Published March/April 2002Out of the Humidor
This picture is a close-up of my grandson's face. Besides his big grin, he has a cigar in his mouth.
It was taken several weeks prior to the disaster of September 11. Little did he know it would be his last picture and smile.
My grandson, Michael D'Auria, 25 years of age, lost his life as a probationary firefighter for New York. He was on the job nine weeks, and is still missing.
Staten Island, New York
My name is Kevin McDowell. I'm a New York City firefighter. I was working at the World Trade Center on a 30-day detail for December. I just finished reading the February issue of the magazine. I want to tell anyone out there who is having trouble lighting up since 9/11 that it's OK. There are two retired police officers that walk around Ground Zero with boxes of cigars. They ask what you need. When we get our breaks or if we're not actually working in the "Pit," we enjoy them. I've been a regular cigar smoker for about 10 years now, and since the 11th I enjoy sitting back with a cigar more than ever. So let everybody know, light up and enjoy; life's too short.
New York, New York
Mayor Rudy Giuliani truly did have a date with destiny on September 11, 2001 -- a date that propelled him to heights of recognition. By his presence at Ground Zero and his concern for the citizens of New York and for all of the citizens of America, we recognized this man as a hero in his own right. His words of confidence, along with his words that would restore hope to America, have inspired us all and helped us all keep the faith. New Yorkers had a mayor that they could truly be proud of.
Sharon Diane Roberts
New Smyrna Beach, Florida
I am one of the New York City firemen that you invited to the Big Smoke in Manhattan in November. I had to thank you and all the cigar companies that treated us so well. I have been a subscriber since the beginning but could never really budget a Big Smoke. After that event I'm looking forward to attending again when you return in May 2002. In light of recent events, I think we have all learned to savor the pleasures of this short life.
Bronx, New York
America is truly the land of conformism and the conservatives. The simple fact that there could even be a debate regarding home smoking shows how absurd and extremist America has become. Hitting on smokers is a national pastime and an obsession. It's too bad that such efforts are not focused on things that matter, like gun control. Your neighbor can carry a gun, but God forbid he smoke! When will our government wake up? If selling tobacco is legal, then smoking has to be legal. If the government is willing to make billions on taxing tobacco, then smokers have rights. The right for a bar owner to declare his bar a smoking bar, the right to smoke in a public park. Interestingly, when Americans travel abroad, they are no longer obsessed by nonsmoking bars, parks, restaurants, etc.? When there is no tolerance, there can be no land of the free.
David Nes Paris, France
Brie Lam's article, "The Charm of Vintage Havana Cigars," ushered back many fond memories of the pleasures of my first Havanas. It was a real delight to read such vivid, richly detailed writing from an author who obviously enjoys her work as much as her cigars. Men's lifestyle magazines have always run the risk of becoming repetitive, picture book-like and trivial, just like so many of their feminine counterparts. Thanks for keeping Cigar Aficionado a magazine worth reading.
I also wholeheartedly agree with reader Gary Gomez of Texas, who wrote in "Out of the Humidor" (December), bemoaning the destruction of personal liberty on the alter of political correctness, as evidenced by attacks against furs, smoking, gun ownership and religion. Little does he know how good he has it in Texas as compared to New York, where so many of these liberties have long ago been restricted, marginalized and ostracized to the point of being almost impossible to practice, let alone enjoy.
Andrew R. O. Massimilian
New York, New York
So much has been written about the reactions of people in foreign countries to the World Trade Center attacks that I thought it important to share my own experiences.
Two weeks after the event, my wife and I made a legal trip to Cuba. The trip had been planned for six months and we had permission of the State Department and a license. Following 9/11 we had debated about making the trip, but then decided that it would solve nothing if we did not go. We left JFK and flew directly to Havana.
Our eight days in Cuba were a revelation.
Wherever we went (and we were permitted to go everywhere), people would ask where we were from. Upon hearing "the United States," they would ask what city. We would say, "New York." Immediately, a look of concern would cross their faces, and they would begin to express their horror and concern over the attacks. They told us how much they decried those acts of terrorism and how much they admired the United States.
One shop owner, in a small convenience store near the Parque Central in downtown Havana, had tears in his eyes when he expressed his sorrow, and said, "I will do anything for your people, I will give blood."
We are still at odds with the Cuban government, and rightfully so, but despite that, we found the Cuban people to be warm, compassionate and caring.
Paul E. Pepe
Laurel Hollow, New York
A resounding "Hear! Hear!" to Captain Courageous and all those like him who gave without hesitation so that others might be spared. Once again, we are called upon to lead the world to freedom -- and we shall. So gentlemen, I ask you to raise your cigars: "To Honor, To Courage, To a Relentless Resolve -- and to those who would do us harm, I give you the Sharpened Talon of Freedom, and my ashes." Cheers.