Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Flag Day 2013 will be celebrated this Friday June 14th. Although not an official federal holiday, it nonetheless honors an event dating back to 1777. It celebrates the adoption of the American flag. Last July I blogged about my first time as a volunteer at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I worked through the Friends of Flight 93 as a Plaza Greeter. What I remember most about those two days was that people wanted to talk-both as they came to the Memorial and as they left. It leaves an impression. One of the visitors told me he felt very strongly that the large American flag that is at the plaza should permanently be at half mast. When I relayed this comment to one of the National Park Service rangers he gave me an explanation as to why they could not do this. That explanation I will have to ask for again when I return to volunteer again this summer. Flags fly at half mast usually upon the death of an important American-often, but not always a government official. Flag Day seems like one of those holidays that as a kid I took for granted. As an adult the flag means so much more to me now. I have never served in the military, but as an educator I try to plan special lessons, activities, and programs every Veterans Day and Pearl Harbor Day and of course on 9/11. D Day happens to fall after school has ended as does Flag Day. Last Saturday evening I found myself sitting next to a board of education member in the district where I teach. Both of our daughters were in the same dance recital. He knew I was retiring at the end of next school year and asked if I would be spending more time at Shanksville. He was kidding, to a certain degree, but I certainly hope to do that. Just a few days ago our sixth grade made our annual trip to the site as part of our 3 day trip to Hershey, PA. Each trip to the site is always memorable to me and I hope it is for our students as well. This year we were able to watch a video on the tour bus prior to our visit. It was produced by The Friends of Flight 93 and features narration by two NPS rangers-Adam Shaffer and Wendy Clay. Both happened to be at the site that day as well. I spoke to a volunteer at the wall that day and she asked the ages of our students. This is probably the last group that would have been alive on 9/11 so our work for the future is really cut out for all of us in the field of education. As summer is here I hope you consider a visit to the Flight 93 Memorial-who knows it may be on one of the days I am there volunteering!
Sunday, April 28, 2013
Last Saturday April 20th I had a chance to volunteer at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The weather could not have been much worse-cold, windy, and snowy. The experience could not have been better! Some times it is hard to pick the best part of a really great day so I won't try to pick one, but right at the top was the opportunity to spend time with Debby Borza, the mother of youngest hero Deora Bodley. Whenever I am with Debby the idea that I have young adult daughters always comes to mind. Debby has worked tirelessly on getting the Memorial built. She has served on boards and been very active in western Pennsylvania. She currently serves on the board of the Friends of Flight 93 and was there last Saturday to help plant seedlings. To see her there made me jump-to find out I would be in her work group made me jump straight up in the air! If you ever watch the film United 93-watch all the extras at the end. There is a segment when actors from the film visit the families of the hero they portrayed. The young actress that portrayed Deora visited Debby at her then home in California shortly after the completion of the film. It is moving and captures the spirit of Debby Borza. On the first anniversary of the shootings at Chardon High School I had my students engaged in a peace activity. I have a poster in my room with a quote from Deora-, "People ask how, what, where, when and why. I ask peace." One of my students wanted to include this in her peace message. I was so moved I had to contact Debby to let her know. Deora was nine when she wrote this. That evening on the way to a memorial for the three boys killed at Chardon High School on 2/27/12, I received a phone call from Debby. Debby was able to give me comfort in that phone call. I was having trouble with what I felt was a lack on my school's part on memorializing the lives lost. She intellectualized what had likely happened and gave me solace. This is the kind of person she is. It has been an honor for me to have met her and to be able to call her a friend and a Friend (of Flight 93). Prior to moving out to our work site my friend and colleague from Chardon Middle School, Julie Kenny and I sat with Debby and listened to short speeches from the corporate sponsors: Alcoa Foundation, Arbor Day Foundation, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, NASCAR, NRG Energy, Pocono Raceway, and The UPS Foundation. Governor Tom Corbett spoke as well and brought a small seedling from Gettysburg which this year celebrates its 150th anniversary. I was also pleased to see and visit with King Laughlin of the National Park Service who is the Flight 93 Manager. A visit to Flight 93 would not be complete without seeing Donna Glessner, Barbara Black, Adam Schaffer, and Jeff Reinbold. Donna is secretary of the Friends Board, Barbara wears many hats(literally), Adam is an NPRS Ranger who seems to always be on duty whenever our school visits, and Jeff is the Park Manager. In his remarks Jeff mentioned that this land was once a forest, then a farm, then a mine, then abandoned into a field again, and now a memorial that will one day be a forest again. Last Sunday evening there was a 60 Minutes segment on the opening of the 9/11 Museum next year. I was thrilled to hear all victims of 9/11 will be included at the museum. When I shared this with Barbara in an e-mail the next day she told me the folks in NYC had been in touch with PA. As I have said in earlier blogs....as spring is here and summer approaches, consider a visit to the Flight 93 Memorial in your travel plans-you won't be disappointed.
Sunday, April 7, 2013
Last week I was on a family vacation at Walt Disney World in Orlando. My youngest daughter's high school marching band performed in the afternoon parade at Magic Kingdom on Tuesday afternoon's Dream Come True parade. Our oldest daughter, who now lives in Boston, was able to join us for the week. On our last evening, we had some time before our dinner reservation at Epcot so we visited America in the World Showcase. Inside is a theater show called "The American Adventure" and the "stars" are Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin. It is a rather schmaltzy panorama of about 300 years of American history dating back to the Pilgrims. There are many Disney animatronics recreating figures in American history such as George Washington or Fredrick Douglass. At different times a full scrim falls to reveal famous American documents like the Declaration of Independence. At other times there are famous newspaper headlines or images of heroes like Charles Lindbergh. Toward the end of the nearly half hour show there are images of 9/11 including the famous one of the firefighters hoisting the American flag in New York City. Remember United 93 flashes quickly across the screen. Those images still provoke strong memories and I suppose they always will. It reminds me through all that history that in 2001 we still received most of our news about the day from television, not the Internet. If one were to stage a show just about 9/11, who would you choose to narrate the events? George H. W. Bush? Tom Browkaw? Mayor Guiliani? A senator or member of the House of Representatives whom could have been the intended target of Flight 93? A NYFD or NYPD 9/11 widow? A farmer from Somerset County, Pennsylvania who actually saw United 93 crash? A U. S. citizen who was born in the Middle East, but fell victim to hatred following 9/11? 9/11 can't be called an adventure, but it was an event that shaped America and defined us-defined a whole generation just like the events in 'The American Adventure did-wars, Westward expansion, and more.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
It happened again. Two of my worlds collided and it happened in a whoosh. Last Monday I was teaching my curriculum class at Kent State University to future middle school teachers. I was working on explaining the formation of learning activities. I was looking for something a little out-of-the-box and happened to find a lesson about combining history and photography. It's a good lesson because everyone seems to have a favorite photograph from history. Since I have become involved with Flight 93, I have had the good fortune to meet so many interesting people. One of them is Val McClatchey. Val is a life-long resident of Somerset County and lives just miles from the crash site. On September 11, 2001 she took a photograph from the front of her house that shows a large cloud of smoke above a red barn-a bit of tragedy in an otherwise bucolic scene. Val titled the photograph aptly "The End of Serenity." Two years ago our school was involved in a Flight 93 Oral History project. We placed a small ad in the News Herald explaining our project with some contact information. One of Val's friends in Northeast Ohio from her Camaro Club spotted it and let her know. Before the morning was over, Val had telephoned my school. She would eventually visit our school, spending a day sharing all her Flight 93 mementos with our students. There is a long story behind her photograph-too long for this particular blog. During her visit Val gave me a large copy of the photograph. I would also spend time at Val's home when she invited my teaching colleague and I to her home for lunch during one of our pre-trips to Somerset County. It was memorable to say the least. Val has also joined our classes at the site the last two years we have visited. When I visited the completed Memorial for the first time on September 10, 2011 I was thrilled to see that Val's photograph was one of the eight displays at the Memorial Plaza. It serves as part of the introduction to 9/11 and Flight 93 before visitors make their way up the walkway to the actual memorial. My lesson at Kent served to show the students that photos, illustrations, and even paintings can be used to introduce important historical events and concepts. As I was teaching I was telling my class about how I have volunteered at the Memorial and that National Park Service rangers do talks at certain times during the crowded weekend hours. Rangers use photographs to tell the story. Since I have served as a Plaza Greeter I suddenly had an Aha! moment as I realized it was Val's photograph that every visitor to the Flight 93 Memorial sees first.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Usually on these pages I blog about Flight 93 and 9/11. Today marks the one year anniversary of the shootings that took the lives of three young men at Chardon High School. February 27th 2012 is a day none of us who work for the Chardon Schools will ever forget. Last night a concert was held at St. Mary's Church featuring the Chardon High School band and choir. The concert was healing and uplifting. Yesterday the shooter T. J. Lane pled guilty to several charges. Many news and media stories of the events mentioned closure, especially for the families. Not long after Osama bin Laden was killed I was interviewed by the News Herald on what that event meant to me. One of the things I said that day was that bin Laden's death brought some closure to the families. That same evening I was watching the national news and one of the 9/11 widows who has worked very hard on getting the 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center built, said there is never closure. I learned that day to be careful what to say when interviewed. I was wrong. There is never closure for those families-both the 9/11 families and the Parmetor's, Hewlin's, and King's. Nor is there a new normal which some in the media have tried to attach to this tragedy. There is healing though and yesterday's hearing, last night's concert, and today's events helped.
Monday, February 18, 2013
Profiles in Courage was a 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning volume of short biographies describing acts of bravery and integrity by eight United States Senators throughout the Senate's history. The book profiles senators who crossed party lines and/or defied the opinion of their constituents to do what they felt was right and suffered severe criticism and losses in popularity because of their actions. The book was widely celebrated and became a best seller. John F. Kennedy is credited as its author although some say it was actually written by Kennedy confidant Theodore Sorenson. It seems like today's Senate and House of Representatives could use senators and representatives willing to cross party lines to get things done. I bring up this book today as it is the annual celebration of President's Day and of course in 1957 John Kennedy was himself a senator and would be elected President in 1960 and of course our current president Barack Obama was himself a senator from the state of Illinois. So was a man whom Obama admires greatly even though he was a Republican-another senator from Illinois-Abraham Lincoln whose life is currently being reviewed in a major motion picture-Lincoln. All this talk of Washington reminds me once again of the story of Flight 93. The intended target of United Flight 93 flying from Newark to San Francisco on September 11, 2001 was the Capitol Building. Both houses were in session that day. Imagine how that would have crippled our government. Our ability to rule as a democracy would have endured, but with severe limitations. One of the parts of the story of Flight 93 that is perhaps the most remarkable is that the passengers and crew took a vote before they decided to storm the cockpit and stop the hijacking. The story of Flight 93 will be told in a different fashion beginning sometime in 2014 as the next phase of construction is completed with the opening of The Visitors and Learning Center. Last September 10th and 11th a program was held at the Flight 93 Memorial titled "Learning Center Without Walls." Each day two panel presentations reviewed the events of September 11, 2001-from a first person point of view. The program can now be viewed online at http://www.nps.gov/flni/photosmultimedia/lcww.htm You can also Google Learning Center Without Walls and it will take you to the National Park Service site. Recently the language arts teacher on my interdisciplinary team at Chardon Middle School began planning units of instruction. One of them is titled Profiles in Courage. The educator plans to use stories of individuals like Cesar Chavez or Martin Luther King Jr. Each of the 40 brave passengers and crew aboard United Flight 93 had an interesting life story. To learn more about each of them I suggest you read Among the Heroes by Jere Longman. You will not be able to put it down. The film United 93 does an excellent job of retelling the story of that day as well. Their acts of courage will forever be remembered by a grateful nation.
Saturday, January 26, 2013
Living in northeast Ohio, one tends to look forward to all things related to spring once winter hits. This past week we were hit-several inches of snow, icy road conditions, and very cold temperatures resulting in two snow days. A pleasant e-mail came my way this morning from Donna Glessner who is one of the driving forces with The Friends of Flight 93. Donna works tirelessly at the site and with the Friends group. She has done that along with a great group of people from Somerset County since 9/11/2001. Donna told me tree planting days are planned at the site on Friday and Saturday April 19th and 20th and the following Friday and Saturday the 26th and 27th. Final plans at the site call for thousands of trees. Some of them are visible as you travel up the road approaching the Memorial. It is just another reminder that although there is now a permanent memorial, the work is not done. Money still needs to be raised. Trees are and always will be a sign of life. If you go to the site honorflight93.org operated by the National Park Service you will see plans for the future including 40 groves of trees-1 for each hero. It will be a fitting tribute. The thought of spring also makes people start to think about vacations and trips. If you are traveling east this spring or summer perhaps to our nation's capital or to one of the lovely beaches that dot the East Coast consider beginning or ending your trip with a visit to the Flight 93 Memorial. It is an easy jaunt from the Pennsylvania Turnpike. If you were there in years past you will be pleased with the (almost)finished product and the much easier access. Last summer I had the chance to volunteer at the Memorial as a Plaza Greeter which I hope to do again in 2013. In addition our family took a vacation to New York City and we were able to visit not only the 9/11 Memorial, but St. Paul's Chapel which I have blogged about in the past. In addition I was in Washington D. C. in July for an Honor Flight, escorting a World War II veteran. I did not visit, but we passed the Pentagon Memorial. Our school's sixth grade classes constructed two mosaic murals last school year. One mural honors the heroes of Flight 93 and the second one honors the NYC and Pentagon first responders and those who lost their lives in both places. I have blogged before about 9/11 hero Welles Crowther. A recent visitor to our building inquired about him-The Man in the Red Bandanna and I was proud to tell his story again. That incident made me e-mail Matthew Weiss, a NYC film maker who is documenting Welles's story. He is currently looking for an editor. Just today I made another 9/11 connection. I was at a kick-off event for the American Cancer Society's # 1 fund raiser Relay for Life. One of the speakers was Dr. Ian Murphy, a cancer researcher at the Cleveland Clinic. I had first heard Ian speak about 3 years ago at a training session and learned his research is funded from Relay events. More money allows him the opportunity to hire more scientists. Turns out Ian is a native New Yorker and was at the World Trade Center on 9/11. He was a union carpenter at the time and was drafted to help with the rescue. His story was fascinating and if you take the time this spring or summer (or if you are brave enough this winter...-the Memorial is open!) you will hear other fascinating stories about the heroes of Flight 93. If you have the time stay for a presentation from of the NPS rangers.