Friday, December 19, 2014

An Educator's Best Skill

Since I retired from full-time middle school teaching in June I have had more opportunities to use this skill-that is to reflect. Prior to retiring I had begun to make a list-not a bucket list, but a list of organizations and foundations I could spend more time with. At the top of that list was this blog. How could I make it better? How could I attract more followers? How could I use it to honor the heroes of Flight 93? My list of organizations grew longer as the months flicked by. I still read two newspapers each day-a lost art. Almost every day I find someone or some group giving back. How could I share that list? How does one pick which ones to work for or with? Swimming is something I do almost every morning and retirement has brought me more time in the pool. This is where I do some of my best reflecting. This morning I think I figured it out. Maybe. I decided in the name of each of the heroes aboard Flight 93 I would find a cause that complements each hero. This may seem a little arrogant on my part to assume that I knew these brave individuals and what was important to them, but here goes. I wrote in a post last spring about my second annual trip to the Memorial to plant trees. It was a great experience, but the best part of the day was the honor in meeting Larry Catuzzi-the father of hero Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas. Without telling you too much about Lauren I encourage you to do your own research. The 41st life lost on Flight 93 was her unborn child. I may have thought of Larry this morning as the NCAA football bowl season begins tomorrow and one of the biggest games is on January 1st when Ohio State faces Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Larry once coached at Ohio State and back in April he proudly showed myself and my two friends his national championship ring. Larry had included Plant a Tree at Flight 93 in his travel plans. The Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas Foundation (please research it as well) does many great deeds including granting scholarships for graduating high school girls to attend college. Larry was in the midst of interviewing deserving HS senior girls in many states when we were fortunate enought to meet him. Today's post is going to refer you to a newspaper article about a great group of middle school students from a school district in the county where I live. Their work and their program is inspiring. I only wish I had been involved in something similar to this when I was teaching middle school. Please read on and please research the life of Lauren Catozzi Grandcolas and how her life is remembered through the work of the foundation that bears her name.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Charleston Nine

The Charleston Sofa Super Store fire occurred on the evening of June 18, 2007 in Charleston South Carolina, and claimed the lives of nine firefighters, the highest number of firefighter fatalities in a single event since 9/11. I recently learned about this event on an ESPN documentary. One of the brave firefighters was Louis Mulkey. He was a basketball coach for years at nearby Summerville High School. This was the reason for the ESPN documentary. If you have a chance-try to watch this program. I won't give away the ending, but make sure you have at least one box of Kleenex handy. How had I never heard of this tragedy? What was I doing during the summer of 2007 that I was too preoccupied to have heard this news? What was going on in my life in the summer of 2007? My oldest daughter had just graduated high school. She had plans for college in the fall. My middle daughter would be going into her sophomore year of high school and my youngest would be starting sixth grade. I'm guessing Coach Mulkey didn't get to see his kids grow up. The worst single event involving the loss of firefighters' lives since 9/11. The story reminded me once again of the tragedy of what began as a beautiful late summer/early fall day in 2001. As the men and women boarded Flight 93 from Newark, New Jersey on a cross country, non-stop flight to San Francisco they could not have imagined what awaited them just as The Charleston Nine could not have predicted their own fate. What must have gone through their minds? This is the life of a first responder-never knowing what awaits them in the line of duty. The passengers aboard Flight 93 were our first victory on 9/11. They fought back. They saved other lives by giving up their own just as the Charleston Nine did.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

November 11, 2014

Today was the celebration of Veterans Day. I learned today there is not a consistency as to what schools were closed and which ones were open. The university where I teach part-time was closed, but the other institution where I am an adjunct-a community college-was open for classes. It was there that I attended a brief, but very moving ceremony. On my way there on what was a very pleasant day for mid November, I remembered to stop at a site the community college erected in 2002. Their Campus Activities Board was looking for a way to honor the fallen heroes of 9/11. Two trees were planted to reflect the Twin Towers. There is a plaque as well that pays tribute not just to the lives lost in New York City but in Washington D. C. and Pennsylvania as well. I spent a few minutes at the site in quiet reflection. Then I walked to the ceremony, fittingly near the flag pole with the American, Ohio, and POW/MIA flags all at half mast. The speaker was a recently retired veteran who served 27 years both in regular Army as well as the Ohio National Guard. He had several tours in the fight against Global Terrorism-another reminder of the post 9/11 world we all live in. After the ceremony I returned and walked to my mechanic's garage to retrieve my car (oil change). En route I walked past my city's firehouse and remembered they had a 9/11 memorial as well. Several years ago they purchased a piece of the towers from the New York/New Jersey Port Authority and constructed a small memorial with a plaque as well. Veterans Day was not always Veterans Day. At one time it was Armistice Day in honor of the "war to end all wars"-World War I. An armistice was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. Woodrow Wilson's dream was to create a League of Nations so that another war would not occur. It took World War II several years later for his dream to come to fruition when the United Nations was formed at the conclusion of WWII in 1945. So today we honored and remembered our fallen heroes and continue to work toward world peace.

Monday, October 13, 2014


By now you have probably heard about the fire at the Flight 93 Memorial. The Memorial itself was not part of the fire, but the park headquarters that is about 2-3 miles away was. Part of the damage was 10% of the collection and included was the flag flying over the Capitol on 9/11. The Capitol was the target of the hijackers of Flight 93. Both branches of the legislative branch of our government were in session that day. Translated it is over 400 members of the House of Representatives and 50 Senators. Prior to the 13th "anniversary" of 9/11, like many of you, I watched parts of several documentaries. I believe it was former Secreatry of State Condeleeza Rice who said had this happened it's doubtful we could have recovered. Chilling words from someone on that day who was in a position of authority. One more time we are reminded what we owe to the 40 men and women aboard Flight 93. The Flight that fought back. I'm reminded again about the dedication last May of the long-awaited opening of the 9/11 Museum at Ground Zero in New York City. Alison Crowther, the mother of hero Welles Crowther, spoke movingly as did President Obama. On hand was David Beamer-the father of Todd Beamer. David did not speak in person, but in a vidoetaped message spoke about that day and his son. As he has said many times David called the men and women aboard Flight 93 the first victory against terror that day. He went on to say they weren't in uniform, but they were soldiers.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Visit to the Flight 93 Memorial

In my last post I made my annual "request" that travelers on their way to a summer vacation destination consider including the Flight 93 Memorial as one of their stops along the way.  One week ago, I took my own advice.  It wasn't even planned.  I literally didn't consider it until the exit sign for Somerset had appeared.  I was traveling east on the Pennsylvania Turnpike with my recently graduated from college middle daughter.  She was off on an adventure that would take her to Princeton, NJ and ultimately New York City.  She has spent this week working at a theater camp as a chaperone for aspiring actors, singers, and dancers at a branch of Rider University.  The students will end their camp with a performance Sunday in Manhatten.  Speaking of learning-the work continues on the Visitors/Learning Center with a completion date of 2015.  After being at the memorial I can now see the loop that will connect this new center to the Memorial.  It will be accessible by the Wetlands Bridge which should be completed this year.  Each spot will have its own parking area so for those less able there is the option of driving to one area, viewing, then moving on to the next spot.  It will enhance what is already a moving experience at the Memorial.  I don't know if I never noticed this before, but my daughter pointed out to me on the panel of Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas is inscribed "Unborn Child."  She also noticed an inscription on those heroes who were part of the crew.  Speaking of Lauren, I was honored to meet her father Larry at last April's Plant a Tree at Flight 93.  Larry spent some time talking to me on the way to our work site about the work he does traveling around the country to interview and award scholarships to deserving high school students.  The scholarships are in Lauren's name and honor the work she did.  Later when I introduced Larry to my two friends who accompanied me that day he proudly showed us his Ohio State national championship ring.  Larry coached offensive backs and quarterbacks at OSU.  He knew northeastern Ohio quite well as he recruited there.  Like all the 9/11 family members I have met, he is extremely humble and quietly goes about doing good deeds in the hope his daughter's life is remembered and honored.  As we left the Memorial and wound down the 3 or so miles back to Route 30 my daughter read the pamphlet she had picked up at the Memorial Plaza and then she said something quite poignant.  She told me she was a little disappointed the work at the Memorial was not completed-that these people were heroes-that they prevented the further loss of life on 9/11/01.    

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Construction Site

As July ends and August begins it is time to plan for a vacation and think about going back to school! As always think about including the Flight 93 Memorial in your plans especially if you're traveling toward Philadelphia, New York City, or Washington D. C.  The Memorial is easily accessible via the nation's oldest turnpike-the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  A former colleague of mine is on the road as we speak to Hershey, PA-the sweetest place on earth-home to HersheyPark and Chocolate World.  I'm sure her two young children are as excited as if it were Christmas morning.  My parents instilled in me that even a fun vacation might include some history.  When I grew up nearly fifty years ago-it may have been Williamsburg, D. C., (where my mom lived and worked for the Navy Department during WWII) or Kitty Hawk where the Wright Brothers made their first journey.  We have a challenge before us to teach those too young to have a memory of 9/11.  Where do we begin?  A visit to the Flight 93 Memorial is indeed a somber experience.  The rangers from the National Park Service do an excellent job answering questions.  On most days there is a talk on a specific topic.  It may focus on certain passengers.  Each passenger and crew member has not just a story to tell, but an interesting one.  The Memorial is a construction site as I mentioned in the tile because near completion is a bridge that will connect the Memorial wall to the future site of the Visitors Center/Learning Center.  The bridge is officially called the Wetlands Bridge.  This bridge should be completed this fall and the two centers by 2015.  I would be remiss if I did not mention that the 9/11 Memorial Museum is now open as of May 16th.  Although I have not been there I suspect the crowds are still large.  Also as August approaches and then September and fall I think of all the families of the victims and how the impact of that Tuesday in September thirteen years ago must weigh on them.