As I Hung My Flag Today…

As I hung my flag today, I said a prayer, like I do every day for our military, policemen and firemen. I pray for their protection and thank God for giving us people who risk their lives for total strangers.

Today, almost two decades later, my heart hurts again remembering and thinking of what happened 18 years ago today.

I will never forget.

I will never forget hearing the news that a plane hit one of the towers. I thought it was an accident.

I will never forget hearing the news that a second plane hit and that it was a terror attack.

I will never forget trying to comprehend what that meant and what I should do with my new 5th graders, bright eyed and innocent.

I will never forget the terror I felt when I heard another plane hit the Pentagon.

I will never forget seeing the people running, covered with dust, fear and disbelief.

I will never forget seeing all of the brave and courageous firemen running into the burning towers.

I will never forget hearing that people were trapped above where the planes hit.

I will never forget hearing about and then seeing the jumpers.

I will never forget seeing the towers fall, feeling weak knowing that people were still in them but knowing I had to stay strong for my students.

I will never forget seeing the Pentagon, a symbol of our mighty military, on fire with people running out.

I will never forget hearing of a plane going down in Pennsylvania.

I will never forget seeing the unbelievable heroism of the firemen, policemen and first-responders we saw evacuating people and trying to get others to safety.

I will never forget crying and feeling a deep pain that I had never felt before or since.

I will never forget the helplessness I felt that day. And the anger.

I will never forget.

I will also never forget the mixed feelings of patriotism in the following days and weeks.

I will never forget the fundraisers, blood drives and carts of food and water we donated to at the grocery stores.

I will never forget the prayer services held for those who died and those who were still missing.

I will never forget.

I will never forget the strength and tremendous leadership shown by President Bush and Mayor Giuliani.

I will never forget hearing the amazing rescue stories and incredible bravery of people saving their coworkers, strangers and friends.

I will never forget hearing the chats of “USA USA USA.”

I will never forget the flags on cars, on doors, on homes, on clothing.

I will never forget that sense of unity we felt after.

I will never forget that day or what it meant to our country.

No one should EVER forget.

To Those Who Don’t Remember…

Today marks the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Those of us who lived through it know full well what happened that day. We remember the crystal clear blue sky that morning, with all of us going about our normal day, when in a split second, life in the United States and the world changed forever.

But as I learned over the years, much to my dismay, the majority of children who did not experience that day have no emotional connection to it. They see it as the day some planes were taken over by bad people who crashed them into buildings causing the twin towers to fall.  And while we cannot expect them to truly ever feel what we did on that Tuesday morning, we must try and preserve the impact. The horror. The heroism. The confusion. The disbelief. The anger.

I know not everyone agrees with me about remembering this day and that is fine.  I know there are parents who do not even tell their children about it because it is so disturbing but you cannot hide history.  I know there are schools who sugarcoat what happened because they do not want to scare students or make them feel unsafe.  I think this is wrong. We MUST remember.  We MUST acknowledge what happened that day and how we came together as a nation and how we helped each other and how we we rebuilt the greatest city in the world.  Students today should know about the amazing heroism and sacrifice of those aboard Flight 93.  They should know about the rescues that occurred at the Pentagon.  They should know. They must know.

To those of you who don’t remember – September 11, 2001 was one of the worst days in American history.  You have heard that before. It was so much more than just two buildings getting knocked down. People were in those buildings. People were in their offices.  People were riding in elevators.  People were in restaurants and at the front desks greeting visitors and employees as they arrived for work. There were firemen, policemen and first-responders who went into the buildings to assess the damage and see if they could save others. I often wonder how many of those firemen knew the extent of the damage and yet, went into harm’s way anyway knowing their own lives would very possibly end.

It was more than just planes crashing into buildings and into a field in Pennsylvania. Innocent passengers were on those flights. Pilots and stewardesses with families and friends were in those seats. The heroism on the passengers on Flight 93 is something that should be celebrated, as they likely saved the lives of hundreds of others. What did it feel like for them to willingly give their lives to save others? What about those at the Pentagon? The hub of our military operations.  One of the “safest” places in Washington.  When I heard the Pentagon also got hit, my legs felt weak and  a feeling of despair and terror washed over me as I realized our country was under attack, not just New York.

More importantly, I hope that each person reading this never has to experience what we did on that day, but for those who don’t remember…

Look at the pictures and video footage  of that day- our eyes were wide with horror, confusion, helplessness and disbelief.  As we closed our eyes to try and sleep that night, our minds replayed images of people running away from the buildings, of heroes running into the buildings, of people crying, of dust and debris all over New York, of papers from offices flying in the air, of the hole in the ground left by the plane in PA, of the fires at the Pentagon.

Listen to the stories of those who were in New York and Washington, of the cell phone calls made to loved ones from the towers or from Flight 93 – our ears were filled with the sounds of our countrymen in distress, of those who knew they were doing to die, of buildings collapsing with people still in them, of sirens, of voices yelling directions.  And the most poignant for me – the wails and cries of despair. They hurt my heart to this day.

Touch a friend or person you love – strangers were grabbing and hugging each other as they went through the worst experience of their lives. They helped each other to safety. We hugged our friends, families and coworkers, yearning for some type of comfort.

We must remember.

Americans rebounded, as we always do, from that devastating and cowardly attack on the innocent and on our country. But we are Americans. We are resilient. We are compassionate. We are determined. We are strong.

But on that day, we did not feel strong. We felt despair, we felt horror, we felt helpless, we felt confusion, we felt shock, we felt anger. We felt vengeful. So for those who don’t remember, I beg you to try. We cannot forget.

The songs below are three great summations of how many of us felt that day. I encourage everyone to listen to them.  I chose the live versions of all three songs so that you can see and feel the emotion these men put into them.  May God bless all of those who perished that day, all those who lost loved ones, and all of our troops past and present defending our freedom.  We will never forget.

 

 

Be Nice

Years ago, I worked with an incredible special education teacher and friend, Nick Stelmak.  He was my in-class support teacher in my fifth grade classroom and we got along really well.  He and I played off each other’s strengths and I think our different personalities were great for the kids.

Unfortunately, Nick died suddenly at the age of 44 and while I remember many great things about him, there is one thing that embodies who he was and what he modeled for adults and children alike – be nice.

Nice. It is a word that we would tell the students not to use in their writing.  It was too simplistic, too common and not nearly descriptive enough. But there truly is power in this tiny four-letter word.

On the first day of school, there are a million things to do and say to the kids to set the precedence for the year.  We had a rough group of students that year and I was going over the typical classroom rules – raise your hand to speak, always come prepared, do not interrupt others when they are talking, etc.  When I turned it over to Nick asking if he had any rules to add, he said, “Yeah. I have one rule. Be nice.”

Nick’s words have been in my head a lot lately, mainly because the anniversary of his death is approaching, but also because of being on social media and reading all of the cruel and heartless things that people say so freely to and about each other while they hide behind a keyboard.  From celebrities to sports figures to teachers to politicians to the president of the United States, no one is safe.  Why are people doing this? Why do they think it is okay to insult others? Why do people feel the need to comment on people’s looks, weight, clothing, hairstyle, boyfriends, girlfriends, political views, personal choices? And why is it done in such a mean way? When people attack others because they disagree with something, things get out of control. Why the attack? It has happened to me by some of my own family members and I am sure it has happened to many of you reading this.

What has happened to us? Why have we become so cruel and bold and mean and disrespectful? Why aren’t we nice anymore? Who do we think we are that we can publicly insult others? Why is it so difficult to be nice to others especially when you do not know them? The fact that there is a segment on a late-night show called “Celebrity Mean Tweets” where celebrities read aloud the cruel things people have said about them, says a lot.  I guess they have a sense of humor, but it still has to hurt to see how mean people can be.

Be nice. That’s it. That’s all we have to remember. Be a role model for others, especially for the children in your life. Just be nice.

A few other phrases we can all live by…

In the words of Frank Reagan from Blue Bloods, “Just because you can say something, doesn’t mean you should.”

In the words of so many mothers, grandmothers, teachers and pastors, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then do not say anything,”

And most importantly, Proverbs 4:23-24 NASB) tells us: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you.”

If we could all just be nice, the world would be such a better place. 🙂

 

 

 

Do It Every Day

On Monday, we remembered and mourned those lost on 9/11/2001.  Many people proudly displayed their flags in honor of those lost in the attacks and to observe Patriot Day.

We see flags proudly flying on the 4th of July, Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day and it got me wondering why people do not fly flags every day? After all, we have active servicemen and women deployed around the world. While we enjoy the freedoms we have here in America and go about our daily lives, our military is protecting us and fighting for us each and every day.  Should we not fly the flag every day to honor them? I think we should.

If you are going to hang a flag at your home, make sure you follow the proper protocols. According to http://www.vfw.org:

Per Federal Flag Code, Section 2, paragraph (a), it is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.

There are many other protocols to follow such as never letting the flag touch the ground and those can be found at the website mentioned above.

Each time I hang the flag in the morning and bring it in at night, I take a moment to look at it.  I marvel in the red, white and blue and think of all those who wear the flag on a patch on their arm going into battle for you and me and how Old Glory is used to blanket the coffins of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for his/her countrymen. I say a quick prayer asking God to protect the brave men and women in our military and thank Him for putting such selfless and courageous people on earth. Without them, our lives would be totally different.

A few years ago, a campaign was started called “Green Light a Vet” to honor veterans. Green  is a symbol of hope, renewal, well-being and moving forward.  Many veterans returning from service are struggling in many different ways.  Shining a green light is a simple way to show our local veterans that we support and appreciate their service. It took quite a few trips to the store to finally find a green light to participate in this initiative, but it makes us feel good that if a veteran walks, jogs or drives past our house, they know they are not forgotten.  We never turn it off.

Flying the flag. To me, it is like eating, drinking breathing and praying. It is something I proudly do every day and hope more will too. 20160703_204316.jpg

 

(John 15:13 – Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.)

“Other” Families

Family means different things to different people. For me, family is everything. I grew up in a traditional family of four in the small town of Clinton, New Jersey.  My dad worked and my mom stayed home until my brother and I were in school full-time. She then worked only during school hours, so I had the luxury of seeing my mom before I went to school and when I got home.  We went on one or two family vacations each year, (usually to Wildwood Crest) and spent a lot of quality time together playing all kinds of games – both board games and imaginary ones. It was an amazing time in my life.

Continue reading ““Other” Families”

Always Ready

Brrrrrrrrr!! Whoooooshhhh!!  After yesterday’s temperature reaching almost 70 degrees, winter has returned. It is in the 40s with wind gusts up to 45 miles an hour.  I was up half the night listening to the wind attempting to shake the house and everything in it.  When I woke up and looked out the window, tree limbs were being tossed around like a ship in a storm. I said a silent prayer that none of the large branches would come down on our cars or house! So far, so good!

This wacky weather in New Jersey is making outdoor activities difficult.  I try to walk our dog, Scraps, every day at least once a day.  He is a terrier with a lot of energy! This morning, as I listened to the winds and watched the weather on TV, I pondered whether or not I would be taking him today.  Scraps seemed to sense my hesitation and almost immediately, his ears perked up, his tail started to wag and he looked at me with an expression of pleaing, “It’s not that cold! I’m ready! Let’s go!  It’s just a little wind! What’s the problem?”

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So, as usual, I gave in and bundled up. There seemed to be enough time between the strong gusts that I could at least take him around the block.  I opened the door and put out the American flag as I do every morning, making sure it was secure. Scraps was anxious to get started and started to pull to being the walk. Almost immediately, I regretted not putting on my gloves.  It felt like it was in the 30’s again.  Ugh! I pulled my hat down further over my ears and started moving.

The neighborhood was littered with garbage cans since today was garbage day. I shivered a little and pulled up the zipper on my coat to my chin. BRR!  Scraps, however, was trotting along without a care in the world.  Wind? No problem!  Cold temps? Don’t be a sissy!

A few minutes into our walk, a gust of wind came and blew the top of a garbage can a few feet in front of us, just missing him. Scraps pinned his rather large ears back (I guess to keep the wind from blowing in them) stopped, lifted his leg on a tuft of grass and kept right on going, happy as ever.  For a split second, I considered turning around but then realized that Scraps is like that in any kind of weather. He is always ready to go for a walk. It could be 100 degrees out with 90% humidity (and yes, it does get that hot in NJ) and he is ready to go.  It could be snowing and even sleeting out, but he is always, always ready for a walk.  If I was willing to take him, I bet he would even walk in the pouring rain (well, maybe with his coat on).

I once read an article that we should try and be more like our dogs. It focused on their love of play, long amounts of sleep and being a loyal companion.  I would like to add one more thing to the list – to always be ready to walk/exercise and truly enjoy it as much as he does!  No matter what!

 

Whoops!

Earlier today, I wrote a post about Lent.  In it, I described the three disciplines of Lent (fasting, prayer and almsgivig) and what I was going to do to fulfill them.  I am not sure why I felt the need to share what I was going to do, other than to possibly inspire others to participate more in the prayer and almsgiving and not just the fasting.  However, after doing more research on Lent and arguments for and against observing it, I came across this from the New Testament:

 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be            seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in              heaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with  trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”             

                                                                                                            -Matthew 6:1-4

Whoops! After reflecting on this scripture, I decided to delete the earlier post since it pretty much went against this. Whatever we do or do not do in Lent and in life is between each of us and God.   I guess sometimes we just need a reminder. At least I do!