grateful, culture and Paris

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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. ūüôā

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

getting back in the groove

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groove

Sometimes with writing¬†(blogging)¬†as with other things in life you just seem to¬†fall out of step. A new commitment¬†to babysit my grandson two days a week, add to that a couple of speaking engagements and interviews, increased travel to visit my mom and blogging fell to the bottom of the pile. I missed blogging (and I have some other writing I need to work on) so here is my public announcement that I am picking up my pen (well not really because I type)¬†and putting my random ramblings on paper (screen) on a more regular basis. ūüôā I am getting back in the groove.

First up is a few¬†quick recommendations for visiting the September 11 Memorial. Recently people from all parts (former high school classmates, pastors, etc.) ¬†of my life have been asking “can you explain the difference between the¬†Memorial, Tribute Center, One World Observatory and Museum¬†to me?”

So here goes:

  1.  9/11 Tribute Center, 120 Liberty Street is 5 small galleries and walking tours of the September 11 Memorial Plaza. The daily walking tours are the crown jewel of the Tribute Center. Survivors, downtown residents, family members, first responders and volunteers during the rescue/recovery give 75 minute walking tours that include the history of the original World Trade Center, timeline of the attacks, rebuilding, symbolism of the Memorial and most importantly their personal story.  9/11 Tribute Center tours started in 2005 and the galleries opened in 2006. This is who I volunteer with.  tributewtc.org
  2. ¬†The National September 11 Memorial is open daily from 7:30am – 9:00pm. It is an open plaza. You don’t need tickets to visit. Take the time to walk around at least one of the pools so you can experience the size of the buildings. Pools are within the original foot[print of the building. The row of¬†trees behind you when you are at the pool marks the walls of the original buildings –¬†you are standing in the original buildings.¬†The Memorial opened on September 11, 2011. ¬†911memorial.org
  3. The National September 11 Memorial Museum is open Sunday – Thursdays from 9:00am – 8:00pm and Fridays – Saturdays from 9:00am – 9:00pm¬†but last entry is 6:00pm/7:00pm respectively. You need to purchase tickets online. Allow at least 2 hours to visit and be kind¬†to yourself. The museum has a lot of amazing artifacts. It is arranged with a in memoriam section and a historical section. Don’t miss the video from NASA. The Museum opened in May of 2014.¬†¬†911memorial.org
  4. One World Observatory is open daily from 9:00am – 8:00pm with last entry at 7:15pm. One World Observatory is the observation deck of the new 1WTC. You will need to purchase tickets. It opened in May of 2015. oneworldobservatory.com

 

My thoughts:

You will get more out of visiting The National September 11Memorial if you do a 9/11 Tribute Center walking tour.

If you are not from “around these parts”, do a 9/11 Tribute Center walking tour of¬†The National September 11 Memorial¬†and go to One World Observatory.

If you have children do a walking tour and then decide if The National September 11 Museum is appropriate for your family. Remember to your children September 11 is history, to you it is current event.

All four places are worth your time and money but you need to pace yourself so do a walking tour (& galleries) your first visit, the museum another visit and the observatory another time.

The Museum is artifacts and information.

The walking tours are stories and inspiration.

The Observatory is cool views.

 

 

https://missannsays.com/2014/05/18/national-september-11-memorial-museum/

https://missannsays.com/2014/05/13/travel-tuesdays-s2e2-911-memorial-museum/

 

 

 

 

Random Updates

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In April  of 2013  I submitted a mediation to The Upper Room for possible publication. Tomorrow it is the September 11th reading. It has been published in their September РOctober 2015 devotional booklet. They graciously asked me to submit a blog for tomorrow as well. The meditation will be available tomorrow at http://devotional.upperroom.org/ and the blog at http://devotional.upperroom.org/blog.

 

I am speaking at Norwin Church of the Nazarene on Sunday September 13 at 10:40am. 110 Clay Pike
North Huntingdon, PA 15642.

 

chicken soup

 

My story “Unexpected Blessings” is in Chicken Soup for the Soul Volunteering & Giving Back. My friend Sonia Agron also has a story in the same book.

 

teaching children about September 11, 2001

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Through my volunteer work with the 9/11 Tribute Center I have had the amazing opportunity to share my story and story of September 11, 2001 with the next generation. I have spoken to school groups while sitting on the floor in gallery 5 of the Tribute Center or via the internet to classrooms in  another state or standing in a classroom in New York or New Jersey. Each time I am struck with what an awesome responsibility it is  to tell the facts and person to person history of the day that changed the world. As the 14th anniversary approaches I have included a list of resources that you may find helpful in teaching the children in your life about that tragic day.

9/11 Tribute Center has resources for parents and teachers – http://tributewtc.org/education/resources/for-parents

National September 11th Museum also has resources – https://www.911memorial.org/youth-and-families

Below are some¬†books that appropriate for children. Please read the suggested ages in the book reviews on Amazon before reading a particular book to a child.¬†The first¬†six listed here are appropriate for elementary aged children. The other books are appropriate for older children. Please monitor what information your teens are finding online and don’t forgot to engage in real conversation with your teens about the events of that day.¬†

 

Related posts –

https://missannsays.com/2014/02/05/but-why/

https://missannsays.com/2012/02/18/respect-in-the-real-world-part-2/

 

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At the first anniversary there was a sense of needing to do the “right” thing, the appropriate¬†thing, the expected thing. I am so grateful to a friend who said “do what you want to do” and we did. Meghan and I traveled to Quincy, MA to be with Emily who had just started her freshmen year of college. We attended chapel on campus, then drove down to the waterfront and sat and talked about Daddy (Bruce), we prayed, we cried and we wrote in our “things we would have told you” book – a recap of the year. Later, we ventured into Boston¬†for lunch. I remember we¬†stumbled¬†upon numerous television crews at Nathaniel Hall and not knowing if we should laugh or cry, we¬†kept our distance. We wanted to just be a mom and her daughters missing their dad/husband not 9/11 family members. There was something surreal about the day as there has been something surreal about so many days.

As the years have passed the advice of that friend “to do what you want to do” has proven to be excellent advice. Some years I have taken part in local ceremonies in¬†Greenwood Lake or Rochelle Park¬†or attended unique opportunities like ringing the bell at the NASDAQ or the concert at the Beacon Theatre.¬† I don’t venture to the National September 11 Memorial ceremony because I don’t think I can take on the grief of all those people. We don’t always write in the “things we would have told you” book anymore.¬†We aren’t necessarily physically together because one daughter lives in Seattle and the other in PA.

This Friday will mark the 14th anniversary.¬†I haven’t decided what I want to do this year. This year is a tricky year because my one daughter has now lived 14 years with her dad and 14 years without him and that breaks my heart. It¬†seems harder this year¬†because I have so many Tribute Center friends and I carry their stories as well. A few things that were true on the first anniversary are true on the 14th. I will talk to my daughters and I will tell them¬†how very proud their Dad would be¬†of them and I will remind them that he loved them so much. I will ask them to remember to pray for the other families, and the Squad 41¬†firefighters.¬† I will thank God for His faithfulness, my family and friends. And we will wish that we were just a mom and daughters missing their dad/husband who died in the line of duty¬†and not 9/11 family members because a personal loss in the midst of a national tragedy adds so many layers.

 

a new landscape

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Grief-Quote-CS-LewisToday is a tricky day.(https://missannsays.com/2013/01/18/tricky-days/). Today would have been my husband’s 62nd¬†birthday but it has been 13 years since¬†he celebrated a birthday here on earth (https://missannsays.com/2012/09/10/r-bruce-van-hine/). Actually I surprised myself with¬†a “good cry” this morning.¬†The wondrous birth of my first grandchild back in April has made today harder than it has been in the past. Each¬†year the number of¬†things that Bruce has missed increases. I am grateful for the years we had and I am grateful for the life I have today but…

C.S. Lewis says “Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.”¬†My life¬†is a totally new landscape now.¬† And in many ways that isn’t a bad thing but it is a different thing. ¬†Happy Birthday, Bruce. See you again…

psalm 61

Appalachian Trail and Me

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app%20trail%20map

The Appalachian Trail and I have an interesting relationship. I am not a hiker. I have no desire to hike anywhere let alone the “A.T.” I will admit I enjoyed Bill Bryson’s book “A Walk in the Woods”. It was¬†one of my husband’s favorite books. ¬†My husband was a hiker and he enjoyed hiking the “A.T.”. Through the years I have played a role in making sure his car was where it needed to be so when he finished a day hike he could get home. Other times I dropped him off and at a set time picked him up. I have fed “through hikers” he brought home and welcomed strangers to take a shower and sleep in their tent in¬†our yard. I purchased gallon zip lock bags so he could leave Bibles on the trail. And a few years ago I donated his trail guides to the National September 11 Museum and in June the Museum put his trail guide on display. Yesterday I had a telephone call from a Museum staff person telling me they had written a blog about Bruce’s story.

https://www.911memorial.org/blog/new-view-firefighter%E2%80%99s-appalachian-trail-guidebook