Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Best Wishes and Happy Returns

She HATES having her picture shown -- so you only get the back of her head -- but Wednesday is the birthday of our favorite (okay, ONLY) true relative (which is funny since Hubby adopted her and she adopted him) and we needed to acknowledge the day.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Taking It Easy

The week was a tough one. Hubby has the terrible "summer-going-into-fall" cold / virus and he has been really feeling this one. There was a night in there where I suggested that maybe we actually did need an emergency room visit, due to his various health ailments, but if you knew Hubby, you'd realize that was never an option.

"I will tough this out!" is his motto for nearly everything. And tough it out he has. Finally this weekend he's beginning to act a tad more normal, even if he still sounds perfectly awful.

My stomach, due to a change in meds, has been acting up and somehow I have ended up feeling even more exhausted than ever (which is a pretty neat feat since I'm usually so tired all the time anyway). Wednesday at school was Family Advisory Day -- which in normal terms is parent / teacher conferences. Wednesday was extended until 7:30 p.m. -- and we were back in the classroom on regular schedule on Thursday. I also had two IEP meetings this week -- and six IEP's to write.


My time with the kids was fine. At parent conferences I had more attend than usual and in our building we had a thundering horde. We've not seen that many parents in the last 20+ years.

One kid I'd been thinking of sending to the after school program so we just wouldn't have to fight him any more, suddenly turned himself around.

A cell phone was removed from a kid by a parent after I complained at the parent conference.

One of my collab teachers suddenly thought that co-teaching might be a "cool" idea which could be a good thing if he ever decided that we should do lesson planning together. Another thought that doing some work separate from her classroom might be successful -- and it certainly was! Not quite a co-teaching situation but it made my life a whole lot easier.

My learning community at school has become very cohesive and taken on a whole new outlook -- which I'm loving.

Tickets for some concerts at the new Kauffman Center arrived. The fall concert season has arrived!

The weather turned from hot to really cold but then swung back again to nicely mild and stayed there.

My salary raise due to reaching 30 hours past my masters in graduate studies was approved -- and was significant.

The new TV season started and I've been DVRing all the shows I wanted to try out -- with varying results, but some are keepers. I tried "Two and Half Men" but I still don't get the humor of the show and it still revolves around men acting like idiots. I have fallen in love with "The Big Bang Theory" and discovered that it was being shown at 11:30 p.m. starting with the first episode -- so I'm recording everything.

Today we took in a truly wonderful movie and I'm recommending it to everyone. We saw "Money Ball" with Brad Pitt. Though we're not baseball fans and we never attend games or watch them or even listen to them, this movie is riveting. Well written, well acted, well directed, it has suspense, a couple of heroes you can cheer for, a villain you want to see fail or certainly get "his come-upence," and a satisfying ending with no dead bodies anywhere in sight. The villain is not punished but instead comes to super "A-ha!" moment which actually proves even better than revenge. The movie is a "home run" all the way!

To round out the week, I received an e-mail on Friday from a long lost cousin. This was truly a nice surprise. With no children and as an only child, our family ties are down to none with Mother's death. It was a pleasure to hear that someone other than me is carrying on the "family." Though currently in Florida, it might be that we will continue correspondence. I hope so.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Finally Kansas City Has Reason to Shine

Of course, we were not at the opening night festivities. And we won't be at tonight's events. And just thinking of facing a 30,000+ crowd tomorrow is beyond our current physical scope -- but we do hold a set of tickets for upcoming events. And we are very, very excited to see the new concert halls. We've already started budgeting for valet parking -- it looks like quite a hike from the garage (even with handicapped parking). Our first concert is the end of September. We won't be hearing Placido Domingo or watching Tommy Tune dance - or even seeing a video of Prince Charles (yes! that Prince Charles) call Kansas City a burgeoning mecca for the arts -- but we will be there, proud that Kansas City finally has an outstanding, world class arts center.

Click on the the link and see all the action and read the story:

Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

One of my favorite statements about this new building, is that the symphony members are ecstatic that they can finally (and the first time) hear each other playing (the acoustics in the old hall were so awful that each member had to play as loud as they could on nearly every number so the audience could hear the music).

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tying up loose ends

I figured that Mother had handled her demise very competently, that my services would really not be wanted or needed at all. Lawyers were in place. She had made sure she had those she cared about at this time surrounding her (as the lawyer cryptically mentioned to me, "People seemed to come and go in her life), and everything possible would be done to insure that I was out of the loop.

Except it seems that "body disposable" (lordy, that's a cold term) actually does need a blood relative. So I got the call and then the e-mail, saying I needed to sign off for the funeral home to cremate her body.
Writing that seems so foreign. She was Mother, not a body. Even if I wasn't a chosen part of her final last wishes, she was still my only mother, not just a dead body.

The whole thing kind of threw me, not withstanding the cold language, and the fact that my services actually were required.

I knew how to get the proper signatures but our digital lives have now gone wireless. I actually have a scanner / copier printer at school -- but it's very old and slow. The one at home is now wireless and isn't equipped to fulfill multiple purposes. Neither do I own a fax machine. Faxes? In today's world unless you are a business? Most of us don't even own landlines anymore. Yes, I do . . . but that's because I don't like phones and cell phones, in particular (and yes, I have one of those but don't even know the number on it -- call Hubby if you need us quickly).

So Hubby stepped up to help me get Mother's final wishes granted. Wouldn't she have just loved THAT?

First we visited the local library. But no, they could not scan signed documents and turn them into digital files. However, they get so many requests for the service, they have a sheet of referral places. I glanced at it and saw that our second choice for scanning was on the list and off we went.

In the car, I dithered some more. "What if I don't know how to run their computers? Or scanners? Will they help me?"

"Silly woman. Give them your credit card, explain what you need, and go sit down."

So I did. And five minutes later I had all the files I needed, scanned and in PDF form. I had thought in advance and taken my trusty flash drive with me. I also had brought all the lawyer info, in case we had to resort to faxing. But I didn't need that at all, just the flash drive.

Back home, I sent off the files within 14 hours of receiving them and congratulated myself on a job well done -- and I hadn't had to explain to the lawyer that I really wasn't sure how quickly I could get the job completed.

Except, of course, I had left off an initial on a form line. The lawyer had sent absolutely no directions as to what needed to be completed on the forms, and though I had read them thoroughly, I had still left something out. You'd think for the amount of money my mother had spent on these lawyers, some directions would have come my way.

The funeral home called.

"We know you weren't close to your mother."

Gee, everybody knows?

"Do you want us to fax you the forms so you can initial the correct lines?"

"No. I do not. Just initial them for me."

"Are you sure?"


At home, after spending the PDF file off and answering the funeral home questions, I hugged Hubby. One more time he had put himself out for a woman who never liked him, never acknowledged his role in our family, and thought of him as less than a human being. One more time he had spent money to make sure her needs were met -- and with no acknowledgment in return -- other than my firm belief that his is the true Christian heart.

So now my part in mother's life (or end of life) is complete.

It would be the time to say, "and so her memories are put to bed." But, of course, it's never that easy or simple or satisfying.

Rest in peace, Mother. We have all done the best we could with the tools we were given. Even Hubby.

PS -- if there is an afterlife, please meet Mrs. Van and have a long, long talk with her. For those of you who knew Mrs. Van, you'll know why . . .

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Snap Shot Memory

In 2002, a little over six months after 9/11/2001 I asked friends to write me about their "snap shot" experiences. Snapshot memories are those that are so startling they are forever embedded in our memories. We remember what we were doing the exact moment we heard "the big news." Adi, my friend in Singapore, thought this might be a nice time to reprise that essay. It's long, be forewarned.

Remembering 9-11 -- Written in the spring of 2002

A term has been coined for the recollections we have that are so strong they are forever imprinted in our psyche – Flashbulb Memory. September 11, 2001 has been proclaimed by the media as one of those extraordinary days in history that everyone will always remember where they were and what they were doing, not unlike the attack on Pearl Harbor or the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

My reaction to that Tuesday is still disbelief. I don’t bring any understanding to the breadth of the disaster. I have a great interest in the news events that occurred during and after the explosions. I’ve followed the stories of heroism and sacrifice. Because the media kept telling me the event would be imprinted in my memory like a “flashbulb” exploding, I do remember what I was doing and where I was when I heard the news of the plane hitting the first Trade Tower. I was standing in the bathroom combing my hair when NPR announced that a plane had hit the World Trace Center. I rushed to the TV. Twenty minutes later I rushed to my job at The We’re #3 Telecom Company, but my radio stayed on all day long – as did everyone else’s. Little knots of people met all around the floor, sharing information, speculating, trying to make sense of the senseless. Few people left the building to go to lunch. Instead we gathered in huge groups in the cafeteria to see replay after replay of the Trade Towers coming down.

I’m not at all sure that I’m emotionally invested in this disaster yet. It may be just too big for me to wrap my mind and heart around. My New York friend, Peff, kept me updated through the entire chain of events in New York. Through her I felt some of the pain. I never cried, though. I never had any nightmares about it. I never felt threatened in my own personal world. I’m absolutely sure I should feel more than I do. Others tell or write of feeling fear now, of being depressed, of finding life “forever changed.” I simply find myself unable to assimilate the magnitude of the tragedy that happened on September 11. I can’t imagine it.

Two deaths of public people did deeply affect me, enough to make a lasting impression of my own activities at the time. The first, of course, was the assassination of JFK. I was a junior in high school, in typing class, sitting next to Paul – the boy I had night dreams of kissing when no one was looking. He never even noticed I was in the same room, of course, much less within keyboard reach. The intercom came on and announced President Kennedy had been shot. It never really crossed my mind that Kennedy could be dead. Because of that announcement I remember that typing was the sixth of my seven period day. I have no notion of what the other periods were. I know that during seventh period we were told Kennedy was dead. I walked home and spent the next 36 hours glued to our black and white TV. For some reason it was in the dining room – the only time I can ever remember it being there. I sat immediately beside our TV peering into its screen during the funeral, learning words like cort├Ęge, trying to assimilate that someone so young could be so dead. When John-John saluted, I cried.

The other death that shocked me profoundly is one that nobody ever mentions as affecting them deeply. I’m not sure I’m so proud that this death rocked my core, but it did. It was a hot summer night and I was on-line, typing to internet friends when hubby announced from the bedroom that Princess Diana had died in a car crash. I remember responding, “That’s NOT a funny joke.” It took him several minutes to convince me it was true. Again I glued myself to the television, totally unprepared for someone so young and so vibrant to be irrevocably dead. But I never shed tears over her death, nor did it depress or frighten me.

One disastrous plane crash affected me on a personal level: the explosion of the jetliner over Lockerby, Scotland. Hubby and I were driving to Houston to celebrate Christmas and I felt so sorry that families were experiencing such devastation at the holidays. All the way to Houston we tuned in to the reports of that crash. I bring lots of emotion to Christmas which may be, for me, why this particular disaster has held more meaning. And somehow 250 people dead seems more manageable to me than the 6,000 that died on September 11. Maybe it’s the magnitude of the 9/11 disaster that has me stymied.

Anyway, because of my sense of remoteness from the events of September 11, 2001, I asked my readers to explore with me their “flashbulb memories” from this date, as well as others that hold significant impact. An even dozen readers responded – maybe that’s prophetic in itself.

Common themes throughout these remembrances include shock, disbelief, and the need to find space to try and get a gripe on a world gone haywire. We clearly get our news now from TV, but back in the ‘60’s we listened to radio, too. A disaster affects us more if we’ve personally met a victim. No one mentioned feeling personal fear or depression on 9/11. When youth die unexpectedly, we seem to feel greater shock. JFK’s death has affected us the most deeply, but that’s because the majority of my readers are over 40 years of age. None of us remember Pearl Harbor Day, but have parents that do.


The youngest of Milly’s readers, Monta is a mom with the most children. She has four beautiful tykes, Bailey, Sabrina, Jillian, and a new little boy. During my very first gig at The We’re #3 TeleCom Company, working as a temp, Monta took me under her wing and showed me how to get around and get along. We’ve corresponded ever since. She’s now a full time mom with a traveling husband and two school age children and lives in Overland Park, Kansas.

On that fateful Tuesday I was going about my usual routine of getting my two little ones ready for our weekly Tuesday play group. Of course, I had Dragon Tales blaring and all the other PBS cartoons but it was on my Direct TV so there were no TV news bulletins.

My neighbor Melinda called and said "Do you have the TV on? Turn on the news. My dad just called and a plane flew into one of the Twin Towers in NYC."

I still had no feeling of "this is real" but I turned on the news and saw utter chaos. I didn't understand what happened. My playgroup meets at 9:30 so I continued to get ready to go. Probably as I was walking my kids to the playgroup the second plane hit. I knew nothing.

At our neighbor's house, Carey rushed in, red faced, and ran straight to the TV. She had lived in New York and was a flight attendant! She said she had been calling and trying to e-mail all her friends on the East Coast. This was when it started to sink in that this was a real thing.

Then the Pentagon was being hit and who knew where else in the US they would send something to destroy us. Just then another girl, Cassie, ran in the door crying. She had also lived in New York and was terrified that friends of hers were dead. Someone said the school voice mail was reporting you could go get your children from school. I called my husband who was already on his way home from work and asked him to get the kids at school. I packed up and headed home.

Later that day I had to get away and let my feelings out so I took a jog. I jogged three miles that day but normally I only jog two.

I will always remember that day and the way I felt. I held my kids in my house like a mother hen. I wanted to go in the basement and hide.

I also clearly remember when the space shuttle blew up. I was in college at Pittsburg State University (Pittsburg, Ks). I was working in the Communications department and our job was typing dittos for the teachers. All of a sudden this flighty girl ran through the halls screaming, “The space shuttle blew up!” over and over and over. I thought she needed a tranquilizer. Everyone was asking “What?” and then we were all glued to the little bitty transistor radio that was in the secretary's office. When we got home, we watched it over and over on TV.


Cynthia is friend from Houston, Texas. We celebrated Christmas in her home for three years. She teaches high school in Houston and coaches her school’s golf team. She originates from New England.

The impact of 9/11 did not have the same effect of remembering what I was doing as the JFK assassination did. On 9/11 I was in school and did not have a class at the time. A message came over the intercom to check out TV as some of us were not working and we had been having a problem. Of course, being the good teacher that I am, I checked my TV. It was about five seconds before the second plane crashed into the Twin Towers. My first thought was, “This must be a replay of a mid air collision.” Even when they announced that this was the second plane to crash into the towers, I still couldn't believe what was happening before my very eyes. Within minutes there was talk of a plane heading to and crashing into the Pentagon and talk of another possible problem in Pennsylvania. I was blown away and in shock. Of course, we never shut the TV off and the rest of the day didn't get much better.

I remember the JFK assassination more vividly because I really felt like I had a personal relationship with the Kennedy family. The night before the presidential election, Kennedy was at Boston Garden at a rally. Of course, one was supposed to have tickets to get in. I was working for the telephone company with my rowdy friends who did lots of crazy things together. We decided that we were going to be there, tickets or no tickets. We walked around from entrance to entrance, trying to see what the possibilities were. Lo and behold, just as we were hitting one entrance and Kennedy was about to speak, a whole group of people decided to crash the door. We were swept along by mob mentality and the next thing I knew, I was sitting on the steps to one of the rows watching and listening to JFK in person. What a memorable event it was!

His assassination blew me away because the country was still being swept along by the same fervor I experienced that night at Boston Garden. Anyhow, I was working for the telephone company at the time I heard about JFK. We were having lunch in the cafeteria and playing Kitty Whist which we did every day during lunch (breaks, too -- you would be amazed how many games of cards we could play during a 15 minute break!). The women in the cafeteria announced that Kennedy had been shot and they were trying to get more info on the radio. Of course, TV's weren't the basic mode of communication in those days. When the shock settled in and we went back to the card playing mode, or at least to pick up the cards, someone had just played the ace of spades and it was still sitting there on the table. I will never forget this.


Though a New York resident for six months of the year, Micki was on Fire Island when the attack occurred, where she lives the other six months. She reports that most of her information about 9/11 came from Peff, her best friend in New York City. She defers her account to Peff. Micki is an internet friend, owned by two Chihuahuas, Sadie and Comet. She has two businesses, an employment agency in New York and a house cleaning concern on Fire Island.

When I heard that JFK had been assassinated, I was a college student and only had classes in the morning. In the afternoon, I had a job at a real estate firm attempting to get listings on the phone. Our office was in a storefront on a busy street. Through the plate glass windows I saw people "rushing about" and talking in small groups outside but I didn't know what had happened until a salesman who had been showing a house came in and told us. The rest of that afternoon is a blur.


Nancy lives in a suburb of Washington, DC. Nancy is owned by numerous pets, including three white German shepherds. Another of my e-mail pals, her internet name is Vixxen – typical of Nancy’s irreverent humor.

I am amazed at how totally incredibly STUPID I was, looking back. I had had the sound off on the TV, but the picture on, in my bedroom. I got up out of bed to use the bathroom, glanced at the TV and saw one of the replays of the first plane hitting. As I made my way through dogs and cats, I thought, "Gawd, look at that plane hitting a big building! What happened/When/Last night?/What?"

When I came back, I turned the sound on, and heard it was the World Trade Center. I thought, "JESUUUZZZ! Isn't that building big enough to be missed!!!??? How stupid was that pilot!!"

I threw some clothes on and ran down to let workmen in and turned the front room TV on. Then I heard of the second plane. (Now, brace yourself for the most incredibly stupid thoughts a human could have, okay?) I thought, "JESUSZZZZ!!! What's happening here? ANOTHER pilot must've been distracted by the first plane and look what he did!"

I went to the front and called to the workmen. They'd come to fix my house intercom “thingie,” I dunno what ya call it. I opened the front door and said, "C'mere, c'mere! You won't beLIEVE this!!"

When they saw the TV, it was ONLY then and ONLY when one of them said to me, "It's gotta be terrorists", that I thought it could be.

When I heard the reporter on the Today show, reporting from the Pentagon, saying he felt “something” like a bomb, I thought he must've been overreacting, or something.

Then our lives changed.

On the day Kennedy was assassinated, I recall our principal coming over the PA system (do schools still use those?), and saying our President had been shot. I went to Catholic grade school, St Sebastian's, in Pittsburg. She asked for our prayers. Sister Marietta led my class in prayers. I'll bet hardly any of us knew then that Kennedy was the first Catholic president, and that that in itself was a Very Big Deal.

Later, Sister Honoria addressed the school again. She was crying as she told us that President Kennedy had died. Seeing Sister Honoria in tears, now THAT made me realize that something awful had happened. Were we let out of school early, I am now wondering?

Anyway I ran home from the bus, with news for my mother (stay-at-home mom and big-time school volunteer): "Mom! MOMMMM!!...DID YOU HEAR..." I was cut short, as my mother was looking at the TV and she was crying.

That was how I learned that Bad Things happen.

I'm crying now. This is too much to write.


A dancer and ballerina, Peff lives year-round in New York City. Her continuous stream of e-mails kept a huge group of friends connected during the 9/11 disaster. As a certified Feldenkrais practitioner, she volunteered her massage services for weeks to the rescue effort. She is owned by an apricot poodle, Rose Etoile. Her poodle Harry died during the 2001 holidays.

I was watching TV in my New York apartment about eight miles north of the Trade Centers. I saw on TV the second plane hit. I ran to the telephone and dialed my friend Micki on Fire Island and told her I was okay, and I would contact her later in the day.

Then I dialed my other friend in Florida whose son worked on the 80th floor of the Trade Towers. She said he had gotten out. Then my godson Rui called from Greenwich Village and told me his company had gotten out of #7, which was across the street. He had run ahead of the dust cloud.

I spent the next two days without phone service, although I could get onto the internet through the same phone lines that wouldn’t dial across the street. Somewhere in the archives of our internet group are my daily reports. New York will never be the same and yet the vitality sprang back very quickly. We have such gumption here.

After the events of 9/11, I think I will always remember writing down 16 names of people to find, including my own son, and two godsons. I will always remember how beautiful the day was, so sunny and bright. After the tragedy, whenever I took Harry and Rose out for walks, people were eating, eating, and eating.

During the time of Kennedy’s assassination, I was in South Bend, Indiana on the Camelot tour. The news was on TV and the hotel staff was so angry that our producers would insist that we open and do the performance that night, they turned off the electricity in our hotel and wouldn’t serve us in the restaurants or shops. The only thing to do was to stay in our hotel rooms until it was time to go as a group to the theatre. I left the TV on and read Jonathon Livingston Seagull from cover to cover that day.

The theater was full and totally silent when the curtain went up. At the moment when Sir Lancelot raises Sir Dinadan from the dead, the actor refused to move. Sir Lancelot prayed twice and we all prepared to run for the exits if there was a riot. But when he rose from the litter, suddenly the audience started to shout and clap and cry and applaud. They stayed through the whole performance.

When we got back to the hotel there was a dinner in every room, clean towels, hot water and the electricity was back on, a miracle for us that night, because we all needed a beautiful miracle.

JFK loved Camelot, and the theatre has always been where people could come to see overwhelming emotions expressed and be moved or carried away or healed in some way.

At the time of the Martin Luther King assassination I was teaching black, Hispanic, Asian, and Caucasian teenagers to be living, dancing artists in the high school of Performing Arts

When John Lennon was assassination I was in New York and had just finished a performance at the Metropolitan Opera. By the time I came out of the theater, 72nd street, where his apartment building was, had been cordoned off. I didn’t find out until I saw the news later that evening.


Elaine is the mother of one son and tends to two rescue dogs, Midi and Dancer. She and her husband live near Detroit, Michigan, where she works as a full time wife and mother. She grew up in St. Louis, MO.

In the spring of 1968, I was completing my freshman year at Southeast Missouri State in Cape Girardeau, Mo. Cape is a small city about 130 miles south of St. Louis so we were all surprised when we were told that Bobby Kennedy, who was running for President, would be coming to Cape for a rally. My friends and I were really excited. That morning, we arrived very early and were able to stand right in front of the stage. After speaking, Bobby reached out to shake hands and I was pushed aside but still got to "brush" hands with him. I was so thrilled!

A few weeks later on the morning of my American History Two final, I awoke to find that Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated a few hours before. I went to my final in a sort of daze. I remember my professor, who knew of my support of Bobby, asking me if I would like to take the final later. I took it anyway because all I wanted to do was go back home to St. Louis.


Sarah and her husband Doug are members of the church we attend. Sarah owns a spunky little rescue dog, lives in the historic Northeast section of our city, only two doors from her mother (this is one fabulous mother/daughter relationship), and works at a local hospital

It used to be "people of a certain age" always asked each other: “where were you when?” Since I am forty something it was always: “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” I remember being in second grade at Briarcliff school. Miss Lovell was crying and trying to explain to all of us that the president was shot. It was a clear crisp day in November and Miss Lovell had on a blue sweater set and her hair was in a flip (the Marlo Thomas from That Girl look). I remember wondering why the sun was shining and it was so pretty if everyone was so sad. It was on television for days and they showed us so many details and personal things about the Kennedy family. I remember as a child feeling sorry for them because everyone was watching them all the time. I also remember being out of school for a long time, with the funeral, a day of mourning, and Thanksgiving. It was as if time stood still for days.

As for the trade center, it was strange that morning. I was running late for work and in the car with the radio on when an NPR spokesperson told in a shaky voice what had just happened. That was plane one. I ran into the office and someone had the TV on and was watching, as was everyone, in disbelief. When we saw plane two hit the other tower, we thought it was a replay and no one could speak. The people in our office sat and watched all morning what was on TV. No one could move. One of my best friends is a retired flight attendant for TWA. She flew for 30 years and her daughter is currently flying for United. I tried to contact her to see if family was okay. It felt like an obsession to reach her.

It is odd about death and events we remember. Closure sometimes does not come. As a child my father was taken ill suddenly. I went to a friend's house and two days later my mother came over to get me and told me my father was dead.

My stepfather died suddenly of a cerebral aneurysm on New Years. Again I had no time for goodbyes. Doug's mother was ill for a while, but was fine when we went to have dinner at my folks on Thanksgiving. We were called in the middle of dessert. She was taken to the hospital unresponsive. She never woke up.

My mother’s father lived into his late 90's at home alone. One day he fell and broke a hip and was taken to the hospital. He was told he could never go home alone again and live in his house. He died that day.

I often feel this lack of closure in my life. I tell my mother and husband all the time how much I love them and what they mean to me. I do not want to leave any more doors open in my soul when the time comes. I need closure.


Another Houstonian, Donna has been a friend for over 20 years. She currently works as a director for a university school of nursing. Also, she’s a six foot something slim, gorgeous, dynamic “broad” who takes in stray cats and is leading a passionate internet life.

I'm not going to be much help in this project as I live way too much in the current moment and make very little effort to remember where I was when . . . however 9/11 is close enough. I first learned of the event in the lobby of my office building as I was walking in to work. A TV monitor was on in the lobby and I walked in just in time to hear what had happened and then see the second plane crash into the tower.

The following day was the groundbreaking ceremony for my new building and the first executive committee meeting of the community volunteers who raise money for the School of Nursing. I had to struggle all day to keep my assistant focused on the job of getting the final touches put on the groundbreaking, including changing the program and the speakers' scripts to include references to the event and the people. Also, I had to try to keep the volunteers focused. No one else in my office was working -- just watching TV-- all day. By the end of the day I learned that the president of the university and my dean had serious conversations about canceling the groundbreaking. You can just imagine what I thought of that -- after the fact. We did have a record breaking crowd the next day.


Every writer must have both sexes represented in her reading public, and Robert’s my male voice –he represents everything male one could wish for (sports enthusiast, speed freak, and owner of all things dark and masculine). He’s also an employee of The We’re #3 Telecom Company where we met about six years ago. He’s the father of an active son and two very large and well trained dogs. He lives in the country on acres of land, where he houses his motorcycle, sports car, skies, and speed boat.

OK, here's the stream:

I don't know if I will remember. There are key events that at the time I did not know would be so firmly etched in my mind.

One was when I heard that Elvis had died. I was driving my father-in-law's RV down I-35 on a sunny day. It's a bit odd, in that while I like Elvis, I'm not a big fan. At the time, I had only a couple of 45's. It just seemed so unexpected.

The other thought that comes to mind is when John F. Kennedy died. What struck me was the affect on those around me. To understand this you need to know the situation. I was only seven, and living in Bergamo Italy.

American's were not well liked. At each recess, I was in “protective custody” to keep me from being in fights. Yet, when this American died there was a big display of emotion and sadness. A little hard for a seven year old to process. We heard the news at night.


Wendy is little sister to hubby. She lives in Houston with two foundling cats. We spend EVERY Christmas with her and she spends Thanksgiving with us, and if we’re really lucky we might get some time together in the summer. Wendy’s the BEST family! She’s just moved into new digs, so she’s a bit scattered at the present. She’s retired from a big oil company. By the way, Wendy’s memory of the JFK assassination is probably correct, since it occurred in 1963 and she would have been in seventh or eighth grade at the time.

I was sleeping when the towers were hit. Cynthia called me from school and said "Turn on the TV!" My brilliant response was "Huh?"

"Turn on the TV! They've hit the World Trade Centers! Turn on the TV! I'll call you back later!"

So I fumbled my way to the TV and woke up to an agitated newscaster reporting disaster.

I might not remember these events for eternity but my seared memory is probably more of sitting at home watching the planes hit the building over and over and over again. Moving from couch to recliner to Lazy-Boy and then reversing the restless cycle. No improvement by changing the perspective. And only the cats to share the restlessness with.

I was too young to remember Pearl Harbor but I do remember Mom's story about Uncle Stuart coming home from college for his birthday (that day) and no one remembering it.

It's funny, I have a very clear memory that I have long associated with hearing about JFK's death, but in thinking about it for this exercise I realize it can't possibly be the right one. I remember being in my elementary school and an announcement being made over the PA system and I was extremely upset. One boy started to make jokes and I jumped (verbally) all over him. I know I was practically the only kid in that school from a Democratic family and I remember feeling pretty isolated in my grief. But I graduated from high school in 1967, so I was no where near elementary school age for JFK's death... I wonder what did happen then. And I wonder what I was doing when I heard about JFK's death.

I remember the Robert Kennedy assassination well. I was living in the college dorm and I was walking from my room to the showers. I heard a radio news announcer talking about the tragic death and its circumstances. As I progressed along the hall one radio would fade out and another would become audible. Some just barely audible. It wasn't normal to have news instead of music as the dominant dorm wake-up and it was eerie. And even though I never heard his name the scraps of information I did hear made me suspect the victim's identity. I slowed and slouched more all the way to the showers. When I got back to the room I was glad that my roommate was still asleep so I could put off knowing for sure for a little longer.

Re assassinations in general: I remember when it seemed that murders of prominent leaders were happening on a regular basis. When I talked about being upset about this with friends, I included some right wing baddie. My mind is mush right now (been headache lately so the synapses are probably misfiring) so I don't remember the exact details of who it was. Norman Lincoln Rockwell? (I remember it sounded like, but wasn't the painter.) He was the head of the American Nazi party or the KKK or some such. I had heard that he was also assassinated and I felt it was just as big a problem that the bad guy leaders were getting killed as the good guy leaders. My including him seemed to mystify my friends.

There are things that I remember vividly but the more vivid the more intensely embarrassing or intimate the moments, so they aren't ones I share in writing. I do think the dearth of my answers to some of these specific questions just proves my sister's and my contention that we have wiped out a major part of our early memories. And I seem to continue doing it. Don't know much about myself over three or four years ago.


Emily lives in San Francisco and has a whole den of “pound” doggies that she mothers. She’s taken early retirement, for which I envy her greatly. She’s an internet friend who exchanges dog advice with me. Emily has a vast and valuable LP collection. Her list, though briefly described, contains the longest list of memorable events.

I was engaged in these activities when I heard the news of these deaths:

9/11: occurred while I was sleeping

Kennedy: heard at work

Mayor George Moscone: heard at work

Elvis: heard at home

Challenger Explosion: heard at work

Muddy Waters (my favorite Blues musician): heard while driving home

Anwar Sadat: learned from the news


Adi is my international friend, living in Singapore. She’s married, has a new miniature Schnauzer pup, and is the only professional writer among us (which you’ll immediately recognize when you read her thoughts). She’s the second youngest of the group and the only one with "sometimes” pink hair and a yen for a tattoo. Oh, yeah –she’s the artistic type, too – she’s the one with a MAC. And she spells British.

I work as a newspaper copy editor. September 11 last year was an uneventful working day. At 9 pm, just an hour before the paper would be closed for pre-press and printing, I was casting an idle eye on the wires. I don't do this every night but as the foreign editor was off that day, and I had already finished my work, I just kept an eye on the wires for the want of something else to do. I didn't expect any major breaking news. I expected we would knock off in an hour and we could all go home soon.

A news flash from AP caught my eye. It was just a one-liner: A light craft had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.

I alerted the night editor and we decided to make a little space for it on an inside foreign page. At that time, there was no news of injuries or damage. Because the news flash said a light craft, I thought it was a Cessna. I was thinking of the German guy who landed one at Moscow's Red Square some years ago and thought some idiot must have tried to do it in front of WTC or tried to fly between the towers or something.

Nothing could have prepared the night crew for what would happen next. Reports started coming in thick and fast through the wires. AP would file, so would Reuters and AFP. Someone turned the TV on to CNN. The information was coming so fast, we hardly had time to digest a report before another update came in.

I saw the second plane crash on CNN. I thought at first someone managed to get a shot of the first crash and they were replaying it, the way news stations often do. It took a while to sink in that there was a second crash and I was watching it as it happened.

And when I couldn't believe what I was watching on TV, minutes later, a news flash on the wires on my computer would confirm what I couldn't digest from the TV.

When I saw it on the TV, I felt like it was a disaster movie. That it wasn't real, somehow. And since the TV cut from New York to the Pentagon and back again, it felt more like a movie than anything. I felt like part of me had detached away from my real self in the newsroom, like I was part of a sound stage of a disaster movie.

I sent an email to my group of friends on the Internet. We're a closely knit group of dog lovers, most of them are in the US. Over the years, this group has shared my joys, held me through my sorrows and if anyone could put my feet back on reality, this group would.

I still remember my message. It was a very terse: "WTF is happening in the US???"

People whom I've worked with know that I can swear a blue streak when I'm stressed or irritated. But I've never used this language with this group of cyber friends whom I respect very much. If anybody was shocked, they didn't remark on it. Their answers came back, one by one. Yes, they were watching it on TV. Yes, they were shocked, confused, upset.

By now, it was three, four hours since that single-line newsflash I first saw. That little space the night editor reserved for the news now became front page, two inside pages and a wrap-round.

Stories were constantly being re-written as more news broke and more reports confirmed. We worked without stopping for those four or so hours but we didn't realise so much time had gone past. When the paper was finally off to pre-press, nobody went home. We gathered round the TV, glued to CNN, till the editor came to pry us away from it. Go home, he said, rest up, there will be more shit tomorrow.

Yes, I will always remember what I was doing on 9-11. I will never forget that single-line news flash and what unfolded after that. I won't forget the images that came over the picture wires and on TV and the horror and despair. Even half a world away, we felt when the towers fell.

In conclusion –

I believe Adi gave this piece an adequate conclusion. I’m certainly not able to add any other deep thoughts. If, like me, you’ve had difficulty adjusting to what the media now calls the “new world – the world after 9/11” maybe the writings of these friends will help you assimilate. We’ve had the six month anniversary. Those of us not directly affected seem to have resumed our lives, pretty much as before. The financial news says the economy is beginning to rebound. We hear reports of rebuilding in New York. The Pentagon is open and doing war business as usual. The airplanes are flying but with increased security and frustration on the part of the passengers. War began in Afghanistan, but certainly never reached the proportions I feared it could. Now we hear that war is winding down, but may begin again in another terrorist outpost. Still, the wars are fought on foreign soils. Because I’m old now, my generation isn’t fighting. I seem to be “untouched” by all the misery caused on September 11, 2001. Fireballs erupted as planes crashed into skyscrapers. The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center crumbled into dust. Grime-encrusted New Yorkers ran for their lives. The tireless heroic effort by New York City's firefighters, police, rescue workers and Good Samaritans from around the globe continued for hours, days, and months. Certainly, I can claim that horrific images are shown on television over and over have become part of my flashbulb memory, but my life continues, pretty much business as usual.

Monday, September 12, 2011

9/11 -- a day late

I remember 9/11/2001 clearly.

I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom when I heard that a plane had struck one of the twin towers. I think I first heard it on NPR so I turned on the TV. As I stood there watching and brushing, the second plane hit the towers. I couldn't fathom it was a terrorist attack. I also couldn't believe that a pilot couldn't see the Tower and had struck by error. The whole thing was just . . .unbelievable. It still is.

Going into the #3 Telephone company where I was happily employed as a contractor, most of us just stood around in the aisles outside our cubicles, asking each other what we knew, what we had heard, what we supposed might have actually happened.

The Sunday following 9/11, standing in the choir loft, and wondering what we could possibly sing that was inspirational, we debated how to carry on with regular worship. We had an interim pastor at the time, a wonderful, decent, soul-searching man and we loved him. He met with us and spoke with Hubby, who was the choir director. He thought my suggestion that Hubby open the service singing "You'll Never Walk Alone" was a good one. So we all sat down, the pastor sat in the front pew, and the congregation was silent. Hubby stood and sang. His voice was magic, it soothed us, it spoke of the pain we felt and how we wanted to reach out to all the dead and wounded and lost in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. At the end of the song, when Hubby had wrenched our hearts with "When you walk through a storm . . . " and then soothed our pain with the final words "Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain, but you'll never walk alone" the Pastor came forward, knelt at the prayer rail and prayed, silently. He stayed, kneeling for maybe 10 minutes in silence. When he turned, he said to the congregation, "No message can be more profound than the one we just heard. No other words could bring about more healing. Come and pray as you feel the urge, then leave us in contemplation and peace." And the service was over.

Hubby's voice, raised in one of the most beautiful and prayerful of songs, is my strongest memory of that terrible tragic time ten years ago.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Hugs and a Cheesecake

Yesterday I told my students about my mom dying. I also warned them I would be gone from school next week.

My first block students were horrified that 1) I'd be gone ALL next week ("Who will help us?") and 2) that my mother had died.

Andrea looked at me with real concern. "I'm so sorry," she whispered.

"Thank you," I replied.

"My mom died, too," she added and her eyes pooled with tears.

At that, so did mine. "I'm so sorry," I repeated to her. And we held hands for just a second.

Johnisha asked what she could bring me. I told her that her good wishes were enough.

"No. I will bring you something."

Today she showed up first block with a huge strawberry cheesecake. And a letter. It was the letter that was priceless. She had written it in pencil on thin lined paper and she had filled the page with deeply heart-felt sentiment. She quoted the Bible, she quoted her mother, and she told me she loved me. It was the sweetest letter I've ever gotten from a student. I may frame it. I will certainly treasure it always.

We will eat the cheesecake 4th block with her fellow students. That will undoubtedly be the best cheesecake in the world.

In first block, World History, as I was preparing my kids to be ready for a quiz on Monday (because I would not be there), the kids were glum. Then the teacher told the kids that their homework assignment was to tell their parents that they loved them. My crew, all ten girls, looked straight at me.

Megan said it first. "I love you, Mrs. Wiggins."

"Why, sweetie, I love you, too."

The bell rang and as each girl filed out, they leaned over and hugged me and whispered in my ear, "I love you Mrs. Wiggins." One from Iraq, two from Nepal, one from someplace Asia, and the rest SPED.

I could barely get out of the room without breaking down.

So much love from kids who live a harder life in one day than I've ever really had to face. That much affection, offered so freely and without any encouragement, simply must make one feel -- I'm not sure what to say. Feel overwhelmed? Yes. Special? Certainly. Lucky? Beyond a doubt.

The gift of love is the most precious one you can receive. Today I was loved beyond measure.

Thank you world for this opportunity. The work may be hard -- but the rewards are beyond compare.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Happy Birthday -- and Goodbye

I had actually planned that today I would show a picture of my mom -- and wish her a Happy Birthday. She turned 86 today. In the middle of August I sent her a velour robe from the Vermont Country Store -- in red, her favorite color. I think she liked getting presents from me, even though she didn't send any in return. In early August Hubby had chatted with her briefly on the phone. She mentioned that I sent her gifts four times a year.

We had our difficulties. Mother never approved of Hubby. I didn't like her drinking. Neither one of us could give on the big issues in our lives -- so we ended up going our separate ways.

She was an only child. All her relatives are now dead, save me. I am an only child.

Happy Birthday, Mother.

Today the phone call came. She died during the night -- of her 86th birthday. Now only I am left of generations of Hills and Griffiths. Everyone is gone.

We may not have been close during the last 38 years -- but the memories that I carry from our early years can be sweet and I'll try and put the ugliness behind me forever.

When I heard from her lawyer I felt an emptiness I had not expected. The call, though attempting to be gentle, was cold and clinical. She was gone and my last family ties were cut forever. Goodbye, Charlotte Hill Griffith. I wish it could have all been better for us . . .