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.

Come From Away

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     Earlier this week, I saw Come From Away, a new musical, at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre for the second time. Back in November members of the Tribute Ladies Auxiliary (TLA) purchased tickets to see the show on March 7 but a few weeks ago, at the gracious invitation of the producers 9/11 family members from the FDNY were invited to attend a dress rehearsal. I invited my “bestest” friend to go with me for a couple of reasons – I always enjoy spending time with her and she has got my back. To be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect and was a little nervous about it. The TLA getting tickets to see Come From Away was my idea and I wanted to make sure it was okay. I knew the show was a musical based on the stories of the people who were stranded in Gander, Newfoundland due to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Okay that sounds bizarre on many levels but I was curious. I figured if I saw a dress rehearsal I could give my fellow Tribute Ladies a “heads up” if anything was too weird.

     Let me just clarify one thing, Tribute Ladies Auxiliary (TLA) isn’t a real group or maybe it is the most real group I belong to. TLA is women (mostly retired) who met each other due to our volunteering at the 9/11 Tribute Center. We each have a September 11 connection – family member, downtown resident, first responder, survivor or recovery volunteer. Our lives are connected by September 11 but otherwise we probably would never have crossed paths. A few years ago, a couple of the women decided to get to know each other better outside of volunteering and to be tourist in their own city. And thus, TLA was born since then every 6 weeks or so we take a tour. We have visited the Waldorf Astoria, the Cloisters, the Merchants House, the Whitney Museum to name just a few places. The friendships I share with the TLA members are a blessing.

      The phrase “Come From Away” is what Newfoundlanders call people who aren’t from Newfoundland. In case you don’t know Newfoundland is an island and is part of Canada. On September 11, 2001 when American airspace was closed 38 planes landed in Gander, Newfoundland. Come from Away tells the stories of the “plane people” and the Newfies. Come From Away is an amazing uplifting show. Personally, I think it is perfect show for this time. It reminds us that we made it through a terrible event with help from our neighbors. One of the last lines of the show is “Tonight we honor what was lost, but we commemorate what we found.”

My bestest friend and I loved the dress rehearsal. I was very excited to see it again with the Tribute Ladies and my daughter. Everyone loved the show. To quote one of them “Come From Away is the essence of our story…our group had a storyline similar to the play, in that there was shock, suffering, dealing with the trauma, but finding our way to healing through each other… I am sad that this is the way we came together, but my life is richer with the addition of these relationships. We did indeed find each other.”
Ditto to that! 

      I have said many times that to me the story of September 11 is a like mosaic. A mosaic is made up of little pieces of glass or tile when laid next to each other they make the whole picture. The pieces don’t interconnect like a puzzle but they still add to the whole. In the beginning, I only had my story and that was quite enough. But through volunteering at the Tribute Center I know more stories. When I take all those stories and my story and lay them next to the stories of Come From Away I have a better understanding of the whole story.

Go see Come from Away you won’t regret it. Oh, and if you take someone under 25, please make sure they know what happened on September 11, 2001. Share the history and your story with them.
😉

http://comefromaway.com/

What do you want for your birthday?

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      Typically, when my daughters ask me what I want for my birthday or Christmas I respond “peace on earth, goodwill towards men.” On rare occasions when I respond “new socks or new dish towels or season three of the Newsroom” they say “Mom, what happened to peace on earth!” Well, I have a new response for my birthday gift this year – I want immigrant children and their parents (who have been properly vetted) to be able to enter the USA, I want green card carrying aliens to be able to go visit their families and return safely, I want the children of this world to have food, shelter, education and the opportunity to play, explore and discover their gifts. And then use those gifts to make this world a better place.    

      Next week is my birthday but the United States of America is not my birthplace. It is however my country. I was born in Oxford, England to a British mother and an American father. At birth I was registered at the American Embassy as the child of an American Air Force Technical Sergeant. As I understand the story due to red tape, a US Congressman from Oklahoma had to get involved so my mother could come to America. We came to America on October 4, 1955. My first passport issued on August 3, 1955 states: “I, the undersigned, Consul of the United States of America, hereby request all whom it may concern to permit safely and freely to pass and in case of need to give all lawful aid and protection to Ann Collette Clark a citizen of the United States.” I started to cry as I read those words this morning because somewhere there is child whose parents are trying to enter the USA. They aren’t citizens but they have been properly vetted and now they must wait and wait. I understand this is a complex issue. I know I have white privilege. I am fully aware that terrorists were responsible for the September 11 attacks that caused my husband to die in the line of duty but I also believe we can do “better.”

       Last week at the 9/11 Tribute Center as I finished speaking to a group of sixth graders, a student said to me “after September 11, people did mean things to Muslims.” I responded “I know that. That was wrong. Remember what I said we need to live aware not afraid. Those people were living afraid. If they had been aware of what Islam taught, they would have known all Muslims are not terrorist. Aware not afraid.” My daughters have already given me my birthday presents this year. They just don’t realize it. Nothing they could give me could mean more to me than the way they live their lives. They are doing “better.” On Saturday January 28, my older daughter, after working all day, traveled with her husband to JFK Terminal 4 to protest. And this past week my younger daughter when informed that a patient was undocumented stated “what does that have to do with getting him medical care.” It is time not just to do good but to do better with hopes for the best we can be. 😎

My word for 2016

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The word that best describes my 2016 is EVENTFUL. I think that same word may describe 2016 for many whether personally or as a community or even as a nation. Per the thesaurus, synonyms for eventful are exciting, action-packed, busy, hectic, lively, important, momentous. I can say with confidence that the antonym for eventful doesn’t apply to 2016 – dull.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            is for “Every good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

is for Volunteering. I received my pin for 400 public tours at the 9/11 Tribute Center. I also had the opportunity to volunteer at Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child Shoebox center.

is for Emily and Scott, who moved back to the East Coast after 9 years in Seattle. Emily is working for the NYPL as a Children’s Librarian. Scott is continuing his writing career as a writer for a public relations company. I am so very proud of them. Moving cross country, establishing yourself in a new city is no small feat and in a short timeframe is almost impossible. Well done!

is for a new grandchild due to arrive in March 2017. Meghan and Kyle are doing such a super job parenting Colton God is blessing them with a second child. I am incredibly proud of them as they juggle work and family. I look forward to double the fun with two grandkids.   

is for travel. Speaking in Brussels, ME, PA and Japan, attending conferences in CA and NC which allowed for side trips to visit family in WA and SC, a trip to DC with Meghan & Colton and visiting friends in FL were my travels for 2016.

 is for family and friends. Visits with family and friends are a blessing whether in person or on FB.

 U is for you. Wishing you a joyous Holiday Season & a Healthy and Happy New Year     

is for loss and love. My mother-in-law, Johanna, passed away in January after living a long life. My cousin’s son, Ryan, passed away in February after too short a life. “Trust in God steadily, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of three is love.”

 Hugs, Ann