Tag Archives: 9/11

Refugee tales

While driving through a parking lot Tuesday morning, I spied a small delivery truck with colorful faces painted on two sides — along with the words “Welcome to America.” This is one of those moments my children dread, because they know two things are about to happen. First, I’m going to whip out my camera. And second, I’m going to go in search of the artist. What I call serendipitous, they consider strange.

Jennifer might have felt differently about this encounter, because I ended up introducing myself to a man who was walking towards the truck — only to discover he’s the driver for an organization called The Welcome to America Project, which delivers donated furniture and other household goods to refugees who have recently located to the Phoenix area.

Turns out there’s a United Nations connection that would fascinate Jennifer, an ASU student in cultural anthroplogy who dreams of working for the U.N. one day. There’s a 9/11 connection too — because The Welcome to America Project was started by Phil and Carolyn Manning after Phil’s brother Terence Manning lost his life in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.

Seems the Mannings were searching for a way to honor his memory by making a positive difference in the community when they saw the photo of a political refugee family from Afghanistan on a local news report. Each “realized this family sought the same things they did – safety, housing and a future free of fear for their children.” Soon they were collecting clothing and household items on the family’s behalf.

To date, their non-profit organization (described by the truck driver I met as a “mom and pop” operation) has engaged thousands of volunteers in helping 1,200 refugee families. This week they’re scheduled to assist two families originally from Bhutan who lived for many years in Nepal before coming to America, plus a single woman from Sri Lanka who survived a bombing that killed her brother and father.

The Welcome to America Project also holds special events that raise funds for aiding refugees. Last year’s “prom” had a Broadway musical theme, so I’m eager to see what they come up with for the 2012 version, taking place April 21 at the St.  Patrick’s Catholic Community Center in Scottsdale.

They’re kicking off a 2012 Cultural Dinner Series this Sun, March 11, with “A Night in Havana” at Orangewood Church in Phoenix. The event is “is designed to give Phoenix residents a rare glimpse into the complex history and culture of Cuba.” Think “dance performances, poems, cuisine, colorful clothing and firsthand accounts of the struggles and strength of Cuban refugees building new lives here in Arizona.”

Tuesday’s encounter with Jack Bigus (whose business card simply reads “driver”) reinforces a philosophy I’ve long embraced while exploring Arizona arts and culture — Follow the art, Follow your heart.

— Lynn

Note: Click here for information on refugees to the United States from the Cultural Orientation Resource Center

Coming up: More NYC travels


Visiting the national 9/11 memorial

One of several 9/11 memorial images visitors see as they walk the long path to the entrance

My daughter Lizabeth, a college freshman studying acting at Pace University, called home shortly after she’d visited the newly-opened 9/11 memorial with a group of fellow students. It was clear she’d been teary-eyed – genuinely moved by the enormous losses of that day.

It’s hard to grasp all that is “Ground Zero” until you see it with your own eyes, and those of us who didn’t lose a loved one will never truly understand the depth of grief wrought by the terrorist attacks of that day. But we can honor those lost with a simple act – remembering.

Knowing that I’ve long followed events surrounding development of the 9/11 memorial and museum, Lizabeth took her camera along so she could snap a few photos. She quickly decided, however, that taking pictures felt wrong somehow. This is a place where thousands of Americans died. It’s not, she told me, a tourist attraction.

Parents feel especially proud during such moments. I listened intently as Lizabeth described the experience of walking through the memorial grounds. Every turn brings more and more names of people who died that day. And powerful waves of emotion.

View across a 9/11 memorial reflecting pool on Sept. 12, 2011

I thought of Lizabeth as my husband James drove me to the airport last Wednesday morning. As soon as passes to the memorial became available, he thoughtfully reserved a pair so I could experience the site with Lizabeth during my trip to NYC. “Do you think it’s tacky to take photos,” I asked. “No,” he said, “I’m sure lots of people take pictures of the memorial.”

“That doesn’t answer my question,” I replied. For once I felt like the lawyer in the family. “Thousands of people died there,” I said. “It’s really a grave site.” He reminded me that people photograph cemeteries all the time. I’m guilty of that myself, of course – but that didn’t make me feel any better about it.

I recalled trips to Washington, D.C. and the many photos I’ve taken at Arlington Memorial Ceremony. Like most people, I photograph the things that have special meaning or the things I most want to remember. For me it’s the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the eternal flame marking John F. Kennedy’s grave.

Though I planned to visit the 9/11 memorial with Lizabeth last Friday, I ended up going alone on Thursday night after walking by a memorial gift shop near the site where someone had extra passes for admission that evening. I knew Lizabeth wouldn’t mind me going alone, and I was eager to experience the memorial under a starry sky.

View across a 9/11 memorial reflecting pool towards the 9/11 museum

Somehow the darkness amplifies all that steel and water, with all the trees and all those names — backlit after nightfall. Two names, in particular, stand out — belonging to two women listed with the words “and unborn child.” A pair of tridents from the “twin towers” inside the 9/11 museum are beautifully lit and visible through the transparent walls of the museum, which will open once completed.

I stayed at a hotel adjacent to the World Trade Center construction site — where I started and ended each day with time spent watching the work in progress that holds such significance for our nation. Giant cranes moving back and forth. Workers in orange and yellow vests dotting the sight both day and night.

A steady stream of patriotic pilgrims head to the site and surrounding areas each day — negotiating crowded streets with everyday New Yorkers bustling between home, office and other haunts. For all the deaths wrought that terrible day ten Septembers ago, this is a place full of life and focused on the future.

— Lynn

Note: Several Arizona cities, including Gilbert and Phoenix, have their own 9/11 memorials. Click here to see images from the National 9/11 Memorial webcam, and here to learn more about the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum.

Coming up: Exploring memorials at Wesley Bolin Plaza in Phoenix

Moving Memories

As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approached, I realized that my three children (now grown) had never seen “Moving Memories,” the Arizona 9/11 memorial located at Wesley Bolin Plaza across from the Arizona State Capitol.

So I headed out one morning with my son Christopher to explore the 9/11 memorial — as well as other memorials located at the plaza. “Moving Memories,” the subject of controversy both during its development and after its installation, is the site of an interfaith memorial taking place Sun, Sept 11 (11:30am-12:30pm). Members of the public are welcome. www.azifm.org.

I’ve explored many a memorial while following coverage of 9/11-related events — and find some to be utterly lacking in imagination. That’s not the case with “Moving Memories.” The structure, designed by Jones Studio in Phoenix, captures light, creates shadows and shares words that reflect the diversity of an ever-evolving democracy.

The words stenciled into “Moving Memories” present a jarring juxtaposition of everyday life and larger than life events — which is exactly how life presented itself on 9/11. I was particularly struck by words reflecting personal experiences. Making T-shirts to raise memorial funds. Writing songs to honor a brother. Some are captured in the images below.

“Moving Memories” sits on a lawn opposite a circle of other Arizona memorials…

The memorial includes this section of a building from the World Trade Center…

This metal arc is stenciled with words so light passes through to the concrete below…

Sunlit words are projected on to the concrete circle at the memorial’s base…

Children intrigued by these stencils can create the same effect at home…

Examples of both readily accepted and controversial wording on the memorial…

Some wording reflects the ways everyday Americans responded to 9/11…

The most important words in this memorial may be those pictured below…

If you’re heading to outdoor memorial events today, remember to take along plenty of water and sunscreen — and to be especially kind on a day when many may be hurting.

— Lynn

Note: While you’re at Wesley Bolin Plaza, make time to explore other memorials you’ll find there — to peace officers, veterans, victims of genocide, canines who work with law enforcement, workers who’ve died on the job and many others. Visit the calendar section of www.raisingarizonakids.com to learn about additional 9/11 memorial events in the Valley. To learn more about controversial 9/11 art visit www.artinfo.com/news/story/38569/7-controversies-that-shaped-the-debate-about-911-art/?page=2. To explore additional images of “Moving Memories” visit www.jonesstudioinc.com/26/index.htm.

Coming up: Spotlight on “CATS,” A trio of tea parties, Honk if you love Hans!, From acting to anatomy, The making of “Munched”

Update: Ground Zero photos taken during the past ten years are now posted at www.boston.com/bigpicture/2011/09/ground_zero_september_11_2001.html

A trio of tributes

Detail of artwork by theater students at Arizona School for the Arts

Detail of artwork by theater students at Arizona School for the Arts

In Tempe Beach Park, a flag is flying for each person who perished in the attacks of September 11, 2001. So too in Battery Park, New York — where stripes on the flags have been replaced by the names of those killed, and people gathered Saturday morning to form a human chain of solidarity and remembrance.

Candlelight vigils in Scottsdale and countless cities throughout the world are honoring those lost, as well as those who remain. A beam from the World Trade Center is being installed at a Gilbert memorial, and a sculpture crafted of three sections of WTC buildings has been unveiled in London’s Battersea Park — a tribute to the 67 Britons lost that day.

Detail of Tiles for America exhibit in New York City

But it’s a trio of tributes, our country’s permanent memorials to 9/11, that most will visit in coming days, decades and beyond. One in Pennsylvania. One in New York. One in Washington, D.C.

I was particularly moved while watching a live C-SPAN broadcast of the dedication ceremony Saturday morning for the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania, where the heroism of everyday Americans was honored by dignitaries, artists, family members and others.

Poet Robert Pinsky read two works — “Souvenir of the Ancient World” by Carlos Drummond de Andrade and “Incantation” by Czeslaw Milosz. The second was interrupted at our house by a call from the National Republican Party. The timing made my stomach turn.

Art from one of two Tiles for America exhibits in NYC

I heard an interview with George Packer, who has a piece titled “Coming Apart” in the Sept 12, 2011 issue of New Yorker magazine, on NPR today. He noted that two things he’d hoped might change about America in the aftermath of 9/11 are much the same. Our partisan politics and the growing gap between America’s rich and poor.

I hope our national 9/11 memorials will help to change that. Reminding us of what we have in common. Reminding us that every person matters. Reminding us to volunteer in service to others. Reminding us to be grateful.

During the “New York Says Thank You” documentary broadcast on local FOX affiliates Saturday evening, several people involved with the “I Will” campaign shared ways they’ll be honoring those directly affected by 9/11.

More street art from Tiles for America

Actor Mariska Hargitay plans to volunteer at her local domestic violence shelter. A teen girl says she’ll “clean up my room.” A middle-aged man plans to plant a tree at the Flight 93 National Memorial. And a woman about my age says simply, “I will forgive.”

The Friends of Flight 93 and the National Parks Service (which operates the Flight 93 National Memorial) are partnering with the Fred M. Rogers Center at Saint Vincent’s College in Pennsylvania for an October event titled “9/11 Forum: Impact on Young Children.” And folks far and wide have started discussions about incorporating 9/11 into school curriculum materials.

My “I Will” is following the developments of the trio of tributes best known to Americans and sharing them with our readers, not just on 9/11 but throughout the year. But also the everyday stories of children, families, teachers, artists and others working to make September 12 and every day that follows a day of healing, humility and hope.

— Lynn

Note: Learn more about the Flight 93 National Memorial at www.npca.org and www.honorflight93.org, the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial at www.pentagonmemorial.org and the 9/11 Memorial in NYC at www.911memorial.org. All three appreciate gifts of time and money as they move forward honoring those affected by 9/11. Learn about “I Will” at www.911day.org.  Watch eight artists “talk about how that day and its aftermath have informed their work and lives” at www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/09/02/us/sept-11-reckoning/artists.html?ref=arts.

Coming up: A photo tour of memorials at Phoenix’s Wesley Bolin Plaza

9/11 on stage and screen

Imagine being asked by an FDNY fire captain to help with writing eulogies for eight men lost in the twin towers on 9/11. That’s just what happened, by some very odd twists of fate, to Anne Nelson — whose work about those experiences launched an unexpected career as a playwright.

Nelson’s “The Guys” is one of many plays looking at life on and after 9/11. Karen Malpede’s “Another Life” tackles a father/daughter difference of opinion about 9/11. David Rimmer’s “New York” follows 15 individuals who see the same psychiatrist in the aftermath of 9/11.

Invasion tackles the bigotry leveled against Arabic men in America

Rehana Lew Mirza’s “Barriers” examines prejudice both by and against Muslims. Steve Fetter’s “A Blue Sky Like No Other” is a one-man show about the playwright’s own experiences on 9/11.

Peter-Adrian Cohen’s “In the Name of God” follows six people who experience crises of faith in the aftermath of 9/11.

Jonas Hassen Khemiri’s “Invasion” tackles issues of identity, language and race in light of prejudice against Arabic men. Richard Nelson’s “Sweet and Sad” listens in as the liberal Apple family chats about loss, memory and remembrance around the dining room table on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. 

My daughter Liz will be intrigued by the connection between this play and War Horse at Lincoln Center

Smoke and Mirrors Collaborative created “Point of Departure,” which considers the obstacles facing post-9/11 passengers at an airport as they try to reach their respective destinations. And an ensemble of cast members in their tweens to early 20s developed ‘Ten Years Later,” which explores what it means to come of age in a post-9/11 era.

There are several others, plus plenty of films — most of which won’t be coming to Valley movie theaters anytime soon, though you’ll be able to buy some of them for your personal film collections (the fancy name for those stacks of DVDs you’re hoarding).

“New York Says Thank You” examines The New York Thank You Foundation, which engages citizens in “giving back” through disaster relief efforts in other parts of the country. www.newyorksaysthankyou.org.

New York Says Thank You is all about giving back

It’s being broadcast by Fox affiliate KUTP Sat, Sept 10 (7pm) and shown in select theaters nationwide. Arizona didn’t make the movie theater cut, be we can watch it streaming live from Action America and AOL starting that same night.

“Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football and the American Dream” follows four football players at a public high school in Michigan where most of the students are Muslim Americans and preparations for a big game take place during Ramadan.

It’s being shown at select AMC theaters around the country, but Arizona didn’t make that list either. So much for attempts to garner street cred with all that “sixth largest city in the country” fodder.

Folks in Arizona who want to experience a bit of 9/11-related filmmaking in a community setting have just a single option this weekend — the screening of “Rebirth” presented by the University of Arizona at the Loft Cinema in Tucson. www.loftcinema.com.

Rebirth will be screened at Loft Cinema in Tucson on Sunday

“Rebirth” follows the lives of five people, including a teenage boy and a firefighter, whose lives were significantly changed by the events of 9/11. www.projectrebirth.org/film.

The film, and additional footage taken by its creators, will eventually be housed at the 9/11 museum in New York City. www.911memorial.org.

If you miss the Tucson screening, watch for it on Showtime Sun, Sept 11 — perhaps inviting friends or family over for your own sofa screening. www.sho.com.

Those of you who worry that this weekend has become nothing more than a giant media fest will appreciate the work of Linda Holmes, who set out to compile a handy viewing guide of 9/11 television specials only to think better of it early in the game.

Here’s a link to her “befuddled note,” which my husband James shared with me recently. I’m starting to wish I had written it myself some dozen or so paragraphs ago: www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2011/09/07/140245859/a-rather-befuddled-note-from-me-to-you-about-september-11-specials?ft=1&f=93568166.

— Lynn

Note: “Stage Mom” will resume coverage of Arizona arts and culture on Monday with “Recipe for Revenge” — a review of Southwest Shakespeare Company’s “Titus Andronicus.”

Coming up: Memorials honoring lives lost in Pennsylvania, New York and Washington, D.C.

Broadway baby meets “Broadway Unites”

Kick line meets jazz hands during Broadway Unites 2011 in Times Square in New York (Photo by Liz Trimble)

I’ve been blogging about the arts every day for about two years now, often attending live theater productions with daughter Lizabeth at my side. But Lizabeth moved to NYC last week to pursue her own acting dreams, so now we can cover twice the territory.

Mamma Mia! meets Jersey Boys at Broadway Unites 2011 in Times Square

I’m the “Stage Mom” covering arts in Arizona, and she’s the “Broadway Baby” in charge of the New York City beat. Friday she had her first assignment — covering the Broadway League’s “Broadway Unites” event.

A view of Broadway Unites on the Times Square Jumbotron

When I asked if she’d like to cover the event, Lizabeth offered a resounding “I will” — fitting given that the fine folks from “I Will” were heavily involved in Friday’s giant song and dance fest. They’re working to engage the community in making 9/11 a national day of remembrance and service.

Broadway Unites supports a 9/11 Tribute Day and I Will campaign

Lizabeth approached the gig with real professionalism, breaking in a blazer she’s since dubbed her “reporter’s jacket.” Unlike attending an event in “fan mode,” attending in “cub reporter” mode means no asking for autographs and the like.

An impressive lineup of performers participated in Broadway Unites

She was ready to interview performers, but felt she should defer to reporters from The New York Times and other major media outlets. The New York Times is revered at our house, and their cameras are a tad bigger than the ones used by hometown bloggers.

Before Broadway Unites Lizabeth thought only her parents did the disco

Still, Lizabeth captured great photos of the gig — sending them to me in a series of e-mails with subject lines like “La la la” (pictures of the “Sister Act” nuns) and “No!” (people over 21 doing the disco).

Broadway loves firefighters and firefighters love Broadway

Lizabeth described her biggest challenge as capturing a photo of the firefighters who participated without a set of looming “golden arches” in the background, then noted the irony in typical college student fashion.

Officer meets opera as Daniel Rodriguez appears on the Times Square Jumbotron

She’s headed to a Mets game with fellow students now — but plans to follow up with more photos and other fun details this weekend, which I’ll add to a future update of this post. First, no doubt, she’ll be doing all that lovely college homework.

Broadway Unites hopes to inspire people to remembrance and service

To learn more about “9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance” and the “I Will” project, visit www.911day.org. Sometimes even grown-ups need to do a bit of homework.

— Lynn

Note: All photos by Liz Trimble (with thanks to her dad for the nifty new camera)

Coming up: A trio of tributes, 9/11 on stage and screen, National Arts in Education Week, Shakespeare’s “Recipe for Revenge”

9/11 books for children

Books I encountered during a June visit to the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site near the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan

Captain Bob Badgett of the Gilbert Fire Department, whose two children are in their early 20s, spent part of Wednesday this week at Finley Farms Elementary School. He was one of several volunteers who read to 4th graders as part of the town’s “Week of Tribute to 9/11.” www.gilbertaz.gov/911memorial.

Badgett read a book titled “Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey” by Maira Kalman of Manhattan, who “was born in Tel Aviv and moved to New York with her family at the age of four.” She’s written and illustrated thirteen children’s books —  the latest a collaboration with Lemony Snicket titled “13 WORDS.” www.mairakalman.com.

“Fireboat” is the true tale of a boat in 1931 New York that’s eventually retired for a time — until called back into service in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Its crew includes a dog named “Smokey,” which makes me feel only slightly better about the fact that I often call the book “Firedog” by mistake. www.fireboat.org.

I first stumbled on “Fireboat” in June, while visiting the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site near Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan — where it was diplayed close to teddy bears wearing NYPD or FDNY shirts and other items honoring 9/11 first responders.

The 9/11 Memorial will open to 9/11 families this Sunday (and others, with online reservations, the following day), but those of us who won’t be in NYC can still support the cause by shopping for 9/11-related books and other items online. www.911memorial.org.

I like the idea of keeping these books handy year-round rather than pulling them out only with the advent of 9/11 anniversary dates. My books on Abraham Lincoln weren’t put away between President’s Day holidays when my children were little, so why treat this historical event any differently?

Be sure you review 9/11-related books before sharing them with your child. “Fireboat” depicts the destruction of the twin towers, which some parents might not feel comfortable with. “Fireboat” is recommended for ages four and up, but you’re the best judge of what your own child can handle.

Badgett says the experience of reading “Fireboat” to fourth graders felt especially profound because almost all of them were born the year that 9/11 took place. “They have a deeper understanding of it than I thought,” reflects Badgett.

He was also impressed by the questions students asked. Do you remember where you were? Didn’t we catch the guy who masterminded this? “I wondered how deep to go with all this,” shares Badgett. It sounds like he kept it simple and very matter of fact in tone — as it should be.

It reminded me of the story about a child who asks a mom where babies come from only to get a full-blown anatomy lecture when a simple “we’ll bring her home from the hospital” would have done the trick. Still, it’s important not to skim over the event as if it never happened or has little significance.

“Kids need real and factual information,” observes Badgett. “If they don’t get it from us, they get misinformation from other places.” Badgett appreciates books like “Fireboat” because they “get kids the information in a non-threatening format.”

On the morning of 9/11, Badgett (then a firefighter in Scottsdale) was “off shift” — watching television at home while enjoying his morning coffee. After seeing the second tower get hit, Badgett brought his own children downstairs and told them what had happened. “That day all firefighters were on duty,” recalls Badgett.

The newest children’s book to explore the events of and after 9/11 is “14 Cows for America,” written by Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez. Wilson Kimel Naiyomah collaborated on the book, which is aimed at 6-10 year olds.

It’s the true story of a Maasai student in New York who witnessed 9/11 — then shared the experience with villagers after returning home to Kenya. The tragedy inspired them to make a precious gift to America. It was their cows. www.14cowsforamerica.com.

Many children offered gifts of words and art in the weeks and months following 9/11. Some found their way into books like “September 12th: We Knew Everything Would Be All Right,” “Do Not Be Sad: A Chronicle of Healing,” “What Will You Do For Peace?” and “Messages to Ground Zero: Children Respond to September 11, 2001.” Also “Art for Heart” and “The Day Our World Changed.”

We like to believe that we read books about 9/11 with our children to help them make sense of the world. In reality, we’re the ones still struggling to understand. 

— Lynn

Coming up: Talking with kids about 9/11, Review: 14 Cows for America, Broadway remembers 9/11