No Surprises: navigating tragedy with faith, family and the FDNY

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Chapter 1 (rough draft)

A Free Day

Once a month, Bruce and I sat with our calendars to coordinate life. I always ended that sit down with “No Surprises, let me know if it isn’t going to work but no surprises.”  As a mom, wife, small business owner and church volunteer I prided myself on being organized, prepared, in control of my life.

It was supposed to be get-a-few-things-done type of day. With my two daughters back in school, my firefighter husband on duty, and one more week until fall classes resumed at my dance studio, I was free to do as I pleased. The day started as most days did. To be able to ease into my day instead of being thrown into it I got up an hour before my daughters, to shower, let the dog out, get my thoughts together and have my cup of tea.

At 6:30am Meghan staggered into the kitchen, arms at her sides, head down, still half asleep and stood in front of me for her morning hug and kiss on the forehead. At fourteen, Meghan was almost as tall as I was at 5’10”. Meghan, my second born and polar opposite of her older sister, wasn’t a morning person but watch out later in the day she was a force to be reckoned with.

Weeks earlier after freshmen orientation, Meghan had declared “By the time I have been at high school a month, everyone will know who I am. I kept asking if anyone knew Emily and no one did. They are going to know me.” I didn’t doubt that for a moment.

Emily, my 17-year-old reserved, attentive child was starting her senior year and negotiated her schedule to allow for early dismissal. Bruce and I informed her early dismissal required her to volunteer somewhere or get a part time job.

“Mom, don’t forget I have that Red Cross meeting this evening. Are we coming home before that?”

“Probably not. We’ll run errands or visit Nanny & Poppy”

Meghan chimed in “What’s happening to me?”

“Still sorting that out. Daddy will probably bring you home. Let’s go girls.”

The target time to leave the house each school day was 7:15am. My daughters attended Eastern Christian High School in North Haledon, New Jersey thirty miles away so driving them to school wasn’t around the corner or down the block or the other side of town. It was over the river and through the woods to another state we go. Even though school was miles from home it was near to my work making me available for drop offs, pick-ups and emergencies during the day.

As I turned into the circular driveway, I commented “Make sure you have all of your stuff. Em, I will see you at early dismissal time. Meg, I will see you at regular time. Have a good day. Love you.”

Next stop, my dance studio to quickly check the mail and answering machine messages and then home for my free morning. Can’t wait.Finding nothing that needed my attention, I got in my car to leave and the radio came on.

“…a small plane has flown into the World Trade Center.”

As I put the car into reverse, looked over my shoulder and backed up the radio news anchor continued.

“…a second plane has hit the World Trade Center”

 What? I pulled back into the parking space and sat a moment. I turned up the volume.   Maybe that Nelson Demille book I just read is really happening – pilots are being blinded. No, that’s not possible?!

Home seemed like where I needed to be.  I was operating on auto-pilot. As I merged onto Route 208, the FDNY issued a total recall.

“All firefighters report for duty.”

I knew the FDNY doesn’t call firefighters into work via the radio. This was bad, really bad. We must be at war but with whom? As I drove the radio continued to drone on, I started to pray. Lord, protect Bruce. Bring him home.I knew he would be sent down there. Bruce was a firefighter in a Special Operations Command (SOC) unit, a Squad. Squad 41 to be exact. Squad 41 ventured into Manhattan from the Bronx on a regular basis. I have joked that firefighters in Squads (and Rescues) do things they don’t tell their wives. It is bad enough that your firefighter husband runs into burning buildings. You don’t want to know he hung from a building, crawled around in a confided space, or suffered exposure to a biohazard all in the name of an average day in a Squad or Rescue.

When I arrived home, I turned on the television. The news professionals appeared as rattled and puzzled as I was. The images were baffling and then reports out of Washington, DC. What, now?  The images of a plane crashing into the Pentagon flashed on the screen. I started to pray again. Lord, please protect my country. Please protect New York City.

I paced, pleaded, prayed and the television kept reporting additional events. One of the twin towers collapsed, another plane crashed in Pennsylvania, the other tower collapsed.

I remembered in the Old Testament how Abraham prayed for a city to be saved. He asked God if there were one hundred righteous people to save the city and worked down to ten people and finally one person. I figured I had no time to waste so I prayed if there was one righteous person in New York City please save my city. I suggested to God that Dr. Mucci, District Superintendent for the Church of Nazarene, would probably qualify as the one person.

I was worried that my brother and/or brother-in-law might be traveling for business or be in New York City.  I tried to make several calls to my parents in New Jersey and sister in New York. No calls would go through.

“All circuits are busy, please try again later.”

Suddenly my telephone rang.

“Mom, where is Daddy?”  It was Emily.

“I don’t know.” I must hold it together until Bruce is home.  “I don’t expect to hear from Daddy. He doesn’t usually call when he is on duty. We will call the firehouse later if we haven’t heard from him by the time he is off duty. Okay? Find your sister and I will pick you both up at early release time. I love you. See you in a little while.”

People have asked me “why didn’t I get my girls from school when I first heard about the attacks? Why drive all the way home?” To be honest it never dawned on me to get them from school. I think I believed that if the girls were at school, Bruce was on duty and I was at my dance studio or home. It was all normal. And I desperately needed for it to be normal. For it to be all right.

The phone rang again.

“Hi, it’s Barbara. Is Bruce on duty?”

It was my sister who I hadn’t spoken to in a very long time. Since Barbara lived in California I guess we had never mentioned the house rule of not calling to ask me if Bruce was on duty when you hear of a fire on the television or radio. Who would have thought she would know about a fire in NYC?  I was grateful to hear her voice.  Bruce will be so surprised that Barbara called. I can’t wait to tell him.

My thoughts of getting something done or being free to do as I pleased were forgotten. I wasn’t sure what I should do. The television didn’t seem to have any new information. I couldn’t make phone calls. As much as I wanted to be home earlier, being home now felt isolating.  It wasn’t even early release time, so I couldn’t pick-up Emily and Meghan or so I thought.  I decided to drive back to my studio to see Carol. Carolis my best friend and business partner. She is my person. We can talk for hours or we sit with a cup of tea and not say a word. Through life’s mountains and valleys, she has walked with me. We double dated in our teens and twenties. We stood up for each other when we got married. When I started my business, New School of Dance Arts, Carol taught for me. After the first year I asked her if she wanted to be my business partner. At the time there was one hundred dollars in the studio checkbook, I told her if she matched the hundred dollars we would be equal partners in the business. Her hubby, Tony, calls us “partners in crime.” Tony and many others chuckled at our lack of business savvy “that’s not how you buy into a business” but Carol and I were business partners since 1976 so I guess we have done something right.

I retraced the same route I had driven earlier. But this time as I approached the top of Skyline Drive, I noticed there were cars parked on the shoulder. People standing outside their cars. What are they doing?  As the road reached the crest of the mountain, my question was answered. You can see the New York City skyline. Looking far to the right you see lower Manhattan. There was a big cloud of smoke where the building had been. Had I seen the towers earlier?

I entered the studio to find Carol sitting at the table with brochures, registration forms and schedules arranged in front of her.

“Your Dad called more than once. He wants you to call him.” were the first words out of her mouth.

I put my purse on the gymnastic mats and reached for the wall phone. A brief conversation with my Dad ended with a promise to stop by after I had picked up the girls.  Carol and I discussed all that we knew about the attacks. We switched gears to focus on studio stuff -what classes we needed to confirm, cancel, etc.

“I will call you when I hear from Bruce.” I walked out the door. Not realizing that I won’t walk back through that door until Monday October 1 when classes finally began.

Over the past three years I had regularly dropped Emily off or picked her up at school but rarely entered the building. Having been an ever-present parent during Emily’s preschool and elementary school days (I taught at the same preschool and elementary school she attended), I had made the conscience decision to step back and allow Emily to be her own person minus the role of Miss Ann’s daughter.

“Hi, I am Ann Van Hine. Emily has early release. I also want to sign out Meghan.”

“Of course, let me see what class Meghan is in. Emily should be heading this way to sign out.”

The ride to my parents’ house was full of questions with no answers but assurances of love and faith. We arrived at my parents’ home nine miles away to find my Dad sitting at the far side of the dining room table giving the impression he was holding court. My Mom was not thrilled with my Dad’s favorite spot, she wanted her table back for meals, but it had become his desk. My Dad tried to reassure my girls that Bruce couldn’t have gotten from the Bronx to Lower Manhattan before the towers collapsed. My Dad is an engineer and physicist so thinking things through logically was what he did but even as my Dad explained his reasoning I knew he was wrong. My Dad wasn’t tuning into the fact Bruce was in a Squad and would have been dispatched earlier rather than later.

Days later my Dad mentioned that he hadn’t tuned into the Squad dynamic and asked, “why didn’t you correct me?”

“I couldn’t correct you in front of the girls.”

Emily and I discussed the Red Cross meeting. She called to see if it was still on and the answer was no. We hung out a little longer and then decided to head home.  As I drove up Route 17 in my rearview mirror for a brief moment I saw the New York City skyline. I saw the smoke and I willed my girls not to turn around. When we got home, we turned the television on for a short time. We tried to do our daily routine. Time slowed or stopped or something, but it wasn’t moving as in a normal day.

By the late afternoon, I spoke with my sister-in-law, Bobbie, Bruce’s sister. She was at my mother-in-law’s home in South Jersey about three hours away. One of my greatest fears had been how would I tell Bruce’s mom something happened to him?  My father-in-law died ten years prior, my mother-in-law lived alone, and Bobbie lived in Kansas but on September 11, 2001 Bobbie just happened to be in New Jersey for a friend’s child’s wedding. So as all this was happening my 82-year-old mother-in-law was not alone. Thank you, Lord.

Around 7pm, I went into my bedroom to call Squad 41. The answering machine picked up. I left a message “Please have Bruce Van Hine call his wife.” I didn’t wait long before I called again. “Please have anyone call Bruce Van Hine’s wife.”

I called my folks. I told my Dad that no one was answering the phone at Squad 41. When my ever-calm Dad said, “call every number you have for the New York City Fire Department until you reach a human being” I was freaked. I grabbed the FDNY phone list off the back of the basement door and headed to my bedroom out of ear shot of my girls. I glanced down at the list, saw Bronx and dialed. It was Bronx Dispatch. The firefighter who answered explained that this was the number to report fires and kindly suggested that I keep calling Squad 41.

Eventually I got through to someone at Squad 41 who said “No one is here. They went to look for them. They will be in touch when they get back.” This can’t be happening.

Around 10:00pm I decided we should all get some sleep so Emily, Meghan and our 130 lb. Rottweiler, Buster, piled into my bed. I had a feeling that someone was coming to the house and didn’t want to be in my pajamas, so I stayed dressed. I laid with my girls until they were asleep. Then I got up.

I paced, prayed and made a cup of tea. Growing up a “cup of tea” was the quick fix for whatever was happening. A cup of tea could calm you down or cheer you up. My Mom is British so making tea was a ritual. I followed that ritual as I boiled water, heated the pot, steeped the tea and placed the tea cozy over the pot. I poured the milk in the cup first, added one sugar and poured the brewed tea. I sat on the couch cradling my warm cup of tea in my hands and waited for what I didn’t know but I waited.

At a little before midnight, I heard a car pull up, a car door close and then another. Even though the street light allowed me a glimpse of who was heading to my house through one of the three small windows in my front door, I decided I didn’t want to know. I held my breath and waited. Maybe they aren’t coming here.Please don’t be coming here. There was a light knock on the side door. Whoever it is knows we use the side kitchen door instead of the front door. Standing outside were two men – Charlie who was Bruce’s lieutenant and another firefighter, the identity of that firefighter changes in my memory.

I positioned myself between the kitchen and living room leaning with my shoulder against the doorway. Hopefully the house will hold me up if they say something bad. Polite greetings and then silence. I couldn’t stand the suspense “Just say it”.

Charlie whispered, “They are unaccounted for.”

Unaccounted for? wait? what?

In an almost out of body experience I heard myself say “I have no doubt God can get me through this, but I don’t want to go through this.”

I don’t want to. How many times through the years had my own kids and my students said those exact same words? How many times had I chimed in “most of life has nothing to do with what you want to do? I don’t want to pay taxes or do laundry, but I do.”

There wasn’t a sense of dread. There was a sense of this is really happening. Now what?Charlie, the other firefighter and I sat at the kitchen table as Charlie filled me in on what they knew which wasn’t much. Charlie offered assistance, a prayer, a hug and they left.

I locked the door and tiptoed down the hallway towards my bedroom. I hoped and prayed that the girls were asleep and hadn’t heard the exchange with Charlie. They seemed to be asleep, so I went back into the kitchen to make a few calls.

I called Debbie who is a pastor but first and foremost she is one of my best friends. I asked her to contact Pastor Steve and other friends in the morning. As we spoke I glanced out the window and noticed a man walking down the street. There was a moment I wondered if it was real and commented to Debbie “there is a guy walking down the street.” It reminded me of a scene from a movie – the late hour, the single streetlight glowing. It felt eerie. Years later in conversation Debbie mentioned the guy walking down the street and added “I think it was Bruce checking on things.”

I called my parents. Shared what I knew.

“We will drive up.”

“No, it is too late. Come tomorrow. I’m okay. Love you.”

I checked on my daughters again and realized Emily was awake.  I motioned to her to come into the living room. We sat on the living room floor. Within moments Meghan and the dog appeared in the doorway. They joined us on the floor.

“Charlie was here. Daddy is unaccounted for.”

We cried.

We hugged.

We prayed.

We got back in bed.

Once the girls were asleep I got up.  I made another pot of tea.

“Sorrow lasts for a night but joy cometh in the morning” kept running through my head. I needed to see the sunrise. I waited for the new day. I waited for the darkness to be replaced by light. I waited until the sun had risen and then I laid down to sleep. There was another day…

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

 

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.

March Moments

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When I owned my studio March was a slow month. The majority of the prep work for the recital was done before March – music chosen, students measured, costumes ordered, monies collected and choreography started. March was the month I got to concentrate on just one thing, teaching dance. I have been retired almost five years now and you would think my “March” would be even slower than it had been when I worked but alas this March has been a whirlwind.

March 1- 5 – I was in Brussels where I spoke at the EPP hearing at the European Parliament on victims of terrorism. https://missannsays.com/2016/02/12/remedial-class/   I also ventured out to explore with a bus trip to Ghent and Bruges. Speaking at the EP was a first and this was also the first time I traveled alone in a country other than England. I did enroll in the US State Department STEP program https://step.state.gov/step/ which means the American Embassy in Belgium knew I was “in country” and where to find me. In today’s world I would suggest enrolling. I also dressed as a professional woman not a person on vacation. Even though I was in Brussels I used my New York City walk – woman on a mission not wandering. Don’t mess with me.

March 7 – I lead two tours at the 9/11 Tribute Center.

March 8 – I was a panel member at Asia Society 3-11 and 9-11 survivor stories. It was a wonderful reunion with those I had traveled to Japan with in 2013 and 2014. The panel discussion was followed by a delicious dinner attended not only by myself and my Tribute Center family but by Japan’s ambassador to the United Nations. http://asiasociety.org/new-york/events/3-11-and-9-11-survivor-stories.

March 9 – taught two classes, had my taxes done and led Children’s Bible quizzing at church.

March 10 – 14 – flew to FL to visit good friends. I enjoyed relaxing days, yummy food, great conversation and many laughs. We realized in our time together we have known each other over 40 years which makes me feel old and extremely blessed.

March 16 – taught one class, had my hair done and led Children’s Bible quizzing at church.

March 17 – 22 – Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in CA. I met some talented writers, gracious agents and encouraging editors. The key-note speaker was Carol Kent. If you ever have the opportunity to hear her speak you will be challenged and encouraged by her words. Once I am home I have much writing to accomplish. Exciting. Scary. Taunting. Good stuff.

Terrorist attacks in Brussels bring tears to my eyes, sorrow to my heart and prayers to my lips.

March 22 – 27 – visiting with my daughter and son-in-law in Seattle. Emily and I have done some touristy things. I would highly recommend the Boeing factory tour and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation visitor center. The cherry blossoms at University of Washington were in bloom and we had a delightful walk around Emily’s alma mater.  Also saw My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 which was a fun movie. As we walked to the car after the movie, Emily said she really wanted baklava so a trip to the grocery store was in order. 🙂

The old adage is “March comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion.” March 2016 for me has been an adventure that will take some time to process. I am truly a blessed.

Finally Home

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generations

My mother-in-law is finally home. She passed from this life to eternity early this morning. For years she had been saying (my paraphrase) “Each night I ask the Lord to just take me home and then I wake up in the morning and have another day. I don’t know why God still has me here?” Before she moved to assisted living I would answer that question with “I don’t know Mom but I think it is so we can go to Friendly’s together”. After she moved to assisted living I would say “I don’t know Mom but I think it is because there may be someone here who doesn’t know Jesus loves them.” My mother-in-law was 97 years old last September. She served in her church until she was in her 90’s. She picked up friends and drove them to church until she was in her 90’s which to be honest was always a little scary to me but what an example of servant hood. My mother-in-law truly practiced the gift of hospitality. She was always inviting people over for Sunday dinner. She hosted more missionaries and random people overnight in her home than you could believe.

My mother-in-law lived alone since her husband had died over 20 years ago. She outlived just about every one of her contemporaries. All of her siblings and their spouses are deceased. Many of her friends are deceased.  The one death that she told me time and time again she couldn’t understand was her son, my husband, Bruce Van Hine. Through the 14 years since his death, I would remind her that Bruce was a firefighter and he died in the line of duty doing a job he loved. I would say “It is the wrong order of things for a parent to bury a child.”  I would change the subject to remind her about her daughter and her husband and her 5  grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Naming each member of the family and mentioning where they lived and any stories I could think of. Showing her photos on FB.

My mother-in-law and I didn’t always see eye to eye. Surprisingly we actually became closer after Bruce’s death. We both lost someone we loved dearly. I realized that after a point you just need to cut people slack so a change in my attitude improved our relationship. Also I think if someone is in their 80’s or 90’s what the heck give them a break.

I had the privilege of being with my mother-in-law in her last days. I held the fort down until my sister-in-law could arrive from Kansas. I have to chuckle because last Thursday was the first day I ever wore knee high boots with jeans tucked in and because I didn’t have time to go home for a change of clothing I wore jeans with knee high boots for 4 days straight. I went to CVS and bought underwear, socks, toiletries and t-shirt. On Saturday my daughter drove in from PA and brought me some clothing but wow! my mother-in-law used to call me that dancer girl and here I am in an outfit she would never approve of or understand.  But on the bright side I played church hymns for her on my iPhone, held her cup so she could sip water, feed her one or two spoonfuls of yogurt and told her “if you see the hand of Jesus reaching out to you, grab it.” I prayed for her and read Bible passages and told stories. I left her on Sunday morning in the care of her daughter and I can honestly say “we” were good.

So today I am saddened but I am also rejoicing because my mother-in-law is home and she is reunited with her hubby and son. I am currently visiting my daughter who brought the clothing and her social work expertise on Saturday. And I had to smile because on her way home from work today she stopped at the grocery store and bought shrimp, cocktail sauce and blueberry muffins. All items in memory of her grandmother.

“Don’t worry Mom we are saving the muffins for breakfast. Mom, God answered your prayer. It took longer than you thought it would but He answered it. I love you. I will see you again. Give Bruce a hug from me.” Love Ann, that dancer girl and your daughter-in-law. 🙂

 

Wonderful story about this not being our home. http://www.ugandamission.net/ministry/teaching/homecoming.html

My ABC’s from 2015.

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Golden glitter

 

A is for adventures. A week in Florida Keys, a weekend in Chicago and being a tourist in my own city all qualify.

B is for ballet. I taught one class a week at a Modern Dance studio.

C is for Colton James. He was born on April 29, 2015.

D is for Dunkin Donuts. I drank quite a few cups of coffee.

E is for Eagle Rock Resort. Enjoyed my cabin and the amenities.

F is for faith, family and friends. I can’t do life without them.

G is for Grammy. My new title thanks to Colton James. 🙂

H is for hope. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

I is for interview. I did a couple of those.

J is for Joy.

K is for kindness.

L is for Library Book Club. Still going strong on the first Tuesday of each month.

M is for my Mum. She is doing well even though she is confined to a wheelchair.

N is for nieces and nephews. 7 plus 12 “grand” nieces and nephews. 🙂

O is for opportunities. I am blessed with many.

P is for published. “Unexpected Blessings” in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteer and Giving Back edition and a devotional in The Upper Room.

Q is for quizzing. After 19 years, Eastern Regional Quiz at ENC was my last hurrah as Metro New York Children’s Ministries director for the Church of the Nazarene.

S is for shore. Spent a few days at the Jersey Shore with the Bowers.

T is for tea with Miss Carol. Always a treat.

U is for university. I spoke on two campuses.

V is for volunteering at the 9/11 Tribute Center.

W is for writing.

X is for eXercise.

Y is for year. Hard to believe another has come and gone.

Z is for zero. The number of regrets I have.

In 2016, I want to read and write more. I want to be present and not distracted. I want to be who God intended me to be.

 

 

 

coincidence??

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At the beginning of last week a couple of cancellation notices for Tribute Center tours appeared in my inbox. I decided to take those two tours as I wasn’t scheduled to give any walking tours this week or next. But let me give you a little back story that plays into this story. A friend who is now a Pastor in Irwin had invited me to speak to his congregation. So on September 12 I drove from my daughter’s home to the Irwin, PA which is just outside of Pittsburgh. My friend had mentioned that maybe on Saturday afternoon, we along with his wife and three young children could drive to Shanksville, PA to the United 93 Memorial. I agreed that I would like to visit the Memorial again as I had been there in August of 2011. I had seen the Memorial Plaza but the rest of the Memorial and the visitor center were not completed until this September.

I arrived in Irwin a little later than originally expected but after a lovely late lunch we drove the hour to Shanksville. My friend and his wife asked if I could explain a little bit about United 93 so their children would understand where we were going. Their adorable children are very young – 2 1/2, 6 and 7 years-old. In the simplest of terms I spoke of bad men taking over a plane and how the people on the plane knew the bad men were going to do something really bad and hurt many people so they tried to stop them. I said the plane crashed and that was very sad. We talked about what a Memorial is.  I mentioned also that it is safe and fun to go on airplanes.

When we arrived we walked through the new area. A National Park Ranger informed us we had arrived too late to go in the visitor center. Since I am not one to “play the 9/11 card” it was sometime later when I realized this may have been the occasion to say “I am a 9/11 family member.”  The weather was not the best and we were getting cold. Anyway we drove down to the Memorial Plaza area. My friend again asked if I could explain so his children understood. In the Memorial Plaza area there are posters that show photos of the 40 people killed on United 93 as well as other information. I called the children over to show them the photos of the passengers. I pointed to Todd Beamer and Jeremy Glick and commented that these were two of the men that helped to take the plane back. I comment that all the people were brave. I mentioned that these two people went to my cousin’s church (actually my husband’s cousin’s church).Look! All the people in the photos are smiling that is how their families want to remember them. My friend’s 7-year-old  daughter, Sarah * said “this lady is wearing flowers.” I looked and realized the woman was from Hawaii. And upon further investigation we realized there were two ladies wearing flowers, two ladies from Hawaii. I talked about leis and how beautiful the ladies looked. How far away Hawaii is. I mentioned let’s look for this lady’s name when we go up to the wall. Sarah read the name “Christine”. As we walked towards the wall we stopped and looked on the shelves where people left remembrances. “How many flags?” “How many bracelets?” At one point the children were running ahead. My friend was concerned that they weren’t showing respect or were disturbing other people. I said “They are being children. Children are our hope. As a 9/11 family member I am fine with the way they are acting. Now if they were 10 or 12 years old that would be a different story.” When we arrived at the wall we found Christine’s name there were flowers in front of her name.

Fast forward to Thursday as I finish my tour a woman comes up to thank me. She is obviously upset and I ask if she is okay and she mentions she lost a good friend on flight 93. In conversation I realize her friend is Christine. I tell her of a little girl named Sarah who paid respect to her friend Christine. We hugged. And not for the first time and I pray not for the last time I was blessed by the amazing “coincidences” God allows me to experience.

*Sarah is not her real name. FYI: I was able to share this story with my friend and we are all amazed and will never forget Christine.

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