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Monday, November 28, 2005

Profile of a Crazy American

Today I'd like to depart from the norm just a little. I don't normally make a habit of it, but since we have several regular visitors to this site, I thought it might be interesting to profile one of them and get to know him a little better. I hope you enjoy.

On September 11, 2001 48 year old Stephen Imholt of Ohio, was just eleven days into a new job as a Business Analyst with a major U.S. group travel agency in Connecticut. Until that day Stephen, who prefers Steve, admits that, “…beyond being able to locate Newfoundland on a map, I knew next to nothing about it.”

September 11 changed that in a heart beat.

After the twin towers fell in New York, Steve recalls sitting in a company conference room deeply engaged in disaster management meeting, “Everyone was trying to come to grips with the magnitude and scope of the disaster, when suddenly we were told that all travel in and out of the US was being halted, effective immediately.”

It was then that he and his co-workers tried to determine where they might have customers who would be impacted. They quickly came to the realization that the answer was everywhere and that all of these people would be in serious trouble.

There was no sleep for Steve that night, in fact he doesn’t remember if he finally managed to get some sleep on the night of the 12th or the 13th. Steve recalls, “…things were not only hectic they were that mixture of sadness, confusion, frustration and anger that hits everyone when a disaster strikes.”

It was during this time that Newfoundland and Labrador entered Steve Imholt’s consciousness in a way he never expected and would never forget. He recalls being informed that the province had begun taking in planes and people, including his firm’s clients, without any understanding or expectation of what was going to happen next. “There were no questions and no demands, no thoughts at all from the people of the province except to do what needed to be done.”

During the days following the attacks Steve admits that this knowledge was the one thing that made him feel better about what was happening. He remembers that when he finally managed to find a quiet moment to himself, the events taking place in far away Newfoundland and Labrador brought tears to his eyes.

The horrendous events of that fateful day and the reaction of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are what first sparked Steve Imholt’s interest in the province. Since that day he has made a concerted effort to learn everything possible about the people, industry, economy, politics, culture and social issues that make the Newfoundland and Labrador unique. For Steve it’s more than just a passing interest, it’s a passion that has continued to grow during the intervening years.

Perhaps Steve’s own words say it best.

“It was the events following 9/11 that first interested me, but it wasn’t simply as a vacationer. It was the interest of someone who wanted to know more about a place and a people who would do such a thing.”

“What I found was more than I had any reason to expect.”

“I've found kindness in reading about the people and I've discovered the full scale of human interaction and motivation, including the stubbornness to keep going, the willingness to try to make a rock into a home, and a deep and abiding love of a homeland.”

“In the writings of Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans I’ve also seen a prevalence of common understanding of their own humanity. Time and again I see humanity without stereotypes and it is this humanity that has made me most appreciative of a people and a place I new nothing about just a few years ago.”

Perhaps this is why Steve continues to be so interested in the province.

At 52, Steve is now working on contract to the City of New York as an Information Systems Project Specialist on their 9-1-1 system. He still lives in Connecticut with Toni, his wife of 31 years and says now that his children, one son and three daughters, have begun their own lives, the youngest having just started university, he has a little more time to research and discuss his new found passion.

More time for reading every thing he can lay his hands on and for visiting web logs and internet discussion sites devoted to the issues and concerns of those in the province. His passion for the place has even led him to become more than just a little familiar with such official (and often extremely dry) documents as the Terms of Union and the Atlantic Accord, among others.

It was on my own web site, Web Talk – Newfoundland and Labrador that I first came to appreciate Steve Imholt’s insightful comments. I immediately recognized a clear understanding and genuine concern for the people of the province. In fact I admit to being a little intrigued that someone using the online nickname ‘Crazy American’ could possibly know so much about the concerns and affairs of Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans. This sentiment has been expressed by others as well.

Many people have commented over the past few months that if it were not for that nickname, they would never have believed this person hadn’t been born and raised with the issues of the province swirling around him his entire life. When asked about his online persona Steve simply says, “... I've found that if you start out telling people you are a little crazy it makes them more open to actually interacting with you as a real person…”

Whether he considers himself crazy or not, a glimpse into his clarity of understanding can be seen in Steve’s perceptions of people in the province.

“What I see as the single biggest difference between the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and people in many other parts of the world is their feeling of community. Although I haven’t been there myself, I’m willing to bet that many people, especially in the outports, don't even lock their doors.”

“Perhaps that alone is enough to make me want to know more, and to continue to see how I can return the favor shown our people during 9/11. The only problem is that it’s a really big favor to repay and I keep getting more insight into the province’s humanity, diversity and essential goodness all the time. As a result of this new knowledge, the size of the favor just keeps growing for me. But that’s a good problem to have I think.”


Steve regularly does his best to open up dialogue on issues in the province through applying his new found knowledge and professional analytical skills to discussions on a myriad of provincial issues. There is no topic he won’t tackle, from the Atlantic Accord to Churchill Falls, from out migration to the seal hunt, from transfer payments to rural development and even the sometimes stormy relationship between Labrador and the island. No subject escapes his notice. His views on these topics and others speak loudly, not only of his deep understanding of their complexities, but of the deeply held feelings for the people themselves.

Here are just a couple snippets from his comments:

On the topic of energy security as identified in a recent provincial discussion paper:

“….without an effective transmission and distribution system neither hydroelectric generation or oil drilling and recovery provides any energy security at all.”

On the topic of the seal hunt and the approach of some animal rights activists:

“…ignoring the reality of the people who live and die on the basis of the very marine ecosystem activists are supposedly trying to protect strikes me as an exercise designed to cause animosity and enmity, not solutions. “

”…you cannot remove a people's livelihood then suggest paying them to take scraps from your table and expect them to like it…”

As insightful, and sometimes even humorous, as his comments may be, Steve is often his own worst critic when it comes to their validity and value. Anyone who has read them usually finds them nothing less than educational, inspiring or at the very least interesting.

In spite of the fact that he is less than convinced of their value, in a continuing effort to, as he puts it, “…return the favor” and at the prodding of many who have come to know him, Steve continues to make his comments available on various web sites and has even begun emailing them to Canadian officials at both the provincial and federal levels.

It’s often said in this province that “people from the outside think they know better than us how things should be done here.” Perhaps being aware of that saying is one of the reasons Steve Imholt is often hesitant to put his views forward. Perhaps he feels that coming from an “outsider” they’ll be disregarded, ridiculed or resented. They aren’t, and with good reason. No matter what your feeling on an issue, when you read a comment from the “Crazy American”, it’s obvious your are reading the words of someone who truly cares.

We may never fully realize the impact 9/11 has had and continues to have on this province. The simple yet honest acts of kindness displayed at that time have had an immeasurable impact on people here and around the globe. It’s changed how our province is perceived throughout the world and in some ways even how we perceive ourselves.

Perhaps the deep impact 9/11 has had on Steve Imholt is one of those little understood outcomes. It’s clear to anyone who has spoken with him that even though he wasn’t born here, never lived here and has never even visited here, Steve Imholt has somehow managed to become a true Newfoundlander or Labradorean at heart.

Steve has told me that although his work commitments are quite hectic, he and Toni hope to make their first trip to the province within the next couple of years. Who knows, maybe he’ll even take part in that old provincial custom, the “screech in” and become an official Newfoundlander and Labradorean.

17 comments:

BNB said...

Myles thank you for that.

I have a tear in my eye reading that. Although I have never been comfortable with taking pride in what we did on 9/11; I have always felt it was something we had to do, and I would expect no less from this province. My eyes well up because I remember that time and I empathize with our American neighbours for sure. They well up also with the realization that this place of half a million people was able to be something good in that time. The fact that someone not from here has been able to capture some of the essense of the place it what trully gives me pride.

From our vantage point that day and since has brought a deeper understanding of our neighbours to the South. Seeing food relief with the US flag printed on the bags and boxes, see the soldiers in all parts of the world and hearing of the torments of war and terror. Others have dismissed our connection to this - it is not to be dismissed.

Thanks Myles, thanks Steve. Hope you get to make that trip soon.

Patriot said...

Thanks for the touching comment BNB. No need to thank me though. When I started conversing with Steve about the article and gathering details, it pretty much wrote itself.

I do agree with you that we really didn't do anything exceptional that fateful day, at least not from a NL perspective. People here are used to coming together in times of disaster. It's how we've survived over the centuries.

What we often fail to realize is that when viewed from the outside it appears to be quite a big thing. Not every society has the often harsh history of being cutoff from the world and needing to do whatever could be done to survive.

It's what has led to our unique culture, music, dialects and view of the world. I believe it is what enables us to do what was done on 911 without even realizing how important others would consider it. I believe it is what makes us different.

I also think Steve may have discovered this as well.

NL-ExPatriate said...

I too have a tear in my eye!

You don't know how much our American friends actually do for Canadians. When I was stationed in Germany if it wasn't for our American friends allowing us to shop at their PX's and providing us with Gas stamps our stay in Germany and touring all over Europe would have been a much more frightening and Horrendous experience.
They even allow us to stay in their hotels on their bases without so much as a second thought.

The same can be said for most of our United Nations missions abroad. They once again provide access to their PX's and usually help in the transport of needed supplies when we are unable to supply our own requirements and needs due to cut backs in the military. Afganistan is the latest example. I don't think there has ever been an occasion when asked that our American friends have turned us down at least from a military perspective.

Thanks Steve for your interest and concern, not only in NL but in making the world being a better place.

GetAGrip said...

Good freaking Lord.

On the day of the worst terrorist attack in the history of the world, a day on which Canadians died only to be left sacrificed on the altar of pacifist liberalism and avenged only at the hand of the United States Military, a few dozen, hundred Newfoundlanders proved that when confronted with the most evil act ever perpetrated by man, they can actually behave as human beings for a relatively minor period of time.

Jesus F'n Christ.

You took in stranded travelers. ALERT THE FREAKING NOBEL COMMITTEE!!!

BNB said...

please ignore that

Patriot said...

ignorance should be ignored

GetAGrip said...

Guys, seriously,

If the best you can say about your province is that you are capable of demonstrating common courtesy, that's really not saying all that much.

Nobody is ungrateful for what the people of Canada did 9/11 and thereafter. Same for Ireland, England, mexico, and other places throughout the world that found travelers the world over stranded and in need of friendship.

BUT.

Keep it in perspective. You're the same America bashing, French loving, open immigration, anti-freedom, anti-democracy wimps you were on 9/10.

Taking in a few stranded Americans doesn't wipe out the fact that you won't close your borders, won't deny visas to terrorists, won't budge on truck emissions, soft wood, use NAFTA as your own political porn and take sides with a man who somehow finds Osama Bin Laden and Jerry Vlaska as equally evil and DOESN'T think that insults the memory of the 3,200 Americans who died that day, or the 2000 Americans who have died avenging them.

If CA really thinks you're all that, he really is Crazy, so until you Canadians get your act together, forgive us
for check your ID's on your way to Detroit.

Anonymous American said...

SIR PAUL AND HEATHER McCARTNEY CALL ON PRIME MINISTER

TO END SEAL SLAUGHTER



WASHINGTON (November 30, 2005) – In a letter to the Canadian Prime Minister released today, Sir Paul McCartney and his wife Heather called for an end to the annual commercial slaughter of hundreds of thousands of harp and hooded seals off Canada’s East Coast—the largest kill of marine mammals on earth.



The McCartneys, known for their social activism, expressed dismay that Canada, renowned for its socially progressive values such as the Mine Ban Treaty that the McCartneys are heavily involved with, would promote the cruel hunt. “We simply can’t understand why you would allow these beautiful animals to be bludgeoned, clubbed and shot to death simply for their fur,” they wrote. “Clearly, there is no scientific basis for this slaughter, as most scientists, including those at the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, have refuted the claim that killing seals will help the cod stocks to recover.”



The seal hunt is an off-season activity conducted by commercial fishermen from Canada’s East Coast. Even in Newfoundland, where more than 90 percent of the sealers live, sealing income accounts for less than one percent of that province’s gross domestic product and under three percent of the landed value of Newfoundland’s fishery.



The Humane Society of the United States has called for a boycott of Canadian seafood until the hunt is canceled. Two thirds of Canadian seafood is exported to the United States, producing $2.8 billion annually for the Canadian economy and making the industry a viable target for a boycott. Dozens of companies, and restaurants, including Legal Sea Foods, Whole Foods and Wild Oats Market have signed the pledge, as well as over 120,000 individuals.



“We wanted to put you on notice that if Canada moves forward with another hunt next year, we will do all we can to focus attention on this unjustified, outdated, and truly horrific practice, including, potentially, visiting the seals on the ice,” the McCartneys concluded.



“Sir Paul McCartney and his wife, Heather Mills McCartney are clearly pulling no punches when it comes to defending the seals,” said Dr. John Grandy, senior vice president of The HSUS. “We are extremely grateful to them for taking this stand and we hope that the seals will be saved ‘with a little help from their friends.’”



To read the letter to the Prime Minister, click on the button to the left. For more information on The HSUS seal campaign, please visit www.ProtectSeals.org.



The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization representing more than 9.4 million members and constituents. The non-profit organization is a mainstream voice for animals, with active programs in companion animals and equine protection, disaster preparedness and response, wildlife and habitat protection, animals in research and farm animal welfare. The HSUS protects all animals through education, investigation, litigation, legislation, advocacy, and field work. The group is based in Washington and has numerous field representatives across the country. On the web at www.hsus.org.



-30-

GetAGrip said...

Uh,

What does that have to do with Crazy American and the never-ending need of Canadians to pat themselves on the back for the most insignificant gestures expected of any basic, rational human being?

ISDABY said...

"Getagrip' sounds like Harry Boland up to his old tricks...anything he can do to dump on Newfies he'll do...same as Mt. Hood and Humane Imperialist before. Obviously the guy 'if he is a guy'has no life.

BTW, why should we budge on softwood, NAFTA panel has already ruled in our favour, yet Bush wants to 'negotiate'...what's with that??? (I'm sorry, we shouldn't talk back but just be thankful that you don't invade us..., although I am sure we'd be easier than Iraq to quell)...

NL-ExPatriate said...

Maybe you should think about disallowing anonymous comments Patriot.

GetAGrip said...

To the extent I was crapping on Newfoundland, I did so only because Newfoundland is part of Canada - a country that certainly deserves crapping on, expecially over softwood.

The US has levied a tariff on softwood imports because your government sets stumping fees at 1/10th the market level, making it a SUBSIDY in violation of NAFTA, and undercutting the very essence of "free trade". You see, when your government interferes in the private market, that's not "free" - that's socialism - and since NAFTA is the North American FREE TRADE Act and not the protection of Canadian Social Services Act, I have no problem with my president sticking it your PM's ass. Simply put, I don't care if you lose your job. I do care if I lose mine.

But what does that have to do with this maudlin nonsense over beds on 9/11?

Anonymous said...

just a couple of questions for getagrip...

Does your reason for defecating on a screen provide any additional support for you views? Or are you simply incapable of actually expressing ideas without also disclosing that in reality you embody the lack of consideration that is what has historically been called an Ugly American.

Or is it that you find disliking or loathing a group easier than searching for solutions?

Jingoism, racism and jihad are all different words for the same kind of thing, which is fundamentally both UnCanadien and Unamerican. That is a basic respect for the rights, and responsibilities of free expression.

So where do you fall along that spectrum?

BTW you get extra points for reponding in a competent and considerate manner.

Gordon said...

Getagrip,

Saying you don't like Canada is one thing, but belittling the heroic efforts of people in small towns and villages is quite another. It wasn't so much the "Canada" you hate that helped out those thousands of passengers, but people in small, relatively poor towns. It is a moment they'll remember forever, as will the almost equal number of temporary guests of all religions, tongues and races who were housed, fed, shown around the place and generally cared for. At the time, it captured newspace all around the world, from New York to Budapest to Tokyo. I know this, because I used to read newspapers from around the world at the time.

Personally, I don't care what you think about Canada. I, myself would rather carry a Newfoundland and Labrador passport than a Canadian one anyway. However, it is quite pathetic and narrow-minded to dismiss the big-hearted deeds of people in small towns, wherever those small may happen to be.

BNB said...

Anonymous and Gordon: "hear, hear!"

Myles' article was about an American and our appreciation for his views. The point about the 9/11 efforts was that this is all that we would have expected from this place. The fact that others have recongnized it as a big deal was sort of the point. N&L has a thorough history with the US. Our people are married to American soldiers, building the sky-scrappers of New York City...

If you want to dump on our federal government go ahead, but the people of this province don't deserve that. 'Grip' is one who doesn't realize who his friends trully are.

Wolf Larsen said...

It is not the Canadian government that "interfered" in the imaginary "free market" but NAFTA itself. NAFTA ruled in favour of Canada and against the USA on softwood. The USA is a signatory of NAFTA and is required to acknowledge its rulings. To paint Canada as "interfering in the free market" over this is moronic and arrogant in the extreme.

Big thanks to "Grip" for putting anti-sealing in the same camp as Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Riely.

ISDABY said...

another question of 'getagrip'...if the open border with Canada is such a problem, how is it that the 911 hijackers were inside the US when they attacked? many were known by US authorities to be there, were trained how to fly at US flight schools, etc. None of them came through Canada, yet one of the first things said was that 'the terrorists must have snuck in from Canada.'

sheeesh! Getagrip!!