ENLISTED/IAVA Contest Winner: Lewis Nelson

3 02 2014

EnlistedLogoENLISTED on Fox and IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America) teamed up to send three lucky winners to some Super Bowl parties in the New York area with some of the show’s stars. Lewis Nelson was one of those people. I was eager to know about this wonderful veteran and his adventure.

IAVAI noticed that you were part of the 101st Airborne Division of the Army. That has such a noble history going back to World War II. How did you become part of this division? Is it someplace you apply to or some place you are asked to join based about your skills?

The Army always tells soldiers assignments are based on the “Needs of the Army.” That being said, every soldier can fill out a sort of ‘wish list’ of assignments they’d like to have. It’s not a specific unit, but a base or geographical area. I majored in history in college and for one of my WWII class assignments, I wrote a paper on the Battle of the Bulge, particularly the role of the 101st Airborne Division. Ever since then, I’ve been fascinated with the unit, especially after reading Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers (later released as an HBO miniseries). I put Fort Campbell, KY, as my top choice and luckily they were in need of a junior solider in my career field!

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Parker Young, Lewis Nelson, Geoff Stults

You are a combat veteran so you have seen action I presume in Iraq and/or Afghanistan? How many times have you been deployed?

Yes, I deployed twice to Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division. I first arrived to the unit in 2003 after they had already departed for Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom I or OIF I). I joined them near the end of that deployment mainly participating in convoys and redeployment operations (the process of moving a deployed unit from combat back to their garrison base). I returned in early February 2004, almost exactly 10 years ago today. Later that year, the 101st Airborne created a 4th brigade combat team flagged the 506th Regimental Combat Team (Currahee). This was the same unit that was featured in Band of Brothers. I volunteered to join the new brigade and in late 2005 deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, for a full 12-month tour, returning in November of 2006 (OIF IV). I was medially retired from active duty as a staff sergeant (SSG) (E-6) in 2008, but have also deployed to Afghanistan twice as a civilian, for six months in 2012 to Kabul and four months in 2013 to Jalalabad (I just returned mid-December 2013).

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James Marsden & Lewis Nelson at the Shape Magazine and Men’s Fitness Super Bowl Party at Cipriani 42nd Street

Did you have family at home while you are deployed? I have family in various branches of the Armed Forces and it has always been difficult to see the sacrifices they make at home while their loved one is away.

The quick answer is yes. When I left for Iraq in 2003, my son was only two weeks old. Leaving him was hard, especially with all of the unknowns that first year of conflict in Iraq. When I deployed the second time, we also had a little girl, who was only six months old when I left. I unfortunately missed her learning to crawl and learning to walk, but through the beauty of the internet, I got to see it virtually! Their mother is true hero to me. She’s been so strong, able to essentially handle being a single-mother every time I leave the country. She also stayed at home with all three of our kids during my two tours to Afghanistan. To further prove she’s a hero, she’s now a volunteer firefighter and training to become a paramedic.

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Geoff Stults, Lewis Nelson, Erin Wilkinson, Craig Washington & Parker Young at the Shape Magazine and Men’s Fitness Super Bowl Party at Cipriani 42nd Street

How did you hear about the ENLISTED contest?

I follow @EnlistedonFOX and the main actors of the show on Twitter and saw the contest advertised by the cast. I’ve also been an avid supporter of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), who helped sponsor the contest, so I may have seen it through one of their tweets as well.

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Terry Crews & Lewis Nelson at the Shape Magazine and Men’s Fitness Super Bowl Party at Cipriani 42nd Street

Did you watch the show prior to this?

Ironically, I was almost a vocal dissident of the new show when they started advertising it. I fully assumed the show would mischaracterize the service, and I didn’t want to watch. But then I heard Geoff Stults talk to a Washington, DC, morning show, Elliot in the Morning, and was impressed with what he had to say. After being convinced the show was making a great effort to support the military, I gave it a shot and loved it! I immediately followed the show and their main characters on Twitter; I even downloaded the ENLISTED iPhone app and wrote a short review of the show on my own, very neglected blog http://baghl.com/2014/01/20/heres-why-i-couldnt-hate-enlisted-on-fox .

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Craig Washington, Lewis Nelson & supermodel Bar Refaeli at the Leather and Laces 2014 Super Bowl Party, Liberty Theater, Times Square

When did you learn you had won and what was your and/or your family’s reaction?

I received a phone call from IAVA just after lunch-time on Wednesday, the day after the contest ended. Funny story, I actually thought the contest included a trip to the Super Bowl. Some of the initial tweets about the contest made it seem like the contest included the game. I even jokingly tweeted that I’d definitely win since I didn’t like either team! When I got the call from Christina at IAVA, someone I had actually worked with at an IAVA event in Baltimore back in 2011, I just remember saying, “No way, really? I actually won?” It was my birthday that Saturday and I already had plans with my best friends to go to Atlantic City, so I had the mixed emotions of happiness, combined with the “oh no, what about my other plans?” Luckily my friends were excited for me, and we all decided to reschedule our Atlantic City trip. I was still pretty excited after getting the email from Christina confirming it did not, in fact, include tickets to the Super Bowl.

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Model and actress Brooklyn Decker, Craig Washington, & Lewis Nelson at the Leather and Laces 2014 Super Bowl Party, Liberty Theater, Times Square

Were you the only winner or did they pick others?

There were three winners, all of us Iraq or Afghanistan veterans that are no longer on active duty.

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Nelly performing at the Playboy Super Bowl Party at the Bud Light Hotel

Had you been on active duty how would that have worked? Because it was a special event, would you have asked for special leave of absence, or something else?

All three of the contest winners are civilians, but if it had been military, we would have just told our leadership about the contest and requested leave. Unless there was some crazy circumstance, almost any command would willingly authorize the time off!

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Wristbands from Leather and Laces, the Maxim Big Game Weekend Super Bowl Party at eSpace, and the Playboy Super Bowl Party at the Bud Light Hotel

Had you ever been to New York City before?

This was my fourth trip to New York City, with all three prior trips being focused on hitting all of the tourist sites. My first and second trips to New York City were in 2000 and 2001, so I visited the World Trade Center prior to 9/11 and then again in December of 2001, while I was on leave from basic training for Christmas (I enlisted the day after 9/11). I also took my two girls to the city just last June. I absolutely love New York City, the culture, the city, the restaurants, and the events. Now that I realize I can get there and back for $60 on a bus from Washington, D.C., I may be going back more often! It helps that I have a cousin and a few friends in the immediate area.

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ESPN First Take

Who picked you up from the airport (or did you rent a car to get to the hotel?)

The contest included round-trip airfare on Southwest Airlines provided through IAVA. Being so close here in DC, I didn’t see a reason to fly. I instead came up a day early (I booked a room at the same hotel IAVA provided for Friday through Monday) and took the DC2NY bus. While IAVA provided instructions for how to get from the airport to the hotel, we were pretty much on our own to get there and be ready at the hotel lobby Friday night.

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Cam Newton at the ESPN First Take filming

Can you share which Super Bowl parties you attended?

Sure! The Shape Magazine and Men’s Fitness Super Bowl Party at Cipriani 42nd Street, Leather and Laces 2014 Super Bowl Party hosted by Bar Refaeli and Brooklyn Decker at Liberty Theater, Times Square, the Maxim Big Game Weekend Super Bowl Party at eSpace, and the Playboy Super Bowl Party at the Bud Light Hotel.

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Desean Jackson at the ESPN First Take filming

Were there any standout experiences for you?

Hanging out with Geoff and Parker was definitely a great time, so let’s just assume that was the best experience in itself. Other highlights included a five-minute conversation I had with Terry Crews about football and the military (he’s really a stand-up guy), and then a very similar five-minute conversation with Brooklyn Decker. She is definitely a supporter of the troops, and I got to talk to her about some of her time on the show The League, which is one of my favorites.

Many of the celebrities we met throughout the night, including Terry Crews, James Marsden, Ari Sandel, Josh Hopkins, Brooklyn Decker, and Bar Refaeli, were very supportive of the troops and happy to meet us. We felt very welcomed in the VIP sections of these parties, places I never imagined I would ever be sitting. It was a far cry from a plywood tactical operations center adjacent to Sadr City in Baghdad.

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A T-shirt ESPN First Take gave out depending on which team they wanted to win.

Who from the cast of ENLISTED were with you? What are they like?

It was just Geoff Stults (SSG Hill) @geoffstults and Parker Young (PFC Hill) @parker_young. We were also accompanied by two of Geoff’s friends who were also wonderful people! I was just telling my best friends at home Geoff and Parker were just like most of my other guy friends and if they lived here, and weren’t celebs, we’d likely be friends. Both are very personable and fun to talk to about life, military, their show, etc. They were really great around their fans (who often recognized them on the street and asked for pictures) and also wonderful about introducing us to people and explaining we were Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. And of course, just like the show, Parker is definitely just like a younger brother to Geoff! I actually feel bad because I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to Parker at the end of the night – if you’re reading this, thanks for the fun evening brother!!

How long was the trip, from the trip day up to the return day back?

I didn’t necessarily follow the program because I came up a day early and then left a day early. The contest itself provided a hotel from Friday to Monday, with the activities starting at 9 pm Friday night through 2 am Saturday morning. One of the other vets and I actually stayed with Geoff and Parker until 4 am before catching a taxi back to the hotel. IAVA provided the transportation, hotel, vehicle and driver for the night, and met us at the hotel Friday night to make the introductions. Saturday through Monday we were provided a hotel room and just encouraged to go enjoy being in New York City! Since the contest didn’t include game tickets, and since I’m not a Denver or Seattle fan (Go Packers!!!), I actually took the bus back to DC and watched the game with my friends in Virginia.

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Lewis Nelson, Geoff Stults & Craig Washington saying goodbye after a night of Super Bowl parties (4:00 a.m. by the way)!

The show has gotten some feedback from people on the internet in the service who are upset that it is not respecting the Army (for a wide variety of reasons). What would you say to them?

I was one of them, but I changed my mind. The actors attended a short boot camp at Ft Bliss with actual drill sergeants they could watch on FOX’s YouTube channel through a series of webisodes. They also have a crew including multiple military advisors—both former commissioned officers and non-commissioned officers—who joined the show after the Pilot episode (so I’d tell them not to judge the show on the Pilot alone). They also have to remember this show is a comedy and I’d hope they can look past the obvious parts of the plot that would never happen in the military and focus on the characters. If they were straight male soldiers, I would point out the fact that they could just enjoy Angelique Cabral as SSG Perez—she’s definitely one of my favorite parts of the show! The show has already hit a few topics very close to home, even for me… such as the more subtle signs of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) shown in “Pete’s Airstream” or the sadness and joy of family separation and reuniting from combat deployments shown in the episode “Homecoming.” There are also quite a few comical moments many soldiers should instantly relate to from garrison life. Finally, I would encourage them to watch the show because the show’s writers and producers, Kevin Biegel and Mike Royce, really respect the military. They and the cast are working with veterans’ organizations, such as Operation Gratitude and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, to support the troops and help raise awareness for military issues.

(You can help support these great organizations by clicking on the links above or below).

Biography

armyLewis Nelson is a 36-year old former Army staff sergeant with two combat tours to Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division. He enlisted in the Army in Charlottesville, VA, the day after 9/11 and served seven years active duty as a cryptologic linguist before being medically retired in 2008. He is a father to three children age 10 and under and now resides back in Charlottesville, VA, where he works as a DoD employee and freelance web designer and social media strategy consultant. In addition to supporting IAVA, he is also an active member and webmaster for an American Legion Post and is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). You can follow Lewis in Twitter at @lewisnelson or Instagram @baghl

All pictures were provided by Lewis Nelson and I wish to thank him for letting me borrow them for the blog post. 





Touch Season 1 Episode 4 “Kite Strings”

30 01 2013

(I got behind in the spring on these recaps. With Touch returning Friday, February 8, I thought I’d catch up).

Martin (Kiefer Sutherland) receives a letter from the chief medical examiner presumably about his wife’s remains at the World Trade Center. He looks over at the red kite, picks it up and leaves.

The newspaper says that the TriState Lotto winner was costing them $140,625 a week having not claimed the prize. He won $190 million. (I should be an editor–if you look closely enough you’ll see that the newspaper article repeats twice).

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Flash to the First Congregational Church of Lynchburg where Randall Meade (Titus Welliver) reads the marquee, “You have questions? He has answers.”

Jake (David Mazouz) is narrating in the background that we are always waiting for messages. He poses that if we have not received a message, it might be because we haven’t listened hard enough.

At the center, Martin tells Clea (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) said that they have not yet identified his wife’s remains (Fact: 40% of the victims in the WTC have never been identified). Martin regrets not being there for Sarah and Jake because he thought he had all the time in the world. He wants to take Jake to the cemetery and Clea approves. Jake runs to Bobby Aresa (Kiko Ellsworth) at Sarah’s grave with his kite in hand. Bobby was a bike messenger and knew Sarah from the WTC and they became friends. Sarah Bohm was born on 4/3/1970. (I don’t know if that is significant but thought I would write it down). Jake looks down at his dropped red book with combinations of 9-5 with varying decimal points.

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Martin looks as the clock on his cell phone changes to 9:50. Jake releases the kite. Jake is wearing a red shirt, too. Jake and Martin follow the kite. Eventually they come to an intersection where we see “checks cashed 9.5%“. Jake crosses the street.

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All the way around the globe in Iraq, we see Tarik (Wesam Keesh) and Abdul (Shak Ghacha) who we have met in previous episodes. Band practice is at 9:50 p.m. The US soldiers hire them to play at the base. Abdul excitedly lets First Lt. Laura Davis (Sprague Grayden) know when her convoy follows.

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Back in Lynchburg, Randall Meade observes a very unconfident preacher. He tells the congregation to open to Luke 9 chapter 5. “And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them.” In historical context, the passage is about when armed with the power and authority that Jesus himself had been displaying, the 12 disciples are now sent out to continue the work that Jesus had been performing throughout Gallean ministry. Randall tells Pastor Steve (Josiah Early) that “he has answers” is a bunch of crap.

There is an ad on a subway sign that says Citrus O has only 270 calories and is 99.5 degrees in the shade.

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Another sign says, “Construction on Ninth Street; expect a half-hour delay.”

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Jake walks into the apartment building to door “65” that turns into “95” after a ball hits the door at the precise moment he is there. It’s Bobby from the cemetery. Martin asks him if 9.5 or 9-1/2 means anything to him.

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Jake walks into the apartment. Bobby’s daughter’s name is Sarah.

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In Iraq, the two military vehicles get hit by IEDs and the soldiers are under fire. An injured Laura pulls a squadmate out of the vehicle and gets away from the scene.

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Jake seems attracted to the red roses on the table as Bobby shares his memory of Sarah with Martin. He knew that the WTC would come down as he felt the instructions to go back into the offices was wrong. He has been feeling guilty for not going after Sarah.

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Pastor Steve shares how the church has stayed in the family and the plans his father had for expansion. He tells Randall that he had plans to go up to New York and follow his girlfriend (which turns out to be Laura). Randall shares his story about what happened with Sarah. He also shares about his background in construction work growing up. Steve asks him if he could look at something in the basement. As they walk down the stairs, they fall in and get locked in.

Tarik’s band, Deep Lightning, is using an amp, a RichterVox Model 95-A, but they want to make sure they don’t exceed the safety level of volts.

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In the background is a poster of Andrew James who is a famous bass player. (Yes, I notice this stuff).

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They ask King Roadie (Joshua Leonard) who types in 50 volts. King Roadie apparently keeps his old instruction sets in a red suitcase.

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The soldiers are asked to give their sit-rep 9-5. They still cannot locate the two injured soldiers.

Jake goes into a room in Bobby’s apartment, locks the door and climbs out to the fire escape. He goes after the red kite. King Roadie’s girlfriend is startled by Jake at the window (Jake had changed the satellite signal where the red kite was caught). The girlfriend falls back, a pen drops on the keyboard and 50 volts gets changed to 950 volts.

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Jake reaches for the kite. Martin realizes that Jake wants Bobby to help him get it. Bobby catches Jake before he falls. Martin tells him that in saving Jake, his debt he felt to Sarah was repaid.

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Over in Iraq, 950 volts makes for quite a light display and it lights up a particular transformer where the two soldiers are. Their coordinates were 3-0-9-5. (Look in the right corner of my screen. There are 9:59 minutes left of the show–LOL).

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Bobby remembered how 9-5 was significant in his life with Sarah. It was the last session with Sarah. Sarah was tutoring him to help him get his GED so he could better provide for his family.

Pastor Steve talks to Laura who is not sure if she will make it, but wanted him to know that something he said to her helped save her squadmate. He tells Laura he has been given a sign to move on with his life. He plans to go to Germany to be with her. Randall thinks his question has been answered, too.

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Back at the apartment, Martin looks in Sarah’s appointment book where he sees B.A. (Bobby Aresa) in her 9/5/2001 appointments. He also finds a receipt to Thomas Brothers Jewelry. He goes there. They held onto the wedding ring that belonged to Sarah. She was having it engraved with 1 + 1 = 3.

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My Visit to the National September 11 Memorial

8 09 2012

My Visit to the 9/11 Memorial

Three times I have tried to write this blog. For one reason or another they mysteriously disappeared from my computer. No doubt my son with autism had a role in that. I could imagine him looking at it, saying to himself (because he is nonverbal): “This is crap.” DELETE. So I am trying again.

In July, I headed up to Long Island for my high-school reunion. It was an epic trip. I’ve been up to the New Jersey/New York area many times since 9/11/2001 but it never involved going into the city. I was born in Brooklyn. I went to Patchogue-Medford High School on Long Island. When my son’s godmother asked me what I wanted to do in addition to my reunion, a trip into the city was very high on my to-do list. I needed to go.

I still cannot watch video from that dreaded day without panic rising up into my throat. Many of our friends lived outside the city, but many of them worked in the city. The question was “where?” It took about 2 weeks to locate them all. I found out many years later that I knew one of the people who died there. Class of 1980, Al Maler, was working at Cantor Fitzgerald in the North Tower on that day. His co-worker, Eric Stahlman, also a Patchogue-Medford High School alumni also lost his life, but he had graduated many years earlier. With the passage of time and memories faded, extents of conversation lost, I still do have visual memory of Al, remembering his athleticism, his kindness, his smile. He was around my friend, Phil Bender, quite a lot because of his involvement in the service organization of our school for the guys, “Key Club.” There was a third person I wanted to look up while there–Patchogue first-responder Andrew Desperito, who was from Brooklyn.

As I remember him…

We had tickets to go at 4:30. The tickets are free, but they need to control how many people are going in. Security there is tighter than at the airport. President Obama was also going to be in New York City on this same day, so perhaps it was even more secure than usual. I oddly ran into a person I knew 20 years ago in Sugar Land, Texas who worked at Target; he still lives there, and here we meet up 1500 miles away. I braced myself for the raw emotion. My thoughts were with the families. “Good God, if I feel this way, I cannot begin to imagine the depth of their pain.”

Security is tight.

From the time we walked near the area, I knew I was walking on hallowed ground. When the 7 buildings collapsed, they carried dust clouds. Those dust clouds also carried what was left of some who died, which extended out from the area for blocks. Forty percent of the families have never received the remains of their loved ones.

Circles of the debris field.

The site is beautiful, peaceful. There are plaques that go around the pools of water where the North and South Towers once existed. On those are names of the people who died, not only in this attack on this site, but the people who died on all the planes, the Pentagon, and the 1993 terrorist attack. Below the parapets is a space where you can put your hand in and touch the water. All the sensory features add to the experience–light, touch, sound.

There is a computer over near the not-yet-opened museum where you can look up the names and see what section of parapet their names appear.

The computer area…

As I did with the Vietnam Memorial wall when it visited Houston, I walked around both towers, looking at every single name of those who perished, lingering only at the names of the people for whom I was searching, touching the name to say, “I’m sorry, and thank you.” What I was sorry for? For the evil that existed in the world, for any role that our country may have played in the events leading up to that day, for the politics that rule the world, catching innocent people in the crosshairs. And my thanks–for the contribution that their lives had and will continue to have in generations to come, to their families who were not present when I visited, the example they set of how to have hate touch their lives in the most personal way possible, yet choose to stand up and say, “We will not continue the cycle of hate.” They had many hurdles to overcome just to put the names of those who died onto the final bronze parapets. Thirty-two representatives of various family organizations had to work together to come to consensus. Congress could take a lesson from these people’s collaboration.

Paraphrasing from the book produced by National Geographic, “A Place of Remembrance, Official Book of the National September 11 Memorial”: “By 2006, they came together. The nine groups would be organized by location and circumstances in which the victim found themselves during the attack. Around the North Tower pool, people working in or visiting the tower; those aboard Flight 11; victims of the 1993 bombing. Around the South Tower pool: Those working in or visiting the south tower, those aboard flight 175, the Pentagon victims, Flight 77 victims, Flight 93 victims and first responders. The names of colleagues were kept together; first responders were organized by headings indicating their agency and unit. Then the kin of the victims who asked for specific names to be inscribed together (like husband and wife, or siblings, or best friends, or ‘in some cases entire families’ were honored.”

I found myself lingering on other names, too. I had heard that the babies of pregnant women were also mentioned at the site, but seeing the actual inscription is powerful: …and unborn child. Coming home with the National Geographic book added insight into the names where they show how families were grouped together, sometimes with different names.

The unborn remembered…

Alfred Russell Maler’s name resides at N-54; Eric Stahlman at N-46; Andrew Despeirto at S-18.

My school mate, Al Maler.

I began to get very irritated. I noticed that not everyone was respecting the site for the sacred place it was. There were families taking pictures, smiling and laughing right in front of the names of the dead. Seriously? You couldn’t have turned around and taken it around the tree that is 180 degrees to your current position? I understand taking pictures of the parapet–I did myself–but not having a grand old time as if you were visiting the Statue of Liberty.

According to my friend, she saw a woman doing a “sexy pose” for her boyfriend or husband right in front of the parapet names. I am glad I did not see that because I would have been in her face, admonishing them for their inappropriate behavior.

I went to visit one of the 9/11 Memorial workers to try to help me understand this because it was really bothering me (and writing this, I am still moved to tearful emotion in my search for understanding). Tim told me that when it was just the families and friends at first, it was a solemn place but one of friends coming together, having experienced a similar pain, who had become a much larger family. But as it had become a “tourist site” people do not have a connection with the names and with that came a change in how people acted. I told him I did not buy that argument. I had zero connection to the names on the Vietnam Memorial wall. It was touring and was put in a park. At the wall, there were tears, people speaking quietly, silence, prayer, and that included young children. There was a park area surrounding it and that is where laughter and running and playing occurred. I asked Tim if he could explain where all the buildings were going up. And then I realized I had a video camera and if he could be so kind as to explain that to me again and allow me to videotape. He was kind enough to oblige my request.

On my way out, my hope of treating the site with respect was renewed. A woman was explaining to two children, obviously born after 2001, the magnitude of the tragedy that occurred: “In 2001, this was the site of the most terrible thing that ever happened on US soil…” I was not going to be nitpicky about other horrific events, like the Civil War battle of Antietam where more than 23,100 people lost their lives, or Pearl Harbor, but it was refreshing to see lessons being taught. These children would learn about the other tragedies further away from their tender life span as they grew.

I stood in front of the gift shop and took a deep breath. A friend at my high school reunion said she was put off by the gift shop. I stood there changing my mind yes, no, yes, no, to the point that I drove my friend crazy. I finally decided I needed to form my own opinion and went in. I also felt like I may regret it if I did not go in. I felt myself becoming claustrophobic and quickly scanned the items available. A magnet or a pen that said, 9/11 Memorial? I don’t think so. I knew that the purchase would help maintain the memorial, so a purchase was important. So I quickly picked two items–an American flag that contained the names of those who died, and a golden retriever stuff toy that had “search and rescue” to honor all the service animals from that day and of their continued service when their mission turned from search and rescue to helping alleviate the sadness of the people still trying to clean up the area. And then I saw the National Geographic book.

The flag with all the names on it.

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Life moves on. In a city as big as New York, where property is at a premium, building anew has to occur. As a Christian, I am embarrassed by people of my own faith who persecute people of Muslim faith just because of the radical extremists. The Mission Statement from the National September 11 Memorial is this: “Remember and honor the thousands of innocent men, women and children murdered by terrorists in the horrific attacks of February 26, 1993 and September 11, 2001. Respect this place made sacred through tragic loss. Recognize the endurance of those who survived, the courage of those who risked their lives to save others, and the compassion of all who supported us in our darkest hours. May the lives remembered, the deeds recognized, and the spirit reawakened be eternal beacons, which reaffirm respect for life, strengthen our resolve to preserve freedom and inspire an end to hatred, ignorance, and intolerance.”  Sayings on materials sold in the gift shop are “In the darkness, we shine together” or “United by Hope.” Survivor Bruno Dellinger, from the 47th floor of the North Tower shares in the book, “You had in this building people from all over the world, all religions, all colors of skin. All everything. All social backgrounds and they lived in harmony. Everyone was very proud to be a World Trade Center tenant, one way or another, working in the World Trade Center. And for me, those flags that were in the lobby of the Trade Center represented a utopia that only can exist in New York.”

The commemoration of the 9/11 National Memorial will be on livestream at 8:30 AM Eastern time, 7:30 AM central time. I will get Patrick on the bus for school and will tune in. You do not have to actual visit the National Memorial site to help support it. Donations can be made (click here), or you can purchase items on-line from their gift shop (click here). I will proudly be displaying the flag purchased on our front lawn along with ribbons and flowers. My school mate’s smile will be forever inscribed in my memory.

Someone asked me, “If it so sad, why do you go?” The same reason why I sat through “Schindler’s List” or people go visit The Holocaust Museum or people visit the concentration camps throughout Europe. We must never forget. But we have to take those lessons we learned in those horrific moments in our history and learn from them, or we are doomed to repeat them. And we keep repeating them. We can learn from the words of Mr. Dellinger and the example set forth by those families of the victims of 911. Choose love.