[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Remembering Brothers To The Rescue

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Remembering Brothers To The Rescue

Certain events in one's life are significant as turning points, as mileposts, or as revelations that form a part of a change process. For me, when it comes to Cuba, February 24, 1996 is one of them.

I've always had a good dose of respect and admiration for my Cuban roots, even as a teenager and young adult, but my concerns in those years was much less about Cuban issues and politics and much more about where I was and where I was going.

My reaction to the February 24, 1996 shoot down of two Cessna aircraft in the Florida Straits by the Cuban government was one of sadness, but not in the way you would think. Yes, I was sad for the four people that died tragically that day, but my predominant feeling was that of anger toward Jose Basulto for what I believed was a certain lack of responsibility on his part for the safety of those young men. Basulto knew what he was doing, I reasoned, especially when he provoked a crazy and murderous regime by dropping leaflets over Havana a few weeks before. I'm not saying Basulto knew this was going to happen, but that he should have been more careful. I couldn't help but feel like "I told you so".

Those feelings lasted maybe a day or two. They were then replaced by bewilderment at the feelings of many in our community to the incident. Instead of a massive outpouring of sympathy for the families of the victims, most of them American citizens and Miami residents, the "I told you so" feelings lingered in certain sectors of the non-Cuban community. Where there wasn't this reaction, there was just a indifferent shrug of the shoulders, it seemed. We're not just talking about in the hours following the incident when emotions are raw, but days and weeks later a lot of people still felt as if those people got what they deserved. How could many in my community react so insensitively to the death of 4 Americans who did NOTHING wrong? It was then that my naiveté toward Cuban political issues began to be replaced by a greater awareness and involvement, and yes, a greater skepticism of certain people and agendas. It was the "End of the Innocence", as Don Henley would say.

This incident marked the beginning of this change inside of me, a transformation of sorts that would continue to mature in 2000 with the Elian Gonzalez fiasco, and culminated on 9/11.

As the years go by...as I drive by streets and parks named for the victims of that tragic day, I understand more and more what these people were set out to do. They were committed not to personal goals or other selfish motivations, but to help their Cuban brothers. They were even more committed to FREEDOM. A greater American cause or purpose can't be found anywhere.

Here are the names of the four who perished on that clear late February day in 1996:

Armando Alejandre, Jr.
Carlos Costa
Mario de la Peña
Pablo Morales

Don't ever forget those names. Even more so, don't forget what they did.

Babalu has details on a commemorative event today at FIU.

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8:48 PM, February 26, 2009  

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