In the latest Around Town column, stories about a local pilot whose recent trip to deliver face shields served as a lesson in community service for his son and local teens who were recognized by C-SPAN for their original documentaries.
TAKING FLIGHT ... While many people are sewing face masks or providing tutoring services online during the health crisis, one group is taking its charity to the skies. About five pilots from the California Disaster Air Response Team are ready to fly out of the Palo Alto Airport to deliver personal protective equipment (PPE) as part of Operation Medical Shield. For Brian Dear, being involved with the group marries his childhood dream of learning to fly and giving back to the community. Dear, who received his pilot license in November, lived out his fantasy on May 9, when he packed his Cessna Turbo 206 at the airport with 500 face shields from a local company and took off for Walla Walla, Washington. He and his 8-year-old son, Sebastian, carried the precious cargo for emergency responders who would've gone four days without the shields if the equipment was sent by FedEx. The mission made a significant impact on his son, the oldest of his four children, who helped unload the equipment from the plane. After the nine-hour round trip, Dear's day ended with a special moment he shared with his son at their Mountain View home. "He sat down on the couch and I made him some macaroni and cheese. Everyone else had already gone to bed, and he looks over at me and he's like, 'You know Daddy? We saved 500 people today,'" Dear said. In an interview, Dear noted that while the face shields can be used more than once and may not necessarily be distributed to 500 people, it was a "magical moment" that made the job worth it. The operation has made five deliveries since April 25, according to CalDART President Paul Marshall. The organization normally provides it services after major disasters, such as an earthquake that has impeded the public's ability to travel, but saw the need for PPE across medical communities. "When we decided to mobilize on COVID-19, we were able to get going and get a lot of people involved on a pretty short order," Marshal said. Initially, the CalDART put a call out to the community for the equipment, an effort that didn't elicit many donations, Marshall then decided to reach out to Global Support & Development, a Bay Area-based nonprofit, which connected him with a private group of volunteers who create the face shields from a Redwood City factory. CalDART is also delivering ventilators built by the San Diego Arts Collaborative. The operation spans across western U.S. states (Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington,) and northern Mexico. No donations have arrived yet to the Bay Area, a need that CalDART plans to pursue in response to requests from some organizations in the region, according to Marshall.
LETTER OF THE LAW ... This week, attorneys for the U.S. House of Representatives and Manhattan District Attorney's Office in New York worked to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to release President Donald Trump's financial records from before he took office. Among them was Douglas Letter, general counsel for the House of Representatives. The Palo Alto native comes from a family of government employees, according to a Dec. 25 article in The Washington Post. He received his bachelor's degree from Columbia University and law degree from the University of California, Berkeley Law School. Letter joined the House's Office of the General Counsel in January 2019 and previously served at the U.S. Department of Justice for 40 years until his retirement in February 2018, according to his profile on the office's website. He has presented more than 200 oral arguments during his career, including the Supreme Court. There was one stark difference during the May 12 session: Instead of hearing arguments on Capitol Hill, the justices were listening by teleconference as a result of the health crisis. Trump attorney Jay Sekulow has called on the court to grant "temporary presidential immunity" while in office, according to multiple media reports. "History really matters here, and it shows that the arguments being made here by President Trump are— astonishingly asking you to ignore a massive amount of history," Letter argued.
THINKING POLITICS ... C-SPAN's annual StudentCam contest drew more than 5,300 middle and high schoolers to submit documentaries that tackled this year's theme, "What's Your Vision in 2020?", which called on students to create a 5- to 6-minute video advocating for an issue they want to see the presidential candidates tackle. Four videos from Palo Alto were among the entries recognized by the network. Palo Alto High School sophomores Eva Salvatierra, Sebastian Chancellor and Owen Rice took a third-place prize for "A Tale of Two Districts." Another Paly trio, sophomores Dominique Lashley, Cate Barrett and Giada Parigi received an honorable mention for "Lost Opportunities." Paly junior Emilie Difede also made it to the honorable mention list with "The Climate Crisis: Food & Water Insecurity." Local middle schoolers also made the honorable mentions list. Castilleja School eighth-graders Sam Solomon, Sena Lee and Annika Heinemann were acknowledged for their submission on internet privacy.
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.