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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Project 2,966 - Carrie B. Progen

I saw the post for Project 2,966 and became immediately excited. I knew I must do this. I must. It is my duty to participate. I have, as many do, a kinship to the Big Apple, a love that goes unrequited and deep, a love that never lets me down when I get the opportunity to visit, that has the capacity to bring tears to my eyes when I see my skyline in pictures or movies. I have, as we all do, a personal where-I-was-story about 9/11.

But then, looking down the list of names, I suddenly froze. I cannot do this. I mean, who am I? Who says I have anything to give? What makes me so special that I have the ability or the entitlement to write a memorial for a person, much less a person I do not even know? I cannot do this. I will not do this. Nevermind. Close the door, er, internet window.

Within seconds, I remembered, I am a writer. And if we do not write, people will never know. I am a writer with a blog and that is what is required here. I am a blogger with access to this list of names. I did not stumble on this by mistake. This is the way it is supposed to be. This is not about me. This is about writing.

Writing in and about New York is and always has been important to me. So why not now?

Scrolling the list of names, I did not know how to choose. Do I pick someone old, someone with a long life story? Do I pick someone young, say, just out of college? Do I search for someone named Ivy, maybe we have a bond based solely on the name? Again, doubt filled my body and I did not know how to proceed.
So I closed my eyes. I ran my finger over my mouse and then placed it on the computer screen. I had landed on a name. Someone my age. Someone who, like I wanted to, left home for life in the big city. She was living the life I wanted to be living.

Carrie B. Progen

Carrie was 25 on September 11, 2001. She was an administrative assistant at the Aon Corporation, which was on the 92nd and 98th–105th floors in the South Tower. Along with 175 of her co-workers, Carrie did not survive the attack.

On the train every morning, Carrie drew pictures of her fellow commuters. What I have read expresses that the pictures themselves seemed to give way to the soul of each person, in a way that she could see it. Her boyfriend recalls her calling this time "the moments when New Yorkers were thinking the most.".

Caring and kind, she was a true friend to those who knew her and an amazing aunt. She always had a present for her nephew. She stood up for what she believed in and spoke her mind. She was honest and forthcoming. What she said, she meant. And she meant what she said. She had a style all her own, and it showed in her dress. She didn't care about money or expensive things, just the little things. She lived everyday to the fullest.

She came to New York from Ashburnham, Massachusetts, a town of about 6000 people.

Carrie made the same sacrifice as many that day. She died for our freedom. It was not a choice. She did not choose to take a stand. It just happened that way. Along with every other person who died that day, she deserves to be remembered and honored.

This is Carrie. In addition to the thoughts I always have when I light my candle on September 11, this year, a special thought will go to her and her family.

I found this picture online and thought it showed a great spirit.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

(Epic.) Elevator. Explosion.

Seriously. I was eight. And, in all my 34 years of living, I don't think I've ever been witness to anything so dramatic, scary, or mind-boggling...

I present you with the letter E in the ABCs of your home state blogfest.

I love sports, playing them. I like to think I have a natural ability to play. I am not really the kind of person to sit down and watch sports on television. (I do like to go to games, though.) Softball is by far my favorite sport, though it is one I had to practice at. And practice I did. I was always in the yard with my mitt, with my glove, with my bat. I wanted to play. There is something about that sport that I love. And I wanted to play.

In the town I lived in, there were no try outs, if you wanted to play, you played. We were divided by age. Good or bad, everyone had a shot, everyone got to play, no one was always on the bench. That didn't matter to me – I wanted to be good.

I was at softball practice on this day. We were, if I remember right, just starting, so we would have just been throwing the ball back and forth to one another. There was a weird sensation, as if the ground was shaking. I remember looking at the ground, and then the sky. And then to my left. And then I saw it.

The grain elevator across the street exploded.



Fire shot out of the top of this cone-shaped building that had always been right across from the ball field. I didn't even know what happened in that building. Someone had to go to the hospital, he had burns all over his body. There were news people there. We were ushered away, back to our homes. Back to the isolated safety of living in a small town.

And that is my memory of the elevator explosion.  Softball practice.  Looking down.  Looking up.  And seeing fire in a place where I knew fire was not supposed to exist.

For this blog, I tried to do a little research on it.  I found myself in circles, asking questions of my dad, of a friend who lives in Nebraska.  Memories are shaky, at best.  I googled all we could collectively think of.  Being a small rural area in the 80s, there isn't a lot in the way of archives.  And no video exists, at least that I can find.  I know one exists, at least that one did exist.  Who knows if it is still alive!

What I did find, though, was a date.  May 15, 1985.  That is when it happened.  I feel strange possessing this information.  I am not sure why.

What I can conclude about this feeling is that I lived in a time and place where there was no time and place.  The only place was where we were.  As children, we had bicycles and free reign.  The place was wide open, it seemed huge at the time, but in reality, the town is less than a half a square mile in area.  We had a swimming pool and ball fields.  We had two parks and a playground at the school.  We knew everyone and everyone knew us.  Time meant very little to us.  There is a town whistle that blew at 7am, 12 noon, and 6pm.  That was how we knew what time to go home.  I didn't even know I was eight when this happened until now. 

So to now, to have a date feels, I don't know, funny.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Small towns, I mean, Villages (part 1)

I say part one because I'm sure there will be more.  Towns under 3000 people make up 89% of Nebraska.  That's a lot.  I am from one.  But, apparently, based on that percentage, so are most other people in Nebraska.  The total population of Nebraska is under two million people.  That isn't a lot.  I currently live in a city with more people than my home state.  That is bizarre, and kind of hard to wrap my head around. 

This week is the letter D in the ABCs of your home state blogfest.  (Why do I hear the announcer-lady on Sesame Street?)

I'm going to focus on two villages in this post.  Davenport and Deshler. 

I remember being taught in elementary school about cities, towns, and villages.  Apparently, most places in Nebraska are actually villages.  A village is smaller than a town, smaller than a small town, yet bigger than a hamlet.  I have always been word girl, and though I do not remember the grade, I do remember the lesson, the feeling of gaining some secret knowledge.  I do not know what made that lesson so special to me, but it has stuck.

I do not know a lot of specifics about these towns villages.  But I have family in both.  I have memories in these places. 

My mom's sister and brother and their families live in Deshler.  When I was growing up, my Aunt had a playground in her backyard.  No lie.  The town village had two playgrounds, and one was literally in her backyard.  There were swings, a slide, and (I think) some monkey bars.  My cousins and I would swing super duper high and then they would yell jump!, and being the tomboy I was, I would jump.  We would swing so high that the swingset would start to jump a little.  It was awesome. 

My uncle had the biggest house I had ever seen.  It seemed that way at the time.  Having been there as an adult, I realize that it reality, it just has a basement that is finished where all us kids could go and play games and watch television while the adults were upstairs.  Most holidays were at his house, probably for this very keep the kids out of everyone's hair.

Another thing about Deshler: it is where the Thayer County fair is every year. SUPER FUN!  We went all the time, and my uncle's house was only a couple blocks from it!  The park where it was held (the other park in town) is where the pool is, and the twisty slide!  Talk about the best thing ever for a kid!   If I could get side-tracked...that slide was amazing.  We would slide down it on sheets of wax paper to make us go faster.  Big time.

Davenport is where dad's sister and her family live.  It is also in Thayer County.  I am trying to remember if I have ever even been in the village, you know, mainstreet, of Davenport, and I honestly don't think I have.  My aunt and uncle live pretty much on the outer corner of town.  They have goats, chickens, dogs, cats, and other animals.  They have a piano in their basement, and when I was a kid I would go down there and pretend I could play.  They also have a pool table with a topper that is a ping-pong table.  Awesome.

A memory that never fails me is the road sign.  Both destinations are on Route 136, which always facinated me.  Our post office box in the town village I lived in was 136.  As a kid sitting in the backseat, I found this to be an amazing thing.  I don't know why.  But in my world, it meant something. 

Deshler and Davenport hold many memories from my childhood.  Holidays, birthdays, family.  They also represent playtime and parks, fairs and festivals. I was struggling to find a D for this week's blogfest, thinking this was lame.  However, I am glad I gave in and gave it a shot.  It has been a nice trip back down the twisty slide.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

ABC Blogfest of my Home State - A, B, and C

Once again, I’m late for the party. I’m late for everything. Even dinner.

I have been catching up on my blog-reading, and saw that Alex posted has something about another A-Z blogfest...and since numb hands kept me from completing the last one, I thought I should give this one a go. I mean, seriously, lightning rarely strikes in the same place, right? We'll see what happens just after letter L and before M this time. Hopefully, I'll have a chance to write about M, and maybe even N...

Aleta at Fleur de Aleta is hosting the ABC of Your State weekly blogfest. Today is “C.” However, since I've missed two weeks...I'm going to do A, B, and C all together.

I am from Nebraska. Before you ask, “Where is that?”, I present you with this visual aid. Yes, I did anticipate your question, based on having been gone for nearly 25 years now, and well, being asked this very thing countless times.

Before we proceed, I do want to say that this is all from my own perspective. I left my home state when I was ten. Therefore, I have a pretty sheltered point of view. I took Nebraska History the year before we moved, and do have some memory of facts and figures – for instance, I can tell how long in miles it is from North to South, and from East to West in my home state. However, as far as culture, etc., I have only a child's view. Top that with the fact that I lived in a farming community of less than 400 people, a county with approximately 6600 people, my range of the real world was pretty small. So please forgive the lack of insight into greater things. I will touch on some places I have been, but again, it is usually from small range, looking back, all those years ago. From the adult perspective, I have of course, been back. And the contrast of the young innocent love versus the older city girl is very intriguing.

My goal in this blogfest is to remember my childhood. I lived a ton of life in those short ten years. The world was mine for the taking. And I took all I could. The one word that always comes to my head when people ask me about growing up there, (usually with utter disbelief that a town that small even exists) is FREEDOM. I want to write about being free.

This tree is in Nebraska.
Arbor Day

Arbor Day is a big deal. Arbor Day was founded in Nebraska City, Nebraska in 1872 by a guy named J. Sterling Morton. The whole purpose of Arbor Day is to plant trees, take care of existing trees, and you know, hug them.

When I was in elementary school, we celebrated Arbor Day. I don’t really remember a lot about said celebrations, but I know we at least talked about it, because that knowledge is in my head. Apparently, for good.

My parents and I planted three trees in front of our house when I was little. We were in Nebraska a few years ago, and I noticed that those trees are varied in size, the two bigger ones surround a smaller one, and I found that to be quite symbolic, two parents caring for their child, in the center.

Union Pacific Missouri River Bridge

Confession: I did not know this bridge had a name. I mean, I guess I assumed it did. But when I pondered B, ‘bridge’ kept coming to mind. This is the bridge that connects Omaha to Council Bluffs, Iowa, over the (you guessed it) the Missouri River.

Like I said, we moved when I was ten. I have this memory of riding in a big yellow moving truck with my dad through that bridge, thinking my life was over. It was the last moment of living in Nebraska. We went through it on every trip back, and it was exhilarating going in and always sad going out. The bridge is big, to a child’s eye, green, and very symbolic of a moment in my life I thought I would never recover from crossing that bridge.   But now I see it as symbolic of a moment that changed me for ever.  For good.


GO BIG RED! That embodies the Nebraska mentality. There’s a joke that you know someone is from Nebraska if they have three or more shirts that say Cornhuskers. It’s true. When I was little, UNL was a Big Ten team. They were unstoppable, as was Cornhusker fever. Herbie Husker was a fixture on lawns. It is a lifestyle. There is no choice. You are born a Cornhusker. You will die a Cornhusker.

There’s my first three letters. I’ll see you next week for D.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence...and Stealing from Small Children

Today is the 4th of July. I’m sure that means something. Independence. Freedom. Gratitude for all we have in the United States of America. The pure luck of being born in a place without all the oppression and complete rule our founding fathers sailed thousands of miles to escape.  Wait...sailed?  They didn't just get on a plane?  No, and they didn't sail on luxury cruise lines, either.  This was a big deal.  They sailed thousands of miles without a GPS or an open bar or on-ship entertainment.  That's how pissed off they were.

And so we celebrate. We gather with friends and family to swim, boat, eat hot dogs, hamburgers, and wait for dark to set off fireworks.

Fireworks. That’s how we celebrate the great sacrifice of many men and women for our independence. We light a small piece of string on fire that causes an explosion that makes a noise and sends a momentary spark of color into the sky, hoping against hope that we don’t set a tree or the house on fire in the process. Hoping that the guy in charge of lighting said string doesn’t get his face blown off.

Do I sound jaded? Sorry.

I enjoy fireworks very much. I think they are pretty. I enjoy listening to the reaction of small children, the reaction of complete wonder and excitement when they see that spark of color in the sky, wondering how daddy made that happen, and can he do it again and again?

Pepsi and I loved little naps.
I rarely go out see fireworks anymore, though. This is a choice. My childhood dog, Pepsi, was terrified of fireworks. Indeed, she was terrified of all things that made noise – thunder, lightening, a car backfiring, an explosion on the television. This has made me a little cynical, and a lot overprotective.

I housesit, and am almost always doing so on holidays, including the 4th of July. I choose to not go anywhere on the night they set off fireworks (rarely on the actual fourth in the town I live in). I prefer to stay and make sure the dogs are not going to go into complete panic meltdown, like Pepsi used to. I would rather make sure they are okay and well taken care of. Luckily, I can usually see them from where I am staying, either in the front or backyard.

As usual, I am housesitting on this holiday. I have three Yorkies in my care, and my dog, Spencer Bean, is with me. Last night was the fireworks show. Once I felt comfortable that all the dogs were okay with the noise that was happening outside, I took them to the backyard to watch. As they were running around playing as if nothing was happening above us to the west, I began to think of Pepsi. I always think of her on occasions like this, even in thunderstorms. It is a weird feeling of loss, sadness, happiness, and gratitude that is hard to define.

My Spencer Bean
As I was sitting on the step looking up, thinking of the dog that was such a part of my life, my own dog, Spencer Bean, stopped running to come over and sit next to me. He didn’t announce his presence, didn’t make a big “I’m a beagle and here I am!!!” entrance. He simply walked over and sat down to my left. He sat there looking up at the fireworks with me, and didn’t move until I got up.

This was the most incredible experience. As I watched him out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that from time to time he would turn his head toward me, and then back up at the sky. He knew, as dogs do, that I was feeling something. And he did, as dogs tend to do, take care of me by standing beside me.

A friend, who knows about this, called me a little while later to see how I was doing.

There is something to celebrate. Freedom and love. Gratitude and hope. And the knowledge that all our friends, even the furry ones, are here to protect and love us, and we them. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones today and everyday.

Maybe I’m not so jaded after all…

Oh, and one more thing.  I overheard the most wonderful thing from a child's mouth. A neighbor kid, who, from the sound of her voice, I would guess to be about four, said with all the excitement her little body could handle:
"Daddy! What's that word you say when something is so pretty it makes you happy all over?"
Her dad responded, "The word is cool."
And she yelled back, in a voice that led me to believe she was about fall face forward into the pavement from excitement, "YES! COOL! I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THAT WORD!!!"

Ladies and gentelmen, a future writer lives next door to where I am housesitting.  Don't you just love that description?  " pretty it makes you happy all over"  I hope she remembers that and puts it in a book someday.  Truth be told, I hope to beat her to it.  I love it.  I just stole from a child.