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Original article found here.

Global marketing execs agree — America’s image is in the toilet. The cure? One presidential candidate has what it takes, they say, to save Brand USA.

By Jeff Yang.

There’s no way to put this delicately, so I won’t: America’s global image is in the crapper. Last year, the BBC World Service conducted a poll of over 26,000 individuals in the world’s 25 largest countries and found that more than 52 percent thought the U.S. had a “mostly negative” influence on the world. Fifty-three percent of respondents to a survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs felt America could “not be trusted.”

Which means that, on top of everything else it represents, the current presidential election is something like an ad agency review — a chance to put a set of potential stewards for “Brand America” through their paces, to see the creative and strategic directions in which they’d take our product.

What’s at stake is more than just popularity. As Keith Reinhard, chairman emeritus of the globe’s second-largest ad agency, DDB Worldwide, notes, “How we’re perceived in the world has profound implications. We rely on human intelligence to alert us to threats: We need friends willing to whisper in our ear that someone’s planning to blow up jetliners … Economically, the Commerce Department estimated that we’ve lost over $100 billion in tourism revenues since 2001. For every share point we lose in that sector, you’re talking about $12.3 billion and 150,000 jobs, gone! The bottom line is that we need a world that likes America.”

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Given the beating our image has taken during the last eight years, getting back to “like” is an uphill climb — but not an impossible one. Over the past six months, I’ve seen this process firsthand, as part of a team of researchers exploring the tarnishing of America’s “brand” in the global marketplace. The word from our network of immersed observers in 14 countries: Even as American politics and policies have become a lightning rod for global anger, America’s core underlying values retain their appeal. The problem is that, in the eyes of millions of people around the world, we’ve simply stopped living up to them.

“The virulent strain of anti-Americanism we’re seeing now can be ascribed directly to the fact that we’ve reneged on our promise to the world,” says Dick Martin, former executive vice president of public relations for AT&T, and author of the book “Rebuilding Brand America.” “That’s why it’s ultimately a branding problem. At its root, a brand is a promise. KFC is a brand that promises finger-lickin’-good chicken; America is a brand that promises life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But unlike KFC, we’re not delivering.”

“Brand America needs a relaunch,” says Reinhard. “And this year, this election, is the best opportunity we’re going to get.”

Convention holds that presidents need at least 100 days to find their footing, establish their policies, and shift the nation out of the previous administration’s inertia. But observers point out that because this cycle’s presidential contenders are the most cleanly packaged and clearly differentiated since Kennedy and Nixon, America’s makeover will begin even before inauguration. As soon as a winner is announced on Nov. 4, 2008, he or she will, for all intents and purposes, be Brand America.

So which of the candidates has a brand that best addresses the perceived deficits in our country brand?

Is it Brand Clinton, the name you can trust; familiar, experienced and rich with the mmm-mmm-good aroma of America’s last big boom? Or Brand Huckabee, whose folks ‘n’ faith message promises down-to-earth values combined with hands-to-heaven purity? Is it Brand McCain, tough enough to get it done, an off-road vehicle unafraid of both traffic and muck. Or, perhaps, Brand Obama — the think-different, just-do-it candidate who combines all-in-one packaging with big, streamlined ideas?

“Let’s look at what the world appreciates about us: Our youthful enthusiasm, our optimism, our diversity,” says DDB’s Reinhard. “And then, our negatives, which are very consistent across the world: No. 1, the perception that we are exploitative — we take what we want, and don’t give back in fair measure. Two, that we’re corrupt — we promote values that are not in concert with the social mores or religions of others. And three, that we’re arrogant: We’re self-absorbed, we’re loud, we’re rude.” To fix our nation brand, Reinhard suggests we need to steal a page from Johnny Mercer: “Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.”

Although his campaign has largely been written off as quixotic, Brand Huckabee has some unexpected merits, notably a certain self-deprecating humility that’s missing from the other candidates’ personas. “I was in Frankfurt a few weeks ago, at a panel about the U.S. elections hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce, and that day, the International Herald Tribune had run an article about Huckabee’s sense of humor, and about how it’s become such a part of his brand,” says Reinhard. “And even the Germans were acknowledging, when it comes to personal style, you have to give him full marks.”

Branding consultant Patricia Martin, author of “Renaissance Generation: The Rise of the Cultural Consumer,” agrees: “Huckabee is what I’d call a ‘compassion brand,'” she says. “He’s a man of the people. He laughs, and people laugh along. He makes people feel comfortable.” (On the other hand, notes Dick Martin, “Huckabee’s religious demeanor gives the world pause; it’s hard to underestimate the degree to which people outside of the U.S. are confused by our approach to religion. It bewilders people that more people believe in the Virgin Birth in the U.S. than in the theory of evolution.”)

The ability to soften the die-cast lines of pre-scripted identity, to engage with humor and spontaneity rather than reason and rhetoric, have only belatedly become a part of Brand Clinton — and, note commentators, perhaps too late and too halfheartedly to save her campaign. “Hillary built herself into an ‘anxiety brand,’ a brand that depends on uncertainty or fear to succeed; the whole appeal of familiarity and experience is rooted in this notion that the unknown is frightening,” says Patricia Martin. “And when it was clear that that wasn’t working, she was able to get some traction by exposing her emotions — by laying out a little compassion. But her brand was out there so early and already established so solidly that it hasn’t been enough to right the ship.”

And while Clinton’s aura of competence and professionalism (not to mention the global popularity of her husband) would smooth out some of the rough, clumsy edges of America’s current global image, her brand would inevitably feel more like a retread than the reinvention the world is hoping for. “Even the fact that Hillary is a woman isn’t going to be seen as a significant breakthrough,” says Harvard Business School professor John Quelch, author of “Greater Good: How Good Marketing Makes for Better Democracy. “Many countries have already elected and been led by women, so this is simply America playing catch-up rather than a statement of change in the cultural mind-set. There’s also that lurking suspicion overseas that, had she not married as she had, she wouldn’t have gotten as far as she has.”

Brand McCain is even more squarely planted in the “anxiety brand” space than Clinton: His straight-talking, muscular-contrarian persona (not to mention his shoot-from-the-lip rhetoric about a “hundred-year occupation” of Iraq) are designed to make him look strong, firm and unyielding in the face of challenge. The problem is that from abroad, “unyielding” looks a whole lot like “arrogant,” while “maverick” translates into “unilateralist,” both of which are fundamental sore points in the way America has presented itself to the world over the past eight years.

Being anointed Brand Bush’s heir via endorsements from both H.W. and W. only exacerbates global fears that McCain is the same-old, same-old candidate — accent on the “old.” “For McCain, age is a brand attribute he can’t control,” says Mark Newsome, senior vice president and CMO of marketing agency Chernoff Newman. “He’s in his 70s, and as much as that’s an asset as far as experience and wisdom is concerned, he can’t help being seen as the kind of status-quo patriarch that just isn’t going to play in 2008 like it did eight or 10 years ago — especially if he’s up against a 46-year-old opponent.”

Which brings us to the candidate that marketers universally agreed has the secret sauce that Brand America needs to regain its appeal.

“From Day One, Obama was talking about how we have to think outside of the Beltway box — how we need to enact positive change in a fresh way,” says Siegel + Gale’s Alan Siegel. “His brand is about uplift, it’s about humanity; he uses the pronoun ‘we’ so naturally. People knock him for style over substance, but the truth is that he just has a tremendous ability to cut through the noise. He’s distilled his brand proposition into a single theme, ‘authentic change,’ and it has resonated with people both here and abroad.”

While change — the notion of a break with the past — is central to Obama’s brand essence, the other values he incorporates are no less important. “Obama represents a lot of what America stands for, at its best: Diversity, opportunity, community,” says Dick Martin. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that when asked about his qualifications, he talks about being a community organizer; he’s emphasizing that his experience is in bringing people together. I think, strictly from the point of view of changing attitudes towards America around the world, electing him is the most powerful thing we could do. He’s the embodiment of the American dream. Having him as president would say to the rest of the world that America has renewed its promise.”

There’s another factor that Obama has in his favor, which no other candidate this cycle — or, for that matter, in American history — can lay claim to, and it might be summed up as “trade dress.” His name, his appearance, his parentage: All of these are factors that have an immediate, visceral impact, even to those who know nothing else about him. Pundit Andrew Sullivan, guesting on “The Colbert Report,” summed it up as follows: “Just show the face of Barack Obama on television to some teenager in Lahore, Pakistan, who has a vision of America that’s been determined by the Bush-Cheney years, and suddenly, more than any words, his opinion and views of this country will change.”

For Obama, this advantage is almost unassailable. Short of announcing Tiger Woods as a running mate, none of his rivals has a way to force a recalibration of America’s image through peripheral attributes alone. It’s a big reason why he’s captivated global attention, to an extent that Americans might not even be aware. Indeed, the very things that snipers from the right have used to cast doubt on Obama’s red-white-and-blue propers — his schoolboy years in Indonesia, his refusal to engage in acts of symbolic patriotism, his stated willingness to sit down and engage with enemy world leaders, even the Drudge-distributed image of Obama in native Somali garb — these are the things that have the world trembling with anticipation over an Obama victory in November.

“I was just in Doha, Qatar, for the Brookings Institution’s annual U.S.- Islamic World Forum, and one of the moderators asked the non-Americans in the audience, ‘If you could vote for one of the U.S. presidential candidates, who would you vote for?'” says Keith Reinhard. “The number of hands that shot up for Barack Obama far outnumbered those for anyone else. So in that part of the world, at least, there’s no question at all.”

And in other parts of the world as well. “In Germany, they’re fascinated with him, they call him ‘Der schwarze Kennedy,’ the ‘black Kennedy,'” says Dick Martin. “They feel he has the same aura about him.” In fact, just a few weeks ago, Germany’s leading newsmagazine Der Spiegel ran a cover feature on Obama, illustrated by a paired set of images — Barack on the left, JFK on the right — and asking whether America will “finally have the chance to be loved again.” The issue’s cover line raised the stakes to a new level: It read, simply, “The Messiah Factor.”

That’s because, in Europe, and in Asia, Latin America and Africa as well, the perception is that an Obama presidency represents the potential for catharsis after nearly a decade of frustration with the U.S. “Our brand has been hammered recently, but beneath the anger, there’s this underlying hope among people around the world that we can do better,” says Patricia Martin. “And we can. We reinvent ourselves. It’s what we’re known for: We’ve had more comebacks than Frank Sinatra. I think that’s why you have people in every country eating up every little turn in this election’s story. This election, the whole world is watching.”

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Larry Carroll made an interesting ranking of what seems to be TV’s All Time Best Finale…

here is how they go:

Cheers/NBC

Cheers“. After 11 breezy, brilliantly written seasons and 111 (!) Emmy nominations, everybody’s favorite neighborhood bar finally rang the bell for last call. Prodigal daughter Shelley Long returned one last time to play prissy Diane Chambers, who just might be the love of Sam Malone’s (Ted Danson) life after all. Still one of the highest-rated series finales of all time, “One for the Road” had Kirstie Alley’s Rebecca agreeing to pose as Sam’s wife, Woody (Woody Harrelson) ascending to the Boston City Council, Norm (George Wendt) getting a new job and Cliff (John Ratzenberger) earning a promotion; Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) … well … you already know what happened to him. Balancing the comedy and heartfelt emotion of the series one final time, Sam said goodbye to the regulars and then spied a shadowed man at the front door while trying to lock up. “Sorry, we’re closed,” Sam shouted out, then straightened a picture on the wall and headed into the back room forever. To paraphrase Hank Williams, it was enough to drop a tear in your beer.

Six Feet Under/HBO

Six Feet Under. If this one didn’t make you cry, then you were as dead as the multitude of characters offed at the end of the show. Keeping in line with the dark themes of the HBO series about a family of undertakers, “Everyone’s Waiting” concluded with a glimpse at the future deaths of all the main characters, set to a powerful musical sequence as Claire (Lauren Ambrose) drove away from them all. Much like life, it was meant to be as beautiful as it was tragic: The final episode also broke with the series tradition of starting each episode with a death, instead using a birth to invoke circle-of-life-like thoughts about the unavoidable beauty of it all.

M*A*S*H/CBS

M*A*S*H“. An astounding 77 percent of all TV viewers on Feb. 28, 1983, had the set tuned to “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” the final episode of one of TV’s most beloved shows. The two-and-a-half hour finale did more tying up than a cowboy at a calf-roping competition, beginning with Hawkeye’s (Alan Alda) trip to the mental hospital and going up through the bombing of the camp and Klinger’s decision to stay in Korea. The final moment, with B.J. (Mike Farrell) and Hawkeye’s final words and the “Goodbye” spelled out in stones, is still regarded as one of the most powerful moments in television drama. It was the greatest final impression one could make — until that flavor of friendship was quickly replaced by the bitter aftertaste of “After M*A*S*H.”

The Fugitive/ABC

The Fugitive. The series finale that invented the modern-day series finale, this 1967 wrap-up to the classic series set a ratings record that lasted decades, despite the objections of a studio head who thought a conclusion might kill syndication opportunities. After four years of running, Dr. Richard Kimble (David Janssen) finally caught up to the one-armed man, allowing audiences the rare opportunity to despise a handicapped person. Several generations later, Harrison Ford would renew America’s hatred of the crippled, while everything from “NYPD Blue” to “Sex and the City” would similarly continue their love affair with the concept of the “big goodbye” series finale

Arrested Development/FOX

Arrested Development“. The writers had three long seasons of imminent cancellation to ponder endings to the dozens of story lines that this critically acclaimed ratings dud juggled every week, and they didn’t disappoint. For sheer manic lunacy, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more hilarious, head-spinning 120 minutes of entertainment than the goodbye of the Bluth family. Appropriately enough, the series finale was actually four episodes that Fox wanted to purge itself of, scheduled opposite the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, no less. Still, the tiny audience that tuned in saw George Sr. cleared of criminal charges, Gob and teenager Ann’s secret relationship, several different relatives trying to hook up with each other, the origin of the Frozen Banana stand and Buster’s final battle with the killer loose seal. After a family appearance on “Mock Trial with Judge Reinhold” featuring the house band “William Hung and His Hung Jury,” Michael (Jason Bateman) delivered a touching, tear-filled speech upon the realization that he was going to be stuck with his crazy family for a long, long time. If only we were all so lucky.

Moonlighting/ABC

Moonlighting. Some great series finales come from a proper goodbye, and others arise out of last-minute necessity — as was the case with this late ’80s classic. Approximately two years after the writers stopped caring, audiences stopped watching and Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd stopped talking to each other, ABC abruptly cancelled the irreverent detective show. For one final time, the magic and creativity of the series returned: After a typical series setup offering a mystery to be solved, Maddie and David returned to the Blue Moon office to discover that all the furniture and props were being taken away. After a network executive informed them that the show had been cancelled, the disbelieving characters scampered frantically around the studio lot, confronting their no-longer-in-character co-stars and additional execs, who chastised them for losing the sexual chemistry that once made the show a success.

Roseanne/ABC

Roseanne. Any discussion of the gutsiest TV stars of all time has to include Roseanne Barr, a controversial and largely forgotten superstar who regularly gambled her enormous ratings on episodes about birth control, gay and lesbian relationships and other groundbreaking sitcom topics. Sure enough, Roseanne went out with a bang in 1997 for the two-parter “Into That Good Night,” which ended with a 15-minute monologue that had the star revealing that the last several seasons were actually a fictional story written by her character on the show. Explained away as the denial mechanism of the “real” Roseanne Conner, Barr told the audience that Dan had indeed died from his obesity-induced heart attack and that several other characters had also lived out very different “real” endings. Not exactly a hilarious conclusion to one of history’s greatest sitcoms, but you’ve gotta give a gal points for thinking outside the box.

Twin Peaks/Republic Pictures

Twin Peaks. It might be the only time David Lynch’s bizarre universe is compared with “Moonlighting,” but once again a show past its prime returned to brilliance under the duress of cancellation. Angry and jaded by Hollywood’s rejection of the drama it once embraced, Lynch returned to direct an insanely bleak second-half to the two episodes that were hurriedly combined for a finale “movie.” Fearlessly killing off a main character in practically every scene, Lynch seemed like a child determined to take his ball and go home if they wouldn’t play by his rules. Finally, the series creator took the character closest to audiences’ hearts (Kyle MacLachlan as Special Agent Cooper), cryptically split him into an evil doppelganger and then trapped him in hell (aka The Black Lodge) indefinitely. The last image Lynch gave his audience was a bloodied, babbling Cooper looking into a mirror, laughing maniacally while realizing his cruel final sentence. The episode was viewed by a tiny audience, yet remains one of the most fiercely noncommercial (and hard to find) TV episodes in the history of the medium

Newhart/Retna

Newhart. America made a national game out of guessing the conclusion to comedy mastermind Bob Newhart’s top-rated sitcom — and still, nobody guessed it. After eight years of life with the wacky residents of the Stratford Inn, Dick and Joanna watched helplessly while Japanese investors turned the town’s residents into millionaires. After the rural area was transformed into a golf resort and Larry’s cousins Darryl and Darryl screamed the only line they’d ever deliver, aimed at their new wives (“Quiet!”), a furious Dick opened the door to the inn and was struck in the head with a golf ball. When things went dark, the audience feared the worst — but that fear was quickly replaced by a comedic masterstroke. When a light turned on in a vaguely familiar bedroom, Newhart awakened to tell his wife that he had just had the weirdest dream. The wife was revealed to be Suzanne Pleshette from “The Bob Newhart Show,” lying next to him in the tacky ’70s bedroom from that hit show. It was all just a dream, she insisted, telling the characteristically flustered Newhart to go back to sleep.

The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson/Retna

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. OK, it’s cheating a little bit, but it’s impossible to discuss TV’s greatest send-offs without including the final days of history’s greatest talk show. Technically, “The Tonight Show” is still on the air, but millions of Jay Leno refugees will tell you that the magic left with Johnny Carson after he spent his final days on-air getting serenaded, smooched and sainted by everyone from Bette Midler to Robin Williams. After the enormous hype surrounding his retirement, Carson revealed that he had considered putting on a re-run as one last joke for his final night but that NBC had squashed the idea. So instead, he sat in front of what he called his “shabby” little set one final time and had a very personal, very quiet evening with the world. “The greatest accolade I think I received: G.E. named me ‘Employee of the Month,'” Carson revealed with a trademark twinkle in his eye. “God knows, that was a dream come true.” Carson fully retreated from the public eye after that evening, making our memories all the more powerful. Johnny was one of a kind, but his finale should serve as the template for future goodbyes to our most beloved entertainers.

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March 23, 1983

Barney B. Clark, the first recipient of an artificial heart, dies on this day. The Jarvick 7, an artificial heart made of polyurethane and aluminum, was designed by Dr. Robert Jarvick after years of tests. However, it was Clark, a 61-year-old retired dentist, who gave the Jarvick 7 its first real human trial. Clark successfully underwent a seven-and-a-half-hour transplant operation at the University of Utah Medical Center in December 1982. He survived for 112 days, finally succumbing on March 23, 1983, to complications caused by the implant.

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I received this video today…

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Friends – Six young people, on their own and struggling to survive in the real world, find the companionship, comfort and support they get from each other to be the perfect antidote to the pressures of life.

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ER – Michael Crichton has created a medical drama that chronicles life and death in a Chicago hospital emergency room. Each episode tells the tale of another day in the ER, from the exciting to the mundane, and the joyous to the heart-rending. Frenetic pacing, interwoven plot lines, and emotional roller-coastering is used to attempt to accurately depict the stressful environment found there. This show even portrays the plight of medical students in their quest to become physicians.

 

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Seinfeld – Jerry Seinfeld stars in this television comedy series as himself, a comedian. The premise of this sitcom is Jerry and his friends going through everyday life, discussing various quirky situations that we can all relate to (especially if we live in New York). The eccentric personalities of the offbeat characters who make up Jerry’s social circle contribute to the fun.

 

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I Love Lucy – Cuban Bandleader Ricky Ricardo would be happy if his wife Lucy would just be a housewife. Instead she tries constantly to perform at the Tropicana where he works, and make life comically frantic in the apartment building they share with landlords Fred and Ethel Mertz. The first major show to be put on film rather than kinescope.

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The Sopranos – An innovative look at the life of fictional Mafia Capo Tony Soprano, this serial is presented largely first person, but additional perspective is conveyed by the intimate conversations Tony has with his psychotherapist. We see Tony at work, at home, and in therapy. Moments of black comedy intersperse this aggressive, adult drama, with adult language, and extreme violence.

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The Simpsons – The Simpsons are a very politically incorrect family. Homer works with pride in a nuclear power plant run with more regard for profit that safety. His wife is Marge, a kind of supermom. They have three kids: Bart, an underachiever (“and proud of it”), Lisa (who is as serious and responsible as Bart isn’t), and Maggie.

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The Cosby Show – Long running popular comedy television series about the Huxtable family. Doctor Heathcliff Huxtable and Clair Huxtable, a happily married couple, are raising their children (Sondra, Denise, Theodore, Vanessa, and Rudy). The two oldest daughters eventually graduate from college and get married (Sondra to Elvin and Denise to Martin).

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The X-Files – This television series follows the adventures and lives of FBI agents investigating those cases that involve the paranormal or previously unsolved (especially by conventional means). FBI Special Agents Mulder, Scully, Doggett and Reyes work to uncover forces within the United States of America government that would violate people’s rights, alien creatures and monsters alike that attack and other mysteries.

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Buffy is sixteen years old and is the “chosen one” . She gets to kill vampires because it is her destiny to do so. She had a bad reputation at her old school in Los Angeles because she had burned the gym down. The principal at her new school at first rips up her records, and then tapes her records back together again. Buffy tries to explain that the gym at her old school had to be burned down because it was full of vampires! Buffy and her mom just want a fresh start in their new, suburban California home, where the good part of town is half a block away from the bad part of town. In her new high school, Buffy meets an eccentric librarian who knows that Buffy is the “chosen one”. At first, the librarian scares her away by showing her a book about vampires, but then she returns to the library, knowing that the librarian can help her out with fighting off vampires and other supernatural things.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Settled in the 24th century and 78 years after the adventures of the original crew of the starship Enterprise this new series is the long awaited successor to the original Star Trek series from the 1960’s. Under the command of Captain Jean-Luc Picard the all new Enterprise NCC 1701-D travels out to distant planets to seek out new life and to boldly go where no one has gone before.

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“If Everyone Cared” is the fourth single worldwide released from Nickelback’s All the Right Reasons, and the fifth and sixth single released in Australia and the U.S. respectively (“Animals” was only released in Australia and the U.S., and “Rockstar” only in the UK and U.S.).
The band worked on the video for it with director, Dori Oskowitz. The video for “If Everyone Cared” is not like most videos, or any other video the band has done. It begins with Nickelback in the studio playing the song. Scenes of this are intercut with images and videos of past social justice and human rights events, essentially when an individual “cared” and ended up changing the world. The people shown are Betty Williams, who led a march of 35,000 women to the gravesites of three Northern Irish children after witnessing their deaths, Bob Geldof starting up Live Aid, Peter Benenson igniting what would become known as Amnesty International, and Nelson Mandela leading South Africa to its first democratic election, (which would end the racist apartheid regime that had divided the country for 46 years). The video ends with a quote from Margaret Mead that reads “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

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The September 11, 2001 attacks (often referred to as 9/11) were a series of coordinated suicide attacks by al-Qaeda upon the United States.

On that morning, nineteen terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners. Each team of hijackers included a member who had undergone some pilot training. The hijackers intentionally crashed two of the airliners (American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175) into the World Trade Center in New York City, one plane into each tower (1 WTC and 2 WTC), resulting in the collapse of both buildings soon afterward and extensive damage to nearby buildings. The hijackers crashed a third airliner (American Airlines Flight 77) into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, near Washington, D.C. Passengers and members of the flight crew on the fourth aircraft (United Airlines Flight 93) attempted to retake control of their plane from the hijackers; that plane crashed into a field near the town of Shanksville in rural Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Aside from the 19 hijackers, 2,973 people died as an immediate result of the attacks, and the death of at least one person from lung disease was ruled by a medical examiner to be a result of exposure to WTC dust. Another 24 people are missing and presumed dead, bringing the total number of victims to 2,998 — most of whom were civilians.

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