Philadelphia – Where it all began

Starting with the Congress Hall, home to the U.S. Congress from 1790 to 1800, when Philadelphia served as the temporary capital of the United States.  Presidents Washington (his second term) and Adams were both inaugurated here.

The Senate chamber was adorned with heavy red drapes. Today all the rooms are restored to their original appearance. While most of the furniture is new, 28 of the desks at Congress Hall are original. Portraits of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (pictured here) were gifts from France following the American Revolution. They can be seen in the adjoining committee rooms. 

A fresco of an American bald eagle on the ceiling holding an olive branch symbolizes peace. 

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania sat in this room in the 1700s.

And, finally, to the beginning: the Assembly Room, where both the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were signed – although the date of the former is debatable as, apparently, some signers were not present at the time and did not sign the Declaration of Independence until more than a month later when news of the agreement finally reached them, as explained by our lively ranger.

Up next: a chance encounter

Independence Hall tour
Philadelphia

February 21st, 2017

Empirical Reality || Zero Visibility

wiki: → ”On Saturday, July 28, 1945, William Franklin Smith, Jr., was piloting a B-25 Mitchell bomber on a routine personnel transport mission from Bedford Army Air Field to Newark Airport. Smith asked for clearance to land, but was advised of zero visibility. Proceeding anyway, he became disoriented by the fog, and started turning right instead of left after passing the Chrysler Building.

At 9:40 a.m., the aircraft crashed into the north side of the Empire State Building, between the 78th and 80th floors, carving an 18-by-20-foot (5.5 m × 6.1 m) hole in the building where the offices of the National Catholic Welfare Council were located. One engine shot through the South side opposite the impact and flew as far as the next block, dropping 900 feet (270 m) and landing on the roof of a nearby building and starting a fire that destroyed a penthouse art studio. The other engine and part of the landing gear plummeted down an elevator shaft. The resulting fire was extinguished in 40 minutes. It is still the only fire at such a height to be brought under control.

Fourteen people were killed: Smith, the two others aboard the bomber (Staff Sergeant Christopher Domitrovich and Albert Perna, a Navy aviation machinist’s friend hitching a ride), and eleven others in the building. Smith was not found until two days later, when search crews discovered that his body had gone through an elevator shaft and fallen to the bottom. Elevator operator Betty Lou Oliver was injured. Rescuers decided to transport her on an elevator that they did not know had weakened cables. The cables snapped and the elevator fell 75 stories, ending up in the basements. Oliver managed to survive the fall and rescuers later found her amongst the rubble. It still stands as the Guinness World Record for the longest survived elevator fall.”

I came upon this story only recently – incredible, don’t you think?

November 19th, 2016

Turning Page

Proud to have been present, among representatives of the entire world, at the historic moment when the United Nations General Assembly appointed by acclamation the former Prime Minister of Portugal, António Guterres, as the next United Nations Secretary-General, succeeding Ban Ki-moon when he stepped down on 31 December 2016.

An emotional moment for everyone present including Mr. Guterres himself, who addressed the General Assembly in English, French and Portuguese.

‘I have faith in the United Nations because I believe in the universal values it stands for: peace, justice, human dignity, tolerance and solidarity. Based on these values, I believe that diversity in all its forms is a tremendous asset, and not a threat; that in societies that are more and more multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious, diversity can bring us together, not drive us apart.

An extract from Mr. Guterres’ speech which I found particularly resonating.

António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations

October 13th, 2016