When I was at the Hudson Institute dinner, I met a very charming man, Shelby Coffey, who invited us to tour the Newseum. He gave me his contact information, and when we were ready to go, I emailed him.
The Newseum is six stories of awesomeness.
The wonderful thing about the Newseum is that it portrays our history, as a nation, a country, a world, a people. It has newsworthy events that will remind you of your childhood and bring back many memories, not only joyous, but difficult and heartbreaking, too. Have you heard the saying that people always remember where they were when JFK was shot? Well, our generation remembers where we were when we heard about the terrorist attacks on 9/11. What else do you remember being newsworthy when you were a child? I bet you can find it at the Newseum!
Bobby met us at the door. We had tickets waiting for us, and Bobby showed me to the VIP parking. We were then shown to the orientation video. Outside the theater on the first floor, we found our way to the FBI exhibit. Many of the items in the FBI exhibit I remembered when they occurred.... 9/11, Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber), Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma City bombing), the Branch Davidians in Waco, TX. Other newsworthy events I remember learning about... Patty Hearst, The Lindburg Baby, the Mob, the KKK.
The FBI exhibit had parts of an airplane, credit cards, and a police cruiser's door, among other items, all of which were found at Ground Zero.
9/11 holds special significance for me. A dear friend lost her husband that day in the North Tower: Kevin Hannaford, Sr. I was teaching in a Catholic school in West Orange on 09/11/01. The principal came to the door and told me that the Twin Towers were gone, the Sears tower was bombed and Washington was under attack. Okay, she was strange. I asked her where the Twin Towers went, and she snapped at me, "They're just gone. Don't tell the children." I went back in, added a link to our prayer chain (construction paper slips linked together with prayers written on them), and gathered the children around me for to say a rosary for all who were in danger or hurting. We often gathered for prayers, so this was not so unusual for them. That night, I learned about Kevin.
What was also interesting for me in the FBI exhibit was the Unabomber's actual cabin.
My former town, North Caldwell, was put on the map on December 10, 1994 when Tom Mosser was killed by the Unabomber. I remember the day well. My ex and I were bringing the children to a Kearny Police Dept Christmas party when the Fire Department was called to the scene. My ex was a volunteer firefighter. I took the children to the party by myself. North Caldwell was also put on the map as the location of Tony Soprano's home, and the show was even filmed in part there, but that's another story.
After the FBI Exhibit, we saw a portion of the Berlin Wall. I remember stories my father told me about when he was in Germany and saw the Berlin Wall. I also remember the day it came down. Pres. Reagan said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" Below is a picture of the West side. The East side has no art work.
From there we ventured upstairs to watch a 4-D movie. We all know what 3-D is. That's when you wear a funky pair of glasses so it looks like parts of the movie are jumping out at you. Well, 4-D is the total experience. I didn't think the moving chairs added much to the film, but the wind and other effects were cool, and when the "rats" crawled up my legs during the story about Nellie Bly's investigation of an insane asylum, I about jumped out of the seat! The movie was a look into the early part of certain aspects of reporting, such as live news reports and investigative journalism. It was very interesting, and if you go to the Newseum, I recommend you do not skip the 4-D experience.
Outside the theater were front pages from the newspapers at the time of the Civil War, including one about President Lincoln's assassination.
There was also a wall where famous people from the Civil War were "tweeting" the events of the day as if Twitter was around at that time.
After the movie it was time to feed our faces. The french fries and chili were delicious! Derek and Krystina chowed down on cheeseburgers.
After lunch, we went to the express elevator to the top. This I did not enjoy. Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about heights. Well, the only part of the elevator you could not see out of was the floor. I did not like that. Also, the center of the Newseum is open, so while you are on the sixth floor, you can look over the edge down to the lobby. My equilibrium was all out of kilter.
At the top, we wandered around the outside terrace where there was a wonderful view of the Capitol Building. Even looking at the picture below sends my head reeling. I'm surprised I was able to take it!
Once back in the safety of the building, we wandered around reading headlines from decades ago. It brought back not only a lot of my history classes, but memories from childhood. We saw headlines from WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, elections, 9/11, and so much more.
The most emotional exhibit is on the 4th floor.
They have the antenna from the North Tower.
I have a photo of that antenna when it stood on the North Tower. I spent a lot of time on the top of the South Tower when I was in law school. I attended New York Law for one year, before transferring to Seton Hall, and we used to go to the roof all the time. See, as I said above, I am not a fan of heights. Okay, that's putting it mildly. I hate heights. I am terrified of heights. I cannot help but visualize falling or being pulled over by an unseen force as I try to keep myself grounded. So my buddy Rosie and my friends in law school wanted me to go to the top of the Twin Towers and beat that fear. They often dragged me up there for lunch or to just hang out. It almost worked. I felt semi-okay up there after a while. I just kept telling myself that those buildings were sturdy, going no where, and that they would be there forever. My fear was so much better after spending so much time with friends at the top. When the towers fell, my fear came back harder than ever.
Within the 9/11 section, there is an exhibit of photographs by Bill Biggart, the only journalist to die at Ground Zero. He ran to the towers after they were hit and started taking pictures. He died when the North Tower collapsed. His pictures of the event are amazing. You can see his photos at: http://www.billbiggart.com/911.html
As I stated above, my friend's husband died on 9/11, and I found his name on the list, as I always do when I see a list of those wonderful people who perished in the worst terrorist attack on our nation. I remember the night my mother walked in and told me that Kevin was presumed gone. I rarely saw my mother cry. She was sobbing that night.
There is also a short film about 9/11. It brought tears to my eyes numerous times, and I usually don't cry, just like my Mom, but when they started talking about Cantor Fitzgerald, I lost it. The tissues outside the theater were a nice touch.
After the 9/11 exhibit, we saw photos from the Presidental photographers. They had such cute shots of the various Presidents with their families, pets, and generally living, as well as some yelling at aides, and going about their daily lives.
We also saw political cartoons, Pulitzer winning photos, and a map of where there is and isn't freedom of the press in the world.
The green represents where there is freedom of the press, the red where there is not, and the yellow where there is partial freedom of the press. It's sad that so much of the world does not have freedom of the press. But I wonder.... why is our press as one sided as they appear to be at times? I really wish reporters had to take a vow to report the news and only the news and keep their own personal opinions to themselves. I want to walk away from a news report with the facts so I can make up my own mind. Heck, I'm crazy like that. I'm not one of the sheeple. I do not like any news report where it is blatantly obvious how the reporter himself will vote. When I turn on an opinion show on Fox, MSNBC, or CNN, I know what I am expecting to see. But when I turn on a news report, I only want the facts, without bias.
We spent five hours wandering around the massive Newseum. It was not enough time, but we saw a lot! We will definitely be back.
Derek said he wished we had left the Newseum for last instead of seeing it first, because he does not believe any other museum will be able to measure up. It really was fantastic.
Derek was out and about and in his chair for over seven hours today. Yes! He was exhausted and sore, but he did it. Also, I manuevered my way in and out of DC without the help of my Tom Tom, that chose a terrible day to die. Tom Tom's untimely demise left me in a tizzy as we were starting off, but I quickly recovered and we had an amazing day.
Returning to the hospital we were flooded with news of Whitney Houston. Okay, it's sad. I get that. I get that she was a celebrity and her death is news. However, why must it take over everything? This is a touchy subject for me because Amy Whinehouse died on July 23, 2011. I will never forget that date, because it is the day that Derek met the IED that didn't agree with him. While I sat at home all weekend begging for even a small iota of information about his condition, every channel I turned to on TV (except Disney), as well as all over facebook, I was inundated with Amy Amy Amy. I really didn't care. I just wanted news about Derek Derek Derek.
I was a journalism major in college, and I did a lot of writing. I researched news stories, and I did my senior thesis on the Lockerbie, Scotland bombing, Pan Am Flight 103. I love to write. I would have loved to be a reporter, but my life took a different turn. So, I have to ask, why don't we see more reports about our military? Almost every day, young men and women are killed or wounded defending this country. We are at war. Every day, I see broken men and women struggling to put back their lives and learn to live in their new normal. They have wonderful, never quit attitudes, but this is hell. These stories are heartbreaking, inspiring, and emotional. These men and women are heroes. They are people our children can emulate. So many celebrities are not. Do you really want your children to be like Amy or Whitney or Lindsey?
If heartbreak or bad news sells, then why not show all of the men and women who have been killed defending this country? As of the end of December 2011, there were about 2,700 coalition casualties in Afghanistan, almost 1,800 of them Americans. How about telling the stories of our wounded? How many have been wounded? 10,000? More? Why can't we tell some of the stories of our real American heroes? Let's give our children someone to look up to, someone who they can strive to become, instead of someone who is addicted to drugs, parties all the time, and worships the almighty dollar.
There was a reporter who used to announce as part of his nightly broadcast the names of the KIA and the number of wounded each day. That stopped about three years ago, when it suddenly became politically incorrect to discuss such things.
Okay, so this is an emotional topic for me. I am doing this blog, managing the Team Derek page on facebook (www.facebook.com/teamderekmcconnell) (along with Krystina and Kellina), and screaming from the top of the Washington Monument in an effort to get the word out to everyone about the face of the war on the homefront, the struggles of our wounded warriors and their families, and the struggles of all of our military after they come home (PTSD, difficulty reintegrating, etc.).
Finally, I believe that in this digital age where most people text, tweet, facebook, or email, "thank you" are two words that are not used enough. I believe that if someone helps you in even the slightest way, whether it be a card, a prayer, assistance making contacts for a special project, help finding a new job, whatever, "thank you," should always follow. So, thank you. Thank you for all you have done to help us along this journey. Thank you for praying for us. Thank you for sending us cards, letters and care packages. Thank you for talking about us to others and getting the word out about our wouned warriors. Thank you for joining Derek's support page on facebook: www.facebook.com/teamderekmcconnell. Thank you for reading my story. Thank you for donating to Derek and the family so that we can meet our expenses. Thank you for joining us on this journey. Thank you for your comments and posts of encouragement. Thank you for being you.
Climb to glory. All the way. To the top. I'll meet you there, as long as I cannot see how high were are, with a jukebox so we can dance all night and celebrate our successes.