Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Prepare, Act, Reflect

Two snowy Mondays ago I spoke to the Chardon Rotary which meets every Monday at noon. I was asked to speak about Flight 93. It was hard to pick topics that only covered twenty minutes. I often assume everyone knows about Flight 93, but unfortunately this isn't always the case. I had planned to include some photos in my presentation, but technology was not on my side that day. I was looking for a passage from the book Among the Heroes by Jere Longman, but was unable to locate it. It spoke not just to the bravery of the passengers and crew, but to their resiliency, their unique ability to respond to a unique once-in-a-lifetime crisis. Onll e of my favorite topics that I was able to explore as a full-time middle school teacher was service-learning. To plan and execute projects was such an exhilarating experience. The three words in the title represent a model for service-learning experiences. You can't just jump in-you must prepare students first. The act is the project itself. Here is where the passengers never got their chance. Their actions ended the actions of the terrorists saving hundreds, maybe thousands of lives on 9/11/2001. We have the opportunity to reflect on their actions and to continue their legacy by continuing to tell the story of their brave actions. The other part of my talk was about 21st Century Skills-communication, collaboration, critical thinking, problem-solving, and technology. All of those were used by the 40 that day.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Yesterday I had a chance for a new experience. I was asked to speak at the noon meeting of the Chardon Rotary. It was a typical January day in northeast Ohio. Snow, wind, and cold, but it did not dampen the spirits of the forty or so Rotarians who packed the room for lunch, a quick meeting, and me. Rotary is a great organization-very dedicated to service, not just in its local community, but really world-wide as I learned yesterday. Hospital Albert Schweitzer in Haiti is one of their pet projects. This struck me as I sat listening in anticipation of my talk. I had been asked several years ago to talk about Chardon Middle School's efforts in regards to Flight 93 by Dr. Dennis Kowalski who at the time was head of the Greater Cleveland Educational Developmental Center housed at Cleveland State University. GCEDC provides professional development for educators throughout northeast Ohio. Dennis has done many presentations, literally around the world, on 21st Century Skills-communication, technology, collaboration, and critical thinking skills. Somehow the passengers aboard Flight 93 had utilized all of those skills in taking down the terrorists that day, thus losing their lives, but saving thousands of others. But back to service. The heroes of Flight 93 bravely served their country that day. Through the work I have done with students and other educators over the last several years in regard to Flight 93 and 9/11 I have learned about service. Had I been able to utilize the 21st century skill of technology yesterday I had several Power Point slides to present-one of which is a simple yet profound model for service-Prepare, Act, and Reflect. That is how you organize service with students. Before you jump in with both feet, you must prepare them for what is about to happen-what lessons will you teach before you take a group to the Flight 93 Memorial, the Pentagon Memorial, the 9/11 Memorial Museum. At the end of my talk, a gentleman told me he would tell me a story. On a recent trip to Ireland his driver had taken his family to a spot he knew would have special importance for them. It was a memorial to the 343 firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11. A tree was planted for each of them and there is a red bench for what is believed to be the first life lost on 9/11 that of Father Michael Judge, a chaplain, and personal friend of Kathleen Cait Murphy, a native of Kinsale, who worked as a nurse for 30 years in New York City. Rather than tell you more I suggest you visit this site http://www.kinsaleheritage.com/911.html and others to learn about this very special place-far from the United States, but very close to our hears.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Deora Bodley

The news came this morning through a text from a close friend. Last month three young people were killed in a car accident on an icy road when their car crashed into a school bus. Two were high school students and the third was a recent graduate. Her text was a link to a newspaper article that two high schools honored their memories before a recent game. The two schools were neighboring districts. How sad when people's lives end so quickly and suddenly. How much worse is it when the victims are young people? Young men and women about to begin their lives' journey. Such was the story on September 11, 2001 when the youngest victim of Flight 93, 20 year old Deora Bodley lost her life. Deora was only 20 and was a junior at Santa Clara University. She was to return there on the cross-country flight from Newark to San Francisco. She had been visiting friends in New Jersey and Connecticut. You can and you should read more about Deora either on-line or in the book Among the Heroes by Jere Longman. She was a talented young lady who reached out to many, many people in her young life-especially other young people. I was humbled and honored to have met Deora's mother Deborah Borza. She spoke to our students at the Seven Springs Resort, at the Memorial, and again in our community. She helped us create an oral history of Flight 93. I worked with her on a crew two Aprils ago in a Plant a Tree at Flight 93 event. To get another glimpse into these two extraordinary women watch the film United 93. At the end of the film is a documentary about the creation of the film. Several of the actors visit the families of the heroes they portrayed. The young lady who played Deora, Trieste Kelly Dunn, visits Debby at her then home in California. To say it is moving is an understatement. In a journal Deora kept, Debby found a quote she had written at a very young age. "People ask how, what, where, when, and why. I ask peace." As protests rage throughout our country and now two police officers in New York City have been killed this quote seems even more poignant.

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. http://www.news-herald.com/general-news/20141219/heritage-middle-school-students-write-perform-play-about-suicide

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.