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

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

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.