasks temporarily. We need smoother, faster interfaces between CBP, ICE and the judicial system. In managing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services treatment of unaccompanied minors, who go from ICE to HHS after 20 days, we need more effective ways of protecting and processing claims. 

We need to work more closely with the Mexican government to agree on how to house the large numbers, optimally on the Mexican side of the border, which will prevent having to place large numbers of asylum seekers across the United States to await hearings. Finally, we should be asking Mexico to consider becoming a “safe third country” for asylum seekers, which would allow Central Americans to win asylum in Mexico also, reducing pressure on the U.S. border.

Last, and most important, we need to rethink how best to restore rule of law, stability, economic opportunity and foreign investment in Central America, to incentivize economic migrants to remain where they live, and to create opportunities and security there. This requires international engagement, and sustained commitments to neighbors. 

In the end, that investment will help us all. That is what going to the border taught me.

Perry Gershon is a national commentator on business, trade, policy and politics. A congressional candidate for New York’s 1st District, he holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale and a master’s in business administration  from University of California, Berkeley.