9/11 Lessons of Remembrance for Eternity

In Pittsburgh, PA, at Penn Hills High School, I remembered the surreal and strange day of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 that many of us will alway remember instilled in our memories, hearts, and lives. I even started a project here that still will be morphed and adapted, as unbeknownst to me, would be revisited in several ways 20 years later.

One of the most shocking realizations as a student came into my class and then another, and another, in a very countryside/forest area of Pennsylvania, on that unforgettable day was the event that unfolded in front of our eyes moment by moment, on a perpetual loop for 20 years. I was in disbelief as student told me, then I witnessed these events, and then the moments that followed.

Not as far as even two to three years later, as I sat in the United States Investigations offices in Grove City, PA, working through investigations of to-be Federal employees, past TSA employees, future postal worked, CIA and FBI prospective employees and all those countless background checks, when we took a moment of silence for the 9/11 day and all those affected, that day in 2002, 2003, and 2004, every time we took that moment of silence, the reality of what we were doing, that sometimes seemed so remote, seemed so close to what happened that day in 2001.

Forward to 2005 to 2011, and especially 2006 and one, when we took students to Columbia University while we worked on the Aloha yearbook and competed and attended Columbia University’s Scholastic Press Association Convention, we made the pilgrimage to Ground Zero and the first responders, every day citizens, and emergency crew that my students interviewed every year and recorded, they were – well they left you with nothing able to say – speechless.

Fast forward to when I found myself in Mexico City and wanting to go back and explore the 9/11 day with how it’s impacted Latin American citizens, as the misguided perspectives was only specific populations were affected that day by this tragic moment. Although many dead ends were found I kept the 9/11 project ideas intact knowing I wanted to always keep this near so I could revisit and pick up the pieces when more were found. Then, in 2012, accompanying Repentino. Literary art magazine students from Mexico to New York and picking up the tradition of Columbia’s Scholastic Press Association we started at Seaford, we made a stop at the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

We talked to curators, met and toured the Memorial with Michael Arad, a former student of The American School Foundation in Mexico City, (what were the odds!) and I just – it is hard to describe the emptiness and desolation I still felt all these years and it still gutted me as we made our way through other’s lives in the museum.

Fast forward to today, 2021. Friday morning, rushing around, and thanks to a very – on-the- hour-acceptance of funds and a very very quick planning session for setting up a 9/11 Walking Gallery Tour project at our Woodbridge High School 9/11 was revisited again.

Thanks to Governor John Carney, Volunteer Delaware, WHS PASE, WHS maintenance and administration, Gary and Holly Focht, Ms Pisciotta, Ms. Zanowic, the 9/11 Memorial Museum, and the National Endowment for the Arts for making this possible! More to come with this exhibit!

I still found myself carrying the events of 9/11 with me ALL THESE YEARS. What does that mean? What legacy has this tragedy instilled in me along this journey? These are questions I continue to ask myself, and at times I feel responsible for living a life that could represent hundreds of others that wish they could live that life that they wanted. This seems to be alot of pressure to think about our actions, how we treat others, and what we do with the time we have around us. So I try to make the most of this time for others.

Being given the information of the Hispanic Heritage celebration in Seaford, and then receiving an instant message this very night from a former colleague, FROM MEXICO City that was the very school we both worked at and she is now here, and having all the above mentioned experiences, recordings, interviews, and more – leading to even how this still is a part of me, and so many others, is this coincidence?

As we walked around the Hispanic Heritage Month Festival today, it was ironic. I remember being in neighborhoods that no one except locals would go in Mexico and being welcomed whole heartedly, and comparing to walking during the festival today and being welcomed from members of the Honduran, Mexican, Guatemalan, and other communities, I wished so much that I could have had more friends from my own country take in this amazing experience and feel – that put me back on the streets of Mexico in just a few minutes. Hearing from my friend and colleague unexpectedly, and in Delaware on the same day/ evening as well? Not sure how to explain how unlikely it all seemed and the realization of how all we live our lives comes full circle.

Listening to NPR the other day, the ironic topic of Latin America and lost identification connected to 9/11, bordering on the very topic I had been searching for connected to 9/11 years before, right in my lap.

The thing with the term full circle is you never know how what you do now, the acts of kindness, the moments you sacrifice to support another, you NEVER KNOW if you will get another chance, if you will see someone 10 years from now that will change your life, and so on. There is so much that could be considered coincidental, that certainly might not be, but the continued depth of the 9/11 day continues to resurface in the many lives that have touched me and continue to help make positive changes that can change others lives around me.

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Wheels and pages churning a community.

“Books will go by the way of 8 tracks.” I clearly remember this argument when ebooks surfaced.

In our third week of our Nanticoke River Watershed Conservancy book talk, I find there is a place and time for anything, and I do enjoy a Kindle ebook on a long tour or bus ride, it allows me to read and not carry a ton.

At the same time, there is power in having a physical book and being able to turn to a page, it is personal, and in the case where we have the ability to place a book in the hands of individuals and they can keep it as a memory, a tool, and reference to future projects, taking an idea out of the pages and turn it into a possibility in your community?

That is page turning.

Speaking of books, here is a GREAT preview of a thesis and beginning Chapter of Ritual Landcapes, by Glenn Mellin and Lennie Truitt – more to come 🙂

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Going the Distance

Impacts of Ida last night – winds, heavy rain, and my Canine Adoptee Dane (often called Daner) goes CRAZY when thunder happens. He managed this last night – jumped up and over a 4 foot bar window INTO the kitchen area twice – managing to break through and past blockaded doorways of furniture, and chairs, and dog gate – he is unstoppable. Finding a piece of chewed trim later – pieces of blockaded materials later, some broken chairs, he just paces, hyperventilates, paces, oh Daner. So that was part of an interesting night.

Today, I woke up after taking a medication that is meant to clear your system before an in hospital exam today and – yep – it works. It works well – so well that when I woke up and ran with the dogs on an amazing morning, no humidity, 2 miles barely making back thanks to the medicine, one more taking in a glorious morning following such a crazy night of tumultuous weather, I thought why not – and offered for anyone that wanted to run from the Cross Country Team today, not making today mandatory – but offering since, despite having a 10:30 appt with the hospital staff today for an internal inspection (lol) – I thought, perfect day for running but I am sure no takers.

We received noticed that parking passes were IN for our school and well, you know how that goes you get used to a spot, I was determined, if I had to PADDLE in, I was going to get that holy of holies parking spot I felt good pulling into every day, so while I was there – why not see if anyone wanted to get in an extra run? (THANK YOU RICKI Truitt for going with the flow (oooh, bad choice of words) and making that happen this morn! YES! Spot #38, Love ya!

Arriving at 6:40 – no way! A car! It was awesome, Elijah was there! and he ran a GREAT 28:35 5k (now remember, bad storm last night, SWAMPY trail – at least 60 – 75 seconds diverting around HUGE pools of water all over thew trail) – on his OFF DAY, Elijah did amazing, AND killed it on the last mile and a half – He did everyone proud!

AND KUDOS TO THE PARENTS that know what commitment means, and reinforces the inner strength of their children, that often they do not know exists, but that push allows them to realize, they have some extra fuel in their own selves they can pull out when needed! Huge Kudos!

Me, however, well when the doctors don’t necessarily say that you do not HAVE to refrain from running when taking medicine to cleanse your insides, that doesn’t mean you necessarily SHOULD run a 5k on the same day. I did run more times than I can remember to the restroom in one 5k, and my stomach has alot to say every step of the run, so my 5k was kind of a scavenger hunt back and forth, and despite it all, Elijah showed up when he didn’t have to, and me getting his time in between bathroom calls during a 5k- things just make you scratch your head and wonder…and yes, despite the “fluid” calls of nature today – I did get spot #38, thanks to the power of Ms Truitt in the Counseling Center. I mean, if I can make it on a morning cleansing before a procedure on a swampy 5k trail, after a night of craziness, anything is possible, right? 🙂 Great job Elijah wild man runner today – you have Kudos and more Kudos after today – and drink lots of water…..:)

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Letter to an Athlete, thanks to Coach Morris and Perciful. Episode 2 of Woodbridge’s The Runner’s High XC podcast series.

In receiving this email today –

“Mr.Brake I’m starting to lose my interest in cross country I think I’m going to take the year off and possibly come back next year but I would still like the letterman’s jacket I feel as if I have earned that for helping with the fund raisers.” – I had one thought, well maybe two –

  1. How devastating the Covid pandemic has been mentally and physically on so many people.
  2. My responsibility, as a coach to pass on the advice and counseling passed down to me from some of the best in the sport of Cross Country. So of course, I tapped into the second episode of my interview with Coach Perciful to pull out what I had been taught.

I wrote the below:

Okay _ _ _ _ _ _ _ , first – you need to stop being a knuckle head  🙂   Listen to me on this – I am not accepting your thought of needing to take a year off and drop out of this season.  You have too much talent and grit to lay such talent aside for this season, or any season, period.


This is the longest preseason we ever had, so mentally, this is a difficult time, as well as difficult as a physical time coming off of a Covid year and into the new season following Covid.  I say this because it indeed impacts everyone- whether you are a coach, an athlete, student, administrator, parent, etc..

Yet, if Covid has taught us anything, it has been being able to see your way through what seems gloom never ending, there is light on the brighter side if you are willing to go the extra mile and see beyond what is right in front of you.


Did you see how many times you were in the yearbook for XC?  This, on a personal note, is because others also see you as the face of determination, integrity, and toughness, and you have in the past, the ability to STICK and do the best with what you have.


Not only is the team depending on the willingness and stubborness to come back to something and improve, but to continually work through tough times, which we each have, be it academically, socially, athletically all of these have been amplified with Covid and truly only the strong survive mentally, socially, academically.


You have come back many times from the brink of almost not breaking through tough times, and you have always done so, this speaks volumes of you.  You have too much to offer to leave it behind.  Also, the letterman’s jacket is simply an object, something that represents all the struggles and the tough times you worked through and literally is a shield / symbol of the achievements you have worked towards.  Of course the jacket was earned through a fundraiser on your behalf, but if that is all it means, down the road you are going to be really disappointed with the experience you’ve had in XC and any sport.  The fact that the achievements and strides you have made weigh heavier than any one object is something you really need to think about.


Whether you want to hear it or not, YOU are a RUNNER, and you are a good one.  More than one coach, athlete, and parent has seen this, and to go easy on you and let you just walk away from something that is something you are so good at, the ability you have that many WISH they had, as well as your innate talent to improve – that would be one of the worst mistakes I could make as a coach. 

Trust me, from being 49 years old, I have seen and experienced the gamut of good to bad – and I do know you will regret walking away from something that you think might just be represented by a varsity jacket, but even deeper is the strength, confidence, and courage you provide to the other runners, your team, when you show up as you do – you whether you realize it or not, give that to others.  I have that perspective as a coach and again, I would be a bad coach if I did not lay it on the line and what I have seen and how you can be the best you.


Not sure if you are reading this at 1:18 AM in the Morn, but Tuesday is picture day for the team, 7:45, and with you not in that picture will be devastating for many of the runners, and to you down the road.  I’d like you there, in the picture, because whether you believe it or not, you belong there. Yes you had miles this weekend that probably did not get done, but I am willing to work on that with you for the sake of helping you guide through this long, extended patch of practice we are working through now.  Killens Invite is the first huge meet on September 11th, and the absolute rush of being able to demonstrate your ability among that many people is simply – unmatched.  It is going to be one of the biggest (and first) meets of the season due to this being after the initial season of Covid, and as much as the team relies on you to be there, whether you realize it or not, you need to be there as much as the others are depending on you.  


Please listen to this segment 2 of Coach Perciful’s podcast, the best mentor I coached under, and ran with, and have experiences the up’s and down of life, with.  Trust me, the life of Vince Morris, both our friends, who was fighting Lymphoma cancer while coaching his XC team taught me alot about sacrifice is and what a full life can be, and how to navigate the toughest times in our lives, and what and how it makes you feel when you have others around you willing to support you through those tough times. 


This all might sound like alot of craziness, but I agree with what Coach Perciful says at the end of this podcast, the only nobility is proving yourself better than yourself and that is you in a nutshell.  There is so much in this podcast that is you, and I cannot accept you walking away and being content with that as a coach and what I have seen you do up to this point.

 
I want to see you back with us because you are a large piece of the best of us.  At the very least, I give you this offer  – AT LEAST stick with us through Killen’s Invite and the first official meet and if you still are of the opinion this is not your year, so be it, I am at peace with that – but to not really experience the fruits of the work you have put in, is just a waste of your natural ability and potential.  Truly as Rob Perciful says in this podcast, we all remember Vince cracking jokes and saying in his last days in the hospital, “If I was any better, I’d have to be twins!'” and I always thought, whew  – what can we do with the healthy selves we have?  


You have this potential this year and next to blow open the times that many expect you to have and what you can have, and I hope you will see this as well.

Without further ado, Coach Perciful’s podcast, episode 2.

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On the Trail of XC Success. Woodbridge High, the Runner’s High XC Podcast Series 3 – Episode 1 of 2 with Coach Perciful.

While I am still editing episode 3 of Week 6 of a former podcast series with Classic Upward Bound, I simply couldn’t wait.

The privilege of being stung by the XC bee and falling into a rhythm with Coach Vince Morris and Coach Perciful changed my life. Changed my life like what happened when I moved to Mexico. The loss of Coach Morris causes my heart to ache to this day, as it does when you hear my stop the recording at the end of this podcast.

I remember to this day the call Coach Perciful put forth for someone to take over at the time Seaford XC. I never have been worthy enough to fill the shoes of Coach Morris, nor ever have lived up to what he provided and could provide for his athletes, the Chapel Branch trail is truly hallowed ground. Yet, this always gives me inspiration when I find myself in difficult situations. When I climbed what seemed liked impossible stairs every morning to school in Observatorio in Mexico City, (You have to see it to believe it, at least – I used to know the count, 300 stairs?) I always heard Vince whispering in my ear “You think this is tough? Not even…” He kept me going in so many difficult places in my life, and Perciful easily passed that torch. I carried these memories of Vince, Rob, and some pretty amazing experiences all that stemmed from a sport I thought I knew and truly found out I knew little.

There is not a more fun, committed, and heart-warming individual on this planet that can make you smile, laugh and change your outlook than Coach Perciful. Moving from an amazing podcast on XC with Coach Diaz, then Lauren and Eric Westog; now enjoy this first of 2 podcast episodes peeking into the sport of XC that many misinterpret or misunderstand. If you are so lucky to meet, let alone coach alongside Coach Perciful, he will plant seeds of greatness and positivity in your every stride. As a XC athlete, his words of wisdom are priceless, as a friend, lifesaving. Enjoy.

Episode 1 of 2 with Coach Perciful.

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Places and Spaces Episode 2 Week 6 from Classic Upward Bound

One of the most challenging aspects of COVID during the Classic Upward Summer 2021 was the inability to hear some of the most telling dialogue when we podcasted.

This episode segment, segment 2, I have listed to and edited at least 20 times and still fall short of getting it accurate, however, it is one of the most valuable insights I heard with this experience and no matter what, it is worth keeping.

Below is the dialogue I saved, and tried to transcript as best as I could:

We continue with an informative and telling reality of what is accessible and what is not thanks to Kamira’s honest reaction to a previous issue we discussed on how community often is not open and welcoming to some individuals and can be isolating.  Her view point is so valuable!    Parts you might not be able to hear, as I edited MUCH out already, but it was vital to keep what is here, so below is the transcript, as close as I can get it, to her reaction.

“People having centers for common interests like in youth centers, like the YMCA

That is one of the things out here we do not have anything like that

If it is we have to afford it and go out and find it like swimming pools and so something like bring a lot of that optimism- out – because people from different backgrounds could all be at that one place with a common interest like a positive from a common community center

The YMCA has become like a membership with fees –

Back when we were growing up it was like a community place where everything was free and activities were free for kids and __________________ but now it is geared towards supporting the higher income people instead of free for everyone so that is where that has shut off for others.

Kids my age had spent the summers there but it was very expensive

If you do not have insurance, or healthcare and stuff, it is expensive, like 120.00 a week.

And the age stops at 12.

The kids that need a place to go most, don’t.”

I waled away yet again hearing in my head what many say is the reality, and hearing the reality that students feel as they walk among their communities. I see, feel, and hear a big disconnect and feel there needs to be greater strides to bridge the spaces that exist.

This second episode to me is, despite the hard to hear message, when analyzed, is a powerful message worth getting to the bottom of.

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Shift-Shaping

Reflecting on today’s book talk, I went back to editing and publishing the first episode, of the LAST week of the Classic Upward Bound’s podcast – Week 6 – of transforming their community.

This episode one, you realize that at first, students are hesitent to jump in – I contribute this to the year in reflection we have just been through, as well as how often students and youth and not allowed to be at the table of important decision making and ideas that impact their community.

I hope you also pick up on that in this first episode and see how this progresses as we work through subsequent episodes for this last week where so many students sacrificed their summers to be part of a better future.

We used the following sources to enhance the conversation during this podcast:

https://datausa.io/profile/geo/sussex-county-de

https://www.zipdatamaps.com/county/delaware/sussex-county-profile-and-map

https://www.delaware-demographics.com/sussex-county-demographics

https://www.winmeasures.org/statistics/winmeasures/delaware/sussex-county-demographics

ACES scores

Episode 1 – Week 6 of Classic Upward Bound – Georgetown Campus, Delaware.

LOVE the reference to Cops and Goblins in this podcast.

Week 6!

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“America’s genius has been nurtured by nature.”

Where can discussing Last Child in the Woods take you? Everywhere!

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Dear “Community Leader”,

“We understood the laws of physics long before we took the class!” – Last Child In the Woods

As a member of the Nanticoke River Watershed Conservancy, a Library Media Specialist, former English teacher, and Cross Country Coach, the outdoors is one of the most underutilized resource that can be crucial in stirring excitement in what the word education means.

This past summer, Math and Science Upward Bound students explored the connection between Math, Science, Literature, and the environment around them.  Here is a link to a small sample of their discoveries:

Out of this amazing summer, students created the start of a current in-session community book talk that is in its second week (and yes, if you would like to be involved, we would LOVE to have you!)  Here are just a few references and connections we have made in the first two weeks:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1TfOH1JyBeMCoryvKzG5F76aLQQewqWb8WLCxroCTBLE/edit?usp=sharing

To the point, as a member of the NRWC, while many individuals in authority do not see the increases, we as members and also the public notice these numbers increasing just at our Chapel Branch Nature Trail site on Woodland Road:

April 1,834     May 1,531    June 814     July 2,145    August( looks to be a record)

Not receiving funding from Sussex County is understandable in the respect that if you are not familiar with these numbers, the trail itself, or the amazing connections made, then one would question what importance and value this and other protected areas have.  However, the countless projects, connections, and ties to education we have made with so many of all ages, as well as serving as a refuge for so many, justify the need for support in funding to launch new educational, environmental, and community initiatives we want to use to tie education to the communities around us.

We need your support, we would like an opportunity to explain the reason these numbers are spiking, and the concrete results of what we have done with the many volunteers and limited resources we have been dealt the last few years, in order to have the whole community realize the treasures we protect, in their “own back yard!” 

Sincerely,

Harry R Brake

Nanticoke River Watershed Conservancy Outreach Volunteer

Woodbridge High Library Media Specialist and Cross Country Coach

Harry.brake@gmail.com     harrybrake.com    harry.brake@wsd.k12.de.us

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Royals

Dear Candice Ridenour,

(Royal Farms District Leader)

Wow, thanks so much!  I met a young man tonight, at the same Royal Farms location, his name was Trey.  I felt AWFUL for him, there was a SEA of garbage all over the lot and he had already two bags of garbage and was going after all he could gather.  I approached him and told him about my comment a week or so ago, and told him I appreciated what he was doing, as it was awful and crazy to have that much garbage all over the lot.  He stated this is ridiculous and he is ABSOLUTELY right, that much garbage being left on the concrete and grounds of Royal Farms when there are garbage cans, truly it will burn out the employees you have and I sympathize.


Please pass on to Trey that I noticed his efforts, I am writing a letter to the editor of the Seaford Star as well as posting on my blog as well, that will highlight how great you and Trey were in relating to this feedback and I appreciate your concern and time you took to reach me.  Trey, despite facing an onslaught of garbage, was methodically taking care of the all the mess, but honestly, he should not have to be responsible for the laziness and disregard for the Royal Farms property with that much garbage.  People that frequent Royal Farms need to also help to make this an easier process and I am going to highlight that.  Please pass on to Trey what a noticeable job he was doing and he was not taken for granted! 
Thanks so much!

The above letter was a followup to a comment I sent to Ms. Ridenour two weeks ago, I was at the Royal Farms on the Main Street of Seaford, it was super early, around 7:00 AM, and there was lot of noticeable garbage all over the concrete pad and it was alarming, that early and it, along with several all concerning aspects were part of that letter I sent to Royal Farms.

Within one day I received feedback from Ms. Ridenour and she was gracious, concerned, and attentive to letting know things needed to be addressed regarding what I noticed. This is not small matter in a time where many businesses are struggling to just get by, let alone trying to operate there businesses in an efficient manner.

In addition, the young man, Trey, I came across tonight amid a literal sea of garbage, and his huge stack of already filled garbage – and not even close to truly having the rest of the area completed, there had been garbage tossed in almost every single corner of the property, it is not very difficult to see how ridiculous was was to even assume it was possible to enjoy this aspect of getting through the night and the shift he was on.

One big as, as a community member of the Seaford community, please stop by and let Trey and anyone else know they are doing a good job, as well help look out and remind everyone they can help the employees we see doing work that many would not enjoy. It is vital to let Try and others know, the little details they do are not little at all, they are huge. We live in a community where it is easy to look at the negative and put down where we leave, when in reality, we live in a pretty historical and amazing community where there is sop much talent and opportunity, and packed with home town feeling that has not even been close to being released to its full potential.

It is easy to get lost in the swirl of development and constant building, but what is vital it the opportunity to preserve the already beautiful aspects that surround us ion the form of parks, nature trails, compliments given to others that help them get through their day, taking a cart in when we are in our way into a store, picking up a small package of garbage that is near our car when we are filling up gas, even offering to help clean a small section of an area you may find yourself in – if my Mom had not been with me this evening, I would have taken 20 minutes to also help Trey cover such a vast area of waste left behind by others in just one day.

I feel each of us can do better to help those that are undertaking the cleanup process, be it the recovery from COVID in any business and customer service – we each can play a part in improving the areas we live in, and ultimately, helping all of us grow closer together as a community. Trey, your work is not overlooked and take for granted, thank you, and thank you Ms Ridenour for being so gracious in a touch time to criticisms that you address to improve the look of our Seaford community

It is a weird comparison, but the song Royals came to mind, and just as anyone, of any age, can do a cover of an existing song, from the original to Royals like Lorde, to Megan Nicole and Madilyn Bailey, to a cool version of Royals by Alaa Wardi, to the acoustic cover of Royals by Jake Coco and Corey Gray , to the version of Royals by Relic Hearts , to – okay you get the idea. There are SO MANY ways to reinterpret a song, there are SO MANY ways to reinterpret how we can interpret our own community, play a part in improving and redefining our community, and represent elements of diversity that make countries like Mexico, Europe, and other far fetching locations.

Speaking of Latin American, it is am amazing privilege to have the chance to go to a restaurant like Dios Provee and Dona Maria’s Pupuseria – right here in Seaford! It is so easy to rely on big name chain businesses to bring people to a town, it is even more amazing to celebrate the diverse and unique businesses that one can only find in Seaford – exciting!


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Summer of 2021 was…

…what? Based on a book or film you came across? We would like to know as we gear up for coming back to school, the Woodbridge Library Media Center would like your recommendations – please comment and let us know!

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