Monday, September 19, 2016

Photographs Are Memories: Smile for the Camera

Old photographs are magical. In an instant, they transport you back in time -- to a time when you were a child or young adult. Some old photos even have the power to take you to times in your parents' or grandparents' lives you didn't see.

Singer and songwriter Jim Croce said it well in an early 1970s hit song titled "Photographs and Memories" -- the lyrics of the first verse speak of a love long gone, but not forgotten,

"Photographs and memories
Christmas cards you sent to me
All that I have are these to remember you
Memories that come at night
Take me to another time
Back to a happier day, when I called you mine."

The lyrics of Croce's song are equally poignant to those mourning the loss of a loved one. Although no photograph can replace your mom, dad, sibling or child, each picture of the person you love serves as a reminder that they lived and loved.

In every family, there's at least one camera-shy person. In our family, my Mom was that person. Mom used every trick in the book to hide from the camera. Hiding behind a child was probably the trick she used the most. With eight kids, there was always someone available to serve as a shield from the camera's prying eye.

Turning away from the camera at just the right moment was another hiding from the camera ploy Mom used.

Which came first -- Mom's dislike of being photographed or Dad's love of photography? Who knows since there's nobody to ask anymore.

Side views of Mom may have been snapped without her knowledge or consent or maybe she just didn't mind this pose as much as a full frontal 'smile for the camera' posed photo.

Hiding from the camera was still a very real thing when my kids and their older cousins were young. As soon as Mom spotted a camera, she turned away. It became almost a game for her.

Getting lots of people to all look at the camera at the same time is challenging. It was even more difficult back before the digital age. When you took a photo back in the old days, you found out how it turned out after the film was developed -- too late for a retake.

It's also challenging to get a baby to look at the camera, but even more difficult if you can't get the grown-up in the photo to look your way. Reserved, private, aloof, or unwilling to pose for reasons unknown -- the end result is the same.

Sometimes "just say no" was Mom's motto when a camera came out. Refusing to look at the camera worked for her!

Other times, Mom looked at the camera as she yelled at the photographer, suggesting in her own unique way to put the camera down.

Taking a drink of Coke was another way Mom avoided photos. Mom had a Coke in her hand most of the time when we were younger.

After the younger grandkids arrived, sometimes you'd catch Mom in the mood for a photo...

But not always. Same photographer, different year, much different results!

Is there a camera phobic person in your family? Maybe it's your mom or dad, a sister or brother or maybe even you.

Should you beg and plead for photos or just shoot a lot and hope for the best? If you're lucky, you may capture the perfect photo.

Different things work for different personality types. Sometimes candid shots work well. The camera-shy person may not even know you're taking the photo.

Sometimes it works to ask the person to be in a photograph, but don't push your luck by snapping too many photos.

When you're taking a group photo, try to get the others in the photo to stay focused so when that smile comes, you're ready.

Ask others if their photos came out better than yours. We came across this photo from my daughter's wedding reception years later -- months after Mom and Dad's deaths. Ironically, we found it in one of my mother-in-law's boxes while scanning photos after her death.

Sometimes you'll have better luck when there are multiple photographers all taking the same picture. One of them is bound to come out good.

Telling the person how important the photo is to you may work. Sometime after the younger grandkids were born, I told Mom that I was going to take photos with her in them and that they'd look better if she smiled. Who knew that would work! It also helps if you choose a favorite location, like this one taken on Mom's front porch.

Use a photographer the person loves. We all cherish the series of photos with Mom and Dad with three of their five daughters, taken by my brother-in-law the summer before his death.

Sometimes you can get a little smile when taking photos at a special event, like this one taken when my younger daughter graduated from high school.

As Mom's memory faded, I think she forgot she didn't like having her photo taken. I know she smiled more for the camera and didn't hide her face as often.

This photo of Mom smiling down at her youngest great-grandchild will always be a favorite of mine. The image perfectly captured the love Mom always felt for each of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Many of us who are the family photographer are often absent from the photographs that are tomorrow's memories. Thanks to fellow photographer Robert Copelan for snapping this shot of me.

Whether you're the photographer or the person being photographed, a good photographer can work with the quirks of nature just as they can with the human quirks of unwilling subjects. Use all your photography tricks. In the end, the memories are worth the effort it takes to get the shot.

Look back through your old photographs. Yesterday's photos are today's memories.

If you're the photographer, hand your camera off to someone else to snap a few photos with you in them. One day, your family will thank you.

As a grandmother, I take lots of photos of my grandkids and include myself in some of them. But it's also important to remember that your kids will always be your babies, even when they're grown. So snap a few photos from time to time with them.

Take the time to pose for some photos with your spouse or significant other too. You'll treasure the memories now and later.

One day, the photographs will be the memories someone you love treasures. So turn that frown upside down and smile for the camera. Photographs are memories.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

9/11: Honor the Dead, Celebrate the Good and Never Forget

September 11, 2001 began as a normal Tuesday for many Americans. East Coast residents went through their morning routine, many arriving at work around 8:00 a.m. The day quickly took a horrifying turn for the worse. The iconic image above, shot by professional photographer Thomas E. Franklin has been on the covers of magazines, signs and posters across the country.

Like many Americans, I’ve read the facts and statistics from the day we know as 9/11. The History Channel offers detailed reports about 9/11. As most West Coast residents were still asleep, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 boarded passengers and departed from Boston’s Logan International Airport. Both Flight 11, which departed at 8:00 a.m., and Flight 175, which departed at 8:14 a.m., were scheduled to fly to Los Angeles. Minutes later, American Airlines Flight 77 departed from Washington’s Dulles International Airport at 8:21 a.m., also destined for Los Angeles. Finally, United Airlines Flight 93 took off from Newark International Airport at 8:41 a.m., heading for San Francisco.

Where were you when you heard the news? Most of us remember exactly when and where we learned that our country was under attack. Like many other Americans, I was at work – not at a desk, but behind the wheel of a company car driving down a country road behind a truck. The radio was on and an announcer broke into the broadcast to report that a plane had just struck  the World Trade Center. I was stunned, but thought it was a horrible accident…until the second plane hit just 17 minutes later. Unknown to the pilots, crews and passengers on the four fated flights, 19 militant terrorists associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda were among those who boarded the planes on Sept. 11.

Less than an hour from the first plane’s departure, all four planes had been hijacked to be used in the deadliest attacks on American soil since Japanese military planes attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The Pearl Harbor attacks killed a total of 2,403 people, including 2,335 military personnel and 68 civilians. Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks, with thousands of others injured. Fifteen years later, the toll continues to climb as thousands of emergency workers, area residents and visitors contract cancer from the inhaled toxins.

What did you do when you heard? Did you cry? Call a loved one? Turn on the news? Say a prayer for the people who would never return home, for their families, for America? Or like me, do all of these? With tears rolling down my face, I called my Mom. She wasn’t up yet, didn’t know about the attacks. “Turn on the news, Mom,” I choked out through my tears. I asked Mom if she knew whether any of my siblings, especially a younger brother and sister who were frequent flyers, were traveling on that day. She didn’t think so, but wasn’t positive. Mom reminded me that my younger sister was safe, in the hospital preparing for the birth of her first child.

Before the day was through, Sept. 11, 2001 would be the deadliest day in history for New York City firefighters -- 343 sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers who wouldn’t return home at the end of their shifts, wouldn’t share one last hug, one last kiss, one last laugh with family and friends.

In addition to the firefighters, there were 23 New York City police officers and 37 Port Authority police officers among the 2,606 killed in New York, 125 people at the Pentagon, and all 265 passengers, crew and hijackers on the four airplanes.

Just after Mom and I said good-bye, the radio programming was interrupted again to break the news that the Pentagon had been struck by a third plane – 34 minutes after the second plane hit the World Trade Center. I sobbed, knowing that our nation was under siege – heartbroken for those who would never see their loved ones again, knowing that we were at war, that the command center of our military had been struck. As the daughter of a three-war veteran, it seemed impossible, unreal, beyond comprehension.

But the horror of the day wasn’t over yet. Some of the passengers and crew aboard United Airlines Flight 93 were informed by family or friends about the hijackings of the other three airplanes before terrorists hijacked their plane. Determined to fight to the end, passengers banded together and stormed the cockpit. reports that one of the passengers, Thomas Burnett Jr., told his wife over the phone that “I know we’re all going to die. There’s three of us who are going to do something about it. I love you, honey.” Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer’s now-famous words, “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll” became part of the history of the Sept. 11 attacks. Flight attendant Sandy Bradshaw called her husband, telling him that she had slipped into a galley and was filling pitchers with boiling water. Her last words to him were “Everyone’s running to first class. I’ve got to go. Bye.”

United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania just minutes after the South tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. The North tower collapsed 25 minutes after Flight 93 crashed. The bravery of those on board Flight 93 probably saved the White House, the flight’s intended target according to a high ranking al-Qaeda detainee.

Like most Americans, I spent the rest of the day in a daze. Since my work day had begun before 5:00 a.m., I went home early and spent the afternoon watching the footage over and over again, the haunting images of death and destruction forever imprinted in my mind. I held my children tight, trying to explain that evil may appear to win, but that good always triumphs in the end.

CNN News show this timeline from Sept. 11, 2001:

- 8:46 a.m. ET - American Airlines Flight 11 (traveling from Boston to Los Angeles) strikes the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
- 9:03 a.m. ET - United Airlines Flight 175 (traveling from Boston to Los Angeles) strikes the south tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
- 9:37 a.m. ET - American Airlines Flight 77 (traveling from Dulles, Virginia, to Los Angeles) strikes the Pentagon Building in Washington.
- 9:59 a.m. ET - South tower of WTC collapses in approximately 10 seconds.
- 10:03 a.m. ET - United Airlines Flight 93 (traveling from Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco) crashes in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
- 10:28 a.m. ET - North tower of WTC collapses. The time between the first attack and the collapse of both World Trade Center towers is 102 minutes.

According to the Washington Post, there were 13,238 babies born in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. One of these babies was my niece Jordan. As the horror of 9/11 unfolded on the East Coast, my sister’s doctor asked if she wanted to postpone her scheduled C-section until after midnight. My sister, determined to bring good to the day, turned down the doctor’s offer and gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl who celebrates her 15th birthday today. The ‘9-11 babies’ have never known an America not at war. Jordan is an athlete, student, singer and patriot who has sung the National Anthem proudly before various sporting events.

The war on terror, known as Operation Enduring Freedom, began on Oct. 7, 2001. The American-led international effort to end the Taliban’s regime in Afghanistan and destroy Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network based there, continues to this day. More than 3,500 coalition forces have lost their lives since Operation Enduring Freedom began, including nearly 2,400 members of the U.S. military.

As Americans, our challenge on the 15th anniversary of the deadliest attacks on our country’s soil is the same as on the first anniversary: to honor the dead, remember the bad, celebrate the good and never forget. Americans from every walk of life came together in the aftermath of that fateful day. We gathered in churches and school gyms, at sports fields and in parks – united as one and determined to never forget.

Maybe you'll run in a 9/11 Heroes Run, participate in a 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb or other memorial event today. You might choose to watch the livestream event from New York honoring the victims of 9/11. Or perhaps you'll just spend the day at home. Whether you fly the American flag, pray for the dead, comfort grieving family members, or hold tight to those you love during a quiet Sunday together, take a few minutes to remember.