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

Heroes

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.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Thunder in the Valley

Thunder in the Valley is an annual very well-attended motorcycle rally in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. It was held last weekend June 26-29th. Why am I mentioning a motorcycle rally in a blog about Flight 93? The motorcyclist enthusiasts often take part of their weekend to visit nearby Shanksville and the Flight 93 Memorial. I am quite certain attendance spiked this weekend as well because of the 3 day July 4th weekend. This is the time of year I encourage all travelers to consider the Memorial, especially those headed toward our nation's capital or the beaches of the East Coast. When you go you will find a construction site. Much work is going on toward completion of the Visitor's Center with a completion date of 2015. This will allow for a richer experience while visiting the site and allow the National Park Service and Friends of Flight 93 staff to better accommodate large groups. On a personal note I retired from full-time middle school teaching on June 6th. Our last 6th grade tour to Flight 93 occurred in 2013 which was sad, but the good news is that the 8th grade tour of D. C. this fall will include the Flight 93 Memorial. I would encourage all of you who are educators or who have school age children to inquire if the Memorial can be added to a current school trip. Not only is it on the way to D. C., but also Gettysburg, Philadelphia, Williamsburg, and other historic sites both south and east. A bus tour to Shanksville is also a great idea for any civic or recreational group. Enjoy the rest of your summer, but think about the Memorial in your travel plans. In future posts I will keep you informed about ceremonies at the Memorial on September 11th.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Lokomotiv

It was last weekend during the final days of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi,Russia. I had the television on, but I was not really watching a specific Olympic event. I noticed I was right in the middle of a short documentary. It was about a Russian hockey team whose name is in my title. How had I never heard that their entire team-minus a couple players who were injured-died in an airplane crash in 2011 on their way to a game? Is it because I was too busy to notice another tragedy? Is it because it was half a world away? Excuses. One of the players died a hero-an unknown hero to many. He had been giving large sums of money to a fund that aided cancer patients. One young lady who suffered from leukemia benefited from his generosity. She had a life-saving surgery that cost $30,000-money her family did not have. She is now a healthy teenager. Please read more about him-perhaps the video is on NBC's site. As I watched this story unfold before me I was drawn to comparisons of United Flight 93-and the original pull of this story-only to call it a story is wrong as forty passengers and crew died on September 11, 2001. 40 people set out that beautiful late summer day-some for business, some to start a new life, or to begin another year of college in the case of Deora Bodley-the youngest passenger on board United 93. They all died that day, but not before they gathered and made the decision to attempt to overtake the cockpit where four hijackers had taken over their plane. Their actions have inspired me to take over 1,000 students there, to raise funds, to visit and volunteer at the site numerous times. As my retirement from full-time middle school teaching nears I look forward to more time spent at the Memorial in Shanksville, PA. Later this spring ground will break on the Visitor Center slated to open in 2015. On April 25th and 26th volunteers will gather again to plant thousands of saplings at the site.