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


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


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

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 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.

Friday, January 10, 2014


After my last post I was asked to post the following link: The explanation for this is as follows: Award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the Passengers and Crew of United Airlines Flight 93.. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is our nation’s highest civilian honor and should be awarded to the passengers and crew of United Flight 93, who on 9/11 fought back against four hijackers and spared the nation further tragedy. The medal is awarded for "An especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors." The 33 passengers and seven crew members aboard Flight 93 stopped the terrorists who attempted to fly the aircraft into either the White House or U.S. Capitol Building. Thanks to the heroism of those on board, that horrible mission was averted. Their heroic act clearly meets the definition of the award. It has never been more richly deserved. This seems like an honor that is long overdue for the heroes. In addition I have learned from Donna Glessner of the Friends of Flight 93 the following: The passengers and crew were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2011. If you search under "Fallen Heroes Act of 9/11" H.R. 3421 you can read about it. A gold medal (under design now) will be presented to each of the 9/11 attack sites, and then smaller, bronze medals with the same design will be available for sale. The gold medal will be permanently displayed in our Visitor Center. I realize this is not my usual post, but it shows that people are reading on this space and so I guess this is an appropriate time to mention that in the future I would like to expand this blog to include information about the 9/11 Memorial in New York City as well. With my retirement in June it is the end of Chardon Middle School's sixth grade annual trip to Shanksville and Hershey, PA. I am sad that last May was our final trip, but am excited about the opportunities the future may afford me.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Requiem Images of Ground Zero

January 6, 2014. 5 months until I graduate. That's what my wife has become calling it-my last day of full-time teaching. It started because two of my daughters also graduate this year-one in May from college and another in June from high school. Like most of northeast Ohio, my school district is closed today and also will be tomorrow. This time off has allowed my brain the chance to relax and reflect about my life after graduation. Time to read more, time to spend more time in service to others such as at The Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA. Time to travel such as to visit my oldest daughter in Boston and on the way-New York City. In my most recent blog I mentioned the opening of the much anticipated 9/11 Museum, but today I would like to tell you about another museum that is already open. It began when my department head gave me a book to look at over break. Its title is above and its author is Gary Marlon Suson. Through one of those serendipitous experiences that life tosses our way (my friend Alison Crowther tells me these may not be as coincidental as we think they are)Gary became the Official Photographer at Ground Zero for the Uniformed Firefighters Association. This happened in the days after 9/11 and his book is full of emotional photographs and his personal reflections and anecdotes behind these spellbinding images. Many of the photos are from The Hole. Many show remains of firefighters being removed and the honor processions that always accompanied those somber occasions. There are also images from St. Paul's Chapel which I have blogged about previously. It became a safe haven for thousands of rescue workers. Gary's work did not end when The Hole was closed in the spring of 2002. He operates The Ground Zero Museum Workshop-Images and Artifacts from the Recovery. The museum is located in Manhattan's Meat-Packing District at 420 West 14th Street and 9th Avenue. Check out his website at Hopefully retirement will bring me the opportunity for more volunteering at places like the Flight 93 Memorial, more reading, and more travel to places like New York City where I can visit and spend quality time at museums like this one. On your next visit to NYC consider this as part of your itinerary. You can get tickets at 212-209-3370. Hopefully graduation will also allow me the freedom to blog more often. This blog came about after my local newspaper The News Herald wrote some articles about our school's (Chardon Middle School)efforts to raise money when we visited the site every year on our trip to Hershey, PA. In the future I would like to expand this blog as I have in this post to other 9/11 related sites and information.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


2014 marks major milestones in the 9/11 Community. There is much anticipation in both New York City and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. In NYC at the site of Ground Zero the 9/11 Museum will open later this spring. Probably this fall, perhaps in time for the 9/11 anniversary, the Visitors Center at the Flight 93 Memorial, is scheduled to open. Both of these places will enhance the visitors's appreciation of these somber sites-places that hold memories of the day that we will never forget. As an educator these openings are significant to me. They will give a face to the tragedy. They will likely also increase the flow of visitors to both sites. It makes for more learning which is especially critical for those too young to remember that Tuesday in September. Today I sent my check to Shanksville to renew my membership in the organization known as The Friends of Flight 93. For the first time I noticed the irony of the address where my check was sent-P. O. Box 911. The Friends now have an executive director and they continue to do great deeds. No doubt it is both snowy and windy today in western Pennsylvania, but the Memorial will be staffed for visitors both by the National Park Service rangers and the volunteers of the Friends. 2014 also represents my final year of full-time middle school teaching. I will continue to teach part time at both a local community college(Lakeland Community College) and the regional campus of a state university (Kent State university. I hope to use part of my time volunteering at the Flight 93 Memorial as a Plaza Greeter and possibly join one of their trips as the Friends group has traveled in the past to both New York City and Washington D. C. to meet with volunteers from the 9/11 Memorial and the Pentagon Memorial. I also look forward to continue working on the pilot of a curriculum-The Man in the Red Bandanna which is a series of lessons for elementary, middle school, high school, sports teams, and camps around the ideals espoused by 9/11 hero Welles Crowther. If you haven't watched the video about Welles, please make a resolution to do so. It can be found on the ESPN website.