Title picture: Dalmore Beach, 23 March 2011.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

A barrel of tears

The Syrian civil war took another turn for the worse this morning, when an aid convoy was allegedly barrel bombed near Aleppo. More than half the trucks in the 31-vehicle convoy were destroyed.

This conflict has been dragging on for the last 5 years, and has been demonstrably exacerbated by outside influences (most notably the USA and Russia, in no particular order). Both powers are using the civil war as a means to promulgate their geopolitical aims. Russia's aims, with increasing clarity and with cynical disregard to human life, are to maintain their sole ally in the region, as spearheaded by Bashar al-Assad. Using the presence of the steadily degrading Islamic State group as a pretext, any attempt to break anti-Assad opposition will be used by Russian forces.

Do not forget that the emergence of Da'esh (so called Islamic State) is a direct consequence of American interference in Iraq in 2003. Do not forget that the network of factions in Syria is too complex for this situation to be resolved quickly. Experts name a term of at least a decade. And as long as the likes of Putin and Obama (to be succeeded by Trump or Clinton) continue to meddle, we'll see the people of Syria taking the blows.

Be warned.

This conflict has all the potential for this conflict by proxy to turn into a direct confrontation between the US and Russia. I am deeply alarmed at the anti-Western sentiments that reach even me from Russia.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

9/11 - 15 years on

This tribute is published on the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on 11 September 2001, under the auspices of Project 2996.

Jeffrey Dwayne Collman

Image: Family photograph, via http://guy-at-judson.blogspot.com.

Source: Aurora Beacon News, Aurora IL 9-23-2001
Jeffrey Dwayne Collman, age 41, of Novato, California, formerly of Yorkville, IL, a flight attendant for American Airlines, died in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City at 8:45a.m. on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

Jeffrey was a 1977 graduate of Yorkville High School in Yorkville, IL. Jeff was formerly employed, for over 10 years, at All-Steel in Montgomery, IL. He had then worked, for a brief time, at Cedar Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, California before attaining his dream of being a flight attendant with American Airlines. Jeffrey loved his job and traveling to other countries around the world. He also loved to play and watch tennis. Jeff was a true people person who enjoyed visiting with and getting to know others. He became a flight attendant in 1997. Two years later, Jeff received the American Professional Flight Attendant Award and was considered a spirited and dedicated flight attendant. He liked to entertain children on his flights, and he was fond of playing tennis and traveling, friends said.

He is survived by his parents, Dwayne and Kay Collman of Yorkville, IL and Beverly Sutton of North Aurora, IL; his close companion, Keith Bradkowski of Novato, Ca; his brothers, Charles Collman of Fort Meyers, FL and Brian Collman of Las Vegas, NV; his sister, Brenda Sorenson of Aurora, IL; his step-brothers, Steve (Linda) Gengler of Yorkville, IL and Chuck (Lakshmi) Gengler of South Orange, NJ; his step-sister, Susan Bohan of California; a god-child, Marlene Wakelin; his half-sisters, Laura Kries of Brooklyn Park, MN, Caroline Sutton of Joliet, IL and Vickie Michel of Aurora, IL; several nieces and nephews, many loving aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Jeffrey will also be missed by 100 other flight attendants.

He is preceded in death by his grandparents and his brother, Mark Allen Collman.
A memorial service was held on Monday, October 1, 2001 at the Immanuel Lutheran Church in Yorkville, IL with Pastor John Leaf officiating.

Father’s thoughts
Dwayne Collman's imagination gets the best of him when he thinks about the final minutes of his son's life on American Airlines Flight 11. He's filled with horror thinking about what the 41-year-old flight attendant from Yorkville went through as terrorists with knives steered the plane into the first World Trade Center tower. Collman knows his son received safety training in flight school, but he doubts it ever could have prepared him for the challenges he would face on the morning of Sept. 11. The grieving father is sure of one thing about his son, though, even if the details about his death are not certain:
"He would have fought like hell."

Jeffrey Collman, an American Airlines flight attendant for five years who grew up in Yorkville, died Tuesday morning when his hijacked plane, destined for Los Angeles, crashed into New York's famous landmark at 8:45 a.m. Though his body has not been recovered, his parents knew he was gone when he didn't call within a few hours after the tragedy. He had sent his stepmother, Kay, an e-mail the night before, telling her he would be flying from Boston to Los Angeles the next morning.

"I knew he was in that accident because every time there was something going on with airplanes, he would call and say, 'Hey, I'm all right,' " said Kay Collman. "So I knew that, when he didn't call, he was on that plane."

His parents [...] say Jeffrey Collman wanted to be a flight attendant because he loved to travel and meet people around the world. After working for years at Allsteel in Montgomery, he moved to California about five years ago to pursue that dream. Lifelong friend Dolores Humphrey, who went to school with Jeffrey Collman at all grade levels in Yorkville, said she feared he was killed when she heard the news because he often flew early-week flights from Boston to Los Angeles.
She said Collman never lost contact with his friends, even though his job took him around the world.

"Every time he got into town, he would call anyone he knew to meet for breakfast," said Humphrey, who last talked to Collman [5 days before 9/11]. "He would talk for a couple hours, then have to go fly somewhere else."

His stepmother said Jeffrey was the type of person who could "sit down next to someone on a plane and walk away knowing their life story." His father said Jeffrey loved tennis and flew around the world to watch professionals play. Kay Collman says her stepson never went anywhere meekly, and he loved his job so much that she's sure he didn't back down in the face of terror. "He took it seriously," she said, "and he would not have let anyone walk on him."

Humphrey said Jeffrey talked of flying even when he was a child, and his dream came true when American Airlines gave him a job. He was never afraid to fly, she said, always asserting that he was safer in the air than anyone on the ground. Collman's parents have begun to realize how their son died, and that he will always be remembered as a victim on one of the saddest days ever in the United States.

"It's completely different than just someone dying," Kay Collman said. "We'll have the pictures forever. We'll always see where he died. It's part of history."

Seattle Times, 17 September 2001
His partner, Keith Bradkowski, said Collman was courageous and safety-conscious. "He was so focused on safety," Bradkowski said. "If there was a threat, he would have done anything in his power to prevent it." He didn't normally work the Boston-to-Los Angeles route but made an exception to get vacation time at the end of the month. Collman grew up in Yorkville, Ill., and besides Bradkowski left behind four brothers and a sister. (Seattle Times)

Further information: the fate of Flight 11.

Blogger Nathanael V.  found out 5 years after 9/11, that Jeffrey Collman was a neighbour's grandson.


and as attributed above.

9/11 - 15 years on

When this post is published, it will be exactly fifteen years to the minute that the first aircraft hit the World Trade Center in New York. The events of what is now referred to as 9/11 are only too well known.

My thoughts are with all victims, whether identified afterwards, or not. In New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

My thoughts are with the passengers and crew on the four flights destroyed. My thoughts are with the victims killed in the World Trade Center. My thoughts are with those emergency workers who lost their lives trying to save others'.

My thoughts today are with the families of those who perpetrated these atrocities, for they lost too.

But first and foremost, my thoughts are with Norberto Hernandez, whose tribute I first filed on Northern Trip, the predecessor to Atlantic Lines, in 2006. The searches for Norberto on Google are contaminated with references to the Falling Man, who was in fact another victim, Jonathan Briley. This confusion has led to much anger and anguish, something the families of both men could do well without.

Norberto, rest in peace.

This entry, as stated above is dedicated to the memory of

Norberto was a pastry chef from Elmhurst, working in the restaurant Windows on the World on the 106th and 107th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York. After the attacks, he was reported missing for a week until parts of a torso and an arm were found in a collapsed stairwell. DNA testing and finger printing reveiled that these were the remains of Norberto. It also invalidated claims that the image of the Falling Man was that of Norberto; this was another victim of 9/11 who will be the subject of a different tribute.

At the time of the attacks on the WTC, Norberto was aged 42 and had been married for 25 years. He was the fourth of ten children by his parents’ marriage, and also had six half-siblings through his father. His parents separated when he was young. Norberto himself had three daughters, three grandchildren and 37 nephews. He was a man of Puerto Rican origins, and had hoped to spend his final days there. Instead, after 9/11, a funeral service was held and his remains cremated in Puerto Rico.

His sister Luz described Norberto. “He was quiet, kind”, she said. “He was a handsome man. Everybody loved him, you know. Everybody.” Norberto’s nickname was Bible, as he was very dependable. Together Forever was his motto.

Norberto started work in Windows on the World at the age of 17, washing dishes. He was interested in cooking, so a manager paid for his tuition at cooking school. Norberto became pastry chef and worked up to 10 hours a day. His sister Luz said that he made cakes, desserts, cookies and bread. His cakes were fabulous.

Outside work, Norberto loved sports, and was a fan of a Puerto Rican boxer, Felix Trinidad Jr. Four days before the attacks, he rang his mother and asked her to play “I would cry but I have no more tears” four times.

In the immediate aftermath of the plane striking the North Tower, Norberto called his sister Luz. “He said: ‘Yeah, don’t worry, I’m OK”.They were disconnected, and when Luz tried to call back she could not get through. Other accounts from Windows on the World tell that smoke and dust filled the restaurant after the strike, and that people lay on the floor to escape the worst of it. Air was beginning to run out at the time of the last contact.

These are the facts that I have managed to pull together from the Internet.

From the little that I have learned of Norberto, he came through as a gentle giant. Although 6’2” (1.84m) tall, he was always listening, and talked later. His family suffered a double loss, as Claribel Hernandez (his sister-in-law), a secretary working elsewhere in the North Tower, was also killed in the attacks. Norberto was close in the family and responsible, which earned him the nickname Bible. He loved his work, and by the look of one of the images, loved to impart that knowledge to others around him.

September 11th, 2001, dawned as a brilliantly sunny morning in New York. Two planes were flown into the two towers of the World Trade Center, leading to their collapse within 2 hours. The destruction of so many lives was brought about by mindless hatred and madness, fuelled by religious zealotry which was not based on any writing in any scriptures in any religion.

Norberto may have heard of that on news reports, but it was probably quite far from him. He was a man that lived for his family, always there for them. A diligent worker, putting in up to 10 hours a day, loving his creations from the oven. Travelling to the WTC on the Subway every morning, his thoughts were probably far from what was to happen not that much later on that fateful Tuesday.

Two thousand nine hundred and ninety-six are known to have died that day, or in its immediate aftermath. Norberto’s ashes were scattered in his homeland of Puerto Rico. His memory lives on in his family, and in the memory of those that read this. He is deeply missed by those close to him.

To Norberto Hernandez

Rest In Peace

This link is no longer operational

I have attempted to contact the University of Columbia to use the material in this link, but have not received a reply. As it is central to the tribute, I have used it, and acknowledge the writer, Sarah Clemence.


This is a poem by Barbara Phillips, from which I have used some factual references to Norberto. It refers to him being the Falling Man though.


I have been granted permission by UIM to reproduce the commemorative quilt for Norberto.

Link no longer operational
The poster, pictured above, proclaiming Norberto as missing after the attacks, hung on a walkway of Manhattan for more than a week

Friday, 2 September 2016

Indyref #2

The Scottish National Party announced on 19 September 2014 that the outcome of the Scottish independence referendum, held the previous day, would last for a generation. The outcome was no to independence.

They have gone back on their word. Once more, Scotland is being canvassed on how it would like to inspect the inside of a voting booth again. Most can probably draw it from memory. Including how they voted on 18.09.2014. The case for independence has become weaker, on account of the crash in oil revenue and the brexit referendum vote (to leave the EU). Do the people and the economy of Scotland want and need more uncertainty? Brexit will bring enough uncertainty in the next few years. And please do not be deluded by the Nationalists' claim that independence will return Scotland to the EU fold. It will not - Spain (mindful of its restive Catalonian separatism) will block that with 100% certainty, never mind how many countries the First Minister visits. Foreign affairs, by the way, are not a matter devolved to the Scottish Government, and therefore none of the FM's business. 

Over the 9 years that the SNP have been in power in Scotland, their gambles have backfired on them without fail. It is my rule of thumb with them, and it works well. Scotland's oil? Revenue of 1.8bn has fallen 97% to 0.06bn since 2014. The Arc of Prosperity, Iceland, Scotland and Ireland? Iceland's banks have crashed, and so has Ireland's economy. The banking crisis of 2008 needed a £32bn bail-out by the government in London, which would have blown a substantial hole in the Scottish GDP, which stood at around £175bn.

The current canvassing will show how eager the Scots are for yet another plebiscite on independence. The result will, whatever the outcome, be that they want it.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

9/11 commemoration 2016

At 1.46pm BST on 11 September, this blog will publish two tributes to victims of 9/11. These are for Norberto Hernandez (a pastry chef in the Windows on the World restaurant) and Dwayne Collman, a flight attendant on flight 11, which crashed in Pennsylvania.

Much has changed in the world in these 15 years. Unfortunately, mindless violence has not yet left us.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Transocean Winner removed

On Monday evening (August 22nd), at 10.05pm, the Transocean Winner rig was successfully removed from the rocks at Dalmore. The structure was taken to Broad Bay, in a tow that took nearly 48 hours. There, it will be assessed for damage and a decision is to be taken at a later date as to how it will be taken to a facility for demolition. Although the local council have offered the services of the Arnish Fabrication Yard, the rig's owners (Transocean) have said that there is insufficient depth of water in the channel to the Yard to take the rig.

I went to Dalmore on Monday evening by bus, firstly by service bus to the end of the road leading into the village itself. The last half mile was covered in a convoy. People had parked their vehicles in the verge of the road. From the road end, a dedicated shuttle bus was ferrying spectators back and forth to the village, where a viewing area had been marked out. In the end, I estimate that about 200 people were watching. I found myself close to someone with a radio receiver, and I could hear the communications between the tugs, the crew on the rig and the salvage master, Sylvia Tervoort.

When high tide approached, the tugs were told to gradually increase the force applied to the tow wires, until, at 10.05pm, 120 tons on the wire (and 75% of power) dragged the Transocean Winner off the rocks. The next discussion was about the course to take, and Ms Tervoort told the captain of one of the tugs that this had been outlined in an email. The captain blustered (in Dutch) that he didn't have time to have his head stuck in front of a computer all blinking day - he had not read the email and was embarrassed to be found in ignorance.

By half past ten, the tow was well underway and I made my way back to the road. A fleet of emergency vehicles were leaving, and I found myself in the back of an ambulance. Other people, who were walking up the road, were also picked up. My taxi came at 11pm, as arranged (although the police had to render some assistance) and under a rising moon, I returned to Stornoway at 11.30pm.

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Sunday, 21 August 2016

Transocean Winner

Although I dub the hapless oilrig "Transocean Loser", it's not her fault that she ended up as an unwanted and unusual piece of flotsam, washed up at Dalmore. Two public meetings have come and gone, the late August springtide will be ebbing in the next few days, and it will be at least another fortnight before the Transocean Winner can be towed away from the West Side of Lewis.

I ask the question why the tow got underway, in spite of a gale in its path being forecast five days before it occurred.

I concur with Capt Maurice Macleod who asked Transocean why their rig wasn't ballasted down in the face of a rising gale.

I ask the Maritime and Coastguard Agency MCA whether they were monitoring this tow, and were advising the skipper of the tug Alp Forward to divert, either down the Minch or further out into the Atlantic.

I am displeased with the spineless attitude of our local authority who will not express an opinion on the necessity of an emergency towing vessel until the investigation by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch is complete. This could take at least a year. I call it spineless, because the SNP group on said council have set up a petition to return an ETV to Stornoway, which flies in the face of the procrastination as endorsed by the full council.

I fully support the council, coastguard and police in enforcing the road closure of the Dalmore village road, between the A858 Carloway to Shawbost road, and the cemetery; a temporary opening on Monday 9th resulted in traffic chaos which took a long time to clear. I support the same agencies in warning people to stay away from the coastline between Gearrannan and Dalbeg (including Dalmore); this coastline is fronted by tall cliffs topped by grassy slopes which are slippery, certainly in the wet conditions that prevailed in the days following the grounding of the Transocean Winner.

I am not pleased with the attitude from Transocean and certain local agencies who ignored an invitation from the local community association to give information last Monday (15th), yet organised their own meeting three days later in the same village hall, something that smacks of a slap across the face. Transocean have apologised, which is the right and proper thing to do.

I anxiously await further developments, but hope that compensation claims from those adversely affected by this grounding (like the surfing company and local fishermen) will be speedily and favourably assessed.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016


The picture currently fronting this blog shows Dalmore beach, without an oilrig, as it was on 23 March 2011. The Transocean Winner ran aground at Dalmore in the early hours of 8 August 2016 and is likely to stay there for several weeks before it can be removed. The front picture will remain up until the rig is gone.