Kids and roses

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Last month I had the opportunity to speak in a sixth grade history class in Saddle Brook, NJ. I “enjoy” speaking to students especially middle school students as they ask the best questions. I am pretty sure the high schoolers I speak with have questions but they aren’t as willing to ask.I am confident if they could text me, there would be more questions. Anyway back on September 27, I was fortunate to be able to spend over an hour with two groups of students meeting as one. The teacher had done an excellent job teaching her classes about September 11, 2001. The students had interviewed their parents or other adults. They had lots of questions, lots of good questions, lots of thought provoking questions about the attacks, the terrorist, the Memorial, the Museum. I could definitely tell that their teacher had prepared them for a visitor. 
I had mentioned that after the September 11 line of duty death of my husband, my daughters had asked me three questions. “Will we still live in this house?” “Can we still go to Eastern Christian High School?” “What will happen when we get married?” I shared my responses with the students “as far as I am able we will stay in this house. I will also try to make sure that you can continue at EC. And currently neither of you have boyfriends so we don’t have to worry yet about when you get married.” There was a giggle from the students. I also mentioned to the students that through the generosity of many people I never paid tuition for Emily’s senior year or all four of Meghan’s high school years. I never paid for a field trip, yearbook or prom. I explained to them how simple kindnesses and generosities have helped me, my daughters and so many others. I also said my daughters are married and I have photos I can show them if they would like to see me when I am finished speaking. As my time with the class ended the teacher gave me a beautiful bouquet of yellow roses, I thanked her, the students applauded and with what seemed to be a great sense of urgency one little arm shot up. “Yes.” I asked. “Can we see the photos of your daughters’ weddings?” asked a smiling sixth grade girl. “I glanced at the teacher, she nodded yes and a dozen girls moved forward so they could see the photos. 😊

Yesterday two boys at church gave me gifts they had purchased for me while on their recent family trip to FL. The one gift was a Mickey Mouse mug with a spoon. To quote the gift giver “if you cut the twist ties, you can remove the spoon and use it stir your drink.” I commented “thank you. I love the shape of the mug.” The gift giver responded “I liked that too. You don’t see square mugs to often.” I smiled because this exchange was so this child’s personality. His brother gave me a single Lego rose. It took my breath away. I almost started to cry. It is perfect and everything about it reminds me of the child who gave it to me. 
I am so blessed to be able to teach children in all different arenas (Tribute Center, dance class and church) and sometimes I am super blessed to receive roses (and mugs) as well. 😉

N

In this nation

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This photo is of a sign that hangs in my daughter’s living room. I have read it numerous times and often thought won’t it be great if  it was true not just for her house, or even just my house but what if it was true for our nation. What if we could say:
In this nation

We work hard & help others

We tell the truth

We practice patience

We smile

We say I’m sorry

We keep promises

We laugh

We speak kindly

We show respect

We love one another

There are days we would miss the mark but couldn’t we at least try.

We never called it Ground Zero

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As we walk diagonally across the Memorial, Steven* in true gentlemanly fashion is carrying the bag containing the head sets. On this walking tour, I am the lead docent and Steven is my support person.  Steven is new to the program and is a little apprehensive but when he speaks of “his guys” you hear and see his passion and expertise. You see the firefighter. It makes me smile how the firefighters Steven included always try to take care of me. I have carried that bag back to the Tribute Center many times through the ten years I have been volunteering.  I appreciate the gesture. I am grateful but I am capable. I am not the “little FDNY widow”.  In reality, Steven is actually shorter than I am and we are about the same age.

The Memorial is busy. There is a gentle buzz of activity.  I notice faces of visitors from many nations, hear softly spoken words, see tears being wiped, selfies being snapped and the sound of the south waterfall. As we walk along Steven suddenly comments “We (FDNY) never called it Ground Zero.”  We stop walking and I nod in agreement. The media said Ground Zero and to me that term Ground Zero always brought the image of a red and white target.  Steven continues “We called it the Pile and as we got lower we called it the Pit.”

The Pile I had seen that for myself on September 28, 2001.  I remember that massive hole (the Pit) in the ground from when I started volunteering at the Tribute Center in 2006. We continue walking and I add “and now it is the Plaza.” He nods in agreement.

Our conversation confirms in my mind something I had been pondering for a while, this place and I had been on parallel journeys since September 11, 2001. The World Trade Center which I had only visited twice before the attacks had become a travel companion. We had weathered the attacks, sorted through the debris, filled the void and remembered those we lost as we continued on.

*name has been changed

 

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884-relax-and-succeed-empathy-is

 

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.

Extra, Extra, Read all about it!

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I was recently interviewed by a Wall Street Journal reporter. She and a photographer attended a 9/11 Tribute Center tour and then she interviewed me. I guess I talked so much she felt compelled to write more than one piece. I am grateful for her professionalism and how she fact checked everything. Thank you Sophia and Mark.  Two different pieces featuring my 9/11 story appear in the WSJ   Amazing. I am humbled and very appreciative of the opportunity.

 

http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-9-11-story-helping-a-husband-follow-his-dream-of-becoming-a-firefighter-1473455936?tesla=y

 

http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-9-11-widows-story-life-came-back-1473453906

 

countdown

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random ramblings

last column bearing Squad 41 where they found Bruce's body.

This is a reprint from a blog this time last year. I felt it is worth saying again. This anniversary is fifteen years so the “activities/hype/coverage” will be even greater than a normal year – 3rd, 7th, 13th… I did watch a good documentary on CBNC called “Ground Zero Rising: Freedom or Fear”  Lee Ielpi, founder of the 9/11 Tribute Center, was featured as well as a fellow docent, Matt Crawford. Another documentary being shown on PBS on Sunday September 11 is “The Trees” by Scott Elliott. I was interviewed for that film. I will say the thing that makes the countdown even more difficult for people I know is when the days line up and September 11 is a Tuesday. Thankfully this year it isn’t. Side note: September 11 and Christmas always fall on the same day of the week. I know that is a weird thing to…

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familiar but foreign – language

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I am confident that I know two words in Japanese – arigatou (thank you) and konnichiwa (hello).  I actually know another two words that most of the time I forget I know which are hai (yes) and sayounara (good-bye). And if everyone else is saying it I can say oyasumi (good night). I can read no Japanese characters. Thankfully we have wonderful translators, we are rarely left to fend for ourselves, pointing is a good substitute for words, signs are usually in English and Japanese and  many people speak more English than I speak Japanese.

On the twelve-hour flight to Japan I watched Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot which was a good time filler movie. However it made me doubt if I was being translated properly. Let me explain. In the film, Tine Fey is a reporter in Afghanistan and people say something to her in Pahlawi, Farisi or Dari and in subtitles you see what they said. Tina Fey then says to her translator “what did he say?” and translator says something totally different and usually kind opposed to rude. There were moments on the trip that I was sure that the subtitles running at the bottom of the screen said something totally different from what I was told the translation was and  that made me chuckle more than once.

Being translated is an interesting experience, I find it makes me choose my words more carefully and I even seem to structure my sentences differently. I am always amazed that I can say ten words and the translation is two words or vise versa I say two words and the translation is ten. One thing for sure is not knowing the language makes me a better listener. It makes me more aware of body language and tone. I don’t know about you but on occasion I am formulating my response instead of being attentive to the speaker. Truly being present, connecting with and tuning into the person I am listening to is a skill that I want to be familiar with even if the language or circumstances are foreign.