COVID19 Is Real

Are you being safe in the height of this Coronavirus pandemic? Are you staying home?
I know a lot of us are getting antsy to get out of our homes and back to normalcy, but we need to remain diligent.

It has been since March 23rd that States officially started implementing “Stay at home” orders.

stay-at-home-orders-png-1586214161

That’s 37 days for; California, Oregon, Washington, Louisiana, Illinois, Ohio, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Some living in New York City will tell you they have been home for 47 days or more.

As of April 20, there are 42 States asking their citizens to not go out in public unless they absolutely have to. There are a handful of other States were they are utilizing the directive in only a portion their territories.

Now a number of States are looking to reopen as early as May 1st due to public pressure on Governors to get their economies rolling again.

essential+no+clock

With all of that said, there are a number of businesses deemed “essential” that may have been better suited to shut down for a period of time.

One of those is the Airline industry. International flights have been basically shut down but not domestic flights. At the current rate, airlines are losing $60 to $100 million per day.

I love working and appreciate the fact that I still can. I love helping people and many passengers are trying to get home to help ailing parents or loved ones. I just hope and pray that the airlines don’t crash and burn into bankruptcy in the process.

Many of the airlines are applying now for the stimulus money the Federal Government is offering. The sad reality is that some of them won’t survive even with the money Uncle Sam gives them.

Some financial experts say it will take at least a year and a half for the travel industry to get back to normal. I hope and pray we see an immediate pick up as States start to reopen next week.

At Piedmont Airlines in Charlotte, NC we have seen a very large drop off of passengers on flights. Current payloads are averaging about 1,600 passengers per day.

Charlotte-Douglas International is ranked as the tenth busiest airport in the United States. In peak travel seasons we board nearly 24,000 passengers every day. That is about 700 flights every day. We’re busy.

96174-1-hartsfield-jackson-atlanta-international-airport

By comparison, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International is ranked the busiest airport in the world. With 2,600 flights per day they are down to 1,200. They have an estimated 104 million people come through their airport every year. That’s hard to imagine.

Even with 1,600 passengers a day coming through our airport that is still a lot of exposure to potential contamination. Boarding only five to ten passengers on a flight, I am still interacting with 20 to 40 passengers each day.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has estimated that 25 to 50 percent of cases may be asymptomatic. If that is true I may be exposed to a couple dozen contaminated people that are not showing symptoms. This does not include my coworkers.

The cruel reality is that I may be symptomatic and not realize it. That is true for any of us.
Stay Safe Logo
This is a real concern. How many are you exposing yourself too.

Airline workers are purposely placing themselves in harms way to insure people can get home to check on loved ones. If you do not have to fly right now, please stay home.

Some States are now adopting a wear masks in public ordinance to help the continued mitigation of the virus.

The airlines are trying to follow suit. This is a good thing.

As employees we have been asking for masks, hand sanitizer and alcohol wipes for weeks. Due to the worldwide demand the airlines have not been able to provide them until this past week. Note: Alcohol wipes are still not being delivered.

Because of the demand people are making their own masks.

90771

One local woman has been making masks in her living room in exchange for a donation to the Humane Society. She heard our need and provided us a couple dozen masks. Thanks Ila.

A friend of mine posted the reality of this pandemic and how it can decimate families.

5219A

This is real folks.

Please be smart. Be careful. Be safe.

COVID19 at 30K Feet

I have been working for Piedmont Airlines in Charlotte, NC for almost three years now. Starting on the Ramp throwing bags and working in Utilities cleaning planes, I moved inside over a year ago boarding passengers as a Gate Agent.

I have always taken pride in my work, but not until the outbreak of the Coronavirus have I had as deep an appreciation for my coworkers as I do today.

There is a lot of talk about health workers being on the front lines of this battle and a lot of attention given to grocery store and supply chain employees that are putting themselves in harm’s way while doing their jobs. I agree that all of these people are heroes. They are running into the fire similar to the way that Firefighters and Law Enforcement did during 9-11 in 2001.

I write this today to highlight the completely overlooked heroes working in the Aviation industry. We need to especially recognize all of the people working in airports all over the world.

With the Airlines being classified as an “Essential Business” it appears that flights are not going to stop.

Air Traffic Is Down

The CDC updated their Global COVID-19 Pandemic Notice this past week to include a Level 3 Warning to avoid non-essential travel. This is a good thing.

I work at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport (CLT) which is the 12th busiest airports in the United States based on passengers boarding on a daily basis. CLT has averaged more than 20K passengers a day since 2012. The past week has averaged less than 2,000 passengers.

Our airport looks and feels like a ghost town. This is also being experienced in airports all over the Country and around the world.

I have seen flights go out with less than 10 people on board smaller aircraft that accommodate from 50 to 75 passengers. Mainline flights have much larger planes and their booking aren’t any better. Some have flown with one passenger and others with only the crew. One Pilot shared with me this week that he worked a flight to Boston, MA that was empty. That flight then went on to Hartford, CT empty.

Most of the passengers on these flights seem to be crew members being moved into position to work return flights or to work flights going to other stations. Some of these flights are then canceled leaving crews stranded. One crew last week was sent to Nashville, TN and the shuttle service was not running so they had to pay for an Uber service to get to their hotel. Their returned flight was canceled the next morning. They had to scramble to find a flight home later in the day.

On Regional flights, the crews are made up of two pilots (a Captain and a First Officer) and one or two Flight Attendants.

The pilots are working on the flight deck with a door that isolates them from the passengers. They are not completely safe since they are seated well within the recommended six feet from each other for proper social distancing.

The Flight Attendants are quite a different story. They are working directly with the passengers providing them assistance throughout the flight.

One Bag’s Journey

There is a very large population of workers at every airport in the world. It requires everyone from cleaners to caterers to bag runners to ramp personnel to Gate Agents before the first passenger gets on board. All of these personnel can come into contact with the Coronavirus. Some of these workers are more likely to be infected than others.

For example; if an infected passenger comes to any airport with a bag to be checked, that bag’s handle and cover can be infected. That bag can come in contact with the Porter at curbside service or a Ticket Agent at the counter when the passenger checks in.

That bag once checked in goes to the bag room where bag runners sort the bags and another runner runs it to the proper flight. This one bag may come in contact with three or more bag runners.

Once at the plane the bag is loaded into the cargo bin by Ramp Agents. One of these Agents puts the bag on a belt loader while the other Agent is in the bin stacking the bag with other bags.

So in that short journey this one contaminated bag has potentially infected five people (1 Porter or Ticket Agent, 2 Bag Runners, and 2 Ramp Agents)

That bag is now stacked with a number of other bags, flown to its destination and then handled by another half a dozen workers to get the bag to its next flight or to baggage claim. That one bag has now potentially infected nearly a dozen people. This does not take into account the virus transferring from one bag to another bag.

Passenger’s Journey

Quite a few passengers bring carry-on bags that are screened by TSA agents in Security Check Points. Sometimes they have to open bags for inspection which exposes them through contact with zippers and clothes and other personal items. These TSA Agents are heroes too.

That same passenger can contaminate a number of personnel by exchanging money with Porters and restaurant workers before getting to their gate. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. (Q&A on coronavirus COVID19)

That same passenger then has their Boarding Pass either on their phone or a paper version. As a Gate Agent we ask passengers to scan their boarding pass themselves, but with most people flying once a year (or for the first time) they are hesitant and cannot comprehend how to do it.

With the time limitations we have to board passengers it requires we keep them moving. We may have to scan the pass for them meaning we come in contact with their phone or paper tickets. You’d be amazed how many times I have seen people in line holding their boarding pass in their mouth while trying to get their personal belongings together. Talking about cell phones and personal hygiene is another story for another day.

Why are people flying?

So even with warnings and the death toll continuing to rise, why are people flying? There are legitimate reasons why people are flying and legitimate reasons why the airlines are considered essential.

For one, I have met a number of people this past week traveling to take care of family members.

One man was heading to Myrtle Beach, SC from Greensboro, NC to help his 95 year old father. His father earlier in the day found out that one of his home nurses quit because fear of the virus overcame her.

Another gentleman was going to take care of his 98 year old parents whose nurse was just diagnosed positive for COVID19.

In both of these cases these men could probably have driven, but with airfares way down it made more sense for them to not spend five or six hours in a car when they could be by their parents’ side within an hour or two.

On the flip side of this there have been a number of passengers going from their homes in one State to another State. How responsible this is depends on who you talk to. One gentleman shared with me, “At $77 each way I can go see my grand kids more often.”

Federal Stimulus

In defense of the airlines, a part of the $50 billion stimulus deal requires airlines to continue flying to cities they had scheduled before March 1st, according to USA Today. This is why we are seeing empty flights every single day.

As a way to recover some of the loss on these empty flights some Airlines are offering very low rates.  Spirit Airlines is offering $45 each way on almost all of their flights starting May 1st through June 10th.

Right now you can book a flight from Charlotte, NC to Denver, CO for $47 round trip on United and American Airlines. Or you can book a round trip fare to Miami, FL for $55. Yet the question begs to be asked, “At what point should the airlines be held responsible for exposure to passengers and employees?”

Are Airline employees being protected?

Yes, if you look at jobs being protected. There are Voluntary Leave packages and Early Retirements being offered. The Voluntary Leave packages are only extending a fraction of the current hours being worked, but the Federal Stimulus is helping the airlines assure jobs are not going away.

No, if you look at protective gear. A large part of that is due to lack of supplies. Masks are virtually impossible to locate. American Airlines is telling their front line employees that we are welcomed to wear masks and gloves, but we need to purchase them ourselves. They are providing hand sanitizer and wipes at the gates, but Flight Attendants are being provided iodine swabs in place of alcohol wipes.

As a sidebar, it amazes me that we have to lock up the limited supply of hand sanitizer we have because passengers are stealing them. I saw one coworker filling her small bottle from the wall dispenser in a break room. It is sad that people are just looking out for themselves. A large part of that is fear and people will do what they feel they have to do to survive.

On another note, Crew members are now finding themselves in hotels overnight without food. Restaurants are not open. Grub Hub and Uber Eats are not delivering by the time they get settled into their rooms. And drive-through establishments do not allow them to walk up to the drive up window. Most crews prepare their own food, but when traveling four to five days every week those meals don’t always last for more than a couple of days.

If You Have To Fly

If you do not have an essential reason to fly, please do not put yourself or anyone else in danger of contracting this deadly virus. The reality is that there are airport employees now being tested positive for COVID19.

According to CNN, Flight Attendant Paul Frishkorn in Philadelphia died earlier this week after testing positive and Flight Attendant James Rhoades is fighting for his life in North Carolina. I know of three coworkers in Charlotte that have tested positive. Thank God they are recovering.

If you have to fly to take care of family members or for any other legitimate reason, please be careful to not put yourself in a vulnerable position. This includes not huddling in groups while boarding and give everyone adequate space. Wash your hands and face regularly.

Please consider extending an encouraging word to airport employees for putting their health and their families’ lives in danger. These front line workers are heroes.

When boarding please be prepared to scan your own boarding pass which means you will want to have all of your belongings put away in your one carry on and one personal item.

Once on board think about sharing one of your alcohol wipes and maybe an extra mask with each Flight Attendant and thank them for their courage to be on the front lines insuring you get to where you are going.

SAFE travels everyone and please remember, the more you can wash your hands, the better you can protect yourself and others.

“Stay At Home”

This is a crazy time with the majority of States and County governments implementing “Stay At Home” orders. This makes sense to me since the goal is to mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus COVID19 strand that has killed more than 101 thousand people to-date with another 50 thousand in critical condition worldwide. (https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/)

It is clear that this virus doesn’t play and we are just rolling the dice if we think we won’t get it. We all need to practice the CDC guidelines to help save lives.

 

Driving in Ireland

There are more benefits than draw backs to driving in Ireland.

Driving on the opposite side of the street from what we are used to is nerve wrecking.

What we consider a one way street, Irish people will happily use as a two way road, and they drive fast.

The town streets are narrow and many of the roads in the outlying countryside are so tight you have to pull into the bushes or back out to an intersection or open field.

The countryside is beautiful. There are rolling green hills everywhere you look filled with sheep and cattle.

And the coastline is breathtaking.

There is greater freedom to see the country with a rental and much cheaper than hiring a private driver or paying for tours.

Gasoline is expensive compared to our gas prices at home. It is priced by the liter so be prepared to spend closer to $70 per tank verses $50.

If you can get a vehicle that runs on diesel you will save some money.

Fuel costs in Ireland

https://www.theaa.ie/aa/motoring-advice/petrol-prices.aspx

In the five days we drove 1,650 kilometers (or 1,025 miles). We spent €100 on diesel fuel ($110).

After five days of driving I felt better about it and I was able to see more of the surroundings rather than focusing so hard to stay in my lane.

Tips

Here are some things to consider when renting a car.

> Know that automatics are scarce.

Upgrades will be offered because most of the cars in Ireland are manual. Keep in mind that your upgrade will most likely be a larger vehicle which can make the tight roads even tighter.

> If you are offered an upgrade on your rental consider not taking it. Especially if the vehicle is a full size SUV.

Some of the countryside has very tight roads and a lot of rolling hills which is a little scary when you cannot see who is coming over the hilltop.

> Consider using your Google Maps app instead of paying for the rentals’ GPS or Garmen.

Their maps are not always updated. Even when they say they are.

You may want to update your app on your phone to include the latest maps before you leave the States.

> Don’t worry about driving slow. The Irish are used to foreigners’ timid driving.

> Consider picking up your rental outside of the larger cities like Dublin.

Driving in the major cities is a greater challenge due to the obvious… more traffic.

There are roundabouts everywhere in Ireland. Especially in the cities where you may have five or six exits off a roundabout.

Have fun and enjoy the adventure.

Additional reading

https://shershegoes.com/renting-a-car-in-ireland/

In Search of Michael E. – Part 4

I was really struggling letting go of the opportunity to see the real property since we came so far.

I decided to call Josie and she was so gracious and accommodating.

We meet Josie back at the Church on our way out of town.

The Sexton Farm

She led us to the Sexton farm about seven kilometers away which covers 32 acres in Aghamore Upper, County Longford Ireland

Josie was born in the old house and moved into the new house in 1975. It was only she and her parents in the new house then. She has never lived anywhere else and has always been single.

Josie seldom goes down to the old house these days. She said to me, “Ya gonna need ya boots in all the muck Michael Edward.”

The property has always had cattle, calves and sheep on it and some of the acreage is now rented by a cattle farmer.

Who knows? There is a good chance that James and his father Patt were Cattle Farmers or Ranchers (or Cowboys as we call them in the States).

A Hard Life

Most of Patt’s life and all of James’ life were living on the farm as farmers or laborers. They worked for the landowner in exchange for a roof over their heads and food to feed their families.

Here is a sample of what a farmer or a Laborer’s house may have looked like in the 17 and early 18 hundreds.

Bothan Scóir, was a typical one-roomed house of a landless laborer who worked for a local landlord. Many of these houses, with their thatched roofs, disappeared along with their tenants during the Great Irish Famine.

Maybe that’s why Michael E made his way to America in 1891 at just 18 years old. He just didn’t see himself living the farmer’s life.

(Stayed tuned. There’s more to come.)

In Search of Michael E – Part 3

Today we headed into Longford Township to meet with local Historian Martin Morris.

Using the free ancestry website www.IrishGenealogy.ie Martin was very helpful pulling up civil records. He was also able to identify the Parish and Cemetery where my great-great grandfather James was buried.

Finding the cemetery

Using a hand drawn map of the cemetery we were able to locate James Sexton (1831-1913) as plot #296.

On the sides of James’ headstone was his oldest son Bernard (1864-1950) and his grandson James (1924-1996).

Meeting Josie

This is a classic divine appointment.

After visiting St. Colmcille Catholic Church and Cemetery in Aghnacliffe, County Longford we headed up the hill toward Dunbeggan in search of locals that might give us some insights and possibly identify distant relatives still living in the area.

At the top of the hill were two pubs and a fast food place.

I asked the two women behind the counter and a customer in the restaurant if they could point us in the right direction to Aghamore Upper.

The customer, a petite woman named Patricia Boyle, immediately chimed in and asked why Aghamore Upper?

We told her of our journey and and as God would have it she knew Josephine Sexton who lives in Aghamore Upper. “In fact,” she said with her thick Gaelic brogue, “she goes to church right down the way here. Let me go to the church and point her out for ya.

So she grabbed her food and before we knew it she was in her car and off she went. We caught up to her in front of St. Colmcille Catholic Church (were we just came from) and she scurried into the church where there with eight or ten older folks praying the Rosary.

As she search for Josephine she realized she wasn’t there yet. She suggested we wait since the Mass was starting at “half past 7.

20 minutes later, A sweet older woman with glasses came walking up the drive to the church. Patricia described her perfectly.

Within five minutes she tells me, “Call me Josie!” Quickly followed by. “Tell me. Who are ya now?

As it turns out, Josephine Sexton’s great-grandfather is James (born in 1831).

This makes us Second Cousins one removed. I think?

Josie shared with us that she was the only Sexton still living on the Aghamore Upper property and the original house could not be reached.

Since she was going to Mass we let her go thinking this was the end of our time together and bid our farewells.

We went up the hill toward Aghamore Upper to where we guessed the property might be. We knew we were close.

(Continue on to In Search of Michael E – Part 4

In Search of Michael E – Part 2

We have had a productive couple of days in Dublin and enjoying the Republic of Ireland’s bustling capital.

Today we head Northeast of Dublin to Longford where we will continue our search for Michael E.

My wife, Lisa, and I are heading to Aghamore Upper in County Longford hoping we find the property and cemetery for James & Bridget Lee (Michael E’s parents).

Finding exact locations, addresses or coordinates have been a challenge. We are getting closer.

It seems a part of our journey is realizing that the Irish are great story tellers and the stories are not always factual. It depends on what story the story teller heard or how much Guinness they’ve consumed when telling the story.

Record keeping is similar and sketchy due to merged family names and terrible penmanship. Again, it may be the Guinness.

From what we have gathered so far, it appears that Michael E’s grandfather may have been Patt who worked the farm in Aghamore Upper before his son James bought a portion of it. Any clarity on that will be welcomed. All we have to this point is Lot 14B on a Valuation map.

From County Longford we plan to head southwest through County Roscommon. Somewhere in this region is the home of Mary Gallagher who Michael Edward Sexton married in Lower Manhattan years later.

The biggest challenge thus far is identifying where to find accurate records; properties, cemeteries, church name and locations for marriages and baptisms, etc.

From Roscommon we head to Cobh (formerly Queenstown) to see what sailing records we can find. We are assuming that Mary Gallagher (who sailed in 1888) and Michael Edward (1891) went to Castle Gardens in NY from Queenstown rather than from Galway.

Queenstown is where the majority of journeys to America began for millions of Irish men and women.

(Continue on to In Search of Michael E – Part 3)

As we head out of Dublin later this morning, please send up any prayers since this will be my first time driving on the left side of the road. Pray for the others on the road (and sidewalks) as well

In Search of Michael E

While embarking on a journey to Ireland in search of my family’s heritage I am reminded how lucky and blessed we are to live in the United States of America.

We are rich beyond compare. Especially when we reflect on what our forefathers had to endure to insure our freedom. We are free because of their bravery.

In researching the plight of Ireland and the conditions they worked and lived in, it is amazing we can simply get on a plane to fly to the Old Country.

When our Irish grandparents and great grandparents came to the New World it was a minimum seven day voyage.

SS Alaska

On the sailing vessels pre-dating the great steamers it was a three month adventure across the Atlantic.

I am Michael Edward Sexton (born in 1956). Son of Robert William (1923-1994) of the Bronx and grandson of James Jerome (1898-1975) of the Bronx.

James Jerome was the first generation Irish-American in our lineage.

His father was Michael Edward (1873-1940) who came to America in 1891 on a journey from Ireland.

At just 17 years old he had to be eager for a new life in the new world where millions of Irishmen emigrated to. The journey from the northern hills of Ireland to the docks of Queenstown must have taken him weeks or possibly months to find the ships heading to America.

From what we have been able to gather through genealogical research Michael E was a laborer and son of a farmer in County Longford.

We also know that Michael E married an Irish girl he met in Lower Manhattan and had seven boys and two girls including their first, James Jerome.

Her name was Mary Gallagher (1870-1956) from County Roscommon and she sailed to the new world in 1888. She was just 17 or 18 years old.

Our next seven days in Ireland will hopefully shine new light on where they came from and how we got to where we are today.

(Continue on to In Search of Michael E – Part 2)