Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where Were You......

September 11, 2001. So hard to believe that 10 years have passed since that horrific day. The images, sadness, and heroic efforts of the American people are forever etched in our minds. As I watch the news coverage of the 10 year anniversary, my mind drifts back to that bright and beautiful day that ended in unspeakable tragedy, and my heart goes out to the fallen and their loved ones as life has to go on for those left behind. So much has changed in ten years, yet so much remains the same. 10 years ago young children watched the tragic events unfold. Some of those same children, now adults, are now fighting the war on terror. Bin Laden is dead, but the Taliban remain. The US elected the first African American President, but his administration is fighting the same battle against evil. Our economy has been weakened, but the spirit of America is strong. Where were you?
I can remember my mom and dad discussing where they were when President Kennedy was assassinated. How their world felt unsafe and America's future was uncertain. I had never experienced those kinds of feelings until 9/11. On that day, as most people will agree, the morning was beautiful and the sky was an extraordinary bright blue. I had dropped off my daughter Hannah, who was 21 months old, at my parents' house and made my way to CCES. I was teaching my 4th grade science class when Ms. Sherry Riddle came into my classroom. Mr. Rexroat, our principal, had sent her to tell all the teachers that there had been what appeared to be a terrorist attack on New York City and Washington DC. At that time details were unclear and events were still unfolding. Knowing that this was undoubtedly an historic event, we turned on our tvs to get an update. Shortly afterwards, the first tower fell and I with a sick stomach I turned the television off. As I looked upon the sweet innocent faces of my students, one of them said, "I can say I will always remember being in science class when World War Three started." Cold chills ran up and down my spine as I tried to hold it together and I answered their questions that I can still remember: "Mrs. Becky, were there people in those buildings? Do you think any kids were in there? Why would they crash airplanes into buildings? They did it on purpose?" How hard it was, and still is, to explain these questions that I do not understand to this day. As soon as I had a free minute I called my parents. Daddy answered the phone. I cried when I heard his voice. I said "Have you heard about the terror attacks?" "No," he replied, "we're outside". "Get Hannah in the house now and turn on the tv." I said through tears. I stayed on the line until he had time somewhat take in the horrific events. The second tower had just collapsed. "All those people..." he said in a shaking voice. "Keep Hannah safe." was all I managed to say between tears. I heard the fear in my daddy's voice as he tried to reassure me. I wanted to go home and be with my baby but I knew the parents of my students were trusting that I would keep their babies safe. When the school day finally ended I went home and hugged Hannah so hard she tried to wiggle free. I hugged her for every parent that had died that day that would never hug their children again, and for those children who had embraced their mommies for the last time. Like everyone in the nation, there was unmeasured sadness in my heart like I had never felt before. Growing up in a small town, I had always felt safe and secure, but now, with planes crashing into buildings, especially our Pentagon, I was scared to death. I can still remember how odd it was to look at the sky and see no planes or contrails from aircraft. Our little house in Dubre, KY was like a refuge for my little family. That night, I was glued to the tv and prayed like never before for survivors to be found. I cried with Peter Jennings, President Bush, and Rudy Giuliani, as he stated that the losses would be "more than we can bear". I cried for the firemen that had rushed into the second tower on a rescue mission minutes before it fell. I cried when, late that night, the members of Congress stood on the steps of the Capitol and sang "God Bless America". When we went to bed that night Hannah slept in the bed with us and I awoke many times, thinking for a second that it had all been a dream. But the reality was, America had been attacked on her home soil, and we would come to find that almost 3000 people had died, and for those who were still living, our lives would never be the same.
Hannah is 11 now, and those 4th graders are young adults, having graduated high school a few years ago. The little house were we sought refuge in 2001 has been sold and we are living in another home, next to my parents' house. We have been blessed with another daughter, Micah Hope, and I teach 5th grade at the same school. Michael has a different job and my daddy and Peter Jennings lost their battles with cancer. There are memorials at the Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. Despite all these changes in the past ten years the raw emotions of that day remain. The mother whose son was a passenger on flight 175 said that each time she watches the video of the plane crashing into the World Trade Center, it's like witnessing her son's death over and over. I shuddered as she spoke that truth. Another family member stated that it is true that someone will catch you when you fall, as she spoke of the support the survivors give each other. As we watched the news coverage of the ten year anniversary, perhaps the most touching tribute that I witnessed this morning was a montage of the babies born after 9/11/11 whose fathers perished on that bright Tuesday morning. The tribute showed photos of the children on the left side of the screen with their father's picture on the right. Every child had their father's eyes. Yes, life goes on, and as it does may we never forget those who gave all on this day. My heartfelt prayers go out to the families and friends whose lives were torn apart, and for the brave soldiers who wage on in the war against terror. God Bless America, land that I love.
Much Love,

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Perfect Pair....

Love is a flower which turns into fruit at marriage. ~Finnish Proverb
This weekend we gathered to celebrate the marriage of Brandon and Whitney Fletcher, and as I watched the lovely ceremony unfold, I couldn't help but think back to the memories of my nephew as a little boy and wonder how he became a man so quickly. We use the cliche and talk about how quickly time flies, but watching Brandon take his vows to his beautiful bride before family and friends, I kept getting choked up thinking it was just a few years ago when he stood as my ring bearer, wore Batman pajamas, and was obsessed with "big trucks" as he called them.

I was a freshman in high school when Brandon was born, and he has always seemed to be more than a nephew to me. Since he has been on this earth, Brandon has brought this family such joy and continues to do so. For years he was the only grandchild on the Bryant side. Papa John nicknamed all the other grandchildren "Castros" but Brandon earned his own special nickname- "Cowboy" since he was their first great-grandchild.  He has taught me many things such as how to change diapers (cloth ones, I might add), give bottles, draw big trucks, Ninja Turtles, and he even helped me illustrate a children's book I wrote in college. We have watched the movies Ghost busters and Drop Dead Fred until we knew them by heart. And speaking of hearts, he once almost caused me to have a heart attack when he was having a night mare about spiders and woke me up screaming bloody murder in the middle of the night. He would bring me his model horses and say "Do horseys!" Which meant I was to hum the tune to Bonanza and bounce the horse up and down. I had all these images in my mind and tears as I witnessed the vows he made to his wife as a grown man.

I write this not to embarrass him, (well maybe a little) but to show him how we had ZERO fun in this family until he came along. Brandon loved animals and I once drove all the way from Bowling Green to Waterview with a kitten crawling all through my car because his precious cat Colby had died and I had picked its replacement at a pet store. We wanted to do all we could to make him happy. Nanny, for example, would make his cinnamon toast have smiley faces on them, and the rest of us ate whatever Brandon's menu choices were, even when he requested the same foods every night for weeks until he grew tired of it and then he would move on to another favorite. Our family had forgotten the joy of Christmas until we had Brandon, Suddenly Christmas Eve and morning was magical and other holidays that had lost their sparkle were now so much more appealing. Where there had been darkness, now there was light, and as he grew we enjoyed many little league basketball games, baseball games, school plays, and birthday parties, and watching him grow into a remarkable young man, a police officer, a husband, a father. I thought it was very fitting that the song "I'll Wait for You" was played at the beginning of the wedding ceremony. I'm sure there was a special meaning for Brandon and Whitney, but how it related to me was remembering how Brandon would wait for his Pa to come in each week from driving the big truck that they both loved so much. Brandon was the star in Daddy's sky and they had a relationship that was beyond grandfather/grandson. I think it is safe to say that they were each others' heroes. As Daddy was in the final hours of his life, the Hsopice nurses were really surprised he was still holding on. What they didn't know was that this time Pa was waiting for Brandon to pull into the driveway. After Brandon arrived, and Daddy gripped his hand, it wasn't very long afterwards that he passed on. He was waiting for him, and I know in my heart he was smiling down on Brandon as he said his vows. And we have SOOO loved the blue/white UK colors!

As time, responsibilities, busy schedules, and life prevent me from seeing him as much as I'd like to I want him to know that I  am so proud of the life he and Whitney are building and I pray that God blesses this union and their sweet family one hundred fold. Here are a few words of wisdom for them from the movie Fireproof, as they face the future as husband and wife. It is very practical that they were married on Labor Day weekend, because marriage is work, but there is a payoff and I know they will very much profit from it.
About a Fireproof Marriage
"Fireproof doesn’t mean that a fire will never come… But that when it comes, you’ll be able to withstand it."

About Hard Times

I know Brandon and Whitney will have a great marriage. They compliment one another so well and the love in their eyes was very evident not just on their wedding day, but other days as well, and while we say goodbye to the little boy that we have so many precious memories of, we celebrate the extraordinary young man he has become. We are so proud of you and look forward to making many more memories with his adorable family.

I close with a recipe for Family Pie. The ingredients are:
1 handful of forgiveness
2 heaping cupfuls of love
3 T wisdom
2 T good spirits
Mix together smoothly with complete faith in God. Sprinkle generously with thoughtfulness and consideration.

Much love,
Aunt Beck

Scenes from the Fletcher ceremony:
I love this picture because it is a portrait of love- a long line of love.
What a beautiful family. So precious.
3 of my favorite people: Nanny, Brandon, and my wonderful sister Beth
Girls just wanna have fun!
Kodak moment-Brandon dancing!

"Never leave your partner behind, especially in a fire."