Book Signing at Alchemists Books and Gifts

 

alchemists

On Friday, November 15, join me for a book signing and presentation at Alchemists Books and Gifts.  The store is located at 9200 Stony Point Parkway #158b, Richmond, VA 23235.  This one-hour event is free to the public and will start at 7 p.m.

As part of the event, there will be a grand unveiling of a triptych created by Michelle DeStefano.  Ms. DeStefano is a local artist who assists individuals suffering from PTSD through art therapy.  The oil painting depicts a rendition of the Flight 93 crash site and renders much of what I viewed during the initial moments of response on 9/11.

Books will be available for purchase.

Click here for more information about Alchemists or call (804) 320-9200.  E-mail Jane Hayden at alchemists@verizon.net with questions.

Memories Light the Corners of My Mind

"A dad is a son's first hero and a daughter's first love." -Author Unknown

“A dad is a son’s first hero and a daughter’s first love.”
-Author Unknown

Today would have been my dear old dad’s 90th birthday. I awoke this morning with him on my mind. Initially, I felt sad remembering his passing, but it was not long before the sadness dissipated. The melancholy feeling was replaced by wonderful memories that lit the corners of my mind. I recalled my childhood filled with wonder and joy–his constant presence in the lives of Mom, my siblings, and me–and all of the occasions that allowed us to share in our time together. The spring afternoons when we danced in the rain and rolled in the front yard filled with small ponds of mud. The summer days spent at the river’s edge basking in the sun and learning how to swim.  The crisp days of autumn, jumping in the mounds of leaves that had fallen from the trees. And the winter nights, skating across the ice at the local park and then nestling against Dad to keep warm by the fire pit. Those were the days to treasure and the ones which remain cherished memories contained within my heart.

When I contemplate the lessons learned from my father, I vividly recall his ability to translate ineffable concepts into the simplest of terms. His belief in God, his love of his family, and his integrity all provided grounding to balance our lives. His devout Catholic upbringing gave him the ability to utilize his beliefs as part of daily life. The life he built for himself and his family gave us the opportunity to watch, listen, and learn.  As we grew into adulthood, these principles guided our daily practices. Under his tutelage, we flourished and became the individuals he expected us to be.

Like many Dads, mine was not a perfect man. He was, however, a very good one. Although he made his share of mistakes, he found a path to redemption and practiced what he preached.  His disciplinary style was swift and stern in its approach, but he always found the time to explain why he had responded to our ill-behavior in such a manner. He would relate the importance that his children understood accountability for misbegotten deeds and responsibility to make things right again.

This tribute to Dad is not meant to idolize him, but rather, to articulate my admiration for the role he played in not only my life, but the countless others that he touched with his kind and caring ways.  His role in this life was multifaceted.  He was a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a friend, a businessman and a teacher. He served honorably during the events of World War II. When he returned home after serving his country, he attended college and obtained a degree in education.  There among the children, he taught school and coached football, counting himself not only as an educator and trainer, but as mentor to those who sought his guidance.  To them, he became a tutor, a protector, and a surrogate parent.  Many have attested to how his acts of kindness inspired their ability to move from a negative lifestyle to a positive manner of behavior.

As these memories cascade along the recesses of my mind, I am touched by how rapidly they translate to feelings of gratitude. In these recollections, I recall Dad’s ability to illuminate a room with the mere twinkle of his eye or his warm smile. He seemed to possess an energy that made all who were present feel safe and protected. His spirit was both mindful and playful, yet comforting in some inexplicable way.  It somehow encircled the room much like the memories of Dad that have made their home in the spaces of my mind.

Giving thanks this day, for the gift of a good man I called “Dad.”

Upcoming Book Signing at Springdale Public Library

 

springdale

 

On Wednesday, November 6, 2013, I will visit the Springdale Public Library (331 School Street, Springdale, PA 15144) for a book signing and presentation.  The event will start at 1:30 p.m.

The event will include a discussion about my experience as a first responder at the Flight 93 crash site and subsequent question and answer period.

The event is free to the public, but registration is required.  Call (724) 274-9729 to register.  Books will be available for purchase.

Tune in for a Discussion about Spirituality on Unity FM

UnityFM

This Wednesday, September 18, I will be discussing spirituality and awakenings to the soul with Reverend Temple Hayes on Unity Online Radio. Tune in to the LIVE broadcast by visiting Unity FM at 2 p.m. EST and clicking the play button.

I look forward to sharing my thoughts with host Reverend Hayes and listeners…

The Burden of Responsibility

You have given me a great responsibility: to stay close to you, to be worthy of you, and to exemplify what you are.” ~ Jimmy Carter

Over these past months, I have been afforded opportunities to take part in numerous newspaper and radio interviews.  All have pertained to the story of 9/11 and the post days of recovery.  These conversations enabled me to share my thoughts and voice my beliefs.  Additionally, they have allowed me to discuss the plight of the first responders, who continue to carry not only emotional scars, but physical illnesses as well.

During my most recent newspaper interview, the journalist asked if I had found any closure from the effects of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Without a moment’s hesitation, I politely replied, “Closure is a term too often used as it relates to trauma.  It is terminology I don’t quite comprehend.”  At my reply, the reporter seemed perplexed, so I elaborated.

The word “closure” is defined as: a feeling that an emotional or traumatic experience has been resolved.  Personally, I cannot find a way to resolve the events and aftermath of 9/11.  Any resolution may feel as if one is minimizing and forgetting the devastation that transpired.  Closure abandons the memories of lives lost and the brethren who bravely rose to the occasion.

In my years serving in law enforcement, I never once witnessed a parent’s ability to find closure after losing a child.  Nor have I ever heard a crime victim express a complete sense of solace after experiencing a horrific tragedy that left them emotionally and/or physically scarred.  The sorrow felt in the initial moments of loss permeated a part of them that could never be fully healed.  Instead, these victims adapted to live with the grief suffered. Some have even found a way to move forward by serving on behalf of others.  In their time of great despair, they journeyed and found a new sense of purpose.  They did not allow the tragedy to define them.

When I listen to the stories told by the surviving 9/11 emergency responders, I hear similar tales from one and all.  They describe the events of the day.  They share facts about where they were when they first heard the call to help.  They share the helplessness felt as the tragedy transpired.  And each relays the story with the same haunting tone and a stare that seems focused on a distant place and time.  These wonderful men and women carry battle scars that have not yet healed.  In the twelve years since that infamous day, approximately 1,300 responders and recovery workers have succumbed to illness.  With so many now gone, I am left with all too many unanswered questions.

Perhaps due to training and personal backgrounds, those who serve in law enforcement and the military perceive themselves to carry a greater burden of responsibility.  When appointed to the position, each swears an oath–one held sacred to the soul.  In time of great danger, we are the first to arrive at the scene and the last to leave.  Regardless of the situation or circumstances, we are required to muster courage and act in the best interest of those in need.  We are looked to not only for protection, but for answers to all of the burning questions.  The mindset is clear.  We are programmed to be the modern day warrior–prepared to defend, rescue, and recover.

Emergency responders are sometimes considered to be the tertiary (third tier) victims of a crime or tragedy.  These tertiary victims become another statistic of the collateral damage sustained.  In contemplating the long-term effects of 9/11, I often question whether the burden of responsibility was too much to bear.  Was what the responders witnessed too painful for even them to recall?  Had the remaining questions tainted their shattered hearts and broken their spirits of the will to sustain their own lives?

As a child, my dear dad often shared words of wisdom regarding his moral center and the duty to his fellow man.  He would read from the Bible and then express his interpretation of the parable.  Once, after he read the Ten Commandments, I lamented that I would never be able to remember all of the rules.  I was a mere child and not yet fully aware of God and what was expected of me. In a moment of reflection, Dad just looked at me and smiled.  He said, “If you only remember to never intentionally hurt another human being, then you are living up to the laws of God.”

In the paradox of the first responders rushing toward the burning buildings or the gaping hole of a landfill, they themselves fell victim to the tragic events of September 11, 2001.  They, along with the survivors and our nation, watched in horror as the events unfolded and all were momentarily rendered helpless to prevent, protect, and aid.

A former colleague, who was responsible for the collection of all evidence at the three crash sites, was the first person from my agency that I confided in about 9/11 and my concern that I was affected both psychologically and physiologically.  During that conversation, I inquired what his initial thoughts were when he arrived at the scenes.  He responded, “My immediate impression reflected words often heard while attending church services: Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.”

When I consider his words and the stories shared by fellow responders, I am convinced that those of us impacted suffer from the burden of responsibility. We have taken it upon ourselves to carry the encumbrance of all that should have been done.  Even though these thoughts of conjecture bare no fact, they have somehow embedded themselves into the already troubled minds and hearts of the responders.  But we were not alone on 9/11.  We were aided by countless civilians who rose up to safeguard others too.  Based on this awareness, it is my hope that there will soon be a therapeutic remedy to help eradicate the deep-seeded sorrow felt for not living up to our perceived burden of responsibility and the motto of “first do no harm.”

The Duty of the First Responder: To Protect and Serve

The Duty of the First Responder: To Protect and Serve

HuffPost Live

Do you believe in the existence of angels? According to an AP poll, the majority of Americans believe in angels. What are the reasons for this large number of believers?

This evening, I will be joining a HuffPost Live discussion with Nancy Redd (Host) and several other individuals who will share their stories of personal encounters with the angelic realm.

Please join in the live chat and share your thoughts about celestial beings and any experiences.

I look forward to this chance to talk with Nancy, her guests and her listeners.

Blessings…Lillie

http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/believing-in-angels/520c125a02a7606b340001a1

Archangels & Angels

Archangels & Angels

 

 

Lasting Impressions

In recent days, I had the occasion to return to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, to attend a first responders meeting with representatives from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Initially, I was quite apprehensive about doing so. For more than a week, I changed my mind several times and even sought the counsel of family members, friends and a trusted doctor. With each hedge of a decision, I found myself increasingly more divided. In moments of optimism, I felt fearless in my need to resolve the lingering issues still trapped within. On a pessimistic day, I retreated to the safety of isolation. There among my thoughts, I felt secure — a hermit hibernating in her proverbial cave. However, with each hesitating thought, came the whispers of my inner voice that beckoned me to find the courage to participate in the gathering. If I could convince myself to do so, perhaps some lingering questions would be answered and residual emotions released.

On the morning of the forum, I googled the directions and set off to the great unknown. Driving the first leg of my journey, I felt the mounting anxiety stir. By the time I traveled off the main highway onto the country roads, the panic became almost immobilizing. Visions from the past flickered across the pathway of my mind. Initially, I saw the faint image of a Pennsylvania State Police vehicle and then a row of buses making their way behind the marked patrol car. Within seconds, my memory recalled the uniformed troopers lined along the road, standing at point.  They did so as a means of honoring those who perished aboard Flight 93 and those now returning to pay respect to their loved ones.

As past memories merged with the present moments, I realized I had once again regressed to the post-9/11 days. The emotions so long suppressed rose from the depths of my soul and caused me to pull off the road. Although the scenery looked unfamiliar, it simultaneously seemed eerily known to me. During those few minutes of confusion, I was unaware of my surroundings. Then I became cognizant that the terrain I drove upon was traveled almost 12 years prior, to help escort surviving family members to the boundaries of the Flight 93 crash site. There among the rolling hills, the pastures and quaint farms, a procession of vehicles had inched toward the travesty of another type of field. In this flashback, all of my senses were heightened amid an outpouring of emotion. When finally I was able to regain my composure, I felt the stress begin to ease. And soon felt as if a tremendous burden had been lifted from my being.

In traveling the route of long ago, the journey had provided some benefit. What I realized in that quintessential moment is that, on 9/11 and in the time afterward, I had been required to be stoic. I feigned strength in order to perform my duties and fulfill my responsibilities to those most in need. Although I had put on a convincing facade, deep inside of me dwelled the heartbroken woman in need of expressing her sorrow. The retracing of past images had allowed for my psyche to release the sentiment once frozen in time. When I returned home later that day, my weary mind gave in to the sadness and I wept over the recollections locked inside. In the days following my revelation, I allowed myself to grieve and forgive. By doing so, the lasting impressions that once haunted me lost their hold on my heart, my mind and my soul.

Healing Touches: The Hug Theory

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch,
a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment,
or the smallest act of caring,
all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
— Dr. Leo F. Buscaglia

A Goodnight Hug. Mary Cassatt (1844-1926). Pastel On Brown Paper.

A Goodnight Hug. Mary Cassatt (1844-1926). Pastel On Brown Paper.

During a recent radio interview, the show’s host asked me a final question relating to the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on my life. She queried, “What do you think helped you most to heal from the PTSD?”

Without a moment’s hesitation I responded, “human touch.” The response was so automatic it actually surprised me, just as it did the radio announcer. Yet when I think about all of the medications I’ve taken and therapies I’ve undergone to try and abate the PTSD symptoms and ancillary illnesses, I am amazed at how the touch of a loved one seems to do more to help ease the emotional and physical pain than any other remedy.

Over these many years since I was first diagnosed with the affliction, I have experienced my share of negative responses to situations. Many are spurred by a violent event which caused the hidden memories in my mind to reemerge. The “props,” as my doctor calls them, are the elements of an incident that bare a similarity to the episode that initially caused the trauma. In my case, it was Sept. 11, 2001 at the Flight 93 crash site. There, along with other representatives from the law enforcement profession, I first stepped onto that hallowed field. As I looked out across the barren wasteland of that landfill, I viewed pieces of objects that were once a part of the plane. In those initial moments of response, my heart broke and my mind frayed into scattered pieces of the whole. Over time, the effects of the trauma became embedded in my psyche and soon it seemed that the PTSD overcame my entire being. And, all too soon, the physiological and psychological aftermath was undeniable.

In the years that followed the diagnosis of the illness, there appears to be only one element that gives me complete solace. In the middle of some foreboding or dark memory that escapes from the passages of my mind, a touch or a hug from loved ones has immediately brought me back to the present time. The pain and sorrow dissipate with the warmth of human contact that reminds me all is well. Contained within several chapters of my book, In The Shadow Of A Badge, are examples of moments when a gentle touch brought me back to reality. I wrote about how in the midst of one particularly grim flashback, my granddaughter’s soothing hands ended the terrible remembrances of the tragic events of 9/11 and the field that haunted me instantly disappeared. The warm touch of humanity prevailed over the distant memory that tore at my heart and obstructed my ability to see past the anguish.

Since the radio interview, I had the occasion to talk with others who have been affected by PTSD. During each conversation, the individual has related the same thoughts about healing touches. So in my experiences, a hug can do more to quiet the mind and uplift the spirit than any other treatment administered. If these reflections are not just a theory and a hug is indeed a therapeutic method of healing, it is my hope that others who suffer from PTSD will find some comfort through the soothing caresses of their family and friends. Perhaps then, they too will find a way to mollify their despair.

Interview for The Growing Bolder Radio Show

growingbolder1

Hear It Online Starting Saturday, July 13th

I am pleased to announce that I was a guest on The Growing Bolder Radio Show back in June.  This Saturday, July 13th, the interview will be posted online for everyone to hear.  In it, I discuss my memoir, In the Shadow of a Badge, and my experiences at the Flight 93 crash site.

Growing Bolder Radio is award-winning programming focused on attitude and the self.  Click here to listen to the interview and to learn more about The Growing Bolder Network.

I look forward to sharing my thoughts with listeners.

Blessings…

Lillie

Pittsburgh Catholic Reviews “In the Shadow of a Badge”

pittsburghcatholic-e1372783751444

 

Read the Article from Friday, June 28th

Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper has recently published a lovely article about my book, In the Shadow of a Badge. To read the article, click here. I’m very honored to have the piece placed in such a respected journal. My mom will also be pleased because it is one of her favorite religious publications.

My deepest gratitude to Robert Lockwood, Father Ron Lengwin, and William “Bill” Hill for this amazing opportunity. I enjoyed chatting with Bill and learning more about him, his work, and his faith in God. It appears we have much in common, as it relates to our beliefs. It is my hope that there will be many others in the Catholic community who relate to my story and experience a sense of healing.

Giving thanks this day for the chance to spread the word about God’s amazing grace and His field of angels.

Blessings…

Lillie