The article, “The Deadly Choices at Memorial,” by Sheri Fink gives the reader the ability to simply read the facts, and come up with his own opinion. By no means does the article influence the reader to choose one side.
That is, do you think that the decisions made by the nursers and doctors to leave behind the oldest and sickest people were ethical or legal? Or do you think that it is never up to the doctor to make decisions like that?
Well, definitely the conditions in which the people in charge were in was an exception that no law or ethical value could think of so that people would know what to do in this case.
I completely disagree with anyone who thinks the doctors and nurses should pay for the decision they made like they committed a crime. These people are not criminals, and they did the best they could under an extremely stressful situation. Every person saved, all the efforts done by the staff, all the people they carried and cared for while hot, hungry and exhausted… that is what counts.
My life as a writer, Katherine Vaz.
During her “one and only” semester at Baruch College, writer Katherine Vaz gave the students of a journalism Feature class the privilege of having a private conversation with her. During one hour, Vaz told the class about her personal experiences and her inspiration to write, while giving advice on how to stop a writer’s block.
It all started with a question about the amount of death in her stories. “I think that is really hard to write fiction that doesn’t have issues that connect to loss. But the true theme of most of my stories is how human being find happiness in life, or different ways in which people find happiness, despite the loss they face. Fiction is an exploration of how people find joy and how they connect,” said the author.
Vaz grew up nearby a little town that is known as being the capital of the artichoke. She was surrounded by tumultuous things while growing up, like the Vietnam War, and this influenced her writing. In one of her books, titled “Our Lady of the Artichokes,” Vaz uses many of her memories and experiences to create several of the short stories that composes the book. “When you write fiction you have this germ, that sometimes is real, and it helps you to create a completely fictional story. I see this like instruments on writing fiction stories,” said Vaz.
Friends influenced Vaz by giving her ideas, and some of these ideas have become incredible short stories. “ A friend of mine once said to me, why don’t you write about when you had to ride the bus to go to school? And I did,” said Vaz. Indeed the story, “Taking a Stitch in a Dead Man’s Arm” is the story of a girl who takes the bus to school, and other things like losing her dad, and getting rid of fear. This story’s title was also inspired by one of the author’s father’s memories.
“ Writing fiction really isn’t about writing about personal things. It is good to have a filter when writing because you might not want to expose the life of people you love, or even yours. I have made the decision that what I draw on is not about the personal moments, but the feeling behind them, because that makes it all very much authentic,” said Vaz.
Vaz said she discovered she wanted to be a writer at the age of 12. But things didn’t just come easily after that. She went to college during the 70’s, and even in this “interesting decade” she made the decision to write three hours everyday, while giving herself exercises in order to learn how to write well.
“ I discovered that I wanted to be a writer in a classroom. I remember we had to write sentences with five new words, which we had to learn everyday. And that specific day I wrote a sentence, and I cannot remember what I wrote, but the sentence almost flew away from me. It was such a moment to realize how the sentence just happened, and how easily it happened, and at the moment I just knew that I was going to be a writer,” shared Vaz. “ I spent 3 hours everyday writing. It was just like an exercise I forced myself to do. I don’t think I have anything saved from this time. But I was waiting for that moment I had in the classroom, when I knew who I was. But those hours were very important, I was learning to make sentences.”
Vaz’s stories in the “Our Lady of the Artichokes” collection are also very much connected with her father. He is still alive and is Vaz’s best friend. Being around him seems to have helped shape the writer’s mind.
“ The idea of sitting around in the middle of six kids growing up, and have the ability to do something beautiful without any need of awarding in the end, is a gift that my father had, and it was so important for me to grow up surrounded by that,” said Vaz.
Katherine Vaz also told the students that when she was making a living by selling short stories to magazines she would buy other literary magazines and books because she liked to think that one day someone would be buying her work, too. “It was my way to give it back to the universe,” said Vaz.
(Sharing this conversation with you today, is my way, to give back to the universe because Vaz truly inspired me, and I know many others like me need to know her message.)
Bay Ridge Lends a Hand
by Mayara Guimaraes
Hurricane Sandy hit New York City on a dark and windy late October night. It was Monday afternoon when the citizens of Bay Ridge already knew they were going to be stuck home for at least a couple of days. A few enjoyed the time off, but others immediately decided that they were going to help in the recovery process.
Barely affected by the storm, people in Bay Ridge mainly had gas problems to deal with. But all around them the pain and need of others was undeniable. That was when Justin Brannan, Allison Robicelli and Karen Tadross united their forces.
Volunteers helping the “Bay Ridge Center” cook food for the victims of the Hurricane Sandy
“In the hours and days after the storm, the outburst of support was overwhelming – as was the immediate need. Just as quickly as donations would come in to Councilman Vincent Gentile’s office in Bay Ridge, they were being loaded onto a truck or stuffed into someone’s trunk and sent off to where they were needed most, like Breezy Point, Gerritsen Beach, the Rockaways, Coney Island and Staten Island,” said Brannan.
Brannan and Robicelli, who are childhood friends, realized that people were getting together and doing everything they could. But they also noticed that there was an urgent need for hot food. The friends then knew there was something they could do. And with the help of Tadross, who was able to secure a kitchen, thanks to the generosity of St. Mary’s Church, in Bay Ridge, they started cooking.
Allison Robicelli, on the right, Chef Lawrence, and Didem, from the Bay Ridge CSA
The group, who is now known as “Bay Ridge Cares,” has already made over 4500 hot meals. They have received donations from the Citizens Committee of NY, and other groups, as well as amazing support from the volunteers, who have been helping with food donations and their cooking skills.
The organizers and their volunteers have been working non-stop to feed people, and their energy and passion fills the room with love and hope. “I am lucky to be working with so many wonderful people from my community, who have banded together to help our neighbors. Many hands make light work, but it only takes one heart to make a difference. We have been lucky to find so many heart-y people,” said Tadross.
Bay Ridge Cares’ kitchen works Monday to Saturday, and it currently has the help of licensed chefs who have been generous to spend time cooking there. Robicelli’s Tweeter page, and the group’s Facebook page are busy with updates and information.
Robicelli is known for her baker goods and her written contributions to Nona Brooklyn, an online Brooklyn based page that is all about food. She’s been coordinating the volunteers’ work and representing the group so they can get the help needed. “I am very, very proud of the people in Bay Ridge who have stepped up to the plate to make this happen,” Robicelli has tweeted.
“We’re just here to fill in the gaps. I think every little bit helps and we’re just doing our part. If we can feed 400 people here and 400 people there, that’s 800 more people a day who won’t go to bed hungry and that’s what this is all about: people helping people and embracing the fact that we are all connected as human beings,” said Brannan.
They have been working closely with Occupy Sandy and trying to direct their meals wherever there’s a bigger need. “Yesterday, we sent meals to the Haber Houses in Coney Island and to a church in the Rockaways. Today, we may go to Staten Island or Gerritsen Beach. It depends. We try to fill in the gaps,” said Brannan.
The “Bay Ridge Center” food supply
While this community service is just one among many that are trying to help Sandy victims, Brannan believes that they are one of the biggest representatives of what Bay Ridge citizens are capable of. “Bay Ridge has always had an unparalleled volunteer spirit. Here people are ready and willing to roll up their sleeves and pitch in. Last summer when a fire destroyed several houses, we organized several fundraisers to help our neighbors back on their feet. That’s what Bay Ridge is all about. Everyone here looks out for each other and we pick each other up when we’re down.”
by Maya Guimaraes
In a place where you can eat pizza, Chinese, Sushi, Indian, Thai, Italian, and other foods from all around the globe, how about going for a bagel? Escaping an overwhelming range of options might be what gets Steve’s Bagel shop packed everyday.
Open for over 17 years the bagel store is part of the story of the Brooklyn neighborhood, Bay Ridge. The place has survived economic downs, growing competition, and neighborhood diversity. How? “This is a family business, but more importantly It’s my business. If I am doing well, the store does well, but if I am not, then it is in trouble,” said owner Steve Natale
Natale’s belief that the quality of his business depends on himself comes from his personal experience while running the bagel shop alone for all this years. Soon after being invited by the owners of another bagel shop to be a partner, Steve was able to buy his own store and be in charge. “I need to invest all my time here. I need to make sure people feel welcomed, that people will find what they are looking for, and that people will come back. If I don’t do my job, I lose my customers. It is as simple as that,” said Natale
Steve’s Bagels are baked daily by himself. When he was only 17 year-old, he started baking goods with his family and he hasn’t stop since. “We have multigrain egg bagel, fresh baked muffins, double-sided seed bagel, croissants and cold salads. We make everything here,” explained Natale
Natale’s recipe? Undisclosed. “We make everything here. I stated baking when I was 11 year-old. In the morning we do everything fresh for the day. My bagels are the best, and my recipe is a secret.”
The bagel shop stays open seven days a week, from five a.m. to eight p.m. and throughout the day it serves many different people that come in and out of the Bay Ridge subway station, which is right next to the Bagel shop.
While the location has helped the small business survive, it also means that he has to face bigger competition because businesses around the subway area are targeting the same customers as him. “These days everybody serves coffee. Even McDonalds serves breakfast. When I first opened my only competition was the Diners. Now almost everyone on this block is fair competition,” said Natale
The secret of the success, or the endurance, of Steve’s Bagel Shop might be the delicious food. Damon Moses, from New Heaven, Connecticut said he only eats at Steve’s Bagels. “The food is fresh and they cook it the way you want it, when you want it. Most of the guys I work with come here. It’s the best food place in the area,” he said.
The struggles to keep the bagel shop open have been hard, but Natale seems to be able to keep things going. “This is my only source of income. It’s my only job and I am here every day, so I work hard to keep things all right. The cost of the food is high. But I rarely raise my prices. I give more than two eggs on a sandwich, and I give a cup of coffee for free. I am not saying I have cheap products. Nothing here is cheap. My coffee is great, and my cold cuts are the best quality. But unfortunately the only thing some people care is the price of things. So it gets hard.”
Although he says money is not the priority, “I make people’s day because I am in it for the people. I love the people.” Natale things that there is much more he can do to make his store better. “I need to get everybody in this neighborhood inside this store. I do get most people, but not everybody. I should be printing menus, doing catering and more deliveries. I also need to be more diligent about what goes on here.”
The “mama and papa” shop, like Natale calls it, is one of the favorite spots of many seniors in the neighborhood. The little chairs outside the doors invite people to sit down and socialize. The fast-speed service and easy access location also help. “ My dad is crazy, but people love this place,” adds Daryl Natale’s daughter.
“This business starts and ends with me. Everything about this business is me, like any leadership policy. It’s all about the leader, and I know I need to work harder to grow, but right now I am fine with the size of things. Like I said, I’m in it for the people.”