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.   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 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.

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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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.

grateful, culture and Paris


Gratitude-Henry Ward Beecher

I spoke at a women’s luncheon today about living a grateful life – my September 11 experiences and thoughts from the book of Philippians. I also shared a story I don’t usually share, a story about Paris. As the chairperson of the meeting read my bio, there was an audible gasp as she said “In 1990, Bruce achieved his lifetime dream of being a New York City Firefighter. Bruce was killed in the line of duty on September 11, 2001.” Even after 14 years that kind of reaction gives me pause, I feel bad because in some ways I feel like I have sucker punched everyone and in another way I feel like everyone looks at me differently. I have the sense that suddenly there is a giant flashing sign above my head “9/11 widow, 9/11 widow”. I also have the sense that people’s minds are spinning, the sense that people have lost their bearings so I try to say something to break the ice, something to kick-start their brains, something to interject air back into the room. Today I commented that I wish I could say that September 11, 2001 was the last terrorist attack that the world had experienced but unfortunately that is not the case.

I went onto say that I am saddened that there are more families who can say “I have had a personal loss in the midst of a national tragedy.” All loss is loss and all loss is sad but there is an extra layer of something when your personal loss is part of an event so much bigger than you.

I told my story  and mentioned how the book of Philippians is one of my favorite books in the Bible. I mentioned that Paul was in prison when he wrote it and how the word joy in some form appears 16 times. How Paul doesn’t mentioned changing his circumstances but talks about being contend. I think it all wove together.

In case you are interested, the story I added about Paris is:

In February 2002, Squad 41  called and said “there is an opportunity that made us think of you because you have culture*! The Paris Fire Department has invited FDNY widows and their children to France for one week. You will stay in the home of a firefighter and his family. They assure us that at least one person in the family will speak English.  Do you want to go?”  Yes, please.

The night before we were scheduled to leave for Paris my telephone rang, it was Charlie, Bruce’s lieutenant. “Ann, I want you to promise me you will still go to Paris. I already know your answer to what I am going to tell you next but they made me call you. (pause) We found Bruce’s body. We will come and pick you up if your want to be here when he is carried out.”  “Charlie, I can’t do that.” “I knew that.” “Listen it could take up to 6 weeks for him to be identified so please go to France.”

I didn’t say anything to my daughters because I didn’t want to ruin their trip and the FDNY said it would take 6 weeks for identification. We were treated like royalty – taken up the back entrance into Versailles so we didn’t have to wait in line, a police escort and private tour guide at Disneyland, Paris, a state dinner on a boat up the Seine River, gifts to take home including a bottle of champagne** that had been specially labeled with FDNY and Paris FD. The kindness and generosity of the French people was amazing.

An inside joke on the trip became when asked if I spoke French, I replied “all I remember from 4 years of High School French is “Ou est une bibliotheque?”  Not a very useful phrase. On our last night as we floated up the Seine River, one of the firefighters  pointed and said “Ann, une bibliotheque” – the library.

We returned home on the day before Easter. On Easter Sunday, the day when there is no body I was notified that yes, that was Bruce’s body. For years I didn’t understand the significance of there being a body on the day when it is all about there is no body. I came to realize that my hope is based in the fact there was no body on Easter so whether Bruce’s body was*** found or not on September 11,2001 Bruce was doing his job, whispered he loved his girls and was face to face with God.

When I heard of the attacks in Paris, I thought of those firefighters I had met, I thought of their families and I prayed for them.



*still not sure what “I have culture” means

** In 2011 the day after my second daughter got married my two daughters and their husbands opened that bottle of champagne and had a special toast to their dad. 🙂

*** I did mention that I am grateful Bruce’s body was found that 40% of families have had no human remains.

April 19 – then and now

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Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing. My prayers and thoughts are with the family members, victims, fire responders, all who have always known whether it is the first, seventh, thirteenth or twentieth time April 19 has been the date on the calendar since that terrible day in 1995. My prayers are also with those who served on the jury for the trial of the accused bomber. This has to be difficult day for so many.

Twenty years ago I was in England with my two daughters and my British born mum for a two-week vacation to introduce my girls to the “mother country” of their Nanny. We were fortunate to have family to stay with and who were also willingly to drive us hither and fro through the British Countryside. We had already visited the sights of London – toured  the Tower, heard Big Ben chime twelve as we came out of the underground, visited the stables to see the Queens horses, shopped for English sweets and souvenirs. We had taken the train to Oxford to see the universities and where I was born. On Easter Sunday we had gone to Windsor Castle and had a glimpse of the Queen Mother leaving church.

On Wednesday April 19 we had visited Hampton Court and my daughters had participated in the “Jeweled Egg Hunt”, a scavenger hunt designed to make historical places a little more interesting to a 7 and 10-year-old. Upon returning to Auntie Mirrey’s house while enjoying a cup of tea there was breaking news report on the television of a bombing in Oklahoma City. My dad is from Oklahoma. Oklahoma was far away but not foreign to us. I had lived on the campus of the University of Oklahoma as a little girl. I remember trying to listen to the information and at the same time shielding my daughters from the news. A telephone call “home” would give more information but the sense of disbelief would remain. Sadness for those who were lost, sadness for innocence lost, sadness for lives changed, sadness for my country being bombed.

On that day twenty years ago I didn’t know that 6.5 years later I would become a member of a select group of people those who have experienced a personal loss  in the midst of a national tragedy. I didn’t realize that I would be able to understand in ways I wish I didn’t know what it is like to have a nation remember the anniversary of your loved ones death.  I pray that no one else ever has that distinction.

How was your weekend?

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My intention on Saturday morning was to leave the house a little earlier than I needed so I could get cash at the bank and then get gas. My car usually has at least a half a tank of gasoline in it. Mostly because whenever I drive to or through NJ I fill up the tank. Fuel in NJ is cheaper than NY and “they” pump it which is a major selling point for me. I hadn’t driven to or through NJ in the last few days so my gas gauge was registering at less than a quarter tank. I definitely didn’t want to purchase gas in my little hometown. It is too expensive typically gas is at least 50 cents a gallon more than anywhere else. Anyway I left the house a little later than planned and my gas tank was a little emptier than original thought but I realized I had $40 in cash so I could get “some” gas. The part you need to know is unless I get gas in town there won’t be another gas station for at least 10 miles in any direction. Nervously watching the gas gauge and hoping the “you need fuel” idiot light won’t blink on I headed out. No worries, it will be fine! Please, please may that be true. I pulled into the first station in NJ I came upon on my journey. I said “$40 cash, fill it regular.” I hadn’t looked how much it was a gallon so I glanced at the sign and was pleasantly surprised to see it was $2.95/gallon. Wow, I hadn’t seen that price in a long time. Guess what? at that price my tank was filled. The funny thing as I drove rest of the way to my destination and then home every other station’s prices were over $3.03. It was like a secret little Saturday morning surprise for me. 🙂

On Sunday I posted it on Facebook ”

“Apple picking, pumpkin picking and fall foliage bring many people to my area this time of year. Plus the first Sunday in October in Warwick, NY is Applefest. If you don’t know what Applefest is, think Time Square meets lovely quaint village for just one day as the Thanksgiving Day Parade is also happening. I am at the iPray/iThrist booth this morning.”

Applefest is a craft fair, farmer’s market, art show, music event that brings lots and lots of people to Warwick, NY. It is a little difficult to be excited about Applefest due to traffic being horrific mostly because the roads are not equipped to handle the volume of traffic that descent on the area. Actually the streets are wide enough for the number of people walking around. My local church sponsors a booth that has a two-fold purpose. It is called iPray where we take prayer requests and/or prayer with you and we also have iThrist where we sell bottled water for $1 to raise money for building clean water wells around the world. I volunteered to help set up and “man” the booth for a few hours. My goal was get in and out before it got too crazy in Warwick but really two people I met were worth all the traffic and all the crazy.

As a woman was writing her prayer request I asked “is there something I could pray for right now?” She responded “yes” and proceeded to tell me her request and then she said “the only reason I come to Applefest is you are here to take my prayer requests and pray with me.” Wow!! A little later another woman came over and wrote her request and I asked if I could pray with her. She has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. I briefly shared with her my breast cancer story and in further conversation realized we have the same doctor. We hugged as she left and I will be praying for her. All that said to say I helped at Applefest yesterday and missed church or did I?

How was your weekend? Mine was good! 🙂

doesn’t it make you sad?

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001 The other day a friend asked me a question that I have been asked before, “doesn’t doing tours and speaking to school groups make you relive September 11? Doesn’t being at the WTC make you sad?” I responded “No, it makes me feel blessed. I don’t associate the WTC site with Bruce. It is harder to be at his firehouse because that is where I think of him as being. I am tired after a tour but feel that I have accomplished something but mostly I am hungry.” 🙂 It is strange but I don’t picture Bruce being at the WTC site. I know he was there but I don’t try to imagine him there on the fateful day. I do sometimes think that he may have walked down Liberty Street on his way into the South Tower that thought gives me comfort as I walk that same street telling his story.

In further conversation with my friend I shared what does make me sad or allows memories to seep or rush in is the things I hear on the radio or news. The crash of the Malaysian airliner, the anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing, a mudslide in Washington, the death of 2 firefighters in Boston or a police officer in New York give me pause and cause me to pray for the families because on some level the events are a “repeat” of what I have experienced. An event that captures the attention of the nation or even world, a loved one lost but no body, an act of terrorism, a line of duty death, I can identify and so I pray. I pray that their families will have peace and know that there is hope. I pray that people will gather around them as people gathered around me and my girls. I pray that in the not so distant future they will have strength to put one foot in front of other and smile. My heart is sad that another family will know the saddest that I know, that they will have to navigate a journey they never expected to be on. 😦

On another note: when I was in the stall in Ladies Room at the Tribute Center on Monday, the lights suddenly went out and I thought this is not happening, give me a break. Then a voice said “sorry” and lights went back on. Someone had leaned against the light switch. I laughed because I was in fight or flight mode within a split second. No PTSD here. 🙂

Travel Tuesdays S1E21 – National September 11 Memorial and Museum

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052It seemed appropriate to write about the National September 11 Memorial and Museum today. I do want to clarify a couple of things. First the National September 11 Memorial and Museum is currently just a Memorial. The projected date for the Museum to open is Spring 2014. Secondly even though it is called the National September 11 Memorial and Museum it is not funded by or overseen by the government. It is a private entity and funded by donations. The Memorial recognizes all who were killed at the three attack locations on September 11, 2001 – World Trade Center, Shanksville, PA and the Pentagon. It also recognizes the 6 people including the pregnant woman and her unborn child who were killed in the Feb 26, 1993 terrorist bombing at the World Trade Center.

I would suggest you start your visit to the Memorial and the Tribute Center, 120 Liberty St where you can view 5 small galleries that tell the timeline of September 11 from the attacks to the rebuilding and sign up for a walking tour. The Tribute Center is a project of the September 11 Families Association and opened in September of 2006. Walking tours led by volunteers who have a personal connection to September 11 started in the fall of 2005. Each walking tour is led by either a family member, first responder, downtown resident, survivor or someone who volunteered at the site. The basic concept behind Tribute is person to person history. You will hear the facts of September 11, the development of the original WTC will be discussed, the rescue, the recovery and the rebuilding will be explained. But by far the most amazing part will be hearing the stories of the two docents leading your tour. I have personally been volunteering since February 2006.

The tour starts at the Tribute Center, proceeds to Greenwich Street where you see and learn about the FDNY Memorial. This is also the “Photo Op Spot” to get the great photo of 1 WTC and 7 WTC. Once you are on the Memorial you are too close to 1 WTC to get a photo of the whole building. The tour then continues through security, under the south bridge which is the last remaining above ground piece of the original WTC. One more security checkpoint and you are standing on the Memorial Plaza. If the buildings were still standing, you would be in the lobby of the Marriott (formerly the Vista) Hotel. The Memorial Plaza is and should be considered hallowed ground. Of the 2,749 people who were killed here on September 11, 2001, 40% of their families have never had any human remains. One of the first things you will notice is the trees. When the Memorial Plaza is completed there will be 400 trees. If you look north to south, the trees appear to be random. In a few years the trees will have grown to their full height, as you look east to west the tress will be arched to form the look of an arbor or the entrance to a cathedral. As you approach the South Memorial pool, you will hear the sounds of the waterfall and the sounds of the city will drift away. Once you walk past the last row of trees, you are standing in what would have been 2 WTC or the South Tower. The last row of trees before the pool is where the outside walls of the South Tower used to stand. The trees mark the acre in size. The black granite in front of you contains the names of the 595 people killed in the South Tower, the passengers and crew of the flight that crashed into the south tower, the passengers and crew killed on the plane and in the Pentagon, the passengers and crew of United 93 and all first responders – 343 FDNY, 23 NYPD, 37 PAPD as well as a court officer, FBI agent and WTC security people. There names are etched out because they are gone. Below the granite panel there is a shelf of water that will become the waterfall then pond and then become a waterfall again disappearing into a void that you taken see the bottom of. You can touch the water. You can rub water over a name. And whether it is very hot out or very cold out you can always touch the names because the panel is cooled in the summer and heated in the winter. The north pool is similar in design but has different names etched into it. The names of 1360 people who were killed in the 1 WTC or the North Tower, the passengers and crew of the plane that crashed into the North Tower and the people who were killed in the Feb 1993 bombing.

There is all kinds of interesting facts and stories I could tell you about “meaningful adjacencies”, the rebuilding, the survivor tree, the surrounding neighborhood, the new Museum and St Paul’s Chapel and an urban legion but then you won’t need to take a tour. 🙂 You can go to the Memorial by yourself but trust me you will get so much more out of the experience if you do a Tribute Center walking tour.