Republished from The Alumni's periodic publication Shipmate 

1937_hands_clasped.jpgA “Grande Finale” to top the list.  It wasn’t just a routine one; it went well beyond that, it was truly magnificent, most memorable; we understand the first 75th held at the Academy and was one we will never forget.

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Susan Howland's 9/11

Posted by on September 14, 2011

I was driving from Moorestown to Long Beach Island, New Jersey to meet a friend.  It was a perfect, blue-sky morning and I was listening to NPR and the regularly scheduled programs.  As I pulled through a Dunkin Donuts drive-through window, the horrible news unfolded over the radio – the man who handed me my order listened with me.  I still know and see that man and we will always recognize each other and be connected by that moment.  It was September 11th, 2001.

My friend and I were meeting up to plan a retreat for airline crew members involved in overwhelming in-flight events – such as an emergency landing or in-flight assault. When I reached the beach, she hadn’t heard.  We watched the television in horror and then walked down to the shore to get our bearings.  A dark cloud hung in the air as we looked far out to the north. 

I returned home to meet my daughter’s school bus.  The school had not told the third graders what happened, and Julia bounded off the bus with her best friends for an afternoon of fun and play.  I told her that some people with a really bad idea had flown airplanes into buildings in New York City and Washington, D.C.  Our country had been attacked.  What happened next was a defining moment for Sky Help’s future path and ultimate mission. 

The neighborhood kids were playing out what they thought was happening during the attacks and my daughter said, “Mom! It’s time for Sky Help to make the skies safe.”  Erin, a friend and mom joined in and said, “I’m going to make sure that the Pentagon protects everyone here on the ground.”  We were parents supporting our children’s wonderful illusion that mommies can always support, protect and make things safe.  I had seen the devastating images on television and decided not to expose Julia to the repeated replays.  I’m sure she’s seen them many times since, but I wanted to shield my happy third grader from just how much our world changed that day.

In the days immediately following, I received a phone call from Jim Horn, a retired FBI agent who was leading retreats in Oklahoma City for first responders in the wake of the Muir Building bombing.  He said, “It looks like we just changed populations,” and offered himself and others from the Oklahoma team to come up and start meeting with the 9/11 responders and volunteers. 

And so they did.  In November 2001, we had our first Sky Help retreat on Long Beach Island at the Magnolia House – a beautiful bed and breakfast donated and hosted by Dave and Sandy Martin.  We have had a total of eight workshops since in New York and New Jersey.  These have been offered to and included individuals from the military, FBI, police, fire fighters, EMTs, volunteers, chaplains, the DDC (New York Department of Design & Construction), and others who were present on 9/11 and continued to be for the many months afterwards. 

So here I am - September 11th, 2011.  Watching the news coverage of the services at “Ground Zero,” I feel my sense of pride mix with sadness and fear that still strike me to the core as if kicked in the chest.  I am now 57 years old.  My daughter is a freshman in college.  In my life, one of the most meaningful things I’ve done thus far was be part of the response that tried to help in the wake of a day that changed the world as we know it. 

Part of me is holding my breath and praying that no event will interrupt the solemn peace of these commemorations.  I wish we could go back to the day before September 11th, 2001 when the United States seemed safe, strong and removed from the possibility of attack on our sacred soil.  Instead, I will pray for God’s blessing and protection for kinder and better days ahead and continue to be a part of supporting and creating a future that is safe and uplifting for all.  




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September 11th, 2011

Posted by on September 7, 2011

This is such a difficult time but I have found a couple of positive outlets; one being the idea of "Youtube Video Ticker Tape Parade" in the spirit of the wonderful, and now famous, ticker tape parade that took place in NYC at the end of WWII. Maybe we can even do a choreographed Flash Mob dance and let it go viral so the whole world can see the first responders and volunteers from Ground Zero celebrated as they fully deserve.  Any one who has thoughts or ideas about this, please respond to this thread. 
Another positive project I came across is one of the ongoing 9/11 Arts Project Memorials - please see the link that follows and check out this great site:
I realize that this is a very sensitive time for everyone. Yet we are each and all still here for a reason, so let's make it a good one. I am fortunate to know each one of you. May we all have more sunny days and laughter as we move forward together through these difficult times and memories. 


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Welcome to Susan's Corner

Posted by on February 1, 2011

susan_corner.jpgOne of my personal fascinations is collecting small rocks.  I always liked to look for shells and sea glass whenever I happened to be walking on a beach; now I find pottery shards and what appear to be carved stones.   I first experienced this while “mucking” (picking up horse manure with a pitchfork), in a field.  I looked down and found several Indian arrowheads in a period of ten minutes.  After that I started looking in other places and doing research at the local library.

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