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Warriors. Lives Lost. Forever Changed by 911 – Never. Ever. Forget.

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Hubby and I just returned from a beach vacation the day before. My suitcase was strewn on the bedroom floor chockful of dirty clothes, and damp bathing suits. For some odd reason, we decided to drive on this trip instead of fly.

The morning of September 11, while getting ready for work, I turned on the TV in the bedroom to watch the Today Show.

As I was brushing my teeth, and listening to the guests that Matt Lauer spoke with, programming was interrupted with the visual of an airplane crashing into one of the two towers of the World Trade Center. I gasped in horror. Black smoke billowing – leaving a trail of heartbreak and destruction…

The world would be forever changed.

Parts of New York City were cut off from total communication. During that time, I worked for MCI as a Circuit Design Engineer and Project Manager. So when the project came down the loop to restore communication as soon as possible to downtown Manhattan and surrounding areas, my coworkers jumped on it. It was our responsibility to find alternate routes for all circuits and communication affected by the outage. With a cohesive team of designers and technicians, we accomplished the task as quickly as possible.

In the coming weeks, after phone service was restored to that area, I tried to contact two of my customers at Cantor Fitzgerald, whose offices occupied space on the top floor of the towers. Weeks prior to the attack, one friend invited me to visit after Thanksgiving and watch the interactive Christmas store windows at Macy’s. Another woman sent me a surprise in the mail – a Hard Rock Café sweatshirt from the New York store her son had purchased.

My futile attempts to contact them left me worried and confused. And to think, just a short time ago, I was laughing with them on the phone.

During this crucial time, many of my coworkers came together as a unit. Some made trips to NYC to help out, and others sent donations. Teams of nurses, firefighters, and police from the Midwest made the long trek to New York – serving as healers, rescuers, and security.

O’Fallon, Missouri erected a memorial from a structural beam from the World Trade Center. If you get the chance, stop by the memorial near highway 40 on Winghaven Boulevard separating, north and south traffic lanes. Take a moment to pray and be silent.

Pray for those who lost their lives.
Pray for their families.
Pray for those still healing today.
Pray for the warriors that gave their lives helping.
Pray for those who made it out alive.
Pray for those whose bodies were never recovered.

And. Never. Ever. Forget.

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Every Picture Tells a Story

Students have given photography permisson

Students have given photography permission

Last August, Deborah Marshall, of Warrior Arts Alliance and Missouri Humanities Council, asked me to lead a workshop for veterans with PTSD at the Jefferson Barracks VA Hospital, in St. Louis.  I have to admit, I had a wonderful time teaching the importance of the photography role in writing, to the veterans.

This October, I was fortunate to lead two more workshops, titled “Every Picture Tells a Story” at the same location.

In the first class, I talked about capturing images on film as a child.  I built a pinhole camera way back then, and I’ve been taking pictures ever since. When I first picked up the pen, I found that photography helped me recreate the feeling of being ‘in the moment’, sort of like I traveled back in time.

Though freelance contracts, I’d find myself photographing a particular location or event – people, beaches, meadows, and even food.  This aided in story development.  The pictures helped me fill in the blanks and recap memories.

I shared a slideshow of photos from my travel assignments from AAA Travel and Missouri Life with the students, and expressed what each photo meant to me.

I stressed the importance of ‘show, don’t tell’, and how we need to tap all of our senses, thoughts and feelings when telling a story.  I urged the students to snap photos of anything – people’s actions, the sunlight on a rose, the soulfulness in a dog’s eyes. They could always go back and write about the images later.

I read from Anne Lamott’s bird by bird, the Polaroids chapter, and relayed the relevance of  ‘the big picture.’  During their first writing assignment in class, my hubby projected a photo on the computer monitor.  With written instructions, I asked the students to convey in writing what they were feeling and doing, the time of day, the season – all the little details pertinent to showing, not telling.

When the exercise was over, the students offered to share stories aloud.  I was amazed by the many interpretations just one photo could convey.  And I was proud.

We discussed the rules of writing, and writing tips.  Then I distributed another exercise, on overuse of words.  We applied this to a second writing exercise.

Once again, I was overjoyed by their answers and creativity.  They got it.  They truly got it.

I distributed a homework exercise in the form of an essay I’d written, accompanied by hubby’s photo of a ten-foot Caribbean reef shark, and asked them to highlight colorful descriptions throughout the essay that created visual images in their mind.  We’d discuss next week.

I looked at the clock, and realized two hours had flown by.  As I packed up my papers, computer, and class aids, the veterans shuffled past hubby and me on their way out the door.  They said they planned on coming back to class next week, eager to learn something new.

On the way to the car, one of the woman approached me and said, “You’re a great facilitator; can’t wait to see you again.  You made class fun.”

Funny thing.  I’d never thought about myself in that way.

So when Rita from the VA left me a voice mail stating most of the students were returning for the second class, I decided to create a new syllabus for “Every Picture Tells a Story – Part Two.”

Stay tuned for next week’s blog post and what we talked about…

A World Vision sponsor child from Thailand thrives

A letter I received in the mail last week from World Vision International thanked my husband and me for helping our sponsored child Pattraporn over the past five years.  Apparently, our generous support made a huge impact in her life.

The letter went on to say that her community, Phan Thong, was concluding its final stage of development and completed its goals of becoming self-reliant.

It’s sad to say goodbye to a child that we’ve come to know and love.

A card and envelope was enclosed to pen her a farewell letter.  This mailing procedure was a little different, as we wrote our home address on the back flap of the envelope.

In my eyes, World Vision, is amazing.  I watched Pattraporn’s development from an impressionable young girl blossom into a happy teenager.

In my first correspondence to Pattraporn, I enclosed two photos (one of a colorful fish taken while scuba diving), three beaded bracelets and a ribbon.  Although, the children are able to receive gifts, World Visions suggests nothing of real value.  Much to my surprise about a month later, I received a brightly stamped World Vision envelope.  As I unfolded the orange-bordered stationery, I gazed at the signature line.  Pattraporn thanked me for the letter and the gifts sent her.  The tiny gesture of beads, ribbon and photos spoke volumes in her mind.

The young girl lived by the sea, and liked reading and movies.  While reading her return letter, I choked back a tear.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“I wish you could visit Thailand sometime, and me here.”

She ended he letter “I wish you and your family much happiness.  God Bless You.”

What a sweet, thoughtful child.

The recent correspondence from World Vision offered me the opportunity to sponsor another child.  I declined, channeling my efforts into another vision that hopefully will soon come to fruition.

Someone once said, “When one chapter ends in your life, another one begins.”

A photography book, about a special beach, in collaboration with my husband, is a personal project of mine and the next chapter of my life.  I’ve even rallied six local award-winning women authors to contribute to the book.

The monthly dollar amount previously sent to World Vision will now be channeled to the Gateway Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. After a meeting with Deb Kersting, Director, I made a pledge verbally (and in writing) to donate a portion of the proceeds to her organization after the book is published.

Some of you may know have come to know me by browsing the pages of my blog. I have low-grade lymphoma.

This book will be dedicated to many.  Those with physical ailments are first and foremost in my mind.

And if you get the chance, sponsor a World Vision child.  It’ll make a difference in your life.