On The Blackwater

Musing on retirement, writing, puppies, and whatever else strikes my fancy

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Spending my life in 20-year increments: DC, Calif, Maine, & now in the BlueRidge Mountains of VA, where my YoChon, Sadie Mae, has started to blog...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

More Thoughts about the gunman at Ferrum College

I'm wondering if the housekeeper having seen the man with the gun, who told her not to say anything, might have kept him from whatever he had been planning. That, and the immediate response of our law enforcement people, sirens screaming, may have sent him off campus. If so, he may be still hovering...or perhaps making a different decision altogether.

Word is Ferrum decided to begin their spring break now, not returning to classes until the week of 10 March. That sounds like a wise decision to me; the students must be completely traumatized. It would be good for them to be safe and sound in their homes for two weeks, to come down from this near-happening.

I've also heard that there's a pretty good chance this fellow is known on campus. If he is a student at Ferrum, someone will recognize him.

Still shaken. This IS a little too close to home. I alerted my grown kids as it did get on the national news according to my sister-in-law, who immediately remembered I was taking the Holocaust class at Ferrum and was quite worried.

Scare on Ferrum's Campus

There it was as a running banner across the TV screen around 8 am: Gunman on Ferrum College campus; students on lockdown! Soon after: Classes cancelled.

I hadn't planned on going to my afternoon Holocaust class on Tuesday as mid-terms were scheduled and those of us seniors who basically are auditing the class do not have to take exams nor do we turn in papers.

Driving in to Rocky Mount to bible study, my heart was in my throat. There are 22 students in my class...were any of them in danger? Was some nutcase running around shooting people? The news said a housekeeper in the Bassett dorms had encountered a young man with a revolver, who told her not to say anything. In total shock, she had dialed 911 as soon as she could, and Ferrum's response was immediate and complete when she also contacted campus security.

We prayed in our bible study for the safety of the students. One member couldn't be there; she lives in Ferrum and the roads were closed off. She also has a daughter in the elementary school across from Ferrum's campus. The elementary school was also on lockdown as a precaution. Outside the windows of our church, we could hear sirens blasting as Rocky Mount police, sheriff's officers, ambulances, even federal emergency vehicles, all headed towards Ferrum, just 11 miles from us.

Now, today, Wednesday, the campus is still jittery but the lockdown has ended. No one found the young man with his gun; a sketchy drawing has shown up on our TV news and, I'm sure, in today's Roanoke Times which I have not yet seen.

But I am so proud of Jennifer Braaten, Ferrum's president. She had everything in place, and the alert operated like clockwork. Students were immediately advised by e-mail alert to stay in their dorm rooms, that a person with a gun had been spotted on campus. Later, the students were directed to the gym and then to the dining hall, and they were kept informed up to the minute. Franklin County's sheriff stated that the surrounding law enforcement agencies had voluntarily called and offered their officers and units. It was an amazing response.

Parents of the students were also kept informed up to the minute. At the elementary school, the parents of the children were advised that the kids would come home by schoolbus rather than allow parents to pick them up, as it would be difficult to control cars coming to the school...there could be no opportunity for a stranger to target the children.

Hooray for Franklin County, and those law enforcement folks who responded so well. And I'm so grateful that the gunman, perhaps because he was observed, did not after all harm anyone.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Holocaust Museum field trip

On Tuesday, our Ferrum College class piled onto a tour bus that drove us to DC to spend the day at the Holocaust Museum. Since that visit, I have been processing what I saw, what I experienced, what I felt.

As a visual person, I often translate what I read or think about into pictures in my mind. This was not necessary in the HM. When it was designed, they chose a documentary film director to help make it a strong reminder to everyone not to let such an atrocity occur again. There was also much concern that there are people who deny the Holocaust ever even happened at all, so every piece had to be authentic. If it was duplicated, such as a casting being made of Jewish cemetery headstones that stretched across one entire wall, this was identified with a placque as a casting.

Consequently, the power of each display is incredible. You walk through an actual cattle car, one that transported victims to a killing camp. Battered old suitcases are piled outside that car, evidence that the victims thought they would be able to use items inside those cases. There is a huge pile of the actual shoes worn by the victims that had been discarded when they entered what they thought were showers, but in fact were large rooms soon filled with the killing gas. Containers of pellets were there. The gas ovens of a crematory were also there, solid and frightening.

One display, very dramatic, is printed on the HM postcard. It is a towering three-story high room, going way up to a skylight from the floor on every side, illuminating 6000 color and sepia-toned portraits of everyone in a small Lithuanian town, babies, children, loving couples, grandparents...who nearly all died (there were only 29 survivors) in the Holocaust. A survivor whose grandfather had been the town's photographer collected the pictures. The Nazis had rounded up between 4,000 and 4,500 of the town's Jewish citizens, and brought in others from a nearby town, putting them into three small buildings with no food or water for 3 days. Then they first took the men to the nearest Jewish cemetery and shot them; next, they took the women and children and killed them, dragging their bodies into a mass grave and burning them.

An elevator takes the visitor up to the 4th floor, where video of Hitler and his thugs begin the journey. Winding down each floor, with directional signage, the cattle car, clothing of actual victims, newspapers from around the world that appeared at first to take the Nazi propaganda as fact...even in the US. In fact, the US turned away a ship full of more than 900 Jewish people trying to escape the Nazi's, something I never knew.

Your heart breaks as you identify with the victims, with the scarred survivors. There's a 2-hour video of some of the survivors telling about their particular ordeal, and you wonder how they ever got through it. Jewish, gypsies (Roma), Jehovah's Witnesses, the mentally ill, other disabled individuals. Deliberately destroyed. They even cut off the women's hair and sold it as mattress stuffing material! There are pictures of the piles of hair, but there was a dispute at the museum about having the actual hair there, as it was perceived as not honoring the victims.

There's a virtual tour available at the museum's website. I plan to use it, for the pieces I missed during our visit.

The overall message is: Remember


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Summer at the Lake

Whew! The playreading went really well, despite Eric's (not noticeable) nervousness about reading the doctor's part, and Jim not getting my e-mail encouraging him to arrive early for a read-through. Will filled in until Jim arrived after my frantic phone call. Of course, Jim did a beautiful job with Bill's part. Peggy was the perfect Trophy Wife, complete with cell phone to her ear, plush puppy in her purse, sunglasses on her hair.
Connie was Fran, Bill's wife.

The story involves Fran & Bill, a retired couple living at a small lake in northern Maine, who invited a Boston doctor and his wife to "stop by if you are ever in the area." The doctor drives his huge RV up with his trophy wife, her 2 children, and a small dog, and stays. And stays. And stays.

Finally, Fran's colorful Aunt Edna arrives and the doctor and his family leave rather hurriedly.

The Smith Mountain Eagle did a nice write-up, complete with a picture of Connie and Jim.

We all had a great time, and I got to play Aunt Edna complete with brightly colored flowered blouse and red parrot earrings. Dick made chili and brought it in a crockpot, and someone counted 49 people there, enjoying my play and Leslie Santapaul's play about a couple touring the Sistine Chapel where Adam and God trade humorous comments. The food, as usual with this group, was lovely.

A good time was had by all...lots of laughing, eating, and drinking of wine!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine's Day a day late and other things

Hubby sang with his barbershop quartet all day yesterday, Valentine's Day. They had eleven sing-outs in Lynchburg, driving from workplace to homes to nursing homes so they could serenade someone with three love songs, present her (usually it is a woman) with a long-stemmed red rose, and a Polaroid picture of the event. The 12th sing-out, for a dear sweet lady from our church who just celebrated her 67th wedding anniversary, didn't actually happen as her husband was very ill there at home, so the four gentlemen in their black tux pants, shiny black shoes, red vests over white long-sleeved shirts, each gave her a big hug and a lovely rose.

She is a major fan of my husband's voice and has actually gotten him to promise that he will sing at her funeral when the time comes! He was startled when she asked this 3 or 4 years back, but of course he agreed.

As for my own Valentine's day, I received a big stuffed teddy bear, a tiny box of 3 chocolates, my very own long-stemmed red rose, a singing card, and a bottle of sparkling wine. So tonight, I fixed two filets mignon with mushrooms and onions, baked potato, & asparagus, uncorked the wine and tucked in. Nice~

Sunday, the Lake Playreaders will read my play. I got a delightful write-up in The Eagle and all 50 seats will be filled. Now I'll hope for lots of laughter...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Caught in the Power Outage

Early Sunday afternoon, after returning from church and getting one of those large rotisserie chickens from Kroger on the way home, our power went off. Heavy winds had knocked down wires up on Rt 122, and when we used the cell phone to call AEP, we were told the power could not be restored before Tuesday or Wednesday night around midnight.

Oh, boy. At least no one here was sick, nor did we have to go to work, and our kids are grown and moved away, but there were measures to take, certainly.

Thank heavens for cooked chicken, that took care of any immediate problem. Dick lit the gas fireplace, so we had heat. He took his ATV down to the river and filled two large storage bins with river water so we could flush. We have a propane stove, so knew we could light the burners and be able to heat up some crockpot chicken from Saturday. (We'll be cackling like chickens ourselves any day now!).

We kept the fridge closed as much as possible, also the freezer compartment AND the chest freezer out in the garage. When Dick went to start the generator, he discovered a missing piece, something he'd intended to replace BEFORE needing the auxilliary power...sure! Since it was Sunday afternoon, he had to wait until Monday morning for the place to open for the part. The generator kept the fridge and freezers going.

We lit candles and old fashioned oil lanterns we often use on the back deck in the summer.

We'd not had a power outage extending beyond a few hours before, so we were only semi-prepared.

Looking at each other by Sunday evening, we laughed a bit. No TV, no computer, no ham radio, not enough light to read comfortably...I went to the hall closet and took down a turntable Scrabble set I'd bought maybe two or three years ago, that we hadn't even opened. The directions were hard to read by oil lamp, but we remembered the basics, and set both oil lamps up, along with a few candles, so we could play.

Did the writer (me) win? Or the great outdoorsman? Yeah, Mr. Competition managed to utilize nearly all of the double word, triple letter squares and won. We'll have to turn this into a Sunday evening event (with lights) so the competition can continue.

We were lucky; the power was restored by Monday night. Just two days of no power, candles in the bathrooms, flushing with river water, actual conversations with each other (!), and chicken, lots of chicken. I was surprised to learn how much I've come to depend upon the microwave, but heck, you can heat just about anything on top of the stove. And if we'd not had a gas stove, Dick would have dug out his camping stove. He DID get the camp lantern out by Monday, giving us more light than we'd had.

Now, friends from our church who lost power checked into a local motel and their kids delighted in swimming in their warm pool, as well as eating in a nearby Applebee's. So we certainly had options, had the outage gone on. Today's paper tells us that some Roanoke Valley folks may not get power before tomorrow night (Thursday) or even later, and some have had to move into shelters.

Ah, but with the phones out, we also missed many, many political calls prior to Tuesday's primary election. Gosh, too bad that.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Margaret, Daddy, and me

Sorry this is a blurry picture, but Daddy is so proud of his two 'girls' that it is a favorite picture of mine, taken the summer of 1980. I had just remarried and brought my new husband to Florida to meet the parents. Each of us girls insisted she was Daddy's favorite daughter, and he loved the attention. He died in 1983, just months after Mother died from cancer.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

When I was in the Chorus Line

As a youngster, one of my dreams was to be in a musical chorus line some day. Well, it wasn't Broadway, but I realized my dream during a little theatre production of South Pacific at the University of Maine in (gulp!) 1987. I'm the one on the far right...see, I told you I was thin once!

Dick played the lead, Emile, singing Some Enchanted Evening among many romantic songs. His teenaged son, Shane, sang the young Lt. Cable's part, and when they sang a duet as Cable was going off to die, there wasn't a dry eye in the place. (Both have terrific voices).

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Memories of my dear dad

I've been thinking about him a lot these past few weeks, perhaps because he was over in France at the end of WWII. My grandmother was extremely critical of his joining the Army with three young children at home, but I've come to realize he carried a very German last name around, Hagerhorst, and living and working in the DC area must have subjected him to a lot of harrassment during the war years.

Much, much later, as he lay dying, he told me he'd been adopted, that his mother, who had lived with us, was his birth mother but his birth father had died while in the Army building the Panama Canal, probably of malaria or yellow fever. The US Army brought grandmother and her toddler son to Washington, DC, where she met and married the Army man who subsequently adopted her son. Daddy asked me to do some research. I was able to confirm many of the facts when I contacted the Department of Veterans Affairs. But I never found Daddy's birth father.

However, of the three children he and Mother had, it does appear that I inherited his DNA. We (and his birth mother) share some health concerns, and must closely watch cholesterol levels, heart functions, and other genetic factors.

Somehow, I inherited Daddy's enthusiasm, his joie d'vivre, his delight as he greeted each day as if it were a gift all shiny, just for him. He was such a happy man. He adored his wife, who, as a girl of 16, had leaned out her 3rd floor window, showing her best girlfriend this tall, lanky young man walking down the DC street, smiling at everyone, stopping to talk to a neighbor, to a shopkeeper. "I'm going to marry him!" she announced to her girlfriend, "but I have to figure out how to meet him first!" Daddy was 19, an older man, already working to help his widowed Mom and two brothers survive after the death of her second husband. Mother's girlfriend advised her to have a big birthday party and, after she managed to find out Daddy's name from the neighbors, to send him a written invitation to come to the party. This would have been about 1933.

The family story is that they danced at Mother's birthday party all night long. That's a bit of a stretch; I can't imagine my maternal grandmother allowing such a thing in 1933, nor would Daddy's mother have allowed him to stay out all night, not her eldest son, not her son who was working two jobs to support the family.

I do recall his telling me that he bought Mother an engagement ring, paying 50 cents a week at the local jeweler's, and his Mom was terribly upset to find that amount of money missing from his pay envelope.

When they married, after Mother graduated from high school at 18, they honeymooned in Atlantic City and came back to his room, in his Mother's apartment, to discover that my tiny Grandmother had somehow pushed the heavy furniture around so that he couldn't close the bedroom door! Daddy groaned, then laughed, and spent an hour moving the furniture back where it belonged. Soon after, they moved to a tiny apartment of their own, above a grocery store, and Daddy's two younger brothers found employment to support their Mom.

When I came along, Daddy would rock me and sing to me along with the music on the radio. Later, I learned to dance by standing on his shoes. Life with Daddy was always full of music, song, dancing on the kitchen lineoleum. He could tap dance! We always thought he should have been in vaudeville, only it was past that time, and he soon had three of us to support, again working two jobs, delivering laundry in the very early mornings and driving a cab at night, so he could go to school during the daytime hours to eventually become an electrical engineer. One who could tapdance.


Saturday, February 02, 2008

Holocaust Class

I have to journal for my class, and do some more reading. But I'm finding the content making me so much more aware of what is going on in the world today.

Those of us in the class are horrified at the atrocities committed against the Jews, the Gypsies (Roma), the disabled, anyone the Germans, under Hitler, wanted eliminated forever.

Today, I read about two Down syndrome women in Irag, who were wrapped with explosives and sent into two big marketplaces on a warm, sunny day, a day when families with small children, wives, husbands, aunts, uncles, grandparents were enjoying an afternoon out, perhaps buying produce to take home for supper. The terrorists set the human bombs off with remote controls. Hundreds of people were killed, just random evil, just unconscionable. They were blown to bits.

That this much hate can exist in the world is frightening indeed. I have grown children, I have grandchildren. I have one greatgrandchild. We could be peacefully walking in a sunny outdoor marketplace and end up as some kind of impossible symbol of hate.

Darfur, ethnic cleansing, all of this means so much more to me in the context of Holocaust studies. I feel as if my blinders have been removed.

Crystal trees

I know, I should have braved the cold icy morning to get some pictures of the crystal trees, the enveloping fog, the broken tree banches. But I wimped out and stayed indoors. Sadie Mae, our little Yorkie-Bichon mix, decided to take her alternate path off the side of the front step onto the pebble-lined "path" under the roof overhang. No chance of her running off when it is icy outside. Like me, she prefers warm and dry.

The ice didn't melt down until the afternoon, so we headed over to UKrop's around 3. I hadn't been yet; Dick was not too thrilled to go to a big grocery store (he was a meatcutter all his life) but when he got inside he went bananas over row after row of gluten-free products. Lordy, he filled the cart to overflowing until I reminded him that GF stuff is 4 or 5 times as costly as regular items. For example, a blue box of regular (so-called) mac and cheese runs 50-60 cents on sale. The GF brand is $3-4 a box. Annie's brand is the best but UKrop's didn't stock it and Kroger has stopped carrying it, for some reason. Dick went right over to the young woman running that section and was able to order an entire case for himself. They will call him when it arrives. (See, I told you he worked as a meatcutter, so he knows how to get these things done.)

We did enjoy shopping there. Their cheese section is wonderful; I have a recipe for a healthy version of mac and cheese, using GF macaroni and calling for three or four different cheeses, and the young woman working in that section was very knowledgeable. I also found sweet paprika in the spice section, and boxed ground chicory in the coffee aisle, to add to my coffee brew here at home.

OK, that's my commercial for UKrop's. Dick drives to Roanoke once a week for allergy shots, so now he'll be able to stop for his GF products. Like cookies. And bread crumbs (actually GF cornflake crumbs...you would think there would be no wheat in cornflakes, but think again.) And GF cake mixes. And his favorite: GF pancake mix. When you are told you cannot eat wheat, you crave what you cannot ordinarily have. I drain a can of corn and plop it into pancake batter, and he thinks he's died and gone to pancake heaven.