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.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Superman

It all began a week ago-another snowy, cold winter evening in northeast Ohio. In anticipation of retirement from my full-time middle school teaching job in June I am beginning to consider all the activities, organizations, and programs that I would like to spend more time on. One of them is this blog. Last Wednesday night I joined Cheryl Sadler at the News Herald Community Media Lab and met in person some of my fellow bloggers. Even though this blog has been up and running for three years I had yet to attend one of these sessions. One of the men at the table I recognized. His name is Chris Lambert and he blogs about comic books among other "things." His blog is called Comics Don't Get Me Started. I was able to listen to Chris during the meeting and had quite a chat with him after the meeting about another topic he's an expert on-The Beatles! In a few days we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Chris is one of those individuals whose job description is hard to nail down. He writes and I also learned he does a one man version of Orson Welles. He is a colleague of Dr. Phil Skerry who is a professor at Lakeland Community College (where I teach as a part-timer). Phil has written two books on Alfred Hitchcock. I hope you are still reading because this is where the hero connection comes in. In November I was a co-presenter at the Association for Middle Level Education's national convention in Minneapolis. The keynote speaker was author Brad Meltzer. A majority of his books are fiction-D. C. thrillers. The ironic part was about a week before my trip I heard an interview with him on a local radio show called Lannigan and Malone on Majic 105.7. At the end of the interview Brad thanked John Lannigan for always believing in him-even from the beginning of his career. The other irony was I was reading one of Brad's more recent novels. His thank you to the host was echoed in his keynote. Brad spoke in humorous and eloquent ways about leaving legacies-to family, to friends, to your community, and to total strangers. At the conclusion of his talk I was able to meet Brad and get three autographed copies of his book Heroes for My Daughter. A month and a few days later I gave these to each of my three daughters as Christmas gifts. I wrote in a previous blog at my delight at finding a chapter on the Heroes of United Flight 93. I didn't read it that day in Minneapolis, but did after Christmas. Brad's wife Cori may have been saved by the passengers and crew of United 93. She, like many others, was at work in the Capitol on September 11. 2001. I thought of all those politicians and staffers last night as I watched President Obama deliver The State of the Union address. Back to Chris. The authors of Superman are from Cleveland. Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel penned the first Action Comic Superman in 1938. When Brad came to Cleveland some years ago to do research for his novel The Book of Lies (which I am currently reading) he was appalled to see the condition of the house where Jerry Siegel lived while he was creating Superman. Brad became involved in some fundraising to restore the house. There is lots of information online about this effort. In the Author's Note at the conclusion of The Book of Lies Brad states, "For me, Superman's greatest contribution has never been the superhero part, it's the Clark Kent part-the idea that any of us, in all our ordinariness, can change the world." This is what Brad spoke about in Minneapolis and this is what he is doing when he describes heroes in the book I purchased for my daughter and in another for his son Heroes for My Son. In both books you will recognize names, but then there are ordinary people who have done extraordinary things such as the heroes of Flight 93. Brad's website deserves a visit too www.OrdinaryPeopleChangeTheWorld.com

Sunday, January 19, 2014

USS Somerset

This past week I received the following information from Donna Glessner of the Friends of Flight 93: I am writing to pass along information about the opportunity to attend the Commissioning of the USS Somerset on Saturday, March 1. The Somerset, as readers of our newsletter will recall, is the U.S. Navy's new transport ship honoring the passengers and crew of Flight 93 and their courageous actions on September 11 2001. We were pleased to meet the ship's Commander and a group of crew members at the Memorial on September 11, 2013. The Navy has assembled many items for the ship's museum as a constant reminder of the ship's connection to the September 11th attacks: photographs of the passengers and crew, a quilt with patches honoring each of the forty, photographs, maps, highway signs donated by each of the boroughs and townships in Somerset County, and even a fire hose donated by the Shanksville Volunteer Fire Department. The floor of the museum is made from lumber milled from maple trees cut for the construction of the Flight 93 Memorial Highway (US Route 219) in Somerset County. Incorporated in the ship itself is 25 pounds of steel smelted from the bucket of the dismantled dragline which had been used to mine coal at the Flight 93 crash site and stood, for many years, on the ridge overlooking the area. The 684-foot long ship was christened in July 12, 2012, and now, with the Commissioning, will formally join the nation's naval force and be home ported in San Diego, CA. See www.usssomersetcommissioning.org for more information about this ship and her mission. I'm at a loss to expand on the above except to say that I find it to be a very profound tribute to the heroes and I only wish San Diego was a little closer to northeast Ohio. However, with retirement looming, this is just the sort of adventure I look forward to. The weather in southern California March 1st must be dramatically different than that where I currently live. I have tried to write in the past about the connection of art to history and have attempted it at school with our Flight 93 and 9/11 mosaic murals, so I find the photographs and patches on the quilt to be particularly eloquent. I am not as in love with quotations as some other educators or even as much as my youngest daughter who keeps a notebook of her favorites, but I find the one I will conclude with to be quite powerful. “The courage and heroism of the people aboard Flight 93 will never be forgotten and USS Somerset will leave a legacy that will never be forgotten by those wishing to do harm to this country.” - Secretary of the Navy, Gordon R. England.