Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The End of Serenity

It happened again. Two of my worlds collided and it happened in a whoosh. Last Monday I was teaching my curriculum class at Kent State University to future middle school teachers. I was working on explaining the formation of learning activities. I was looking for something a little out-of-the-box and happened to find a lesson about combining history and photography. It's a good lesson because everyone seems to have a favorite photograph from history. Since I have become involved with Flight 93, I have had the good fortune to meet so many interesting people. One of them is Val McClatchey. Val is a life-long resident of Somerset County and lives just miles from the crash site. On September 11, 2001 she took a photograph from the front of her house that shows a large cloud of smoke above a red barn-a bit of tragedy in an otherwise bucolic scene. Val titled the photograph aptly "The End of Serenity." Two years ago our school was involved in a Flight 93 Oral History project. We placed a small ad in the News Herald explaining our project with some contact information. One of Val's friends in Northeast Ohio from her Camaro Club spotted it and let her know. Before the morning was over, Val had telephoned my school. She would eventually visit our school, spending a day sharing all her Flight 93 mementos with our students. There is a long story behind her photograph-too long for this particular blog. During her visit Val gave me a large copy of the photograph. I would also spend time at Val's home when she invited my teaching colleague and I to her home for lunch during one of our pre-trips to Somerset County. It was memorable to say the least. Val has also joined our classes at the site the last two years we have visited. When I visited the completed Memorial for the first time on September 10, 2011 I was thrilled to see that Val's photograph was one of the eight displays at the Memorial Plaza. It serves as part of the introduction to 9/11 and Flight 93 before visitors make their way up the walkway to the actual memorial. My lesson at Kent served to show the students that photos, illustrations, and even paintings can be used to introduce important historical events and concepts. As I was teaching I was telling my class about how I have volunteered at the Memorial and that National Park Service rangers do talks at certain times during the crowded weekend hours. Rangers use photographs to tell the story. Since I have served as a Plaza Greeter I suddenly had an Aha! moment as I realized it was Val's photograph that every visitor to the Flight 93 Memorial sees first.

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