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9/11 Ten Years Later

Kyle and the 9/11 Firefighters

Kyle and the 9/11 Firefighters

There are some things I never forget. The day President Kennedy was assassinated. The day the Challenger exploded. Columbine. What I was doing on 9/11/2001. My husband called me and said turn on the television. I got there in time to see the second plane hit the tower. I watched with my hand over my mouth then turned to my little son and said “Kyle, we’re going to war.” All day long I walked around in a daze. That evening I was called by NBC News. Justice correspondent, Pete Williams, had been vacationing in Yellowstone National Park. He could not get back to Washington so he went live from KUSA in Denver. I was his producer. I wasn’t at Ground Zero. I wasn’t among my east coast colleagues. After a couple days Pete finally was able to get home and I returned to my routine and family.

But 9/11 wouldn’t let go of me. I was consumed by the reports and confused by my feelings. I was feeling detached, panicky and somehow responsible. The more I listened to television and radio the more I felt that the United States had somehow brought this upon ourselves. I needed to bear witness to get some perspective. I decided to go to New York and see things for myself. No one I knew would travel with me so I took my son, Kyle, the same one who looked at me confused when I said “we’re going to war.” We arrived in New York City one month to the day after the attacks. My family was incredulous that I would take him there. My husband’s family was furious that I would put him in danger. What kind of mother was I?

I was afraid to get on a plane. I pushed through it. I was afraid of the Muslim cab driver who picked us up from LaGuardia Airport. I pushed through it. He was as shellshocked as everyone else. I was stunned by the incredible compassion of New Yorkers who were so wounded yet so grateful that we had come. Even the homeless thanked us from their street corners for helping New York get back on its feet. Broadway put on its musicals but theatres were empty. The city was edgy. There were anthrax scares. We went to Ground Zero while it was smoldering. The facade was still standing, crews were still combing through the wreckage and the smell of death remained in the air. We read the flyers with faces of the missing. We saw the flowers and makeshift memorials. I was stunned into silence. I finally cried uncontrollably when we went to Grand Central Station and saw the bulletin boards full of pleas from families desperate to locate loved ones. It was all so much to take in.

I wanted Kyle to know what was lost on that day and what we still had. We couldn’t go to the Statue of Liberty so I took him for a ride on the Staten Island Ferry so he could at least get an idea of what this country stands for and why this attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the very essence of America, was so traumatic. And the most profound thing happened. On board the ferry were so many firefighters. They were all from out of town. They had come to attend funerals of their fallen brothers because there simply were not enough firefighters left to honor so many who had died. They were riding the ferry from one funeral to another to give their brothers a proper farewell. Kyle stood among them and had his picture taken. Kyle and the heroes. Later when we were in Midtown Manhattan we paused and watched a funeral processions for a fallen policeman. It was so somber. There was so much sadness in the air.

Now ten years later we pause and reflect and watch memorial tributes on all the television networks then on September 12 we will quickly get on with our lives. So much has changed as a result of 9/11 but so much has really stayed the same. I think most people wish it would just go away and we no longer would live with this cloud of vulnerability. The memories are so painful. But of course it won’t leave us and we persevere. It never will go away and we shall always remember the day and what we were doing when we first found out. I will always be grateful for that time I spent with my son in New York in October 2001. It gave me a chance to grieve and such a sense of clarity. The United States did nothing to provoke this. Did nothing to deserve this terrorist attack at the very soul of America. And yes we did go to war. At the moment it seemed so right. So necessary. We’ve had a lot of time to reflect on that too.

Going to New York after 9/11 was life altering for me and one of the most profound teaching moments for my child. A couple years ago I took my other son, Blair, to New York City. It was a much more festive time but we still went to Ground Zero. It’s a construction site now with a memorial to the side. I kept babbling about memories from the trip I took with Kyle. I wanted Blair to feel it too. We went to the little church next door that withstood the blast and is a memorial to this day. A choir was singing in memory of the fallen, all those years later. There were touching memorials to the New Yorkers and first responders who died. And we went to the Statue of Liberty so he would know what was lost and what this country still stands for to Americans and the world.

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Pearl Harbor Day

Today is Pearl Harbor Day, commemorating the Japanese attack on Hawaii on December 7, 1941 which brought America into World War II. President Roosevelt called it a “date that will live in infamy.” It was the backstory for kids who grew up in the islands.  We learned about the horror in history books and movies like “Tora, Tora, Tora.”  To this day I still point out Kipapa Gulch near the North Shore and tell my boys it’s where the Kamikaze pilots crossed onto Oahu. We used to take all our visitors to the Arizona Memorial when we drove them around the island. It was our 9/11 and it happened 69 years ago today. Not many men and women who survived that day are still alive but we should add it to the list of things to never forget.

http://pacificislandparks.com/2010/12/07/hawaii-remembers-pearl-harbor/

http://www.erikanderson.net/pearlharbor/facts.html

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Oil Spill: The Ripple Effect

I finally got to the Gulf coast to work on a story about the oil spill for the PBS Newshour. I didn’t see any oil but what I saw was a a boat load of fear. Correspondent Tom Bearden and I visited Bayou La Batre, Alabama to attend a town hall meeting with Ken Feinberg, the Massachusetts lawyer who must decide how to allocate BP’s 20 billion dollar compensation fund. He has done this kind of work previously for victims of 9/11 and Virginia Tech.  Feinberg was mostly reassuring people that help was on the way and was listening to the concerns among the folks who packed city hall at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning. What struck me was how far reaching this catastrophe is on the people who live in towns that dot the Gulf coast. Bayou La Batre bills itself as the “Seafood Capital of Alabama.”  The oil spill has rippled through the whole community disrupting the entire seafood chain.  Obviously the fishermen have lost the season, then there are the people who store and process the seafood like brothers Bruce and Delane Seaman who had to shut down their oyster shucking plant putting about 40 people out of work.  They don’t expect to ever reopen.  Their customers have gone elsewhere.  Then there are folks like Patrick and Lillie Kraver who own Kraver’s restaurant in Daphne, on the other side of Mobile Bay, that sells the seafood and have seen business tumble by about 40%.  When Tom asked them if they could survive they said “God would provide.”  These are people whose families have worked in the seafood industry for generations.  And then there are the more indirect losses. The man who has a candy and gift store on the beach and has seen his tourist traffic dry up, another man who has watched his real estate property values tank, even the local minister who has seen his offerings cut almost in half. He reminded Ken Feinberg that when everyone leaves the area it will be the churches and faith based organizations that care for fragile residents.  People came from as far away as Pensacola, Florida.  Everyone had a story of loss and hardship and a sense of skepticism deep as the Gulf about whether help was really coming or whether this was more PR.  Most have felt jerked around by British Petroleum and are hoping Ken Feinberg is really here to help make them at least partially whole.  He says he has received claims from 48 states so he has a huge task trying to decide who will be eligible to receive money and who doesn’t qualify.  Unlike a hurricane which comes and goes this catastrophe and its impacts could crush the community for years and everyone needs help to weather the storm and stay afloat.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/business/july-dec10/compensation_07-27.html

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Remembering 9/11

Kyle and the 9/11 Firefighters

Kyle and the 9/11 Firefighters

There are some things I never forget.  The day President Kennedy was assassinated.  The day the Challenger exploded.  Columbine.  What I was doing on 9/11/2001.  My husband called me and said turn on the TV.  I got there in time to see the second plane hit the tower.  I watched with my hand over my mouth then turned to my little son and said “Kyle, we’re going to war.”  All day long I walked around in a daze.  That evening I was called by NBC News.  Justice correspondent, Pete Williams, had been vacationing in Yellowstone National Park.  He could not get back to Washington so he needed to go live from KUSA in Denver.  I was his producer.  I wasn’t at Ground Zero.  I wasn’t among my New York colleagues.  Pete went home and so did I. 

But 9/11 wouldn’t let go of me.  I was consumed by the reports and confused by my feelings.  I was feeling detached, panicky and somehow responsible.  The more I listened to TV and radio the more I felt that the United States had somehow brought this upon ourselves.  I needed to bear witness to get some perspective.  I decided to go to New York and see things for myself.  No one I knew would travel with me so I took my little son, Kyle, the same one who looked at me confused when I said “we’re going to war.”   We arrived in New York City one month to the day after the attacks.  My family was incredulous that I would take him there.  My husband’s family was furious that I would put him in danger.  What kind of mother was I?

I was afraid to get on a plane.  I pushed through it.  I was afraid of the Muslim cab driver who picked us up from LaGuardia Airport.  I pushed through it.  He was as shellshocked as everyone else.  I was stunned by the incredible compassion of New Yorkers who were so wounded yet so grateful that we had come.    Even the homeless thanked us from their street corners.  Broadway put on its musicals but theatres were empty.  The city was edgy.  There were anthrax scares.  We went to Ground Zero while it was smoldering.  The facade was still standing, crews were still combing through the wreckage and the smell of death remained in the air.  We read the flyers with faces of the missing.  We saw the flowers and makeshift memorials.  I was stunned into silence.  I finally cried uncontrollably when we went to Grand Central Station and saw the bulletin boards full of  pleas from families desperate to locate loved ones.  It was all so much to take in. 

I wanted Kyle to know what was lost on that day and what we still had.  We couldn’t go to the Statue of Liberty so I took him for a ride on the Staten Island Ferry so he could at least get an idea of what this country stands for and why this attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the very essence of America, was so traumatic.  And the most profound thing happened.  On board the ferry were so many firefighters.  They were all from out of town.  They had come to attend funerals of their fallen brothers because there simply were not enough firefighters left to honor so many who had died.  They were riding the ferry from one to another to give their brothers a proper farewell.  Kyle stood among them and had his picture taken.  Kyle and the heroes.  Later when we were in Midtown Manhattan we paused and watched a funeral processions for a fallen policeman.  It was so somber.  There was so much sadness in the air. 

Now eight years later we pause and reflect and name the dead but then we quickly get on with our lives.  So much has changed as a result of 9/11 but so much has really stayed the same.  I think most people wish it would just go away.  The memories are so painful.  But of course it won’t leave us.  It never will go away and we shall always remember the day and what we were doing when we first found out.  I will always be grateful for that time I spent with my son in New York in October 2001.  It gave me a chance to grieve and such a sense of clarity.  The United States did nothing to provoke this.  Did nothing to deserve this terrorist attack at the very soul of America.  And yes we did go to war.  At the moment it seemed so right.  So necessary. 

Going to New York after 9/11 was life altering for me and one of the most profound teaching moments for my child.  This summer I took my other son, Blair, to New York City.  It was a much more festive time but we still went to Ground Zero.  It’s a construction site now with a memorial to the side.  I kept babbling about memories from the trip I took with Kyle.  I wanted Blair to feel it too.  We went to the little church next door that withstood the blast and is a memorial to this day.  A choir was singing in memory of the fallen.  There were touching memorials to the New Yorkers and first responders who died.  And we went to the Statue of Liberty so he would know what was lost and what this country still stands for to Americans and the world.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com