Susan Friedman --
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Memories of Susan
-- Raymond Lutz
I consider Susan to be one of my favorite friends of the past several years. We met on the battlefield, so to speak, as we worked against Blackwater, working together and also in our separate ways. Susan clearly understood the media and had strong opinions on what steps we should take to move forward. She helped mainly behind the scenes, but was a key player, that is no doubt. It could be easily be argued that we may not have been successful without her concentrated energy against this clearly evil organization. Susan served as an excellent Master of Ceremony at our Stop Blackwater
Rally in Potrero on Oct 6-7, 2007, and was instrumental in many of the logistics as well. I remember Susan working tirelessly to get everything packed up on the flatbed truck at the end of the event long after most people were burned out.
We worked together on a particularly memorable community service action right after the Harris Ranch Fire in October, 2007. The wildfires started on Sunday, October 21, and burned through the week, devastating San Diego county in the south and in the north, the Witch Creek fire. Most areas of the county were reopened to residents to return the following Friday with Qualcomm Stadium relief center closing so it could be ready for the Charger game on Sunday. Meanwhile, Potrero was still cut off from supplies. SR-94, the primary artery to the west and east from Potrero was still closed on Saturday in both directions. Unlike other areas, the residents of Potrero were not evacuated because the fire had burned past them so early. We heard that Blackwater V.P. Brian Bonfiglio
was able to get into the community and was providing relief supplies to desperate Potrero residents from the back of his white Hummer, handing out Blackwater-logo gear, like hats and pins. Residents who were against the Blackwater Potrero
project needed supplies and some reluctantly accepted supplies from Blackwater. The recall election to remove those planners who supported the Blackwater West
project would be completed in December. The timing of relief from Blackwater raised eyebrows, to say the least.
Many in the community were looking for ways they could help to provide relief and supplies. We knew the residents in Potrero were cut off, and we were determined to get supplies in. At first, we considered just picking up supplies at a store, packing it in the largest vehicle we had, and driving it in as others had already attempted, some successfully. But maybe we could do more. I called Mark Hanson
, who had previously run for the 36th State Senate seat, and he located tons of unused relief supplies sitting in a church warehouse in Escondido. Hearing about this, I talked with Carol Jankow
and Susan Friedman
, and we made our plans. After renting one of the largest U-Haul moving vans available, I drove the manual-shift monster to the Church of Christ in Escondido, loaded the van with three other people at the church (this took about two hours), and then drove it to Potrero. Carol and Susan drove directly to the Potrero volunteer fire department and arranged with the workers there (who were among the few pro-Blackwater residents in the area) to be ready to accept the supplies.
I recall driving the U-Haul truck up Interstate-8 to the Buckman Springs exit, with the truck barely keeping up 35 mph. I estimated we had about eight tons of supplies, including prepackaged relief boxes with everything a family of four needs for a week (about 100 of these), pallets of beverages, instant chili, and much more. I pulled into the volunteer fire department at about 10pm, and we unloaded the truck with the workers there.
When I caught sight of Susan and Carol, the emotions were at a peak. As tired as we were, we knew our work would bring relief to the residents in Potrero, far more relief supplies than we ever imagined would be available. The high of being able to be of service to others. Carol, Susan and I shared this and it is an experience I will absolutely never forget. My sweat mixed with tears of satisfaction that we were able to make a huge contribution to the welfare of those stranded residents and eliminate the need for them to accept handouts from Blackwater. My only regret is that we did not video record the whole event and take more photographs, but I did get a few snapshots.
After Blackwater pulled their project in Potrero, we learned of the secret facility being developed in Otay Mesa. Susan helped in an action to challenge the permit at the counter of the City of San Diego Development Services Department. I took the lead on this because Susan did not want to be in the spotlight, given her professional responsibilities in her marketing career, so I was identified in the article as the person challenging the permit, however, Susan was one of the contributors of the $100 cash we paid the City for the challenge, and was right there helping us make those decisions to work against Blackwater any way we could. We were unsuccessful in that challenge, but it did raise the issue in the media.
Later, when Blackwater took the City of San Diego to federal court, the Hon. Marilyn Huff, appointed by George H. W. Bush, was obviously predisposed against the city in a ridiculous perversion of federal power, deciding the disposition of a building permit, one of the most simple of powers of the city. Mike Aguirre challenged the suit but was removed from office before the case could be appealed. Susan was there, dealing with the fact that no "Stop Blackwater" T-Shirts would be allowed in court, an amazing limitation of our "freedom of speech" which is more a slogan than a fact. She had incredible integrity and could not stand any lack of the same by our government.
I treasure the many friends I was able to make over the past several years working to Stop Blackwater
in Potrero, Otay Mesa and most recently in Southwestern College
. Susan was one of my favorite people among that group of activists. I can hardly believe that she is no longer with us and will no longer be a part of our meetings and community actions. She had a special panache, probably from her experience in New York, that separated her from other activists. But more than that, she was extremely effective and a delightful person to work with.
Susan, I miss you.
-- Raymond Lutz
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