Valentine Roses

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On the first Valentine’s Day after September 11, 2001, Bruce’s firehouse, Squad 41, sent me one dozen long stem red roses. They send a dozen roses to each of six widows from Squad 41. It was an amazing gesture.

I cried because of their kindness.

I also laughed because those were the first Valentine’s roses I ever received.

For each of the twenty-one years we were married, I told Bruce “don’t buy me roses on Valentine’s Day. They are too expensive. The price is inflated. Buy me flowers any other day but not Valentine’s Day.”

He did buy me flowers on random days.

And I am grateful 🙂

 

 

Read any good books lately?

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I love books. I think I have a book gene. Bookstores are one of my favorite places. Libraries also rank high on my list of great places to be. The first time both of my daughters were in school full time and I didn’t have to work I went to the library by myself. I know that is sad but it was exciting to me. My Dad had an extensive library with books on many different topics. Many of his books had post-it notes attached to the pages. His soft covered books had sentences or entire paragraphs underlined in pencil with notes written in the margins. Sorting through his books when he died was a huge undertaking but my sister and I did it. More than once in our frustration we commented we were never going to buy another book. Of course that didn’t happen. I mean how could it?

I read real books but I also read e-books. I enjoy highlighting paragraphs using the various colors or looking up the definition of a word with a tap of my finger. I haven’t mastered finding things after I underlined them but I think that is my lack of me being techno savvy.

The little bookmark icon in e-books is helpful and cute. I have used store receipts, clothing tags and even a tissue when I can’t find a bookmark for a print book. Folding the corner over isn’t something I do. My favorite bookmark is one that belonged to my Dad. I actually gave it to him. It is currently marking my place in my guilty pleasure book by James Patterson – The People vs Alex Cross.  There is nothing worst than when your bookmark falls out. Well, dropping your book in the bathtub or leaving it somewhere isn’t great either. Really not good if it is a library book.

Over the past few years, I have talked about writing a book. Since last fall I stopped talking and started writing. Below is a brief summary of my work in progress:

Once a month, my firefighter husband and I sat down with our calendars to coordinate life. We negotiated, adjusted and agreed on our schedules. Each month, I ended that conversation with “No Surprises, let me know if it isn’t going to work but no surprises.” Most mornings I reminded Bruce and our daughters of the plan. Then one day it all changed.

No Surprises is the story of my husband’s line of duty death and my journey as I navigate a national tragedy with faith, family and the FDNY. The book is set within the framework of The Pile, The Pit and The Plaza – the names of the World Trade Center since September 11, 2001. The WTC and I traveled together on remarkable journey which I believe offers a context for many of life’s experiences. First there is the incident. The incident that sets your life in a direction you never expected –  a diagnose, an accident, words spoken in haste, job lost, betrayal, death of a loved one, a terrorist attack. The event that shakes you to the core. In the aftermath there is a massive pile. A pile of things that need to be dealt with – options for treatments, decisions about the everyday, paperwork to be completed, plans to be canceled or rearranged, funerals to be planned, keepsakes to be shared, memories to be cherished. Where do you start? The immediate replaces the important or maybe the important replaces the immediate. Eventually maybe after days or months or even years the pile is gone, and you recognize there is a pit. A void left by what was taken, a hole left by finally sorting through the pile. Now what? How do you fill the hole to make it whole? How do you move forward now that the pile is gone? How do you move from the pit to the plaza?

Blog posts have been few and far between because of my work in progress but I hope to share sections of the work in progress and other thoughts right here so stay tuned.

So to answer my own question, read any good books lately?

Yes!

  • Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
  • Judas by Amos Oz

 

How about you?

12 in 2017

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I decided I would do my end of the year recount using twelve photos of mine from 2017.

One of my 2017 favorites on multiple levels. First it is a great photo of my daughter. Second I love the little girl  statue standing up for herself being fearless. 2017 was a year of women doing that – standing up. And to me the best thing about women standing up was they were standing up together. Women backing up and coming along side other women. We need each other. We are stronger together.

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Visiting the Ringling Circus Museum in Florida with friends was a highlight but bittersweet with the reality that the days of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus were over in May 2017.  Travel Tuesdays – The Ringling

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My second grandson was born on March 30, 2017.

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My first grandson turned two years old on April 29. He has decided my name is mommom.  I am fine with that. I babysat both of my little men on Mondays and Tuesdays for June – end of August 2017. It was fun and I slept well.

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Family vacation with my girls and their guys was a delightful week at the end of May. We rented a house in Annapolis, MD with day trips to Baltimore and the National Zoo in Washington, DC. Best part just being together. Added bonus being together for both of my daughters’ birthdays – 5/31 & 6/3. Fun moment was the Memorial Day parade. I love a parade. When was the last time you watched a small town parade? Add it to your to do list for 2018 you won’t regret it.

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The 9/11 Tribute Center grew into the 9/11 Tribute Museum in June 2017. Our new location at 92 Greenwich Street has the potential for educating large numbers of people but has not been without challenges as we settle into our new space just a tad further away from The Plaza. Still telling my story whether to school groups or on walking tours or in the galleries. Blessed to volunteer with the most amazing group of people.

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June 14, 2017 was my Mum’s 85th birthday. A few weeks later we gathered with old friends and family to celebrate her.

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I have seen Come From Away four times and I would see it again without hesitation. If you only see one Broadway show in 2018, make it Come from Away. If you plan to see more than one, add it to our list.  Come From Away

“We honor what we lost. But we also commemorate what we found!” Come from Away

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I have been to Seattle, WA many times. My daughter and her husband lived there for nine years. September 2017 was the first time I went to Seattle to visit Seattle. After my trip, I told Emily I understood why she loved Seattle. Had a great trip with good friends.

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On the way home from Seattle, I spent the weekend with family in Denver, CO.  I hope to spend more time with extended family in 2018. Aunts, Uncles, all manner of in laws, cousins, nieces, nephews and great nieces and nephews are blessings.

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Family and those who are family through years of friendship came together to celebrate and remember my Mum.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” C.S.Lewis

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This is my number one photo for 2017. My daughter introducing her son to her grandmother, my Mum aka Nanny. Neither of my daughters could make it to my mother’s party in June. They decided they would both visit her on the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend. My sister graciously opened her home again for a mini get together that day was my mother’s last good day she died less than a week later on September 8.

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”   Dr. Seuss

 

Life in 3 scenes

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Scene: Bruce sitting at kitchen table in small apartment looking through classified ads circa 1980.

Ann – “what did you always want to be when you grew up.”

Bruce – “a firefighter, a real firefighter”

Ann – “what’s a real firefighter.”

Bruce- “a New York City firefighter!”

Ann – “then go do that.”

 

Fast forward 21 years. Ann & Bruce live in small house with 2 daughters and a big dog.

Scene: Sunday September 9 Ann laying in bed as Bruce getting dressed for 24 tour plus another tour on Tuesday.

Bruce: “I am so blessed”

Ann: “Why.”

Bruce: “I’m married to Miss Ann. We have two great girls and we got the camper.”

Ann: “Some people won’t consider being married to me a perk. Yes, the girls are great. Yes, we had a wonderful summer.”

Stage direction -Bruce gives Ann a kiss and exits room.

 

Scene: Tuesday September 11 a beautiful late summer day.

Midnight – a knock on door.

 

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  John 15:13

 

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”  Dr Seuss

 

Removed

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This is a reprint from last year. 
 

I haven’t walked down the stairs in the shoes of the business person fleeing the building.
I haven’t climbed up the stairs in the boots of the firefighters arriving to rescue and aid.
I haven’t run away in my bare feet towards the Hudson River to find safety.
I haven’t stood in my black uniform shoes directing thousands to safety.
I haven’t knelt on the ground to treat the injured.
I haven’t said a prayer over a dead body.
I haven’t dived under a car or into a building to seek safety.
In one way I was removed from the September 11, 2001 attacks, I wasn’t there.
I was 50 miles away listening, watching, praying…
And then
I walked in the shoes of a FDNY widow.
I walked in the shoes of a 9/11 Tribute Center docent.
I walked in the shoes of a keeper of the story.
 
I challenge each of us to remember that September 11 is an international tragedy but to many and not just those who lost someone it is very personal. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to yours.

It’s coming…

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It seems to lurk in the shadows but I always know when it is coming. I bet you didn’t know that it  falls on the same day of the week as Christmas. So in January when I look at the calendar to confirm what day of the week Christmas is, I know what day of the week September 11 is. This year it is a Monday. Next year it is a Tuesday. Those years are practically hard because September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday and it is too easy to relive the moments as they fall on the same day of the week as they fell in 2001.

As the first anniversary approached there was a sense of what was the right thing to do, what were the expectations, my dear friend Carol said “do what you want to do?” That was the best advice anyone could have given me. In the first years that meant Emily, Meghan and I were together just the three of us. In the years since “do what you want to do?” is still my standard. I don’t go to the National Memorial on that day because personally I don’t think I can take on the grief of all those people. This year first thing in the morning, I am speaking at a Jewish school in Manhattan, then venturing up to the Bronx to Squad 41 for the memorial mass and then home for Greenwood Lake Fire Department’s yearly ceremony. All of those are things I want to do, all of those things seem like the right thing to do.

There was a time when the anniversary felt like a large dark being waiting to pounce on me. I came to realize what I was fearing was a shadow. Bruce dying in the line of duty couldn’t happen again because it already happened on September 11, 2001. I also came to understand that if I was looking at September 11 the sun/Son were behind me so the shadow was in front of me but if I looked at the sun/Son the shadow was behind me. Walt Whitman expresses it this way:

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.”

Since I have been volunteering with the 9/11 Tribute Museum, the weeks and days leading up to the anniversary are a time I worry for lack of a better word about my fellow docents. Those that had experiences that I can’t imagine. Those that saw things no one was ever supposed see. I hold them and their stories close. I pray for peace, rest and healing for friends whom I never would have known if it hadn’t been for September 11, 2001 and our determining to tell our stories. In the Broadway show, Come From Away, there is a line towards the end that states how I now view September 11, 2001:

“We honor what we loss, but we commemorate what we found.”

On September 11, 2001 “we” lost many people and many dreams but “we” found that together “we” could go on. In the past week or so the people of Houston have lost much but they have found each other. At this time in our nation we need to find our way back to being “we” instead of us and them. So as September 11, 2017 approaches, could we honor what has been lost (opportunities, lives, dreams) in our country and strive to find a way to move forward together not as clones or mindless beings but as human beings who disagree on issues, who look different, who believe different things but stand together to educate our children, feed the hungry, aid the sick, shelter the homeless and at least offer a cup of water or a listening ear as needed.

I ask you to never forget and always remember the way we treated each other after September 11, 2001. My apologies to those who were not treated well even then but I believe we can do better.

The Sphere

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Underneath that white sheeting is the Sphere. The Sphere that was sculpted by Fritz Koenig and sat in Tobin Plaza at the World Trade Center from 1971 to 2001. The Sphere that is one of the few remaining pieces of the original World Trade Center that still exist. Personally I don’t have a connection to the Sphere. I didn’t see it everyday as I went to work but I have friends who did. Last week the Sphere was moved from Battery Park where it set since 2002 to its new home in Liberty Park. I have friends who are upset by the media saying it came home because to them it didn’t come home. It doesn’t sit on the National September 11 Memorial as many believe it should.

Last Wednesday as I supported a 9/11 Tribute Museum walking tour and saw the Sphere in its new spot for the first time, I was struck by a few thoughts I wanted to share. I was glad for my friends. Many fought long and hard to preserve it. Well done. I wondered if sitting where it does it isn’t a statement to the fact that we can’t really ever go home? And then again sitting as it does overlooking the Memorial is it watching over or guarding its original home?  Finally once it is uncovered the damage it displays will speak volumes to what happened on September 11, 2001 in a way that the beautiful plaza doesn’t.

So to the Sphere I say “Welcome home to the neighborhood! Glad you could join us.”

According to a fellow docent, it will be unveiled in the near future. I look forward to seeing it.