Transcribe your podcast

My name is Dan Barry, and I've been a reporter and columnist at The New York Times since forever.


Today, I'm going to read a few stories by my colleague and friend Jim Dwyer, I knew Jim Dwyer before I knew him because I had read his columns over the years and I admired his writing and his commitment to justice.


Jim's columns often focused on the every person he made a name for himself by writing exclusively about the subways.


He wrote about the people who worked for the subway system, who rode the subways, and he understood more than anyone else how the subways connected the city.


He would tweak the noses of the powerful, whether it was Mayor Ed Koch, Mayor Dinkins, Mayor Giuliani, Mayor de Blasio, it didn't matter.


And in 1995, Jim won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary for his columns about New York City. The columns at their best were prose poems. You could smell the apartment or the tenement. You could smell the subway. You could you were there.


Jim and I had several connections, for one thing, we were both narrow backs, which means that we were the children of Irish immigrants and the term which is derogatory to some people means that you do not have the shoulders as broad as your parents or the people that were back in Ireland that you weren't a strong.


Over the years, we would sit in the cafeteria and chat, I would always approach him and he would say Daniel and I would say James, and we would sit down and commiserate about the inner politics at The New York Times or about the news of the day in New York City.


And often we would talk about Ireland. He did a pretty good county Kerry accent or broke, I never really tried or he sounded silly.


Jim died earlier this month after a very difficult. Battle with cancer. He was 63 years old, and it seems like I've known him forever.


I was thinking even this morning about calling him about something. Yeah, I'm going to miss. Now, I'm going to read a piece by Jim that was written. About a month after 9/11, and it appeared in a section that was dedicated to the reporting that followed the terrorist attack is called Fighting for Life, 50 floors, up with one tool and ingenuity.


Now, memories orbit around small things. None of the other window washers liked his old green bucket, but Jan Dentzer, who worked inside One World Trade Center, found its rectangular mouth perfect for dipping and wetting his squeegee in one motion. So on the morning of the 11th, as he waited at the forty fourth floor sky lobby to connect with elevators for higher floors, bucket and squeegee dangled from the end of his arm.


The time was eight forty seven with five other men, Shivam IA, John Piskorski, George Phoenix, Colin Richardson and another man whose identity could not be learned. Mr. Dempster boarded car sixty nine a. an express elevator that stopped and floors 67 through 74. The car rose, but before it reached its first landing, we felt a muted thud, Mr. Eyer said. The building shook, the elevator swung from side to side like a pendulum. Then it plunged in the car, someone punched an emergency stop button at that moment, 848 a.m., one World Trade Center had entered the final 100 minutes of its existence.


No one knew the clock was running, least of all the men trapped inside cars. Sixty nine a they were cut off 500 feet in the sky as if they had been trapped 500 feet underwater. They did not know their lives would depend on a simple tool after 10 minutes. A live voice delivered a blunt message over the intercom. There had been an explosion. Then the intercom went silent. Smoke seeped into the elevator cabin. One man cursed skyscrapers, Mr.


Phoenix, the tallest, a Port Authority engineer, poked for a sealing hatch. Others pried apart the car doors, propping them open with the long wooden handle of Mr. Dempster's squeegee. There was no exit. They faced a wall stenciled with the number 50, that particular elevator bank did not serve the fiftieth floor, so there was no need for an opening to escape. They would have to make one themselves. Mr. Dempster felt the wall sheet rock, having worked in construction in his early days as a Polish immigrant, he knew that it could be cut with a sharp knife.


No one had a knife from his bucket, Mr. Dempster drew his squeegee.


He slid its metal edge against the wall, back and forth, over and over. He was spilled by the other men against the smoke. They breathe through handkerchiefs dampened in a container of milk Mr. Phoenix had just bought. Sheetrock comes in panels about one inch thick, Mr. Dempster recalled. They cut an inch than two inches. Mr. Dempster's hand eight.


As he carved into the third panel, his hands shook. He fumbled the squeegee at it, dropped down the shaft. He had one two left, a short metal squeegee handle that carried on with fists, feet and handle cutting in a regular rectangle about 12 by 18 inches. Finally, they hit a layer of white tiles, a bathroom. They broke the tiles. One by one, the men squirmed through the opening headfirst sideways, popping onto the floor near a sink, Mr.


Dempster turned back. I said, pass my bucket out, he recalled. By then, about nine thirty, the fiftieth floor was already deserted, except for firefighters astonished to see the six men emerge. I think it was engine company five, Mr. Ayers said. They hustled us to the staircase. On the excruciating Single-file descent through the smoke, someone teased Mr. Dempster about bringing his bucket. The company might not order me another one, he replied. At the 15th floor, Mr.


Eyer said, we heard a thunderous metallic roar. I thought our lives had truly ended then. The south tower was collapsing, it was nine fifty nine, Mr. Dempster dropped his bucket. The firefighters shouted to hurry. At 23 minutes past 10, they burst onto the street, ran for phones, sipped oxygen, and five minutes later fled as the north tower collapsed. Their escape had taken 95 of the 100 minutes. It took up to one and a half minutes to clear each floor longer at the lower levels.


Mr Eyer, an engineer with the Port Authority, said if the elevator had stopped at the 16th floor instead of the fiftieth, we would have been five minutes too late. And that man with the squeegee, he was like our guardian angel. Since that day, Mr. Dempster has stayed home with his wife and children, his piece together the faces of the missing with the men and women he knew when the stations of his old life, the security guard at the Japanese bank on the third floor, used to let them in at six thirty.


The people at Carr Futures on Ninety-two, the head of the Port Authority. Their faces keep him awake at night, he says. His hands, the one that held the squeegee and the other that carried the bucket shake with absents.


Now, I'm going to read a column by Jim about a police shooting in 1973 of a 10 year old boy named Clifford Glover. Jim wrote the column in twenty fifteen after another police shooting in South Carolina, that of a man named Walter Scott. It's called a police shot to a boy's back in Queens, echoing since 1973. It was 1973, long before anyone could imagine hastag declarations of solidarity and protest the kind of message to the world that today might read.


Hashtag I am Clifford Glover in the 4th grade. No one could pull out a phone to make a video of Clifford Glover, a 10 year old running from a plain clothes police officer with a gun who had just jumped out of a white Buick Skylark in Jamaica, Queens, on a spring morning in 1973. I am sure a camera would have helped, but the ballistics were clear. Albert, Gaudily, a former Queens prosecutor, said this week the bullet entered his lower back and came out at the top of his chest.


He was shot T-square in the back with his body leaning forward. He was running away.


That bullet killed Clifford Glover. Trajectory through a family, a neighborhood, a generation can be traced to this day and injuries that never healed in a story with no final word.


When a black man named Walter Scott was shot by a white police officer in North Charleston, South Carolina, on April 4th, a cell phone video made by a passer by showed that Mr. Scott was also running away when he was killed and that he was not, as the police officer claimed, carrying a police taser with all this killing and stuff, said, pulling Almstead, a sister of the dead boy, they need to go back to Cliffy Glover.


Clifford, a black boy, had been shot by Officer Thomas Shey, a white man who said he had tried to question him and his stepfather because they fit the descriptions of cab robbers. They ran. The officer said he fired when Clifford In-flight pointed a gun at him, which the mortally injured boy had then managed to toss or hand to his stepfather. In the hours and days that followed the shooting, armies of investigators scoured the streets and sewers, poured over court records and arrived without warrants to search the homes of Clifford's family and relatives.


Guys were trying to help Shay and coming up with all kinds of stuff, said Mr. Godlee, who was the chief homicide prosecutor in Queens at the time. Someone showed up with a starter's pistol, but as soon as he pressed them on it, they folded. There was no gun. People in Jamaica rose in protest. The streets were blocked with heavy construction equipment owned by a black contractor.


Mr. Shay became the first police officer in nearly 50 years to be charged with committing murder while on duty.


She says that the kid turned and appeared to have a gun, Mr. Goodley said that's what got him indicted. The ballistics made Shay a liar. But not apparently a murderer, at least in the eyes of the jury of 11 white men and one black woman who found him not guilty, afterward, many of the jurors joined Mr. Schey and his lawyers at a Queens Boulevard restaurant to celebrate. They told reporters it was possible Mr. Shea had been telling the truth about seeing a gun that same day.


Word of the verdict reached a baseball field on the grounds of the South Jamaica houses known locally as the 40 projects.


Eric Adams, who was then a 13 year old from the neighborhood, was waiting to bat. We were playing a Long Island team that happened to be all white, said Mr. Adams, who became a police officer and is now the Brooklyn borough president. When the news came out, about 200 people emerged on the field. They just took the baseball bats and started beating the white players chanting Shea got away.


Later, Mr. Shay would be fired despite a rally by police officers and the pleas of his lawyer, Jacob Sarraf, who said his client was needed on the force, quote, to protect us from the animals who roam the streets of New York and quote, The Long Island baseball team had come to Queens as part of an interracial inter neighborhood thing.


Mr. Adams said it was their first visit.


The Jamaica team tried to stop the assault, but could not.


That was all the outrage, he said, adding that because of what happened, a lot of our guys quit. The team never played baseball again for his generation of black boys and girls, Mr. Adams said the verdict brought a lot of despair. The year after Clifford Glover died, the number of shots fired by officers declined by nearly half. In 2013, the number of shots fired was 248, the fewest since the police department began keeping detailed records in 1971 at the peak in 1972.


Officers fired two thousand five hundred ten bullets. Because Mr. Shay had spoken freely with his superiors, the largest police union began a campaign urging its members not to talk after shooting until a union lawyer had arrived. For Cliffords family, his death changed everything. They wrote that we were poor Darling Almstead, a younger sister, said this week as she and three other siblings, Kenneth, Pauline and Patricia Almstead, describe the Housefull this week, the family may not have had much money, but before Cliffords killing, it was sound d'Orleans father and Almstead, who was Cliffords stepfather, went to work every morning at a junkyard.


The family had dinner each night at the same time around. One table is, Almstead said, then watched cowboy shows on television. On summer weekends, neighborhood children feasted in the backyard on watermelon, laid out on a door covered by a sheet that rested on two clean garbage cans at Almstead, and his brothers enjoyed cigars and burgers. My father taught us structure, Darlene Almstead said she had to make beds, one brother had to clean the yard and bring out the garbage.


Clifford, a fourth grader at public school, 40, went with his stepfather on weekends to the junkyard carrying his own little wrench.


On the morning of April 20th, 1973, a Saturday at Almstead woke Clifford before dawn so they could be at the yard to move cranes into place for a delivery. They walked a few blocks along New York Boulevard, known today as Guy or Brewer Boulevard, when an unmarked car pulled alongside them. Mr. Almstead carrying wages that he had been paid the day before, said he and Clifford ran afraid that they were going to be robbed. Hearing shots, he flagged down a patrol car, not realizing that Clifford had been felled.


Mr. Shea testified that he did not realize that Clifford, who stood just five feet tall and weighed less than 100 pounds, was a child. After the shooting, prosecutors said Mr. Shea's partner, Walter Scott, was recorded on a radio transmission saying, die you little, adding an expletive. Mr. Scott denied it was his voice, Clifford's death sent his mother, Louise Glover, into a tailspin. My mother turned on my father. Did you have a gun?


They said you had a gun. Darlene Almstead said it caused them to break up. My mother lost her mind. The family received a settlement from New York City that, in the memory of the children, came to about 50000 dollars, most of which the mother lent to local churches but never got back. My mother didn't want no one to know when she was going outside, Miss said. She always used the back door is, Almstead recalled, sleeping nights on chairs and hospital emergency rooms while her mother was being treated and living off restaurant handouts.


She was going to pay this guy to board up the house and she would pay him to bring the food to us, she said. The children went to foster care and group homes. One brother was in a psychiatric institution for about 10 years. Her mother, who had diabetes, died in 1990 at age 54 at Almstead, died in 2005 at 83. They put guns on him. They said he had guns at work at home. Kenneth Almstead said to demonize him would help Shays story.


Mr. Shea, who moved out of the state after his marriage broke up, could not be reached. I've lost it all, he told the author, Thomas Howser, whose 1980 book, The Trial of Patrolman Thomas Shea, is a comprehensive account of the episode. The defense lawyer, Mr. Zaroff, said a video would have changed nothing. The case was resolved as a result of a trial, he said. For Mr. Adams, the quick termination of the South Carolina police officer in the shooting this month of Walter Scott was a positive step.


That mayor said, you know what, it is just gone too far, Mr. Adams said the pathway of Sheas bullet physically stopped when it hit Clifford Glover, but the emotional pathway probably still continues to this day. This was recorded by The New York Times special thanks to Dan Barry.