Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Plaza Greeter

On Saturday July 21st and Sunday July 22nd I served my first stint at The Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania as a Plaza Greeter. It was a very rewarding volunteer experience that I hope to repeat soon. A Plaza Greeter is just that-greeting folks as they enter the Memorial Plaza area and encouraging them to view the panels that give background information about Flight 93, September 11th, and the 40 brave passengers and crew. As a teacher, this job suited me quite well. I realized quickly that the panels which each have pictures and captions serve as an introduction to the story of Flight 93. Every good teacher knows how to craft a lesson. Most of the visitors both days discovered these on their own. I was trained to make eye contact with each visitor whenever possible. Engaging people comes very naturally to me and again most visitors were eager to at the minimum say thank you or enter into conversations with me. Being the son of a salesman, that too was easy "work." There were many visitors both days, more so on Sunday, with the weather being much warmer and sunnier. This always makes me feel good-to see so many visitors from so many states. More than one visitor told me they were at a family reunion in the area and wanted to stop. One grandmother left her grandson's baseball tournament in Altoona and said she wasn't sure where the Memorial was, but she was going to see it! Another visitor engaged me for a long time about her work for the operations department at the CIA on September 11th. I made sure I thanked every gentleman I saw wearing an armed forces cap or shirt. To a man they were pleased and shook my hand. I was proud to tell those whom I spoke to that as a teacher from northeast Ohio, I had brought nearly 200 6th grade students every year since 2005 to the Memorial. Many visitors spoke of earlier trips to the temporary memorial. One woman in particular choked up every time she mentioned it-her words were that it was a quiet place to reflect. Speaking of that I overheard a father chastising his young son's behavior. He reminded him this was a cemetery and he should act that way not "like a goofball." I liked his message-maybe not his choice of words. We give a similar message to our students every year before leaving the buses at the site. A Vietnam veteran from Warren, Ohio told me that all of our national memorials should be a solemn place. I would agree. There were many motorcycle groups both days and on Sunday a small group of bicyclists. Before I left each day I made sure to listen to a ranger's interpretive talk. On Sunday the ranger began his talk, speaking about something I wrote about in an earlier blog-how blue the sky was that day-I believe he called it a Blue 22.

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