Early September in Mason County has become synonymous with paying tribute to non-military officials who lost their lives in the course of their duties.  On the national scale, the anniversary of the horrific terrorist attacks 9-11-2001 has led to the date being preserved as Patriot Day, a time to reflect on the victims of that tragedy, and indirectly observe the valor and service of those in the three fields of emergency services who serve year round:  fire, police, and paramedics.  

On the strictly local scale, another annual tradition in observance of another victim of senseless violence, Michigan State Police Trooper Paul Butterfield, has also took place since 2014.  On September 9, 2013, Butterfield was shot while conducting a traffic stop by Eric Knysz of Freesoil on Custer Road.  The location where that incident took place has been as effectively enshrined in the memory of Butterfield as the location of the twin towers that came down nearly twelve years earlier has.  This year a new sign has been added to his roadside memorial at where he lost his life.

And just like I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the events of 9-11 started, I can recall exactly where I was when Butterfield was shot:  I was on camera at the city council meeting held that night.  A still picture taken from the video of that meeting at the 7:55 point shows Chief Barnett uncharacteristically getting out of his seat and heading out in response, reflected in the mirror created by the glass panel covering the City seal.  Having seen his reactions before that, I deduced that something big was up.  

I grieved with the rest of the county over the death, and was relieved when the perpetrator was caught and found guilty.  Butterfield was definitely a victim doing his job, but the facts of the case do not indicate that he was worthy of such beatification that we usually assign to the 9-11 firefighters and police crushed under the towers while doing their jobs.  

I have noted these before, Butterfield never indicates why he was stopping the truck of Knysz when he calls dispatch.  The MSP indicate his car had no dash cam recorder, so it would seem remiss on their part and his for the lack of such basic equipment in this day and age.  At trial, the testimony of his wife seemed scripted in order to get her the best outcome for her part in it, the prosecutor creating a laundry list of charges for her that were mostly left behind.  

All those unanswered questions about what may have happened make it unlikely that I will look at Trooper Butterfield as anything more than a victim of gun violence.  A hero to me is not a law officer that is conducting a traffic stop with no apparent reason and not taping the encounter for his protection and the protection of the suspect.  A hero to me is somebody running up a hundred flight of steps with full gear on in order to fight an already raging inferno.  

Which brings us back to 9-11-2001.  Despite the perfunctory reports of remembrance in local media made annually after Butterfield's death, they also have felt obliged two days later to commemorate 9-11.  Often these are respectful, sometimes they are reflect-ful, but they seem to almost evoke one's own memories of what that day was like, which is what a good article should do.  

The 9-11-2019 edition of the City of Ludington Daily News (COLDNews) ran an Associated Press article on the 18th year anniversary on page three, with a generic title stating its aftermath is evolving, while running a Butterfield article with a sizable color picture on the front page entitled:  "Honoring a Hero".  

Had the Butterfield article ran on the anniversary of his tragedy or even the day afterward, it may have seemed more appropriate, but it effectively crowded out the memory of an anniversary of  perhaps the biggest event in our lifetimes.  At some level, maybe the COLDNews recognized this, so on the editorial page they had previous managing editor Steve Begnoche put out his own tribute to 9-11, which is presented in full below: 

Like most offerings from Mr. Begnoche, the feeling you have after reading this one is akin to enjoying the wasted calories of stale candy corn when you could have been enjoying a Snickers bar.  Hopefully, the reader doesn't hold it against me for having them use a few minutes of their time reading this pablum, once they understand my point in doing so.  

When Begnoche runs out of bland observations, cliché archetypes, banal themes, and other moderated semantics, the message becomes rather partisan and silly, not the best way to remember the second date that will live in infamy.  This seems to happen about halfway through when he starts blaming the current president for his attacks on the media, and misrepresenting history (the pamphleteers before the Revolutionary War were in lock step with the Founding Fathers, only England loyalists (like Begnoche would surely have been) would have disagreed with the common sense within them).  

"Too many people don't try to distribute or discern truth.", Begnoche admits, hopefully recollecting his years at the head of the COLDNews.  Begnoche was the type of person who would put multiple articles in the paper during Sunshine Week (celebrating open government, the FOIA and the OMA), yet never question the obvious violations by the City of Ludington for nearly a decade and only question the citizen fighting to open things up.

When he sums things up, Begnoche claims "we have to find a way to unite around shared American values despite political differences."  I doubt Begnoche could actually define a list of good American virtues and values to start from or have the courage to admit which of the two political parties have actually snubbed, through policy and platform, many of those values we Americans have generally shared through the best years of our history.

Personally, recalling 9-11 is tough for me, that's one of the main reasons you see this printed on September 13th.  Unlike Begnoche, back when 9-11 was happening, I wasn't looking at making deadlines, rather I was a trained firefighter with the Ludington Fire Department.  I was trained under firefighter one at that point, pretty much capable of doing anything operational at fires and had all the equipment including what was called a PASS (Personal Alert Security System) alarm.

A rather simple to understand low-tech object, the PASS is a battery powered device that when turned on will sense whether it is being moved around.  After about 15 seconds of not moving they start making a little noise; if you've ever been around an active fire scene and noticed a chirping coming from a resting firefighter, you've probably seen them do an Elvis hip move to quiet the PASS alert.  For if they ignore it, it will start chirping at full blast.  

The safety feature should be obvious, that if you are knocked out or incapacitated at a scene, this device's alarm will alert others to your whereabouts.  Training makes it routine to activate these at a scene and to shift priorities to a fallen comrade when you hear the enhanced chirping begin.  In the process of having just learned the ropes in my first year, it made me understand the Hell on earth that the firefighters had to endure listening to the chirping of all of their fallen brethren's PASS alarms and the deeper Hell they had in the realization that they could not reach them and shut the infernal things off.

Any of those firefighters wandering through the ruins in a Stygian dusk would surely rather hear debate between political opposites and the president ranting about how bad the press is (and vice versa) than to hear that damn incessant chirping ever again that they weren't ever able to quiet that day.  Or likely since.  Thanks to all the heroes that perished that day, thanks and Godspeed to all who survived and know the meaning of heroism.

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Begnoche's error

Considers himself good guy 

While writing fake news.

True tribute goes to
Everyday unsung heroes
Unseen by many.

Two haiku comments

Tribute to metric wisdom

Of Confucius-san

Steve Begnoche thoughts

Divided, not united

'Twixt blather and bunk

Excellent article X and again Begnoche reveals just how ignorant he is. He is totally blind to what "his" press and political party are trying to do to this Country. I'm being kind when I say he's ignorant. He's more deceitful and conniving than ignorant. It's his paper that has kept area citizens in the dark regarding all the corruption, lies and secrecy that have been the hallmark of Ludington's political scene for years. A paper that earned a living by withholding information, a paper that refused to reveal the truth, a paper whose only concern was selling adds, a paper that continues to this day to aid and abet corruption that negatively affects Ludington's citizens.


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