Beautiful Ride

The somewhat self-indulgent rantings about the beautiful ride that is my life!

Remembering 9.11 September 11, 2011

Filed under: beautiful ride,Faith,Family,Service — beautifulride @ 9:30 am
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It was a day just like any other day. My husband left for work. My second grader and my 5th grader got on the bus and went to school. My 5 year-old and my 21 month-old sat playing on the floor of the family room, as they did every morning, waiting for me to finish listening to the morning news before we changed the background sound to Nick Jr. and Blue’s Clues. As I stood by my table, folding my laundry, the image on the television caught my eye and the tone of the reporter made me stop. It was 8:46 am on the most beautiful September morning. The skies were clear and they were blue. Perhaps it was an accident, a terrible, horrible accident. And then it happened again. At 9:03 am. It wasn’t an accident.

We had just moved to Delaware, OH the previous May. Our children had just started in a new school in a new town. We were settling into our new home and our new routine. It was just an ordinary day. And now it wasn’t.

I immediately called my husband at work, with an overwhelming relief that he wasn’t travelling that day. He travels so much for work and often leaves on Tuesdays. It was Tuesday. I told him what was being reported on the news. He said he would be home soon, and to go get the children at school. I did. By now another plane had flown into the Pentagon…and another had gone down in Shanksville, PA…close to Pittsburgh, the home we had just left.

I brought my children home, but wondered what to tell them, how much to tell them. When the second plane struck the tower, my 5 year-old son was watching. What do you say when big brown eyes look into yours and ask “Mommy, did all of the people on that plane die?” Our oldest was almost 11. He would want to know why I picked him up from school on what he still believed was just an ordinary day. I didn’t have any answers, I can’t even remember what I told him. All I remember is that I wanted them, all of them, in my house and in my arms.

As the day wore on, I remember having them play up in their rooms and setting up videos for them in our bedroom. I didn’t want them watching the news, I didn’t want to watch it myself. But I couldn’t turn it off, couldn’t turn away. The terror of the strikes, the terror of the collapsing buildings, the terror in the eyes of those wandering the streets looking for their loved ones. The terror.

Since we moved to New Jersey, just outside of New York City, I feel the anniversaries of 9.11 in a different way. My children know people who lost someone on that day. I know people who lost someone on that day. We know that the feelings and emotions of that day are never far from the surface for those who called this place home a decade ago.

I will never proclaim that I have felt that loss and that terror in the same way that those directly impacted by 9.11 have felt it. I did not lose a husband, a father, a sister, a brother, a son, a daughter, or a friend. I did not drive my loved one to the airport early in the morning, only to later realize that he wasn’t coming home. I didn’t search for days, weeks, months…holding out hope that I would get a phone call or open my front door and find that my love had somehow survived. I don’t have to hear a name read and a bell toll year after year in remembrance of a victim.

What I hope is that those who live with their loss each and every day, not just on these anniversaries, will also feel the collective embrace of a country that mourns with them, aches with them, cries with them, and moves forward with them. I hope they know we will never forget.


If I Had a Hammer August 13, 2011

On a warm July morning, just a few weeks ago, my husband, my son, and 16 other volunteers loaded up a few trucks and vans with tools and toolbelts, divided up some road snacks baked and bought by friends and family, received a few last-minute medical instructions, reviewed their maps, and joined hands for prayers and blessings for a safe trip and a safe return. As I waved goodbye to Rick and Max and the others, lyrics to a folk song kept playing in my mind, over and over….

“If I had a hammer…I’d  hammer in the morning…I’d hammer in the evening…all over this land.

I’d hammer out danger…I’d hammer out a warning…I’d hammer out the love between my brothers and my sisters….all over this land!”

Why this song? Because that, in sense, was the mission of this group. To hammer out the dangers of an unsafe structure, to hammer out a warning to those who think these conditions don’t exist in our country, and to hammer out the love for our brothers and sisters by bringing them the helping hands they needed in order to live in the warmer, safer, drier conditions that most of us take for granted. This very special group was heading to West Virginia  to do just that!

This was Max and Rick’s second Appalachian Service Project Trip with St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. Imagine my pride in knowing that my husband gave up a week’s vacation to work alongside our 17-year-old son in a program that means so very much to him. Imagine my pride in knowing that my son feels compelled to crawl under a stranger’s home during the hottest week of the summer and help steady a foundation. Imagine my pride in each and every one of the volunteers that travelled with them and did their absolute best to make things right, or at least a little more right, for a handful of souls that swallowed their own pride and asked for help. Imagine the pride of a work crew that stopped a home from slipping into the creek, added indoor plumbing to a home where there had been none, or built a ramp for a man confined to a wheelchair because he lost both of his legs to diabetes and the use of his arm due to a stroke–a man who was now able to come outside of his home on his own for the first time in years.


We live in a country where both sides of the political spectrum spend so much time trying to prove they are right and our own citizens are  living with no plumbing, no heating, no way to see the outside world. We spend billions of dollars nation-building in countries that don’t want us and we ignore the problems right under our own noses. I am not trying to be political here–not trying to wag my finger at one side or the other–in fact, I try to keep politics out of my writing, because that’s not what I want my blog to be. But it’s hard to remain quiet and still when you see what these volunteers have seen. Despite your political views, it’s hard to dispute that we live in a country where every day the wealthy are given the gift of opportunities and the poor give up one more dream. We talk about the growing gap, we talk about the growing inequality, we talk and we talk and we talk and we are so exhausted from all that talking that we forget to DO.

Force your eyes open to see the poverty and the inequality; force yourself to see that sometimes it just isn’t possible for another to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps; force yourself to see that we all have a responsibility to DO what is right, not just preach what is right. Offer a hand of help and hope. Do it in the spirit of love for your brothers and your sisters and watch how things can change…all over this land.

*Become a fan of Appalachia Service Project on facebook and see how you can help–there are links on the information page for volunteering, donating and shopping their general store. You can also visit their website for more information at

*Photos from St. Johns Evangelical Lutheran Church’s 2011 ASP Trip courtesy Rick Braden. Group shot at beginning of blog courtesy of Susan Colby

St. Lukes Lutheran Church in Beckley, WV hosted our group on the way down

Orientation at the ASP Center in Brenton, WV

Picking up supplies at the hardware store

Taking a break!

ASP Center in Brenton, WV

Sleeping arrangements at the Center--NOT the Hilton!

The ramp Rick's crew built

Rick giving a thumbs up on a job well done

I am so proud of our son, Max

Dam at the park where they had a final gathering with the families they helped

The hand of God in the beauty of a sunset