Moving On

house-for-sale“It’s time to say goodbye, but…I’d much rather say hello. Hello to a new adventure.”  Ernie Harwell

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Seneca

For years, I told the women in my Domestic Violence Support group and other people I worked with that, if despite all your efforts trying to make something work, (especially with little done by the other person), and it’s still not working, it is time to move on.  Who knew that rule applied to more than relationships?

similar-to-the-house-we-liked-copyThough we are first time homebuyers, I still knew housing offers didn’t always work. I had all the general concepts and a great real estate agent (any Raleigh folks looking to move, let me just say Kris Cuddy). And on our first outing, she showed me a house and I thought it was love at first sight. We talked and made an offer.  (It looked something like the one to the right.)

Oh, we had an issue or two. And just like in any relationship, I expected it would take some work. Kris tried really hard to play the “mediator” as I have in many marital counseling situations. But despite her efforts, it kept being impossible, no meeting half-way on their part to build a connection. Relationships take work, but it shouldn’t be like pounding your head into a wall trying to make it fall.

Keeping a firm grip on making things a win win for everyone, Kris kept trying while still protecting Doug and my interests as her first priority. Yesterday, however, after four days of constant resistance on the seller’s agent’s part, it was time close the door on the offer.

Last night, the reminder of every time I repeated, “Time to move on” came back to me. It’s a really good lesson in many life circumstances. Yet, I can’t be a clinical social worker and not say in relationship circumstances using a professional for assistance before you reach the “move on” place can be wise. In real estate, it is absolutely critical.  But we did, and she was one of the best! Hearing how hard Kris worked, Doug and I felt she had tried everything. And we saw it wasn’t going to happen.

welcome-to-our-home copy 2So, this will be an atypically brief post for me and not very refined, because I have to get back to house-hunting. Kris and I will be looking at houses in Raleigh again tomorrow and boy, do I have stuff to do.

I hope this time we can make the new marriage of house and homeowner work, and Kris gets to do the marriage ceremony/closing!  So, for my finger crossing friends…keep some good thoughts for us.  And for my praying people…more prayers are welcome. Onward to new adventures in hunting the home of our future!

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More than Just Words – Words Matter

words-have-power-copy“We are Masters of our unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.”                   Winston Churchill

“Remember, death and life are in the power of the tongue.”     Joel Osteen

“Words used carelessly, as if they did not matter in any serious way, often allow otherwise well-guarded truths to seep through.”               Douglas Adams                                       The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

thought-bubbleEvery week, I work hard on my posts. Some come in an all encompassing idea, whole, springing almost completely written, Athena like and I sit down, the words flowing, coming to me as if I am taking dictation from an unnamed oracle. Even then, as if each word were the sum total of the rest, worth everything, I tweak a word, finesse a thought, play with other words, re-order them until every single one is a perfect fit.

With other posts, I have a kernel of an idea, but I labor over the words, long and hard. I set the post aside when I get stuck, come back to wrestle it again, eliminate a section, add another, doing major rewrites only to discard them, restoring a sentence from a draft and fighting for every word. Words matter.

pearl-necklace-copyThat is to say, I believe in the power of writing words. I take it seriously. I am someone who never thinks, “It’s just words.”

Words matter. They matter when we string them together into sentences linked in intricate filigree, they are gems, diamond and ruby crusted, in pearl ropes, encased in pages like jewel boxes, beauty beyond price.  Words matter. They matter in pithy droplets of wisdom. They matter in knife thrusts of anger, in epithets of disdain, in razor cuts of shaming,  in repeated soul-crushing bullying. They matter in wedding vows and whispers to children. Words matter.

marry-me-copyYet, the matter with words is they can heal or kill, encourage or defeat, intimidate or elevate, inspire or denigrate. Just simple words can break a heart or make a difference. The right words can change the world.

Over and over, the survivors of abuse in the women’s group I ran told me that they would rather be hit than humiliated, that bruises healed faster than shame.

Napoleon Hill said it this way: “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.”

words-of-failure-copyThe matter with words is that they hit harder than a fist and can inflict damage that lasts a lifetime. They can make a person second-guess their every choice, accept that they are worthless, and reduce someone to acquiescence, to accepting that their private selves, their bodies, their very being can be subjected to the whims of another.

One of the loveliest things about writing is that it can be used to teach us a lesson with supreme deftness. It can speak in allegory and allow readers to draw their own inference from what is written by bringing their own views to what they see in what they read. So please add your own context to my words.

This is mine:  Words are my tool, and I prefer using the delicate touch of the finest jeweler rather than using the laborer’s sledgehammer. I wish to wield them with grace instead of to bludgeon. Words matter, so I will only say this: Friday, I heard a man on a tape use words with casually brutality. On Sunday, I heard him excuse them. “It’s just words,” he said, wanting us to think they were only words.

It is never only words.We can not, must not, accept the discussion of unjust, dehumanizing actions toward others as just words, anymore than we can accept the actions they are meant to justify, as if brutality is never brutal, as if words don’t underlie the taking of a life, or the living of a lie.

Words matter…they always matter.

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Shall We Listen to the Mockingbird?

young-mockingbird-in-the-bay-treeWhen I first got to North Carolina, I was invited to dinner at a colleague’s home.  As we sat on her tree-lined patio at dusk, the lilting song of a bird rose over our heads.

In New York, I had heard birdsong at daybreak that made my heart soar on innumerable occasions, but I had never heard a bird sing in the evening. But as day became nightfall that June evening, I was enchanted by a song that was extended, with variations like a symphony, light and delicate, winsome and melancholy, so lovely I was moved as I always am by beautiful music.

mockingbird-in-the-hollyThough there was only one bird, it sounded to me as if this was a song evolving into the songs of a number of different birds sung one after the other.

When I asked what bird it was that was singing, the answer was, “It’s a mockingbird.” And from somewhere I  remembered a few lyrics of a song “Listen to the Mockingbird, Listen to the Mockingbird, the Mockingbird is singing”….wasn’t sure of the next words…

Me, being me, I did a little research to find out that a mockingbird can have a repertoire of over 200 songs, invented and copied from other birds, and that lone males sing the longest and most complex songs.

cardinal-copyWhen Doug moved here, and I got the feeders up, first came sparrows, then warblers, finches, and cardinals, finally mourning doves arrived to peck the ground at the larger sunflower seeds from the feed mix dropped to them by the littler birds.  All, got their turn, all got along, all had their notes and music. And at last, a mockingbird arrived. I was thrilled.

There was the evolving extended song, the pert tail, the flashes of white on the wing.  The mockingbird seemed to listen to my husband whistling and repeated his notes. mockingbird-copyAs soon as Doug came out on the porch, this mockingbird would arrive, flying into one of the nearby trees.  Doug would whistle and the mockingbird reply…a little like dueling, first one and then the other, Doug mimicking the bird, the bird “mocking” him in imitation.  The grandkids began to call him, “Boppa’s bird.” We loved him.

I had a lot to learn about mockingbirds.

mockingbird2-copyThey are among the bullies in the bird world, aggressively territorial.  Gradually, I noticed that when the mockingbird was near, he was always alone. As I watched him, he stayed in the tree nearby, but didn’t go to the feeders. Looking up more information, I learned seeds were not in his diet, and got a suet feeder for him. But when he was around, I finally realized the other birds remained hidden, only chirping a bit from the bushes.

But worse than the other birds just avoiding him, to my chagrin, I saw that if they did try to come to the feeders, and he was anywhere nearby, he would violently drive them off.  Though the other birds wouldn’t eat the bugs, grubs and beetles or fruits favored by mockingbirds, and thus were not competition to his survival, he attacked. Swooping and whirling, he would dive into them, head first, bill extended, over and over until they retreated.

I realized one Mockingbird song was “Mine, mine, mine, get away, get away.”

cardinal-at-the-feeder-copyThe mockingbird chased the other birds,  unwilling to share…anything, even access to food he had no interest in. He wanted the whole habitat all to himself. It was all about him. And my nesting pairs of littler birds, who had come and made their homes in my yard, were kept from the feeders though they posed no risk, simply seeking to feed themselves and their babies.

Initially, it seemed the mockingbird was  powerful. He had dominance and control. He even attracted a mate. Finally, however, the littler birds stood up for themselves, joining together, fighting back, and the mockingbird left, taking his song and his mate with him.

They haven’t been in my yard these last few years…and the other birds have flourished.

aggression-bully-copyNow, thus far, this may seem just a tale of life in my garden…but it came to mind when I read last week’s post by a friend, entitled “Bullies”.  She related stories from her days teaching and as a principal about bullies in her school….and went on to make it an analogy to the current election, having not posted about politics before.  Link to Clare’s post, Bullies

Like her, I had never before specifically addressed individual candidates. But like Clare, I now feel compelled to speak in the face of the horrifying nature of this election. I am not willing to let a bully win, even if all I have to fight him with are my words.

trump-copyDonald Trump is a Mockingbird. He sings varied songs calling out to the scared, to the struggling white, formerly middle class, men in manufacturing and mining, some of his songs mock women, some mock Muslims, the handicapped, Mexicans, immigrants, the communities and neighborhoods where there are a preponderance of African-Americans, recently he mocked Clinton’s stumbling when she was sick, some of his songs resonate with the actively racist.  He sees himself sitting at the edge of night, singing a song of a “great” past, and telling us he is our only possible savior. It is all about him.

trump-strike-sign-copyLike the Mockingbird, he wants to drive out others from “his” territory, keep out the “different,” remove illegal immigrants, keep out refugees, build walls. At one point, he kept African-Americans from renting in his buildings. He has “used” small businesses to feather his nest without paying them, gone bankrupt multiple times thus not paying his debts, hurting his sub-contractors, cheating his employees, and accruing that failure to his own benefit by paying no taxes at all to support the country, or its military, while criticizing how poorly our president has managed things.

He sings songs that are not even really his own, that he thinks people want to hear, “Keep jobs in America, Make companies bring back jobs, Make things in America” while his company makes shirts and ties in Asia and Central America.

truth-lie-copyDonald Trump’s songs are alluring, and he is more than willing to change them…pretend he never sang the notes we all heard him sing. He lies. Not little white lies, but the big profound deceptive hurtful kind that can destroy individuals and undermine a nation. Like a mockingbird, he loves to attack others swooping in on them, “twittering” into the night.


think-before-you-voteSo little birds, it’s time to unite. We can’t sit safe on the edges, we can’t just stay in our nests, or let this mockingbird win. We have to defend our country and ourselves, and we have to call out this bird, this candidate, this charlatan for what he is.

We have to talk about this and we have to vote…and though I fear the song may linger, we must act and call out to our neighbors who are mesmerized by Trump, “Don’t listen to the mockingbird.”  The actual end to the line from the Mockingbird song that I couldn’t remember is “The mockingbird is singing o’er her grave.” There’s meaning there.

So, together let us chirp and tweet and sing, write and speak up to encourage others to vote and to join their voices to ours in a morning song, a song of inclusion, a welcoming song, a song of joy.

That is what really makes America strong, and it’s why America has always been great.




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Siren Song – The Call of Autumn

yellow-leaves“Autumn is the Mellow Time.”    William Allingham

“Delicious Autumn, my very soul is wedded to it…”     George Elliot

The last several mornings on my back porch have been filled with Goldilocks perfection, just warm enough, just cool enough, just right…bringing peace. My heart breathes a sigh of contentment, the intensity of summer in North Carolina is mellowing at last. rusty-leaf Fall is my favorite season and comes late here on the coast, slowly evolving, and lingers into December.  I love this gentle unfolding of its graces.

Elizabeth Bowen said it, “Autumn arrives in the early morning..”  When after days of drenching rain it crept on into our yard early last Friday morning on cool fingers of fog, only poetry could describe its Siren Song:


Morning mist wanders in the limbs of the long leaf pine,

Drifting in wisps, blurring the edges of our garden

Into watercolors of soft green and gray, burnt sienna and sable,

Lightened by mere fingerprints of lingering mums,

Touches of rust and buttercream.




In circles of sound, crickets play perimeter harmonies,

Cardinals and warblers welcome the yet unseen sun, and

geese-in-mountains-copyOverhead geese cry, Come, Come, Come, Come,

I will, I will, I will…..Come, Come, Come,

I will, You know I will.



autumn-mist-in-treesAutumn lulls us with whirring cicadas,

Suffuses our senses with sunrises of scarlet, rose, amber, and yellowed gold,

Washes us luxuriant in lush leaf colors,

Palettes of crimson and cinnabar, jacinth and jessamine.

Come, come, come…I will, I will.


Sing to me autumn, sing your song of life fulfilled,

Enfold me in your slanted, soft, saffron, light,

Ripen me to completion, ready for harvest

As I finish the last niggling leaf in life’s story,

Come, come to me, Sing your song…I will,

I will.


No, I don’t write poetry often any more. canada-geese-against-sunsetBut flights of geese arrow over head this morning, pointing me to answers, calling.

Can you see them?    Can you hear them?   Will you answer?

…I will.


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Birthdays and Living In the Moment

woman-at-sunrise-copyListen to the Salutation of the Dawn:
Look to this day, for it is Life.
It is the very life of Life.
And in its brief course will lie
All the verities and realities
Of our existence…
The bliss of growth.
The glory of action.
The splendor of beauty.

sunriseFor yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision;
But today well-lived makes every
Yesterday a dream of happiness,
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this Day!

From the Sanskrit

birthday-cake-copyLast week my family and I began texting, then calling, planning for the milestone birthday I celebrated on Sunday. I don’t know if people still think of 40 or 50 as “over the hill,” but this birthday sets me firmly, undeniable, over it. While I actually have never felt my age, and have more energy than many younger than me, some milestones are meant to make us take stock and reevaluate.



Additionally, on Sunday the 11th, Doug made the formal announcement of his retirement at the end of the year. So, it had been a philosophical week.

But since my last two have been serious posts, I thought I would winch it back a bit and maybe do a light weight post.

Life apparently had at least a little seriousness in mind.

unhappy-worryYou see on Saturday, on Facebook, a 60+ year old friend posted, “I continue to worry that I will die young.” Knowing him as tongue in cheek guy, my first reaction was humorous, “Too Late,” since I thought “continue” was inserted as a word clue he was kidding, that he was saying “too late” himself, poking fun at his age. stress

Then another friend commented on the post that her 89-year-old father had mentioned at lunch that he had always thought he’d die in his 60s. It made me wonder if he wished in hindsight that he hadn’t spent time worrying. So I wrote a serious reply, “Worry merely undermines your joy in the present and the present is all we have.”  Then I added, even more seriously, “Letting go of worry lets you live fully in the present for however long with no regrets.”

I really do believe this…but then I wrote a second humorous reply to this former aide to a Senator, “….perhaps it’s more about this election causing the end of the world…” That was the comment that got a like from him.time-hourglass

But milestone birthdays are there to make us think. So, given that while at my age it is also too late to worry about dying young, more importantly it should be too late to worry…about anything. That would only eat up joy…and time, and I don’t plan to squander either of them.


ella-card-page-2ella-card-page-1-copyAge is supposed to bring wisdom. This birthday is a reminder: Unlike when I was a kid and all of life lay ahead, age teaches us time is precious. There are still things I want to do and time with my grandkids to plan. So my mantra is two-fold: Focus on what matters and Live each moment to its full potential for joy.

Of course, me being me, all this set me to thinking and I remembered the poem above and the lyrics to an old song by Sinatra my mother loved:

liveI’m gonna live till I die!
I’m gonna laugh ‘stead of cry,
I’m gonna take the town and turn it upside down,
I’m gonna live, live, live until I die.
They’re gonna say “What a guy!”  (gal🙂 )
I’m gonna play for the sky.
Ain’t gonna miss a thing,
I’m gonna have my fling,
I’m gonna live, live, live until I die.
dance-copy                  Gonna dance, gonna fly,
I’ll take a chance riding high,
Before my number’s up,
I’m gonna fill up my cup,
I’m gonna live, live, live, until I die!

Yep, that’s my plan and I’m sticking to it.

George RR Martin said it this way:  “What do we say to Mr. Death? Not Today!”



So, today and every day I’m gonna dance, write, love, laugh, and hug my family and live…live so joyously my heart soars until one day it does fly free.


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United We Stand – On Being the Unity We Seek

one-world-trade-center“Put one foot in front of the other. Turn off your TV. Power down your phone, say hi to your neighbor, and introduce yourself to a stranger. Connect. Be the unity you seek.”      Joe Quinn

Monday morning on my back porch, drinking my coffee, I came upon this quote reading the New York Times on my phone, my dog next to me. A resonance remained from all the emotion of last week as I discovered these words in Fail Better, America on the 9/11 Anniversary, by Roger Cohen.

Quinn, whose brother, Jimmy, died on 9/11 spoke these words at the 15th Anniversary Service on Sunday in New York. Inspired to serve, Quinn did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now was calling upon us to recapture the national unity we experienced after the terrorist attacks. I think he’s right. We need to, not only as a memorial to that event, but because America is always stronger when we are united as a people.

weather-vaneWe aren’t now. We’ve lost the sense of direction and shared purpose we had. Quinn reminded me that the unity that was so palpable then. has fragmented till it feels as if we are locked in armed camps. Sadly, this seems equally true in the rest of the world.  The growth of nationalism, isolationism, the rejection of refugees and immigrants, even Brexit, seem to signal a withdrawal from connection, the kind of tribal dissension that has raged in the Middle East for generations.

conflict-copyIn America, two forces seem locked in combat and fearful animosity:  Those who seek inclusion, unity with “the Other,” the offer of a helping people to those my faith calls “neighbor,” and a requirement for involvement in humanity; and on the other side, those who feel under personal attack,  who feel left behind as the world moves forward, angered as their dreams slip from their grasp, they want to withdraw, put up walls, fall back, retrench, and protect themselves and those they love.

angry-man-copyThere is no right or wrong here, just different life experience. The problem comes when these groups begin to characterize the others, labeling them, blaming them, destroying any sense of American unity.



Admittedly, my empathy begins with the first group named, but how can I love “others” and embrace neighbors (described as like Samaritans, a despised group at the time of the story), and not find love for those in the second group. How can I want a place to live, jobs, and health care for the poor, homeless, and the immigrant, and not want those things for blue-collar struggling Americans. How can I hear their primal scream and not hear pain.

Those in the second group  know what it is like to try to claw out an existence seeking the American dream, to face homelessness, poverty, or the loss of a middle class life style, to take on second jobs, to do everything they can, and still feel America leaving them behind.

steel-millSadly, in my opinion, the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps message” of our country doesn’t work well in a recession. It often doesn’t work well for minorities, the poor, or the undereducated. And jobs and work are changing in an increasingly technological world. I have lived where assembly line jobs at automotive plants and breweries were lost, where well-paying jobs disappeared as steel mills closed.

red-white-blue-hopeI can understand and support the idea of meeting the needs of our own citizens first. Yet, I would ask,  “Can’t those in tough circumstances empathize with those in even worse conditions? Can’t we try to be bigger, help more? Can’t we still be the land of hope, of opportunity for anyone seeking it.


we-united-copyTogether we can. United we can.

After 9 11, the worst attacks ever on our country, we came together. We were determined to fight. Our unity was our answer to the disasters of that day. We need that unity again.

For centuries, we have known the wisdom of “United we stand, Divided we fall.” It actually comes from two Aesop Fables. First, the story of the Oxen and the Lion:

africa-lionA lion prowled a field in which Four Oxen lived. Over and over, he attacked them; but whenever he did they turned their tails to warn each another, and whichever way he attacked he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they quarreled and each went off alone to separate corners of the field. Then, the Lion attacked them one by one and that was the end of all of them.

bamboo-sticksThe second is the story of a father whose sons are quarreling. He brings them a stick and a bundle of stick tied together. He breaks the single stick and asks them to try to break the bundle. They can’t. And he tells them, “My sons, if you unite to assist each other, you will be as this bundle, uninjured by all the attempts of your enemies; but if you are divided among yourselves, you will be broken as easily as this stick.”

Aesop’s Moral for both stories:  United we stand, Divided we fall.

statue-of-liberty-copyThat is a lesson that has endured for several thousand years. We need to listen to it today, and reach across what divides us to the common ground that unites us. We can seek the common good and elevate ourselves and the world at the same time.

Why do we have to? Are we under attack? Yes, from many directions. Economically, environmentally, globally, politically, there are lions lurking.

But this isn’t the first time that has happened. We are Americans. United we have gone to the rescue of the entire world in the past. Surely, united, we can see to it that opportunity exists for all of us who are here, and still be the America of the Statue in New York’s harbor offering second chances to the world. It would take the commitment of us all, but we have done it before. Each of us just has to commit to doing our part, adding our stick, reaching out, instead of turning in, and finding what unites us.

america-starWill we succeed in addressing every issue facing all of our citizens, and the world. Not easily, not the first time, and no, not with the first attempt. Yet, one of our strengths is perseverance. Americans aren’t quitters. In his article, Cohen used a Samuel Beckett quote to express this, “Ever tried. Ever failed. Try Again. Fail again. Fail Better.”

I would add, “Then, reach out to your neighbor and try once more together. And never give up. The only guarantee of failure is to fail to try.”

America has always known that. We are the UNITED states. And we can face anything, as long as we remain united.





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Memories of a 9/11 Responder – Ground Zero Remembered

twin-towers-on-fire-copyToday is the 15th Anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. I served at Ground Zero with The Salvation Army for several weeks in the immediate aftermath, arriving in New York City on September 14th.  (I wrote a detailed memoire recounting my experience, the link to this is  In the Ashes of My Brothers.)

Every anniversary has been poignant for me. This year more so for several reasons.  A year ago, I was diagnosed with an illness that may be related to my time serving there and I went to a New York Hospital to complete my diagnosis this past January. I took that opportunity to finally return to tour the Memorial site and go to the Museum.

deris-south-tower-girders-copyMy husband, Doug, also went with our team, and even at that time both of us believed it could carry long-term consequences. The pervasive heavy grey dust we walked through, the smoke in the air, and the smell of the rising fumes were certainly warnings. and our aid station was in the debris field, initially on a fallen girder from the South Tower. (as right)

9-11-ground-zero-debris-with-archesThough Doug worked the 12 hour night shift with the Night Crawlers, and I was on a 12 hour “Day Watch,” we wrote notes and discussed it, even the possibility it would shorten our lives. Several times when the smoke was blowing toward us, the EPA told me the air “was bad.” But my team stayed. Both of us have had health consequences.

Neither of us have any regrets.

me-at-911-fountain-copyFor us, somewhat like I have heard from family who served in World War II, our time there and our work there will always be the most meaningful experience in our lives. So, going back, visiting the Memorial Museum, seeing the fountains was something I have wanted to do for years.  And just as I had hoped, going there with my daughter and sharing my memories with her, was poignant yet healing.  (To the right, me  at one of the memorial fountains.

sheathing-falling-teeth-911-copy-2When I climbed through a broken window into the Ground Zero site, the first things I saw, and I am sure you remember from iconic pictures, were twisted pieces of metal, girders, and large pieces of the exterior aluminum support sheathing which fell and embedded themselves into the ground.teeth-2-copy

I thought of these pieces, standing at oddly skewed angles, as looking somewhat like crazy teeth. The girder from the South Tower (WTC 2)  which served as the site of our first Aide Station was directly in front of one set of them on what had been West Street. (see just below)


To the left is the only picture I have of our aid station. It is actually the picture of a picture that appeared in Others, the newsletter of our local Salvation Army (Syracuse Area Services.)

My team was deeply moved by the loss of the firefighters and police officers we served and agreed not to take pictures. We believed we stood on holy


To the right, is a picture from a book I bought during this visit. I looked for something at the Museum store and opened a book to this picture. I think I gasped. These are the exact windows we climbed out of World Financial 2 and into Ground Zero.  It shows the debris and the teeth from the South Tower.

support-arches-north-tower                                                                                  To the left of our girder were the remains from the bottom exterior of the North Tower (WTC1). Another iconic image to responders, these support arches held up the aluminum exterior sheath of the North Tower, reminding me of the arches seen inside gothic churches, and pictures of bombed churches in World War II. (on left)

The arches and the teeth in front of us bracketed what remained of the Twin Towers. Between them was a pile of debris  that rose like a mountain to a height of more than six stories, still burning at 1500 degrees.


For the whole time, I was there those aluminum pieces meant to add a flexible outer structural support to the Towers, those “teeth”  framed my experience. So, I ask you to imagine what it felt like to walk toward the Ground Zero site and see this aluminum sculpture.

teethwings-911-memorialIt was the first sign to me of how hard the designers had worked to create a place of memory  for people who had images of the disaster seared into their minds and linked to their grief, and simultaneously, it was an indication of resurrection and redirection. To me, these new teeth, reminders of pain, had become wings, attached to the earth into which the originals were imbedded, but reaching for the sky.

support-arch-copy Because I knew this would be emotional to me, once inside I chose not join a group with a tour guide, but to go with my daughter at our own pace through the displays. As we descended the stairs to the below ground museum, we saw the first remains of the Trade Center.  There was one of the North Tower “church” arches, against a multi-paned window reaching for the light. Again, pain yet relief, remembrance and transformation, but united by the same sense of entering a sacred place I felt every time I brought supplies for the first responders into Ground Zero.

survivors-stairs-copyThen, we descended further next to the Survivor Stairs down which many in the North Tower escaped, and we reached the next amazingly sensitive piece of art, an immense wall of blue, a touching quote. Again, sharp memory.

I instantly was taken back to  hearing about the first plane, thinking it must have been a small one, and going to a conference room to turn on the Today Show. I was shocked by the damage I saw to the North Tower, the smoke black against the brilliant blue sky, and then the second plane flew into sight and hit the South Tower.

blue-sky-tribute-copyThis quote from the Aeneid, “No Day Shall Erase You From The Memory of Time” is set against Spencer Finch’s immense blue art installation of 2,983 individual watercolor renderings by artists of what color the sky appeared to be to them that September 11th. Each one unique, the squares represent each person killed in the original attack in 1993 and those in 2001, each person as distinct in memory as the different colors of blue sky.

gretchen-and-events-wall-copyMy daughter and I passed a preserved though damaged fire truck, a glass encased fireman’s helmet, a wall outlining flight paths and a step by step progression of events, the slurry wall that held, many pictures, and places to listen to audio recordings from that tragic day. So many stops, a Via Dolorosa of tears for me.  I know it wasn’t easy for Gretchen to watch it hurt me. She has more empathy than most and I am sure she felt my pain. I think she also felt my healing.

last-girder-copyThe last location I will share from the visit is aptly named “the Last Column.” During the clean up and recovery work that lasted until May 30, 2002, this support column from the southeast corner of the South Tower was left in place and intact to represent the resiliency of our country, to show that, despite this cowardly but devastating attack, America, like the column, was still standing.

As a part of the ceremony marking the completion of the recovery phase, first a flag representing those victims of the tragedy who were never recovered was carried from the site, put in a stretcher and placed in an ambulance, like all the victims who had been found. Then, the girder was cut down, draped with a black pall, and escorted by an honor guard that included FDNY and NYPD. After the playing of taps by a police officer and firefighter, The Salvation Army Band played as the Column was escorted from the Trade Center Site. A YouTube of the Closing Ceremony.

Seeing the column, now standing tall at the center of the Ground Zero Museum, made me straighten my shoulders at least a bit. It made me proud of the first responders and all who assisted them. It made me proud to be an American.

It also salvation-army-shield-copymade me proud to have worked for The Salvation Army which on September 11th, as at all other times, truly was a strong army of salvation. The only agency authorized  to serve inside the fenced perimeter, in a little more than 8 months, during Operation Compassion Under Fire, 39,000 officers, staff, and volunteers provided over 3 million meals and over 1 million volunteer hours.

news-clippingPerhaps, most importantly, Salvation Army counselors provided emotional and spiritual support in extraordinarily difficult circumstances to the brave rescue and recovery workers there. I was blessed to have been part of that effort.

Today I will remember all of it, and I think we need to remember September 11th, not just at this anniversary. Why? Because on a day that was intended to humiliate America, Americans demonstrated all that makes us remarkable.

flag-and-towers-copyWe must never forget that at Ground Zero, at the Pentagon, and on a Plane that crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, heroes arose among us. First responders, military personnel, the amazing passengers and crew of Flight 93 AND ordinary citizens who helped strangers down the stairs or led others crawling out of smoke-filled corridors, those who gathered supplies on girders, who brought in pizzas to Ground Zero, and boys and girls who packed lunches with colored pictures thanking the rescue workers, heroes arose among us.

Stand tall America. You are a land of heroes. May we follow their example and remember we can never be defeated when we stand together. Let’s roll.

Again, a link to my memoire of my time at Ground Zero.

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