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Posts Tagged ‘history’

Bonnie Baker circa 1945

The long-forgotten contributors to the American pastime are the women in this country. Not just the wives and mothers who have supported and encouraged some of the best players to join the Yankees, the Sox, the Indians and the Giants; not just the few trailblazing women featured in A League of Their Own; but the vast sea of females who have fought for decades to be able to swing a bat at a hard ball, to stand on the diamond and feel the thrill of The Show.  Women have stood in the stands and cheered on their favorite teams, stood on the field as professional and amateur players, stood behind the plate as umpires, stood in the front offices as executives, even stood in the press box as sportswriters. We have, since the game began, struggled to have an equal place at Home Plate – and I wonder if we will ever be able to finally gain full equity?

The argument can be made that baseball itself is a microcosm of American society at large – from the capitalist system of outrageous salaries, free agencies, and merchandising to the socioeconomic disparities between “haves” and “have nots”; from the ethnic opening of the game from its all-white origins to its geographic expansion across this great land of ours. Baseball, too, parallels the struggles that minorities (including women) have had to make to be included in the American pastime. Just as in society at large, women have struggled to break gender, race, and age barriers to participate in a game that they loved. Facing hardship, bias, intolerance and physical difficulties, women have been able to transform their places on the diamond and have forced their way into a game that has been predominantly male.

From base ball’s very beginnings in the 19thcentury, women had to fight the social conventions in order to simply play in gender-segregated leagues. Teams formed at women’s colleges almost simultaneously with the development of professional men’s baseball – but of course women

Vassar College "Resolutes" Base Ball Club (June 1876)

would be discouraged from ever considering a career in baseball. These teams were formed for exercise only and were expected to only play other female teams. The first known women’s professional team was a team of nine African-American women called the Dolly Vardens, formed in Philadelphia in 1867, just one year after Philadelphia’s first black men’s teams organized and two years before the  first white men’s professional baseball club formed, the Cincinnati Red Stockings. These teams could not, of course, interact with their male counterparts or even dress as practically. Most uniforms were long-sleeved, frilled shirts with high necklines, wide, floor-length skirts, and heeled, high-button shoes. In 1870s America, an American woman could not vote or own property in her own name after she married; she could play baseball, though, as long as she could play it in an outfit that weighed almost 30 pounds!

The first women’s professional game (i.e. players received paychecks) was in 1875 in which the Blondes played the Brunettes in Springfield, Illinois and by 1879 the Philadelphia Blue Stockings and the New York Red Stockings (both female ‘nines’) were battling it out in Philadelphia for the female championship. This was just the start of female teams barnstorming the country and by the 1890s, these “Bloomer Girl” clubs were actually allowed to play against men’s town clubs, semi-pro clubs, and minor league teams – they rarely played against other girls’ teams. Interestingly, the average girls’ club of this era usually included at

Star Bloomer Girls Team (Indianapolis, IN) circa 1900

least 3 men playing (often in drag); Rogers Hornsby and Smokey Joe Wood got their starts on these teams.

Around the turn of the 20thcentury, women began to make inroads into the male teams and leagues. In 1898, Lizzie Arlington (real name Elizabeth Stroud) became the first woman to sign a contract to pitch for the Reading Coal Heavers of the Atlantic League. Alta Weiss joined a men’s semiprofessional team in 1907 and was known for her refusal to wear a skirt on the field – and for leaving her baseball career to become a medical doctor. In 1904, Amanda Clement was the first woman to be paid to umpire and umpired professionally for 6 years after that. In 1908, Maude Nelson was the starting pitcher for the men’s Cherokee Indian Baseball Club. And from 1911 to 1916, the St. Louis Cardinals were owned by Helene Britton. Women were taking places all over the game!

Just as women nationwide were pushing for equal rights in the voting booths, the homes, and in businesses, they also found more opportunities in baseball. The 1920s saw the formation of women’s factory teams, the most famous of which was the Philadelphia Bobbies, founded in 1922 by Mary O’Gara, Edith Houghton and Loretta “Stick” Lipski, who made headlines by travelling all over the East Coast and even abroad to play in Japan. But women were under enormous pressure to stay away from the male milieu of baseball – they were ‘supposed’ to be playing softball. Softball, first played in 1887, was really where women were being encouraged to participate. Because of its different rules – including shorter base paths ergo a smaller field, a larger ball, underhand pitching, and no steals – many assumed it was an easier game and more suited to the ‘feminine temperament.’ But it truly is a different game (and, by no means easier or more womanly, just ask any of the millions of men who play it today) and was not what the female baseball aficionado of the time wanted to play!

Edith Houghton, circa 1925

Women were falling in love with America’s game – the traditional seventh-inning stretch ditty, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” was written in 1908 about a young woman’s insistence that her beau can only date her if he takes her out to a game. For the first time in history, women could see themselves in the face of the game, in the face of Lizzie Murphy who in 1928 became the first person, of either gender, to play for both the American League and National League in All-Star games. And in the face of Edith Houghton, who played for the Bobbies and left to play for New York’s Bloomer Girls and the Hollywood Girls, eventually ending up making $35 a week playing men’s minor league teams. (As a side note, after playing for the Navy WAVES in World War II, Edith wrote to Bob Carpenter, owner of the Philadelphia Phillies, asking for a job as a scout, making her the first female scout in

Jackie Mitchell of the Chattanooga Lookouts (1931)

the major leagues). Or in the face of Jackie Mitchell, who was signed at age 17 to the Chattanooga Lookouts in 1931 and, during an exhibition game with the New York Yankees, struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, causing baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis to void her contract and declare women unfit to play baseball as the game was “too strenuous”. Babe Ruth was quoted in a Chattanooga newspaper as having said:

“I don’t know what’s going to happen if they begin to let women in baseball. Of course, they will never make good. Why? Because they are too delicate. It would kill them to play ball every day.”

Mitchell continued to play professionally, even at one point travelling with the House of David, a men’s team famous for their long hair and beards – she would occasionally wear a fake beard just for the publicity. These were the women that were inspiring a whole new generation of baseball fans, a diverse and plucky bunch of ‘girls.’ Women of all classes could aspire to the highest level of baseball!

Unfortunately, when the Depression hit, all Americans of all genders and races were forced to concentrate on more pressing problems. Opportunities for paychecks were limited and sure weren’t going to be wasted on a girl in the game! Despite the “Bloomer Girls” that had been playing professionally for almost 40 years (the last of which disbanded in 1934), the public opinion in the 1930s was that women had “inferior abilities” in sports. There were but a few bold women who managed to keep their feet in the doors – among them Effa Manley who co-owned the Newark Eagles with her husband and took care of most of the day-to-day operations. An ardent civil rights activists, she would later coauthor a history of black baseball and would lobby for Hall of Fame inclusion of Negro League Players. She herself would become the first woman elected and inducted to the Cooperstown hall in 2006.

In the 1940s, America went off to war – and her men went too. Women’s opportunities in baseball mirrored those in the world at large. As men headed off to war in the 1940s, women moved into the workplace and again took their place on the baseball diamond. Many minor league teams had disbanded due to male personnel shortages and many feared that the major leagues would soon follow. In 1943, Philip K. Wrigley, the chewing-gum mogul who had inherited the major league Chicago Cubs franchise from his father, frantically began searching for ideas to keep his team out of ruin. His committee proposed a female league to attract the crowds to the ballparks and keep the revenue coming in while the men were off to war and the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) was born. Originally intended as a softball league, the trustees soon changed the rules of play to match the existing rules of Major League Baseball – although the retention of shorter infield distances and underhand pitching caused some controversy in the media (which would eventually resolve itself as the league adopted overhand pitching and smaller base sizes). Using some of Major League Baseball’s scouts, talented women players were recruited from all over America and Canada. Sixty women were chosen to play on four teams, which included 15 players, a manager/coach, a business manager and a female chaperone. Sadly, it was believed that each team needed to have a notable male sports figure to coach the teams in order to increase interest in the league so 4 men were chosen to ‘lead’ these new teams.

The women selected for Wrigley’s league were paid between $45 and $85 a week, for which they were expected to be skilled on the field and adhere to strict moral and personal standards off the field. Stiff codes of conduct were imposed and femininity was a high priority – the scenes in A League of Their Own showing deportment lessons and table manner classes are not fictionalized. After their daily ball practices, the teams were requested to attend evening charm school classes. Etiquette, personal hygiene, manners, and dress codes were as much a part of this experience as stolen bases, runs batted in, and pitching styles. With the assistance of Mrs. Wrigley, a new uniform was designed to highlight the delicate

AAPGBL player at work

females of these teams – no longer could they wear the trousers that had become custom for women in baseball. Fashioned after figure-skating, field hockey and women’s tennis costumes, these short-skirted tunics showed off the assets of each player. Thankfully, a pair of satin shorts and knee-high baseball socks were allowed to preserve the modesty of the players and a practical sun-blocking baseball cap completed the ensemble.

These new teams were well-received in their sponsoring cities and by the time the Racine Belles won their first World Championship in 1943, enthusiasm was high. The drastic changes in the roles of women in and out of the home (caused by the war) made for an environment much more suited to accepting women on the baseball diamond. Additionally, a trip to the ball park was an easy, inexpensive luxury in the age of food stamps, gas rationing, and long work weeks. Patriotism abounded at these games, including the opening ceremonies in which the teams formed a giant V (for victory) down the baselines followed by the Star-Spangled Banner. The players also spent time off the field visiting hospitals and veterans homes and playing exhibition games to raise funds for the Red Cross. How could a normal, red-blooded American resist the appeal of this new league?

Things began to decline when the league expanded to larger markets for the 1944 season. The media and the fandom in these larger cities were not as inclined to accept and celebrate the female league – often, they were considered only a brief side note to the daily sports reports. The larger

Rockford Peaches (1944)

stadiums put a distance between the players and the fans and removed the ability for most of the female players to be able to hit the ball over the fences for those exciting home runs. Larger cities, too, offered a more diverse set of opportunities for entertainment and people didn’t need to go to the ballpark. But, with some restructuring of the league and its ownership, the league rallied to keep afloat. And, despite the myth, when the war ended in 1945, the AAGPBL was still swinging. Junior Leagues for girls hoping to move up in the ranks were formed; spring training seasons were organized in Mississippi, Florida, and Cuba; two more teams were added and a 4-team minor league system was set up. The league peaked in attendance in the 1948 season and several notable players attracted fans across the country, including Sophie Kurys who set the stolen base record for the AAGPBL with 201 stolen bases in 203 attempts, a record that remains unequalled in baseball history (note: Ricky Henderson is second in stolen bases with only 130). When the league voted to decentralize management, publicity/promotion, and player recruitment, it was the beginning of the end. Other forms of entertainment and increasing personal wealth lured fans from the poorly organized and advertised games; additionally, the advent of televised Major League Baseball games in the early 1950s made it more comfortable to sit at home and watch the game. Revenues began to fall and several teams folded due to simple lack of money. But, during its run the AAGPBL gave over 600 women athletes the opportunity to play professional baseball on a scale never seen before or since!

With the collapse of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in the 1950s and the accompanying return to a more restrictive view of a woman’s proper sphere, women’s opportunities in baseball again declined in the postwar years. In 1952, Eleanor Engle signed a contract with the minor league Harrisburg Senators but before she could take the field, MLB commissioner Ford Frick banned women from playing on any major or minor league team, stating that women (and the accompanying attention and publicity) would distract from the game – and Engle’s contract was then quickly voided by team officials. Frick’s ban stands in effect to this day.

As an interesting side note to the AAGPBL story, black women were barred from playing and subsequently found room for their talents on men’s

Connie Morgan getting batting advice from Jackie Robinson (1953)

teams in the Negro Leagues. Three women played for the Indianapolis Clowns in the 1950s, including Connie Morgan of Philadelphia, who played second base for two years. Hilda Bolden Shorter, who grew up in Darby, Pennsylvania, inherited ownership of the Negro league Philadelphia Stars from her father Ed Bolden in 1950 and remained at the helm of the club until 1952. Several of these women, like Toni Stone, Connie Morgan, and Mamie “Peanuts” Johnson, would end their careers with statistics that shamed their male counterparts.

Women’s opportunities in baseball did not increase significantly until after passage of Title IX in 1972, which required schools that received federal funding to provide equal opportunities, including athletic opportunities, to both sexes. The women’s rights movement of the 1970s also influenced younger girls who wanted to play baseball, and in 1974, following numerous suits, Little League opened its fields to girls under court order.

Slowly, women also found positions in the media, management, and umpiring of the game. In 1967 Bernice Gera, who was born in Ernest, Pennsylvania, and grew up participating in sports of all kinds, decided to attend the Florida Baseball Umpire School, and she became the first

Bernice Gera, circa 1972

woman to complete the course. Gera tried for a number of years to break into organized baseball, but it was clear that her gender stood in the way. After taking her case to court, she umpired one game before calling it quits—it was too hard to fight for every game. Major League Baseball opened its clubhouses to female reporters in 1970 but the harassment was endless, including one female reporter who received a dead rat in the mail. In 1977, Mary Shane became the first woman employed on a daily basis to do play-by-play for the Milwaukee Brewers, hired by the famous Bill Veeck. In 1979 Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, continuing his controversial rulings, threw the women out of the clubhouses, thereby removing their ability to compete with their male counterparts. But they haven’t kept us out for long – in 2005 Suzyn Waldman with the New York Yankees became the first full-time female television commentator.

Although organized baseball officially banned women players from major and minor league teams, the women of the 1960s and 70s didn’t let this stand in their way. In 1974, with the passage of Title IX, girls could finally play baseball in their schools, in Little League, and on college teams. Umpire positions, opened up by trailblazers like Bernice Gera, Christine Wren, and Pam Postema, keep women behind home plate as well. Women in the owner’s chairs, like Effa Manley (Neward Eagles), Hilda Bolden Shorter (Philadelphia Stars), Jean Yawkey (Boston Red Sox), Jackie Autry (Anaheim Angels) and Joan Kroc (San Diego Padres) and Marge Schott (Cincinnati Reds) have allowed women to call the shots in management and financing of their teams as well. Joan Payson, as 10% owner of the New York Giants, was the only stockholder to vote against the move to San Francisco. She became majority owner of the expansion Mets in 1962 and in 1969 she became the first female owner to win the world championship and, upon her passing, left the team to her daughter and granddaughters to continue the legacy.

Opportunities for women to play professionally, however, remained scarce. Finally, in 1994 (exactly 40 years after the AAGBL folded), the Colorado Silver Bullets formed and lasted four seasons as a professional team. Women came from all over to join the club, which played men’s

Colorado Silver Bullets circa 1995

college, amateur, and semi-pro teams. But, since there was no league for these women to play in, their competition base was limited only to the men’s teams that were willing to play against them.

In the last 20 years, the American Women’s Baseball Association (AWBA), American Women’s Baseball League (AWBL), and Women’s National Adult Baseball Association (WNABA) have been organized in an effort to create an organized united baseball system for women. A Women’s World Series was played in 2001 in Toronto with teams from the USA, Australia, Canada and Japan competing. In 2003, women’s baseball became an official sport in the Amateur Athletic union, the first time a national organization sanctioned and supported women’s baseball. In 2004, John Kovach, the director of the Great Lakes Women’s Baseball League, worked out a deal with Little League to develop girls’ Little League baseball programs around the country. And in 2009, Justine Siegal became the first female coach of a men’s professional team with the Cleveland Indians.

While many male baseball fans may think that the game enjoyed a period of testosterone tranquility or man-cave solitude in its ‘good old days,’ women have been involved in the game since its very beginnings. Individual women, women’s teams, and whole women’s leagues have contributed a tremendous amount to the creation, evolution, and expansion of America’s game. We, as fans of that game, cannot afford to forget that women deserve the right to be a part of America’s pastime. The history of baseball is rich with the stories of the brave females who have helped to build the game, who have proven that baseball is not and cannot be the exclusive playgrounds for the boys of summer. And while we have not yet been as successful in breaking down the barriers as some other groups of minorities, we women are ready and waiting for our chance to shine on the diamond!

 

To learn more about women in baseball, check out:

Sue Macy’s  A Whole New Ball Game

Merrie Fidler’s The Origin and History of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League

The All American Pro Girls Professional Baseball League

 More than a Man’s Game: Pennsylvania’s Women Play Ball

Society for American Baseball Research

Gai Berlage’s Women in Baseball 

Susan E. Johnson’s When Women Played Hardball

Deidre Silva’s It Takes More Than Balls: The Savvy Girls’ Guide to Understanding and Enjoying Baseball

Marilyn Cohen’s No Girls in the Clubhouse: The Exclusion of Women from Baseball

Jean Hastings Ardell’s Breaking Into Baseball: Women and the National Pastime

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In putting together my post for MLK Day 2012, I have spent the week pondering the oft-ignored import of it as a national holiday. It is more than an excuse for stores to have more post-Christmas sales or a reason for kids and teachers to enjoy a day off. It is not just a token federal holiday intended to appease the minority voters. In 1983, when President Ronald Reagan signed the national holiday into law, he was acknowledging the important work that Dr. King did in bringing equality to all citizens, a fundamental belief on which this country was built.

Back in January 2009, the day before the inauguration of Barack Obama, the first American president of ‘color’ (or however the heck you state that in a politically correct manner), Mr. Rick Warren, popular minister of the 22,000-member Saddleback Church, gave the keynote address at the annual birthday service for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta.

The whole thought of Rick Warren speaking on Dr. King’s day made me absolutely sick. I support Mr. Warren’s intent to bring God into the national conversation, to make religion a part of everyday lives. I admire his chutzpah in forcing political leaders and celebrities to discuss and confront issues of faith. And I admire a religious leader who calls for Christians worldwide to confront the global problems of AIDS, extreme poverty, climate change and disease in third world countries.

But I do not and cannot support his call for the social, political, and religious exclusion of those he (as a flawed human being, just like the rest of us) deems unworthy. In my own personal formulation of Christian behavior, I cannot condone the messages of intolerance and judgement that seem to be very much a part of his very fundamental Christian beliefs. For all of you fundamentalists out there, put away the poison pens – I just don’t happen to have the same world view as many of those churches. My own personal framework of beliefs is much more liberal, that is all. I would like to think that I will be judged by my Father, not by a human being who runs a superchurch and holds sway with newscasters.

I have written before about my mixed-race marriage, on my stance on gay marriage and about the importance of diversity in our world. Dr. King’s work alone has inspired 3 of my posts, all hoping for a more equal, just world. Obviously, I am very much a student of the lessons that Dr. King taught about equality, justice, and freedom. I have also been struggling with a major crisis of faith since the collapse of my marriage – yes, I am divorced and therefore subject to Rev. Warren’s derision – and have been doing a lot of soul-searching about the meaning of God’s forgiveness and what it means to be a Christian in the modern world.

Jesus himself healed blind men and lepers, kept company with prostitutes, beggars, and thieves. If our Lord was able to treat those people as equals, with the right to be treated respectfully, why can’t we do that? What makes any one human being feel that he is better than anyone else, good enough to judge others?

Would our Lord truly think it appropriate that any church (purportedly operating in His name) run websites, online chat rooms, television interviews and major media campaigns to ostracize these people? This church’s scope of national publicity is astounding – and very upsetting to those of us who happen to believe that God loves all.  Reverend Warren, and many others like him, teach lessons that include the exclusion and vilification of  homosexuality, divorce, abortion, sex outside of marriage, and a variety of other behaviors. I am not arguing that those behaviors are or aren’t morally, Biblically, or ethically wrong – I am arguing that we as human beings and children of God have the right to NOT be publicly ostracized for our actions. As my friend Pastor Drew has told me a number of times, Jesus went to the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, big and small.

In reading back on MLK Day 2009, it turns out that I was not the only one opposed to Revered Warren’s participation in the King’s Center’s events – that day, about 100 protesters with signs reading “No bigotry in MLK’s church” and “We still have a dream” gathered outside of Dr. King’s former pulpit. I think there were much more appropriate selections that could have been made for the keynote address – perhaps one of the thousands of civil rights protesters that had marched in Selma or took their turns as Freedom Riders; perhaps one of the millions of black Americans that have lived in a world much different than their ancestors because of Dr. King’s work; perhaps one of the many celebrities that actually knew Dr. King personally. So many other, better, less offensive choices!  I was so disenchanted with The King’s Center’s choice in speakers in 2009 that I actually put pen to paper and wrote a personal letter to Mr. Dexter Scott King. In thinking about my article on Dr. King for MLK Day this year, I got to thinking about that letter. I want to share it with you now because I still (after 3 years) feel so strongly on the topic – Mr. Dexter Scott King may not have been affected by my words but maybe someone out there in the great internet cosmos might be:

19 January 2009

Dexter Scott King, Chairman

The King Center

449 Auburn Avenue NE

Atlanta, GA 30312

To the honorable Mr. King and the board of directors for the King Center;

I am writing to you today to express my incredible disappointment with the King Center’s choice for Rev. Rick Warren as the keynote speaker for their annual celebration of Dr. King’s birthday in 2009. How unfortunate that a man who actively campaigns against gay marriage and a woman’s right to choose was chosen to commemorate a man who gave his life to protect our rights.

Although I personally do not condone abortion, I firmly believe that all humans have the right to choose what is medically best for their body. And while I cannot say that I have done scholarly research on Dr. King’s spiritual and political beliefs on matrimony, I would like to believe that he would have supported any human’s civil right to enjoy the equal opportunity to be legally married. Fifty years ago, I myself would have been in a marriage that was considered socially and legally inappropriate – I am a white woman married to a black man. I owe Dr. King a personal debt of gratitude for the efforts that allowed me to publicly declare my love for whomever I choose. How then, in Dr. King’s  honor, can the King Center overlook one man’s actions to block the civil rights of any human being and select him as their keynote speaker?

Does Mr. Warren not realize the incredible hypocrisy it took to stand on the pulpit of Dr. King’s church and speak about Dr. King’s struggle for equality – and then return to his activities to prevent equalities for entire populations of American citizens?

I am disappointed in the King Center for having made this choice. With so many notable and active people in America struggling for racial, social, ethnic, educational, and economic equality, I believe there were many others who would have and could have made a more effective and less divisive impact. I suggest you take the time to listen to Colin Powell’s speech that he gave in Minnesota yesterday – what a truly remarkable tribute that was!

On this most auspicious occasion, as we stand on the eve of inaugurating our first United States President of color, what a true shame that the keynote speaker for the King Center was one who regularly preaches exclusion and intolerance under the cloak of fundamentalist morality!

I have a very deep and very sincere respect for Dr. and Mrs. King and the legacies that they have left behind. I can only hope that their hard work will continue through the efforts of the King Center. Thank you for what you do to keep the King memory alive.

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As I have grown older and witnessed the vast inequities in our world, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has become a hero of mine, the voice in my subconscious always urging love, tolerance, peace, nonviolence, and diversity. I have written before on the inspiration that Dr. King has given me in my personal life but today I write about the inspiration that I pray every day he will give to all corners of our society.

On the great day in which he delivered the famous “I Have A Dream” speech, he was speaking specifically on the topic of the racial crisis facing this country. But when Dr. King speaks of rights, promisory notes, and dreams of equality, he was not only talking about equality for black and white but also men and women, gay and straight, rich and poor, young and old, Christian and Muslim. His words painted a canvas of freedom and justice – and almost 50 years later, while we have made amazing progress, that painting is still unfinished.

I am always amazed when I hear Dr. King speak of his hope for a world where blacks and whites can eat together at the same table. Considering that I was married to a black man (and I’m so white, I’m neon), the world has come a long way! In Dr. King’s time, in some areas of the country, I would have been arrested (or worse!) for being with a black man – nowadays it’s not so uncommon and certainly not prosecutable. So many of my friends are of different colors, ethnicities, and backgrounds that it makes the violent and disciminatory realities of Dr. King’s world seem unbelievable. Our world is so much more diverse and tolerant than I’m sure anyone of that era could have ever imagined. And yet, even the most idealistic and naive amongst us can see that there is still progress to be made. There are still inequalities in this world to be solved, injustices to be made right, and discrimination to be overcome.

I, too, have a dream that someday this world will be full of people who treat each other with love, kindness, and fairness. I have a dream that someday physical attributes will not be the ruler by which people are measured – that someday, we will consider ‘pretty’ to be in someone’s soul. I have a dream that skin color, economic status, gender, religious belief or sexual orientation will not be factors in how we judge people – that we will love them regardless of these factors and be influenced only by ‘the contents of their characters’. Dr. King has taught me a lot about the kind of person I want to be and I am sure that I will continue to learn from his words and his actions.

So, I invite you all, on today of all days, to take some time out of your life to view the video of this great orator from August 28, 1963 – and maybe say a prayer for peace and equality and love in the world.

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

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I know, I know, many of you are scratching your heads and wondering what the heck I’m rambling about now. The Yule Log? Huh? This is perhaps the most obscure symbol of the holidays that I will write about this season. Again I had to hit wikipedia to find out where this tradition had originated.

The Yule log was originally an entire tree, that was carefully chosen and brought into the house with great ceremony with the purpose being to provide maximum warmth and endurance. In British households, the fire used to burn the log was always started with a remnant from the log that had been burned in the previous year’s festivities.

In our household growing up, the Yule log sat as the centerpiece to the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals. The log had been cut from the very first Christmas tree that my parents had together as a married couple. The log was layered with years of burnt wax and yet I can’t help but think that it is one of the most beautiful Christmas symbols I can think of. Not only does it represent the long and happy marriage that my parents have enjoyed, it represents a certain continuity of tradition. That log is a tangible reminder of the loving family that I come from and my British heritage – and it holds 3 candles that will, this year, remind me to burn bright!

All too often, we lose ourselves in the “trappings” of Christmas – what gifts to buy? which party to attend? what to make for the office holiday party? Yet, to me, the holidays should be about more than just STUFF – they should be about WHO you’re with and where you come from. The holidays define us – the continuity of our families, our traditions, and our relationships.

So, look around you this season and select something that reminds you of where you come from and who you love. I challenge you all to pick something that defines YOU and celebrates who YOU are and where YOU are going!

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Today, my friends, you will have to suffer through a raging case of my nerdiness! Over the summer, I had the chance to take a boat ride down the Miles River here in Talbot County, Maryland. This is an extraordinarily wealthy area of the world and you can witness that firsthand by viewing the waterfront properties. Some of these fascinating places have very interesting pasts and it got me to thinking about some of the other really interesting homes and buildings that are located right near my adopted home area. I am a total geek about architecture and buildings – and ghostly hauntings. With Halloween arriving soon, I thought I’d share some of these historical and spooky spots….

Cape Centaur
Built in 1922 on 275 acres by Glenn and Jacqueline Archer Stewart, a wealthy and eccentric Foreign Service agent and his equally wealthy Irish heiress bride. They had visited Alhambra in Spain and decided to move to Wye Island and build a giant replica of that glorious palace fortress – only in pink. The “Pink Palace,” formally named Centaur Castle on Cape Centaur after Jacqueline’s family coat-of-arms, a centaur shooting an arrow. Descriptions of the interior decorating included tales of 18K goldleaf wallpaper, imported Tunisian tiles, Cortez-inspired murals of conquistador savagery, massive paintings of Spanish senoritas and other such oddities. The Stewarts’ were apparently also remarkably paranoid about their security and became obsessed with making Centaur Castle impenetrable, including an escape tunnel to a waiting boat on the river, employing a variety of carpenters so nobody would know the full blueprint of the finished building, and installing doors that were half-inch steel plates sandwiched between slabs of solid oak. Every cabinet and door had a unique lock and the windows were narrow slits, suitable as gun positions. The stone walls were three feet thick and there was a lookout tower and a huge portcullis adjoining the main hall. They installed a truly absurd amount of fencing and hired armed sentries to patrol at all hours of the day and night. After they had evicted most of the tenant farmers from the island, the land was used by the Stewarts as an agricultural experimentation area, first for Percheron horses, then sheep and finally, with some success, Hereford cattle. Jacqueline hired western cowboys to live on Wye and run the herd; as properties on Wye Island were bought, hedgerows would be stripped and fences put up for the cattle. Glenn spent more and more time away from the cape and Jacqueline was left to run the estate as well as her obsessive Irish Wolfhound breeding program. By the late 1930s, Glenn had fled to the Bahamas in his yacht, never to be heard from again and Jacqueline Stewart died in 1964, leaving the estate to the estate manager, Adolph Pretzler, and his wife. The so-called “Pink Castle” has been the subject of endless gossip – oft-told tales of German submarine sightings at its shore, of gold and silver coins stored in secret chambers, secret passages running under the entire property, boxwood hedges shaped like Nazi swastikas, scandalous inheritances by the Austrian servants, and a variety of other salacious tales. And tales of hauntings near and around the famed Pink Castle abound, including mysterious lights, sightings of Mrs. Stewart’s large wolfhounds, and numerous other spooky stories. How much can be believed? Who knows – Cape Centaur still heavily guards its secrets and shrouds itself in a mantle of mystery.
For more information on Cape Centaur, check out:
Hope House
Hope House, built in the grand Federal style around 1800, it was the home of illustrious members of the Tilghman and Lloyd families (names which, if you don’t live in Maryland mean very little but around here are BIG names).
The house passed out of its original family in 1863 and fell into disrepair until rescued by William J. Starr, a wealthy Midwest lumberman, in 1907, who bought the house and 250 acres for $15,000. The Starr family worked hard to restore Hope to its former glory. Internationally reknowned painter, lithographer, and silk screen artist  Ruth Starr Rose (1887-1965) began her career there, sketching scenes of daily life around her in Copperville and St. Michaels. Rose was born in Wisconsin and moved to Maryland with her family when she was fifteen. It was after the move that she developed an interest in the day-to-day lives of the Eastern Shore’s other residents. “She was always taken by the difference in lifestyles and the more down-trodden quality of African Americans on the Eastern Shore,” said Brenda Rose, granddaughter of the late artist. According to Rose, what her grandmother found most appealing about blacks at that time was the inner-strength they gained through their music and spirituals.  “I believe it was religion that brought Black Americans through their suffering,” said Rose. “If I could only convey to white people this sense that the power of God is really present here for us, people of all colors, then I’ll feel my mission is accomplished.” Rose may have been born to a life of privilege and gracious living but she also had a strong social conscience, chronicling life in the poorer areas of Talbot County and giving voice to her concern over racial discrimination – quite an outstanding and admirable task for a women in her time! Of course, Rose’s interests were not simply artistic; she was an accomplished equestrienne and sailor. As an adult, living at Pickbourne Farm adjacent to Hope, she owned the famous log racing canoe ‘Belle M. Crane’ and actively raced it. The Library of Congress has permanent exhibits of her work and the Smithsonian, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Philadelphia Art Museum, among many others, house her lithographs, sketches, and paintings. Interestingly, this site is also known for its haunted boxwood gardens, which run all the way to the waters edge.  Supposedly a young girl that once lived at Hope fell inlove with a Spanish naval officer but he could not take her aboard his ship; she pined away for her lost love once he left and now wanders the boxwood garden down to the water’s edge, waiting for her lover to come back.
For more information on Hope House and Ruth Starr Rose, check out:
Foxley Hall
One of my favorite (and most imposing) houses in Easton is the three-story brick dwelling on the corner of Aurora and Goldsborough Streets.  Built in 1794 by Henry and Deborah Perry Dickinson, legend has it that Charles Dickinson, killed in a duel with Andrew Jackson, was born there. It also the former home of Oswald Tilghman, great-grandson of Lt. Col. Tench Tilghman, Civil War veteran, lawyer, Maryland State Senator, and local historian. And, ever since I have moved here, I have heard stories of mysterious candles lit and moving about in the house, secret slave chambers, and insane relatives that had been locked in the attic in years gone by who now haunt that space for eternity. I don’t know if any of it is true but it is a gorgeous and unique building, legends notwithstanding.
For more information on Foxley Hall and her famous residents, check out:
Inn at 202 Dover
My other favorite building is Captain’s Watch, currently housing the Inn at 202 Dover. Built in 1874, this wonderful building features elements of classic Beaux Arts design. For years the building was known as the Wrightson House, thanks to its early 20th century owner, Charles T. Wrightson, one of the founders of the S. & W. canned food empire and Shannahan-Wrightson Hardware. Locally, the building is still often referred to as Captain’s Watch due to its prominent balustraded widow’s walk.
After years of neglect and commercial restructuring of the house, restoration began in 2005 under the watchful eyes of the owners, Shelby and Ron Mitchell, Historic Easton, Easton’s Historic Commission, the State of Maryland and the Department of Interior, giving this glorious mansion a second life. This truly is just one of the most beautiful buildings in town and is now a grand and elegant bed and breakfast – I just wish I could afford to eat there at least once!
For more information on this wonderful place, check out:
John S. McDaniel House
The McDaniel House is a gorgeous Queen Anne-style Victorian home in the historic district of Easton. Although it currently serves as a bed and breakfast, it has served previously as a doctor’s office and a private residence, built in 1865 by Thomas Robson, owner of the Union Hotel and editor of the Eastern Star (ancestor of the current major newspaper, the Star-Democrat). Because of his Confederate sympathies (and investments) during the Civil War, Robson lost the house and it passed into the hands of a variety of prominent Eastern Shore families, including some Tilghmans, Nickersons, and Wooters. Even the first Bishop of Easton, Rev. Henry Lay, called this home for 14 years. It was purchased by John McDaniel and his wife Florence in 1923. This wonderful old home, in the area of town once known as Silk Stocking Row, is  not my usual favorite architecture style (I am an ordered, symmetrical kind of girl and this Queen Anne style building is anything but ordered and symmetrical) but I have a personal attachment to the building. It was heavily damaged by fire in 2006 when workers restoring the roof accidentally set some of the original 1865-era tar paper on fire. This 5-alarm blaze was one of the more memorable fires in my volunteer career and I am proud to say that our department saved this historic building for future generations.
For more information on the John S. McDaniel House, check out:
The Villa
The Villa, on the outskirts of Easton on the Miles River, sat on a tract of land originally granted by Lord Baltimore to devout Quaker Wenlock Christison in 1664. The original family gradually died off and the estate was purchased by Richard France, the “lottery king of Maryland, because the state recognized and legalized the lottery business due to his lobbying, and from that work he emerged rich and prosperous.  He built a large mansion on the Mount Vernon Square in Baltimore and bought an estate on the Eastern Shore. Here he built The Villa, with its red tower overtopping the trees. Italian gardens, winding walks and fountains, rich vases and marble statuary, glass houses and “everything else that money could buy to complete a gentleman’s county seat.”  After Maryland retracted his lottery license and he failed at a similar scheme in Delaware, Richard France found himself destitute. The Villa was sold to Henry May, of Baltimore, and under his care, the estate flourished and was said to be one of the finest places for miles around.  Then the Civil War erupted and Henry May immediately invested his fortune in gold. All went well until the surrender of General Lee, when gold declined, and swept Henry May along with the declining tide. Henry May returned to Baltimore, but his old friends turned their faces. An isolated, ostracized man, he returned to “The Villa,” and in a few months he died, it is said, out of pure chagrin. “The Villa” was then bought by a young man named Randall, who, with his young wife, more than revived its old reputation for luxurious hospitality but sent the Randalls into ruin and forced them to sell it to a Mr. Brady, of New York, “a strange man, untidy and shock-headed, pottered about in the weedy, seedy garden, a grim and churlish recluse.” After a time there came a rumor, spread faithfully by the locals, of a boat flitting about the river, and of a strange man, bearded and old, seen by chance, but furtively keeping out of the way. The Villa, on its isolated stretch of land, was the perfect location for concealment. Then came the news of “Boss” Tweed’s escape from New York and some people remembered that Mr. Brady had been heard to say he knew or had met “Boss” Tweed. The rumor grew, and was confirmed in the belief of the people of the neighborhood. To complete the tale, a party of officers descended upon the place, but whatever might have been going on there, nobody was found by them. This story set The Villa on the history books, both for its mysterious reputation and its less-than-positive luck afforded to its owners.  The Villa passed into the hands of the Lockwood family and eventually to Anne Lockhart, who razed the mansion in 1950. The fountain from the ornate Italian gardens is all that remains, having been donated by the Talbot Garden Club, is sadly all that remains of that mysterious home.
For more information on The Villa, check out:
Webley (Mary’s Delight)
 Built circa 1805, this was one of the first homes I heard tales about when I moved here 10 years ago. The original builder, John Kersey, sold the home to his son-in-law, the reputable and slightly famous surgeon Dr. Absolom Thompson in the 1836 Dr. Thompson established a hospital in 1840, reportedly the first of its kind in Maryland. According to one source, Dr. Thompson “made his professional rounds riding bareback and barefoot on a mule. His kit was limited to a jar of calomel, a lancet, and a syringe with a nozzle like a twelvebore shotgun. Nevertheless, his practice became so great that he had to establish a hospital in his home.” Interestingly, in 1838, the same Dr. Thompson purchased Tilghman’s Island containing 1,869 acres of land except for the 1/2 acre “Graveyard” on the northern part of the island. Dr. Thompson bought the island as an investment and when he died in October 1842 his two sons sold Tilghman’s island to Tench Tilghman of Oxford for $24,000.00. With his death, Dr. Thompson manumitted most of his slaves in his last will and testament and gifted a number of them with houses, money, and various other material goods – a VERY unusual legal maneuver for that time! Dr. Isaac Dickson took over his practice and the house was eventually sold. What’s interesting about this house is that the rumors persist that it served as a Civil War hospital and that the ghosts of soldiers haunt the place, looking for their amputated limbs and their final resting places. This is a very common local belief but one that, for all I can find, is sadly just a good story – the doctor died before the War was even thought of and no significant battles occurred in this area of Maryland.
For more information on Webley, check out:
The Rest & The Anchorage
Two sites on the picturesque Miles River, both linked to the same powerful family, paint a quaint picture of early colonial life in Maryland.  The Anchorage was originally a modest two-story brick structure on the banks of the Miles, home of the ferry to cross from the Miles River Neck onto what is now Unionville Road. Built in 1732, this basic house, so similar to all others near it, underwent a massive renovation nearly a century after its construction when it was purchased by Governor Edward Lloyd of the massively prominent and influential Lloyd family. He purchased the home in 1831 and added several wings and the prominent portico – and then gave it as a present to his daughter, Sarah “Sally” Scott Lloyd, and her husband Commodore Charles Lowndes (USN). Their children and grandchildren would go on to shape Maryland and American history.
Just across the river, The Rest was the home of Admiral Franklin Buchanan (1800–1874) who was the first Superintendent of the United States Naval Academy in 1845 and later served aboard the Confederate ironclads Virginia (USS Merrimac) and Tennessee as a senior officer in the Confederate Navy. He married Ann Catherine Lloyd in 1837 and The Rest was given to them by Governor Lloyd and the family in 1847.  The two Lloyd sisters could boat across to see each other daily! It is said that, prior to a destructive fire in 1868, a beautiful brick house sat on the property, resembling Doncaster which is situated nearby. Franklin Buchanan died at The Rest and Ann died in 1892, leaving the house to her children. Unfortunately, the house has been demolished and all that remains is a historic marker in the subdivision that now sits on the property.
For more information on The Rest & The Anchorage, check out:
There about a thousand other fascinating (and much more widely known) historically-interesting and ghostly-infested places in and around Talbot County, including Wye House, Big Liz, the hanging tree, the Old Whitemarsh Cemetery, and many MANY others! Check them out if you dare!

It’s sad, isn’t it, how often we miss the history right under our noses! I encourage all of you, my gentle readers, to go out and discover some of your own areas – there are some great stories to be discovered! With Halloween upon us, can you find your own haunted houses?

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In looking up some statistics and photos for my September 11th musings, I stumbled upon the biographies of a man that I have come to develop a very strong admiration for. I don’t know how, in the massive media coverage following the attacks, I managed to miss hearing the buzz about this now-iconic figure: Father Mychal Judge, chaplain of the Fire Department of New York. I

Father Mychal Judge

want to share with you a little more about what I have discovered of this man in the last few weeks; I think this extraordinary human being needs a small extra bit of eulogizing.

Father Judge, ordained as a Catholic priest and Franciscan monk in 1961, grew up in Brooklyn the son of two Irish immigrants. Serving in various parishes around the northeast, Father Judge took special interested in the plight of the homeless in the larger cities. Having become an alcoholic in the 1970s and admitting his addiction in

1978, Father Judge knew the struggles that the homeless and addicted faced every day. He also spent quite a bit of time ministering to the gay/lesbian population and those suffering from AIDS; following his death a few of his friends and associates revealed that he identified himself as gay, as a matter of orientation and identity and not as a matter of practice since he was a celibate priest. Very wisely (in my opinion), he asked of Rome’s anti-gay teachings, ” “Is there so much love in the world that we can afford to discriminate against any kind of love?!”.  Ever the champion of the underdog, Father Judge specifically reached out to those that most needed his love and kindness!

In 1992, Father Judge was appointed chaplain of the FDNY. As chaplain, he offered encouragement, prayers, and spiritual interventions at fires, rescues, and hospitals. He counseled firemen and their families, performed weddings, funerals, baptisms, and hospital visits for ‘his’ firefighters. He truly was accepted as one of the FDNY’s own; his Irish roots (and work to bring peace to Ireland) and his loving, jovial charisma made him a natural fit in the firehouses around the city. As biographer Mychal McNichols noted, “His whole ministry was about love. Mychal loved the fire department and they loved him.” To say that the most stalwart and macho group of firemen in the world loved him and accepted him, with all of his liberal social teachings, is surely a remarkable testament to the kind soul that he was! As Father Judge once said, “The firefighters ask me to bless them. But the truth is I feel blessed by them.”

Father Judge was a dyed-in-the-wool first responder. In his eulogy of Father Judge, Father Michael Duffy, OFM remembered that  “…he loved to be where the action was. If he heard a fire engine or a police car, any  news, he’d be off. He loved to be where there was a crisis, so he could insert  God in what was going on. That was his way of doing things.”  At his last official mass at FDNY Engine 73/ Ladder 42 (Bronx) on September 10, 2001, Father Judge gave the following homily:

You do what God has called you to do. You get on that rig, you go out and do the job. No
matter how big the call, no matter how small, you have no idea of what God is
calling you to, but God needs you. He needs me. He needs all of us.
God needs us to keep supporting each other, to be kind to each other, to love each other…

We love this job, we all do. What a blessing it is! It’s a difficult, difficult job, but God calls you to do
it
, and indeed, He gives you a love for it so that a difficult job will be well done.

In an interview in 1992, Father Judge rhetorically asked “I wonder what my last hour will be. Will it be trying to help someone, trying to save a life?” Little did he know the thousands of lives he would touch in the final moments of his life. Early on that bright morning of September 11, 2001, he rushed from the friary at Saint Francis of Assisi Church to the scene of the World Trade Center attacks. He was among many pastors, priests, and rabbis that had run to the aid of the people pouring into the streets – but he knew that his first priorities were his firefighters. Video of some his last moments (purpotedly shot by documentary filmmakers Jules and Gedeon Naudet) show him praying fervently before he headed inside the building to minister to injured firemen and administering the Sacrament of the Sick and Last  Rites.

As Father Judge rushed into the North Tower with firefighters, Mayor Rudy Giuliani has stated that he called out, “Father Mike, pray for us!” and that Father Mychal responded, “I always do! I always pray for you!” Because of his official status with the fire department, he was the only clergy allowed inside the building and was surrounded by people needing help as death rained down around them. According to biographers Ford & Daly, when commanders gave orders to evacuate the building, he refused to abandon the hundreds of firefighters still trapped inside saying, “My work here is not finished.” Between 9:50 and 9:55 am, Father Judge climbed up to the mezzanine attempting to reach some injured firefighters. Seeing dozens of jumpers crashing onto the plaza outside, he is reported to have cried out fervently and repeatedly, Jesus, please end this right now! God, please end this!”

Father Mychal Judge was struck and killed at 9:59 AM when the South Tower collapsed and sent concrete flying through the North Tower lobby at speeds of over 100mph. He is officially listed as Victim 0001 of the September 11th attacks – #1 only because his was the first body recovered and autopsied (the first victims, in reality, were the passengers and crews of the airplanes and the occupants of the buildings).

What happened next was truly an amazing human moment on that day of horror. A NYPD lieutenant, digging himself out of the rubble, found Judge’s body and assisted by two firemen and two civilian bystanders carried it out of the North Tower lobby to nearby St. Peter’s Church. This remarkable and touching event was captured in the documentary film 9/11 (author’s note: truly one of the best documentaries ever made, everyone should see it in order to truly grasp that historic day)  and on film by Reuters photographer Shannon Stapleton. This photo is one of the most disturbing and iconic images to come out of the tragedies of 9/11. Father Judge’s ashen lifeless face stands in stark contrast to the lieutenant, firefighters, and bystanders who are steadfast in their mission to carry his body to safety.

As Father Duffy said in his eulogy, “The firemen took his body and because they respected and loved him so much, they  didn’t want to leave it in the street. They quickly carried it into a church and  not just left it in the vestibule, they went up the center aisle. They put the  body in front of the altar. They covered it with a sheet. And on the sheet, they  placed his stole and his fire badge. And then they knelt down and they thanked  God. And then they rushed back to continue their work.”

Father Judge’s funeral was held on September 15, 2001 and was attended by over 3,000 mourners. Former President Clinton, in attendance at the funeral, said that Judge’s death was “a special loss. We should lift his life up as an example of what has to prevail … We have to be more like Father Mike than the people who killed him.”

This amazing human being is now being considered for sainthood and I must say that, even though I’m not Catholic, I would support this wholeheartedly.  And while he may never pass the various tests to enter the Catholic canon of saints, I believe that wonderful man is looking down from Heaven to continue protecting his firefighters and his congregants. He has, in my Protestant mind, already fulfilled his obligations. I cannot think of more saintly acts than to spend your life in servitude to the human race and to lay down your life in order to help them find spiritual peace in the last moments. Rest in peace, Father Judge, and thank you for teaching us about true love and absolute service for others!

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If you haven’t figured out yet that this is the 10-year anniversary of the attacks on September 11, 2011, then you need to turn on your tv right away and watch all the emotional and touching coverage. As our generation’s Pearl Harbor, 9/11 is our historical benchmark, the date that changed our world forever.

In college, my thesis was on the concept of collective memory, how our thinking and our sense of history is constructed by our culture, our ethnicities, our race, our gender, our education levels, our economic status and a million other variables. No single event is remembered in the same way by everyone who lived through it – we are each programmed to see that event in a different way.

Thus the way we all remember 9/11 in vastly different ways. I, as with most of the people I know, can tell you exactly what I was doing, where I was, and who I was with for that entire day. I can tell you what I did to deal with the grief of those days. I can tell you about the high school and college classmates that I lost in the tower. Every moment seems to be etched in my brain as I reflect on those history-changing days.

But every person (and their history) is different. Some people knew no one that had been directly involved in the attack while others wandered the streets of Manhattan for weeks trying to find their loved ones. Some people were concerned about the political ramifications of the attack while others concentrated on the human impact of the terrorism. Some people felt that going to war for retribution was the only way to prevent further attacks while others instead volunteered to give their time, money, and health to search Ground Zero for the victims. Some people cloaked themselves in anger and bitterness towards those of the Muslim faith while others gathered in churches and community centers to help each other grieve.

I propose that every single person’s response to the tragedies of that day was shaped by that person’s socioeconomic, religious, social, and political ideologies. Everyone’s reactions were different – and the important thing to remember is that NONE of them are right or wrong. All too often in our society, especially in coping with tragedies like 9/11, we are so terribly judgmental about other peoples’ beliefs and actions. I can’t help but think that if we all were a bit more tolerant of those that think or act differently than we do, tragedies like September 11th wouldn’t happen.

I was amazed and enlightened by the outpouring of common human compassion in the wake of 9/11. The tears that were shed by Americans around the country were genuine and the shattering sense of awakening affected us all. Patriotic pride and the American spirit abounded, as flags were raised around the world and people turned out by the millions to show their support. While one of the most heartbreaking events in our country’s history, that awful day brought out some of the best qualities of the American people and made me truly proud to be a citizen of the United States.

As we sit at the 10-year anniversary of that terrible day, I ask that everyone take a moment to think of all the innocent people that lost their lives that day –  the 411 emergency workers (firefighters, paramedics, and police officers) that gave their lives in the service of others; the thousands of people on the airplanes and in those buildings that were just going about their daily lives; the heroes of Flight 93 who rebelled against the terrorists and prevented their plane from hitting another target; the families and friends of all the victims who have struggled for the last decade to put their lives back together; the survivors who have to live each moment with the terrible memories of that day.

Today is a day to remember those that were lost, to reflect on the tragic cost of hate, to hope for a more peaceful world. Today is the day to thank the first responders in your communities who are running into burning and collapsing buildings to save lives every single day. Today is the day to set aside hate and anger and embrace tolerance and diversity. Today is the day to shed a tear for the moments and memories that the survivors and families have lost with their loved ones. And today is a day to thank whatever Supreme Being you believe in for the blessing of continued life.

I wish you all a peaceful and reverent day of remembrance. God bless America and her citizens.

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