At the 9/11 Memorial

Some loved ones left flowers and some left miniature flags. People flock, read the names that were carved on the long dark bronze blocks and pay their respect. But no matter how many people visit and congregate around the twin giant pools that used to be where World Trade Center buildings or twin towers were, it always feel somber and subdued there. The first time I came to the site of Ground Zero was 6 years after the 9/11 tragedy happened. My parents were visiting from Indonesia and we took them there. There’s still nothing interesting to see but covered wire fences. There were a lot of works happening behind them. The sound from the heavy machineries, the banging of metals and the buzzing from the construction workers all mixed as proof that life still goes on. I felt humble being at the Ground Zero, because a couple years before 2001 I was there staring at the two towers with astonishment of the tallest buildings in the country. My husband and I passed by the area where World Trade Center was for several times when we headed towards Brooklyn. I would open the car window and look at WTC buildings enthusiastically while we passed the lower Manhattan. Who would’ve known that one day those magnificent buildings would be gone.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I woke up on our bed with our oldest daughter who was 2 years old and our baby girl who was 4 months old. They were still asleep soundly and peacefully without any care in the world. I turned on the TV and watched the morning show on NBC, the Today Show. It was sometime after 8AM suddenly Katie Couric, one of the presenters on the show, announced a distressing news: an airplane has crashed into one of the twin towers. I was stunned. But I thought maybe it was an accident until I saw from the live feed another plane flew directly towards the other tower. What has happened? Then, in minutes everything crumbled and fell. Katie Couric was heard crying on air and I had trouble believing what I had saw. My eyes welled up, tears ran down because I imagined the chaos that ensued. I held my daughters closer and I could feel something in the atmosphere was brewing, fear. 

It has been 18 years since the most despicable tragedy I’ve ever witnessed, happened. I can still feel the uneasy feeling when September 11th is approaching. The site where Ground Zero was, now a sprawling park with memorial for the fallen and a museum to commemorate the lost. In November 2017, I took a group of high school students from Indonesia and their teacher to the 9/11 Memorial Plaza. It was the first time I visited the place and I became rather emotional especially when I read the names of the people who perished during the tragedy. My fingers sometime ran through the carved letters on the bronze blocks while I listened to the sound of the man-made waterfall, said to be the greatest in United States. In April this year, I visited the plaza again and that time I was escorting an old friend and his colleagues who were curious about the 9/11 Memorial. They were astounded and again, I somehow lost with emotion when I read a name, a woman’s, with additional statement “and her unborn child”. 

(To all who perished and the first responders, may you rest in peace).

Snaps from A Road Trip: Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering

I was looking outside my window two days ago and saw the moon that looked so round and bright. There were colored rings surrounding the full moon. As I was amazed by the view, it reminded me that we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing which happened on July 20th, 1969. Three of the main people who went to the moon were Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. On July 21st, Neil Armstrong became the first man who stepped on the moon. He studied aeronautical engineering at Purdue University and graduated with Bachelor of Science in 1955. Two years ago while we were doing college visit to several colleges in the Midwest, we visited Purdue. One of the building that we encountered was the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering, The building is the center of many engineering programs at Purdue, such as the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, School of Materials Engineering, the Minority Engineering Program, Women in Engineering Program etc.

In front of this magnificent building is the bronze statue of young Neil Armstrong when he studied at Purdue sitting on a stone podium looking thoughtful. Not far from the statue is Armstrong’s famous quote when he landed on the moon etched on the concrete floor:

“One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”.

There are several boot prints placed on the lawn copying the steps that Neil Armstrong made on the moon. My son had some fun time leaping from one boot print to another making those “giant leap for mankind” at Purdue campus in West Lafayette, Indiana. Those boot prints are really, really big.

When I went inside Neil Armstrong Engineering Hall, I was in awe. At the further part of its spacious lobby hanged the replica of Apollo 1, the command module. Apollo 1 was the first manned mission of United States Apollo Program that destined to send the first men to the moon. An electrical fire consumed the space module and killed all the three crews inside: Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Robert B. Chaffee and Ed White. Both Grissom and Chaffee graduated from Purdue University, like Armstrong.

For a mere man or woman like me, the moon is an inspiration, an object to be amazed of and a destination to send our wishes or hang our hopes. But to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the moon was a place they could visit making the dream that for a long time has been a man’s biggest idea came true. There’s some pride in me having visited Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering and learned more about this wonderful earth hero, the first man on the moon.

Snaps from A Road Trip: Northampton

    I get to know Northampton, a small city in western Massachusetts, as my daughter started her college last year. She goes to University of Massachusetts (UMass) in Amherst, a neighboring city of Northampton and we always pass by Northampton before reaching Amherst by car or train. My first encounter of Noho, the city’s nickname, was an eye-opening. The city is so charming with rows of 19th century buildings along its main streets. The downtown area especially, oozes that charm. For someone who has never come here, let alone heard about Northampton, I was in awe and felt dumbfounded. Every time we come to Amherst either dropping-off or picking-up our daughter from her dorm , or me having a solo trip to attend UMass Symphony Orchestra concerts (our daughter plays violin with them), I’d make sure I’ll visit Northampton and strolling down its beautiful downtown area. My love for old buildings, history and architecture find its way in this city. Thomas Cole, my favorite landscape painter who established the Hudson River School, painted the Oxbow in 1836 depicting a romantic panorama of Connecticut River Valley after the thunderstorm as viewed from Mount Holyoke in Northampton. It showed how he loved Northampton and its environment. 

    The city was called “Norwottuck” or “Nonotuck” by the native inhabitants of the area which was the Pocumtuc. The name means “the midst of the river” and Northampton is situated by Connecticut River. Its splendid surrounding has attracted many, including the “Swedish Nightingale” – Jenny Lind, a famous opera singer, who thought Northampton as “Paradise of America”. That’s how this city’s other nickname is the Paradise City. Noho is known as the city with cultural, arts, educational and historical background where Christian revival, slave abolitionist, artists and people with eclectic lifestyle thrive. Clarke School for Hearings and Speech was established here in 1867 which was United State’s first oral school for the deaf. Alexander Graham Bell was one of their school leaders. Other educational establishment founded in Northampton is Smith College, a private liberal art college for women, founded in 1871. Their famous alumni are Julia Child, Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan – both were US first ladies, and also American poet and writer, Sylvia Plath.  

The Year of the Women & the History of Women’s Rights

On November 6th recently, after the midterm election, over 100 women will serve in Congress including 31 new members who come from more diverse background. Among them are two Muslim women, two Native American women and two first African-American women elected to Congress from Massachusetts and Connecticut. The election became a history for my eldest daughter who voted for the first time. At first, she was worried because on the day of election she would be away at her college in Massachusetts. So I helped her getting to know about the absentee ballots. People who can’t come to vote at their local voting stations can send their vote beforehand by mail. My daughter did that. She sent me text telling me that she dropped off the ballot in the mail box in her campus a couple of days before November 6th. I was so proud.

The recent midterm election became more significant because of the situation that we’ve been having for the past two years. I’m not going to indulge in mentioning name or names or whatever that has happened. But making a note about the turn out of the recent election which showed the strength of the women’s voice. It is one of the milestones for American women in the history of fighting for the rights to vote. I somehow connected the midterm election to my experience visiting Seneca Falls where the first Women’s Rights Convention was held. During our trip to Upstate New York a while back, we passed by the town of Seneca Falls. We came there actually to see the Eerie Canal, but we found out that Seneca Falls has important part in the fight for women’s rights. The first Women’s Right Convention was held there between July 19th – 20th, 1848, at Wesleyan Chapel.

When we arrived at the sight where the first convention happened, unfortunately the place was closed. From outside, though, I could see the inside of Wesleyan Chapel where Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Mary M’Clintock, Martha Coffin Wright and Jane Hunt called on women to fight for their Constitutional right to equality as U. S. citizen. They came up with 11 resolutions that demanded women be placed as equal as men. The 9th resolution was viewed as the most controversial, which said,

“to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise or the right to vote”.

However, the women’s fight to get their rights be acknowledged was a long one, especially the fight for the right to vote. From that, women’s suffrage was born. At last, on August 26th, 1920, the 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was certified. Then, on November 2nd, 1920, as much as 8 millions women across the country gave their votes in election for the first time. Now, there are more women being elected to sit in the legislative sector in U.S. and that is one achievement the women of Seneca Falls Convention would be so proud of.

The 19th Amendment of U.S. Constitution:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex”.

(For my daughters Emily & Audrey).

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Travel Journal: The Charm of Washington Irving’s Sunnyside Home

In this part of Tarrytown, you won’t find the Headless Horseman mentioned in Washington Irving’s story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In this part of Washington Irving’s story is his Sunnyside home and what an exquisite home it is. I took the kids on one weekend to this small cottage that garnered the artsy-touch of Washington Irving. The house is nestled behind some wooden area behind the gift shop. We were welcomed at the gift shop with the rest of the visitors to buy the ticket admission. Then at a certain time, a tour guide wearing a hoop skirt in small purple flowers motif and a knitted hair cap with two long purple bows, greeted us and took us to Sunnyside. Along the path that we walked through, we passed a huge tree that is more than 300 years old. It guards the surrounding like an ancient grandfather. The short distance that we took was filled with the guide’s stories and informations, not to mention, the twittering of the birds.

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The house that Washington Irving called home used to be a farmhouse owned by a Dutch-American man, that he bought in 1835. When we came upon the house, I was stunned. Sunnyside is not as sunny as I thought it would, perhaps it’s because of the  wisteria vines that draped the house that Washington Irving himself chose to plant. When we came, the wisteria has already bloomed, so what we saw was more like overgrowth rather than something beautiful. The entangled, crisscrossing vines, toppled on top of another, give  the house an added flair of an antique building. The influences of Dutch-Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival and Scottish Gothic, was proof of how deeply Washington Irving understood about the architecture of Sunnyside. The guide took us inside the house and we went into room by room, including Washington Irving’s study where he acknowledged as the Father of American Literature. Sunnyside is a quaint house with a beautiful view of the Hudson River, that one time noted Charles Dickens as its guest.  Each corner of the house possesses its unique story just like the master of the house, the great Washington Irving.

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Historic Main Street, Litchfield

It’s been a while. So many things to write, so little time. This winter has been too much for us. Too much snow. Too much ice. Too cold. Some days we had to stayed indoor, because of the snowstorms that seemed coming every week. But yesterday was brilliant! The temperature was warm enough that the spring might just peeking out for a bit. There’s no strong and cold wind, and sunshine was abundant. We decided to enjoy our Saturday by visiting a town called Litchfield in the northwestern part of Connecticut. Town of Litchfield was established in 1721 that thrived and prospered during the Revolution era, while other towns in Connecticut were attacked by the British. I love history, and a town that has history like Litchfield is my kind of town. Our first destination was Litchfield Historical Society, but unfortunately, the place was closed until April. On the entrance to the Litchfield Historical Society building was a unique and very interesting door knocker. It’s in the shape of an Egyptian man’s head. After admiring the door knocker and the massive entrance door, I took the kids for a walk around the main street and the town green for sightseeing.

Our first destination was the First Congregational Church that was established in 1829 with the Greek Revival Style. It was the third meetinghouse in Litchfield and said to be the most famous church in New England, being photographed by many. I could see why. The building looked so grand and majestic. Next, we walked pass by a house that used to be owned by Timothy Skinner. He was a treasurer, constable and also a selectman in Litchfield, beside being a Brigadier General in the militia army. Then, we walked back towards the town green and saw the Civil War cannon and monument that was dedicated on July 8th, 1847. Across the town green are rows of stores and among them is the State Court House. Litchfield also known as the birth town of the first law school in America. One of its student was the 7th Vice President of United States, John C. Calhoun. With so many historical buildings that lined up on the main streets of Litchfield, no wonder if this town is a place to be if you love history, or just want to get away from the winter blues while the weather is bearable. The town of Litchfield is spectacular indeed.

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The Noyes Memorial Library (1893), where Litchfield Historical Society is located.

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The First Congregational Church and the 3rd meetinghouse of Litchfield (1829) in the Greek Revival Style.

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The Civil War monument and cannon at the town green.

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The State Court House building (1888).

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The Timothy Skinner House (1787).

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The Tapping Reeve house and law school, America’s first law school (1775-1833).

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The Samuel Seymour House (1784) where Vice President John C. Calhoun once stayed during his time as a law student.

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The historical store blocks in Litchfield.

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The Red Coats Army in New Haven

My daughter and I were on the city bus going to New Haven downtown around April, when we saw something happening at the Green. There were a couple of men in red coats parading with their swords and muskets. They looked amazing in their regalia against a busy Saturday traffic in downtown. They were honoring a very important date that annually celebrated since 1904 called the POWDER HOUSE DAY. It was the event led by Benedict Arnold with the 2nd Company Governor’s Foot Guard demanding the key to the King’s powder from the Selectmen that happened on April 22nd, 1775. They wanted to help their fellow Patriots who fought against British army in Cambridge, by taking the powder, ball and flint. The fifty-eight member of the Governor’s Foot Guard went off to assist at the Battle of Lexington.

How do I know this? I happen to be a history buff and seeing the parade intrigued me to search about the event. The Second Company Governor’s Foot Guard is a military organization formed in New Haven, Connecticut. It was established during the Revolutionary War era and consisted of volunteers of men and women who wanted to protect the Governor and the people of the young state of Connecticut. The unit that we saw celebrating the Powder House Day was wearing their Dress Winter from the style the Guard chose in 1893. The details are:

– scarlet coat with blue facing, silver braid and buttons;

– the coat cuts away at the front showing a white vest and ends in tail just below the back of the knees;

– white knee breeches;

– black leggings;

– large bearskin shako (the fur hat);

– officer’s belt.

Source: http://www.footguard.org

Powder House Day in New Haven, CT

The 2nd Company Governor's Foot Guard

Powder House day, New Haven

Powder House Day in New Haven

Powder House Day, new Haven, CT

Powder House Day, New Haven, CT

The 2nd Company Governor's Foot Guard

Powder House Day, New Haven, CT

The Red Coats of 2nd Company Governor's Foot Guard

Powder House Day, New Haven, CT

Powder House Day, New Haven, CT

The 2nd Company Governor's Foot Guard