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 ūüôā



The first time we met


I know exactly the first time we met. It was Wednesday April 29, 2015 around 10:30 am. An early morning telephone call  jumped started my day. Thankfully I had filled the car with gas on Monday and visited the ATM machine on Tuesday so I was ready to go in short order.  A mental checklist helped me pack for a couple of days away, a quick shower, a group text requested prayer for your arrival and I was out the door in just about an hour. Coffee and oatmeal purchased at a drive through establishment, radio tuned to the news channel for traffic reports every ten minutes  and I was good to go. The journey to you was uneventful on my end. No real traffic, beautiful weather, smooth sailing, one pit spot for a restroom break. About 2.5 hours into the journey, the beeping sound on my Bluetooth  signaled a telephone call “ignore or accept”. The voice on the other end said “Mom” and the rest of the words I couldn’t really hear or understand – water break, drugs, how long, don’t know but I understood “would you pray?” So I prayed a prayer for wisdom for all  and then I  said “I am about 45 minutes away but feel free to start without me.”

After a little wandering around and studying of signs, I found the family maternity unit.  The receptionist asked “may I help you?” I mentioned your mom’s name, a quick phone call informed me to wait in the waiting room. After a few minutes your dad appeared in the doorway. I thought he was ready to jump out of his skin he was so excited. A big hug, a few words and he returned to you and after a little more waiting  my phone rang. “Mom, you can come back. We are in room D for dog”. I proceeded down the hallway, entered the room,  pushed back the curtain and there was  your mom sitting up in bed looking no worse for wear. She was smiling from ear to ear even though I could tell tears of joy and relief were ready to burst forth. We hugged and held each other. Your dad was sitting in the reclining chair staring at your face. Your dad’s look was one of amazement, wonder and love. Your dad stood and placed you in my arms. I looked at you. Awe, wonder, hope, thankfulness, love –  yes, all of the above!


A Love Story

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Today would have been my parent’s wedding anniversary. My Dad died in November 2012. Actually, we lost my Dad much early due to a massive stroke in 2006. ¬†My sister and I have discussed if we are the people we are “because of or in spite of” my¬†parents. We have “played” pop psychologist analyzing¬†and scrutinizing my parents’ relationship and personalities.¬†During one of those conversations my sister commented “their story was truly a love story”. Wait! What! I wanted to ask didn’t she remember slammed doors, raised voices, less than stellar choices on many levels.. Their story wasn’t a fairy tale – American serviceman from Oklahoma meets young British woman during Korean war and they live happily ever after.¬† No that wasn’t it. Their life together wasn’t perfect or maybe even what they each expected it to be¬†–¬†4 children,¬†financial stress, mental health issues,¬†miscarriages,¬†moving a lot – Oklahoma, Utah, Arizona and finally New Jersey.*

However just this week I realized my sister was right¬†my parents’ story was a love story. Because after it was all said and done from April 22, 1953 until November 25, 2012.

”¬†I, James,¬†take thee, Margaret, to be my wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.”

I, Margaret, take thee, James, to be my wedded Husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.”

They kept their vows definitely not perfectly but they kept their vows and something bigger than words makes you keep those vows – love!

IMG_1034 Mom and Dad in Christmas 1988.


*Years ago I realized that my parents did the best they could with the resources (financial, emotional, mental and spiritual) they had. There is a sense of freedom when you come to that point.

It’s not just about me

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Over the last¬†week or so¬†I have had a similar conversation with different friends.¬†They stumble through saying something like : “so does September 11 get easier?” “well, I know it doesn’t get easier but …”

Personally I think¬† it has gotten harder because now September 11 isn’t just about “my personal loss in the midst of a national tragedy.” Last week I had a delightful lunch with 7 fellow docents and friends ¬†– a mom who lost her son, a widow,¬†three downtown residents, a firefighter and a Port Authority employee. I know their stories and struggles. I thought of them and others on September 11. They commented that this year was harder and they couldn’t understand why. I shared my theory that it was harder because we carry each other’s stories in our hearts.

So does September 11 get easier with the passage of time:

Yes, because I¬†don’t worry about¬†people’s expectations.

No, because I realize how much Bruce has missed and how much I miss him.

No, because it not  just about me and my family. It is about my Tribute friends and their stories.

“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


aha moment!!!

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I have to share this story. I know some people wouldn’t agree with me and that is fine. Some people may not even get it and that is fine, too. But this morning I just witnessed the most amazing example of God’s love for me. An example of his fingerprints all over everything.

As I checked my email, I had my daily 9/11 list server email. I subscribe to this post and most days I glance down the list is see if there is anything I should know. I may or may not click on an article or YouTube video. Some days I delete it without reading anything. It helps to keep me informed about all things September 11 including books, the National Museum, etc.. Today a YouTube video by New York City Ballet was included. I clicked on it, watched a beautiful piece that was performed on the roof of 4WTC at dawn. 1WTC is visible in the background. The music, the choreography, the dancers everything about it is fitting and appropriate as a September 11 tribute which it is. New York City Ballet presented this as a “gift of remembrance”. It is stunning.

I posted it on twitter because I felt it was worth sharing. My twitter account is connected to my Facebook page. So then on Facebook I tagged a few dancers who I wanted to make sure saw it because I knew they would enjoy seeing it. And then a comment of Facebook brought me to tears. Good tears. The kind of tears that remind me how much I am loved by God. I actually had an aha moment!! I suddenly realized what a gift this video was. Let me explain. As you probably know my husband was one of he 343 firefighters killed on September 11. Thus my interest in “all things September 11”. You may or may not know that as a little girl I wanted to be a ballerina. Starting in my teens and through most of my adult life I taught ballet. I taught ballet and other forms of dance for 40 years. For 35 of those years a friend and I owned a dancing school. We retired two years ago and were able to “gift” the studio to a wonderful, talented young woman. I have known that young woman since she was a little girl. Actually I have also known her husband since he was a little boy. Her husband worked on building the building the dancers in the video are dancing on. So here are all these parts that came together in this one video – September 11, ballet, the building. But it was so much more than that. It is hard to explain but I had a moment of clarity where I understood the Bible story of Joseph and I understood “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done…”

Social media connects us is marvelous ways. I believe God is constantly connecting us to each other and to Him. I am grateful and awed.

let’s do lunch

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If you had peeked through the kitchen window, it would have looked like three women having lunch. And you would have been right but you would have missed all the other layers. There were three of us – myself, my neighbor and my sister-in-law. We were having a delicious lunch which was so generously supplied by my neighbor and served at my weekend house aka the Barn. But the luncheon was so much more than just lunch. It was a time for my sister-in-law, my neighbor and I to share our breast cancer stories. For my sister-in-law to encourage my neighbor who isn’t as far down the road as she is. It was a time for us to voice victories and concerns. A time to say “we hate all that pink stuff”. A time to remember how far we have come and how far some people still have to go. We laughed. We listened. We loved.

And I was reminded that God doesn’t waste anything. All that you or I have experienced and learned along the way can help or encourage that person who is one step behind or across the street. Having lunch or maybe just holding the door open for that person who is one step behind is all that is needed. The bonus is you are encouraged, too. So who do you need to do lunch with? ūüôā

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Travel Tuesdays – S1E17 Japan


244Japan wasn’t on my list of countries I wanted to visit. But after my recent trip to Japan, I would definitely go again (with a guide/interpreter) and would encourage you to go as well. My trip to Japan wasn’t vacation. It was conferences, meetings, photo ops, making connections by telling “our 9-11 stories”. Through my connection with the Tribute Center I was invited to be part of a “9-11 meets 3-11” trip. The trip was an amazing journey. It is a journey I am still processing.

A few things I observed/learned from my 9 days in Japan.

1. Japan is a beautiful country – clean modern cities and lush farm lands.

2. Japan is a proud country – modern conveniences steeped with ancient traditions.

3. Japan is a country that is still recovering from a devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear spill.

4. I listen better when I don’t understand the language. I don’t speak or understand Japanese. But I found myself really tuning into the person who was speaking. Trying to read their body language, trying to read their heart, trying to see what their eyes were saying. And listening carefully to the translation. At the school for the deaf it was double translation Japanese and sign language.

5. A “mom hug” can help. At one of the mental health centers, we meet a young American who has been teaching English as part of the JET program. He has been in Japan for two years. He arrived two months after the earthquake and has been teaching in one of the badly hit areas. As he was telling us what he has been doing and how he will be leaving soon, there was something that “wasn’t right”, something not being said. I was listening and chatting with him suddenly I said to him “Could I give you a mom hug?” At which point, he said “Yes, it has been a long time.” And then he burst into tears. I also started crying. It was a humbling experience that lead to conversation with not just a “mom” but he also spoke with a few “dads” in the group.

6. I can read about an event. I can watch videos and see it on the news but being there makes it real. It was like ground zero or the devastation from Super Storm Sandy until I saw it with my own eyes I couldn’t believe it. In all three cases, it was worst than I could imagine. And how quickly we forget that people are still recovering, struggling and trying to establish a “new normal”.

7. Lastly, God doesn’t waste anything. All of my experiences can be used to help someone else. I don’t have the answers. Most of the time I don’t even know the question but I have my story. And if my story can help someone else on this journey called life then I have to share it. I believe that is true for each and every one of us. And when in doubt of what it is the right thing to say, your presence, your smile or hug can say it all.