This is the first story in a three-part series featuring words from ephemera collector Michael Ragsdale. Ragsdale has been a collector of New York City event-specific paper ephemera and autographs since 1997. He started collecting the items for fun while working as a cameraman capturing various events for C-SPAN and others. Ragsdale hobby took a new direction on the morning of September 11, 2001, when he began two aftermath-related collecting efforts, both important and unique.
Almost every acquisition I amassed over the years is significant in its own way. But a stand out is filming former Vice President Dick Cheney’s first public speech on Oct. 18, 2001, after the terrorist attacks a month earlier. At the time, I worked on a C-SPAN video crew and filmed Cheney’s speech at the 56th Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation's dinner, a fundraiser benefiting the Catholic charities.
He would deliver his speech at a lectern near several rows of tables occupied by New York’s religious, media as well as the state’s political leaders, including former Gov. George Pataki.
Cheney began his remarks with a few jokes about his unknown whereabouts that included a few popular conspiracy theories. His comedic tone would turn serious. Before the solemn crowd inside the Waldorf Astoria ballroom, Cheney spoke about the tragic death of New York Fire Department chaplain, Father Mychal Judge, who died on 9/11 at the World Trade Center site.
“Americans can’t wait for justice to be delivered – it will,” Cheney said, adding the United States was going to engage in a “war unlike any we have seen before.”
During the event, I collected several pieces of event ephemera and came away from the benefit dinner with the autograph of Irish tenor Ronan Tynan. Tynan began the affair by making a lot of people teary-eyed, including me. How so? By singing “Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears” and “God Bless America.”
Being a New Yorker, among hundreds of others in attendance whose home city was attacked so violently only five weeks earlier, and then hearing Tynan sing as he did got to us all. It is something I will never forget.
By Michael Ragsdale