Stacey Loscalzo

Latest Posts

Nov 08

Reading for Empathy

by Stacey

“Fiction gives us empathy: it puts us inside the minds of other people, gives us the gifts of seeing the world through their eyes. Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over.”
— Neil Gaiman- Fahrenheit 451 Introduction

I wrote a post this weekend about an ugly incident in our town and some adult’s ugly reaction to it. I am thankful that good friends shared this post widely and I am very proud of the conversations the post sparked among so many people in our community.

In an effort to continue the conversation, I want to do what I do best- recommend books. Over the course of my next few posts, I will share my favorites on some of the issues I feel are most central to our community’s situation.

Empathy seems like good place to start.  All of us, children and adults alike, could spend some time considering empathy which by definition is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” So much of what has happened might have been different if everyone had taken a deep breath and thought about how their actions and words might impact another person.

As long time readers of my blog know, picture books are my first love. Even now that the girls are long past their picture book reading days, these books still cover the flat surfaces of our house. I still buy new picture books and collect them like others do shoes. So, whenever I think about a topic that I want to explore, picture books are where I start.

Below is a list of some of my favorite pictures books that delve into, subtly and not, the idea of empathy. If you have others that I should love, please let me know so I can keep my list growing.

Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev (the photo above inspired this brilliant book)

Come With Me by Holly M. McGhee

Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry

Hey, Little Ant by Phillip M. Hoose & Hannah Hoose

The Other Side by Jacquline Woodson

Chrysanthemum by Keven Henkes

And then just a few lists from some of my favorite book places.

What Do We Do All Day: Picture Books to Teach Empathy

Pernille Ripp: 10 Picture Books that Spark Empathy

Common Sense Media: Books That Teach Empathy

New York Times: You Can’t Teach Empathy But These Picture Books Inspire It

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Nov 04

Lessons I Hope We Learn

by Stacey

Last weekend two high schoolers in our community fought on back to back days. The second fight ended in a significant injury to one of the students. Many other students watched. Those students did not intervene. They videotaped the fight and posted it on social media.

These are the only facts that the public has. Because the students are minors and because we live in country with a robust legal system, these are the only facts that the school district and the police department can legally pass on to the public. There are rumors of cyber bullying. There are rumors of inappropriate pictures. There are rumors of racial undertones.

If I wrote a fictionalized story of what we believed happened during and leading up to this fight, an editor would reject it. The story would appear implausible. How could all the issues that plague our teens coincide within one story? And yet, it appears that this story is, at least in part, true.

As a family we have talked through many issues since last weekend. Violence and threats of violence. Taking and sending inappropriate pictures. The fact that there is no such thing as an ‘innocent bystander.’ Reminders that if you see something, say something. The importance of smart media literacy. The list could and will go on and on.

Of course, all of this weighs heavily on me as mother. What is weighing almost more heavily though is the behavior of adults in our community as we react to this awful story. I am a member of a number of local Facebook groups and conversations about the fight have dominated those groups in the past few days.

I have read on as parents, using the same social media tool that they vilify, pass judgment on the students and their parents. The names that have been levied and the judgements on parenting that have been passed are truly unbelievable. It is true that there is only one boy in the hospital which makes the story appear very clear cut. And of course, that part of the story is. What is not clear cut to us as outsiders is what led up to this situation and what is even less clear is the parenting that went on in these children’s homes. The fact that people write in one sentence about the evils of cyberbullying by teens while in the next sentence actively cyberbully fellow parents is shocking to me.

If I have learned anything in my fourteen years as a parent it is that we should never judge what another parent does unless we have lived an identical life to theirs which, of course, is impossible. Before having children, I swore that I would cook one meal that everyone would eat, that my children would stay in bed until I was ready to get up and that I would limit their screen time to 30 minutes a day. Anyone who knows me knows that those promises did not pan out and now, neither do the promises I made about raising teenagers. As parents we set the tone in our family. We lay the groundwork and instill the values we hope our children will embrace. And we hold them accountable when they make mistakes. What we do not control, because we never did, is what our children will do out of their own free will. We are, after all, raising them to be independent people.

There are so many lessons that our community will learn as the result of this horrible incident. I hope at least two of these lessons are that we, as adults, should refrain from judging without facts and that we as adults should always refrain from public judging on a social media platform. Social media is never, as some hope, going to go away. That toothpaste is out of the tube and it will not go back in. Our children are going to live their social lives on their devices. It is our job as adults to navigate this world along-side them and to model the on-line behavior we would like to see our children demonstrate. My hope, of course, is that the injured boy is healed and the outcome for the others involved is appropriate. And beyond that, my hope is that we as parents will learn all we can from this terrible situation.

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Nov 02

What I’m Into (October 2017 Edition)

by Stacey

Last month I jumped into Leigh Kramer’s fun round up of posts titled, What I’m Into and had a blast thinking about the past month. I promised myself I would keep better notes and take more detailed pictures of what the month brought this time around but I can’t quite say I did… but here a few musings on the month that just passed.

Currently Reading

I am currently reading Dan Brown’s latest, Origin. I swear I really like it but for some reason it is taking me forever to get through. I’m not sure if this is commentary on the book or on our ever changing schedules. The girls are going to bed later than ever and for sure, this is cutting in to my reading time.

Currently Listening

All my regular podcasts that I mentioned last month are still in the rotation but I have added a few new ones,  like #am Writing with Jess & KJ and Fully Booked, as well. And for anyone wondering how I listen to so many podcasts, I have two words for you. Dance Mom. Katherine dances at a studio 20 minutes from home and she is there six to seven days a week. I log a lot of driving (and listening!) time.

Currently Watching

Ok. I fully admit I have a problem. I have not even started watching Stranger Things because I can’t stop my Criminal Minds obsession. Between the stress of the news of the world and the anxiety of all the newness (high school, middle school etc) in our own house, I crave the predicability of this procedural. I am going to run out of seasons soon but for now, Criminal Minds is where I’m at.

Favorite Instagram

Last month, I spent a lot of time on Instagram getting to know Bookstagram and meeting lots of new readers. And then the Instagram algorithm changed and I got grumpy about it so… this month I was there less but definitely missed it so I plan to jump back in soon.

I would say, though that I did love this picture from last month.

 

 

 

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Oct 31

Halloween

by Stacey

 

I’ve never liked Halloween.

When I was little, I would go to the parade in my grandparent’s neighborhood and that was sort of fun. But I grew up in New England so it was cold and I always had to wear a coat over my costume which seemed to defeat the whole purpose of the costume.

When I was older, I hated the idea of dressing up. Frankly I still do. I don’t like being uncomfortable or wondering if my costume is ‘too much’ or ‘too little.’ To this day, wearing costumes makes me feel an insecurity I don’t feel over-wise.

When the girls were born, Halloween was fun for a little bit. What’s not to love about a baby pumpkin or duck? We would walk through the neighborhood with friends and collect all my favorite candy. We lived in Virginia at the time so the weather tended to be perfect.

And then we moved to New Jersey and Halloween became cold again. In fact, Halloween was canceled in our town two years in a row. First due to early snow that fell and took down power lines days before and then thanks to super storm Sandy that left our neighborhood without power for two weeks.

And then the girls got older and wanted to trick or treat with different groups of friends so we would divide and conquer. Rob would go with one group and I with the other, the whole time wondering how people have more than two children.

And then the girls got older still and Halloween meant a day full of fun but also different schedules. The girls came home for lunch during elementary school and then back for the Halloween parade. I tended to miss my routine and felt all out of sorts.

As the girls got older still, Halloween only got harder. Suddenly, Halloween became about social groups. Who was wearing a group costume and who wasn’t? Were you trick or treating with these friends or those friends? The social pressures took all the fun out of the day.

I still feel many of these feelings about Halloween. Today though, things feel a little bit different. This is our first Halloween without an elementary schooler. I have no Halloween parade to attend and that makes me sad. Caroline will certainly trick or treat without us and chances are good that Katherine will too. Fortunately, Katherine and a few of her sweet friends will come to our house after school for pizza and to drop off their back packs but then they will most likely be out on their own until dark. Maybe then, Rob and I can trail them at a tween approved distance for a bit?

I know we still have many more years of hands on parenting ahead of us. On days like these though, I can feel the nest getting less and less crowded.

 

 

 

 

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Oct 19

What Made Maddy Run: A Review

by Stacey

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Earlier this week I wrote a post about a few of my recent reads and commented that the book, What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan, deserved it’s own space. I am still not entirely ready to talk about Maddy but I guess I won’t ever be so here goes.

I read this book as part of a program launched at our middle school called Beyond the Book. Each month the group reads a book that thematically represent the mission and core values embraced at our school. Topics will include resilience, grit, inter-personal skills, the whole child and more. Our first book was What Made Maddy Run and our principal, vice principal and approximately twenty parents sat down to discuss it last week. If you are a long time reader of this blog, you will know that sadly, our middle school community experienced a suicide a year and a half ago so unfortunately, this book seemed like the right beginning place for our discussions.

What Made Maddy Run is the story of Madison Holleran and her death by suicide (a term I only learned after reading this book). Maddy grew up in Allendale, just a few towns away from Ridgewood. The descriptions of Maddy, her life and her surroundings are all eerily familiar. Maddy was a perfectionist. A student. An athlete. And a social butterfly. She seemingly had it all and wanted more. These phrases describe Caroline and Katherine to a tee along with practically all of their friends. We live in an area, that despite many parent’s efforts to the contrary, rewards, consciously or unconsciously, perceived success over happiness.

There are many things that I could write about Maddy and the experience of reading her story and talking about it with my peers. What struck me the most though were the conversations that I had with Caroline as she read What Made Maddy Run. And yes- I did let her read it although I was hesitant. I would strongly recommend you read it before your child but if you feel they are ready (and maybe even if you don’t) the conversations that came from jointly reading this book were worth the fear I had to experience in order to allow Caroline to read it. In case this helps… one thing we did talk about last week was that books, television shows and conversations about suicide do not plant seeds in our kid’s minds. Instead they create a safe place to discuss a scary topic.

When Caroline first started reading about Maddy she said something really important. I had underlined passages like “Words meant little. Only excellence helped chip away at self-doubt. And so she excelled.”  Caroline’s comment to me was that she would have underlined different passages. She is not an underliner and I did not want to stop the flow of her reading so I’m still not sure where her focus lay. Of course, as a child, she would read this book differently than I did but we did take away one similar and very important message. Living in a world of social media had a huge impact on Maddy and how she lived with depression and anxiety. When she was about half way through the book, Caroline said, “Emoji’s killed Maddy.”

At first I was confused. She went on to say, “She was able to hide behind the haha’s and the lols and the emojis. It all didn’t seem so serious when she texted lol at the end of her messages.” Maddy did tell her friends and family that she was hurting. She told them something wasn’t right and they did everything they could to support her. They did not ignore her because she ended her texts with emojis but it is true that her messages may have read slightly differently because of them.

There is something super valuable in Caroline’s emoji comment. None of us are talking enough. And we are all hiding behind emojis and text shorthand. I am guilty of this personally and I have allowed the girls to both become very dependent on their phones. Fortunately, the girls still do talk to me, Rob and their friends face to face often but I know that there are times they don’t. I immediately thought back to text exchanges I have had where I have thrown in a haha or an lol myself to downplay the emotion in my message. And I know that I have felt relieved when Caroline has done the same.

Caroline did also say that a line that stuck with her revolved around Maddy’s mental illness. The message she mentioned was that we, as emotionally healthy people, will never be able to rationalize what Maddy did simply because we are emotionally healthy and Maddy was not. I am in awe of the access that Maddy’s family gave to Kate Fagan. Their openness allowed for this book to be written and I am grateful. Being able to talk openly about teenage anxiety and depression is huge. It is scary as can be that Maddy talked and her parents did all they could and she still died. I know though that by telling Maddy’s story, her parents have opened up conversations with countless children just like theirs. And I know because of these conversations, children like Maddy will be saved.

Thank you to the Holleran Family for sharing and to Kate Fagan for writing such a powerful story.

 

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Oct 16

What I’ve Been Reading Lately

by Stacey

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Today I am linking up with the amazing Modern Mrs. Darcy to tell you What I’ve Been Reading Lately. This is a super fun link up that I used to participate in monthly but it has been ages since I have so… I am just going to talk about a few of the books that I have read and loved this fall.

Hum If You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais

I finished this title awhile ago but I’m still thinking about the characters and the world in which they lived. This story, set in apartheid-era South Africa, brings two families together through tragedy. I learned a lot while reading and the story really made me think.

Young Jane Young by by Gabrielle Zevin

Young Jane Young is a fun page turner based loosely on the Monica Lewinsky scandal. This was my first selection from the Bookshelf Thomasville Shelf Subscription. I did really enjoy it but I wanted it to be more like The Hopefuls which was a favorite of mine from the summer.

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

This book deserves a post of it’s own and it will get one later on this month. Gretchen Rubin touched on her personality framework in an early work and I had myself pegged very clearly as an obliger (a person who meets outer expectations but resists inner expectations). After talking about this framework with a friend last week, I came to an alarming discovery. I am pretty sure I am a rebel. Who knew!? As I said, more to come on this one.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I loved Ng’s latest so much that it got it’s own review. Click here to see what I thought about this family drama.

What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan

We discussed this book as part of our middle school’s parent-teacher book group. I have to admit that I probably would have avoided reading this one were it not for a bookclub. Fagan tells the true story of Maddy, a young girl who dies by suicide. Maddy grew up a few towns away from ours and until the very end of her story, she could be any one of many girls we know. I will also be writing more about Maddy down the road as this story has filled my mind ever since I finished the last page.

 

 

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Oct 12

Mother and Reader: Two Sides of the Same Coin

by Stacey

 

Mother and reader. These are the two descriptors that I use most often to describe myself. And I’ve come to realize that these two roles have an awful lot in common.

For both the mother and the reader:

You can never choose a favorite.

Every time my girls ask me who is my favorite, I try to be clever and say, “You are my favorite first daughter and you are my favorite second daughter.” Of course, they each roll their eyes and continue to believe that I love the other more but so goes sibling rivalry.

It is the same in the world of books. Choose a favorite book? Never. But my favorites of the year, I may be able to do that. Favorite picture book? The Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli and Mariachiara Di Giorgio. Favorite middle grade read? Real Friends by Shannon Hale. Favorite young adult novel? The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. And favorite novel? Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.

There is never enough time.

Every day I wake up with a to-do list. By the end of the day, I may have crossed off a few items but most likely I have added more to-dos than I have accomplished.

The same principle applies to my to be read list. Today I may have finished Shadow Man by Ian Drew by but I added The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnvich, Castle of Water by Dane Huckelridge and Jac Jemc’s The Grip of It. It seems likely that there will never be enough time to complete either my to-do list or my to be read list.

It’s important to choose your battles.

The girls spend lots of time on their iPhones. They both watch re-runs of Friends over and over again despite the repeated sexual references that I hope (but know aren’t) going over both their heads. And I do in fact make multiple dinners every night despite knowing, without a doubt, that this is a bad idea. There are simply too many battles to fight every day to fight every single one so I have prioritized as a mom.

I do the same as a reader. I should read more non-fiction, fantasy and short stories. I should keep better track of what I read and what I thought of those books. I should write my name in the books I lend but I don’t do any of these things. I suppose these are the book battles that, for today, I have chosen not to fight.


The is no right way to do things.

Caroline had terrible reflux as a baby. During her first few months of life she slept many more hours in her car seat than she ever did her crib. We have yet to figure out an effective way to get our children to complete chores. And I’ve let our girls quit way more extracurricular activities than I would care to admit. While many, many moms would disagree with these approaches, Caroline iis now a sound sleeper (car-seat free), both girls clean their rooms every so often and they both love the activities that they have chosen to do.

And again, it is the same in the world of books. Did I love The Goldfinch? I did not like it at all (especially the Las Vegas part) but I know that many did. Do I understand the fascination with comic books? No. But I do enjoy watching the faces of people who love them as they talk about their favorite issues. Can I finish any of the many, many audiobooks that I have started? Nope. But I continue to write down reader’s favorites because so many people love them. Like in life, there is not one way to be a reader.

Your tribe is important.

I was lucky that Caroline was born just two weeks before one of my closest friends gave birth to her first child. Talking with Elizabeth about sleep deprivation, tummy time and swaddling got me through those early months. The topics my tribe discusses may have changed. The past few weeks alone, we have talked vaping and college essays and curfews. But the power of the group of women that surrounds me remains the same.

The same can be said of my community of readers. Sure I look forward to my book club meeting each month but now, thanks to social media, I am in touch with my reading tribe each and every day. I check in on the Twitter hashtag #weneeddiversebooks. I scroll through the many posts on the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club Facebook page. I listen to bookish podcasts and I pour over bookstagram. Checking in with my tribe and on my reading community is a highlight of each day.

So there you have it. Mother and reader. Two sides of the same coin.

 

 

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Oct 02

What I’m Into (October 2017 Edition)

by Stacey

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This month I decided it would be fun to link up with Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into Series so here goes…

September was… well, it was September. Every year, parents of school aged children know it’s coming but it seems to knock us on our backside every single time. This year, Katherine started middle school and Caroline started high school so the adjustments felt even bigger. Now that we have turned the page on the calendar, I hope that the world (our personal world at least) starts to feel a tiny bit more settled.

Here are a few things that have been keeping me sane-ish during this month of adjustments.

Books:

So apparently one thing that suffered this month was my tracking system for the books I finished. And needless to say, my memory did not stand up to the task. I know I read Hum if You Don’t Know the Words, Young Jane Young and Little Fires Everywhere but I am almost certain there are more…

Music:

Caroline is playing on her high school soccer team which means that she practices right after school and takes a bus to games so there is way less soccer driving than their used to be. That said, Katherine is dancing a ton so there is still plenty of time in the car to listen to our favorite music. Current favorites include Praying by Kesha, All About Us by Pink and Gallway Girl by Ed Sheeran.

TV:

I really don’t know what my issue is but right now the only thing I seem to be able to watch on TV is the news and Criminal Minds. I wrote this post recently about my Criminal Minds fixation and I am pretty sure I am watching it obsessively in a way to feel in control of our otherwise out of control world.

Podcasts:

I am still listening to my old favorites including All the Books, Get Booked, From the Front Porch, What Should I Read Next?, Pop Culture Happy Hour, The Popcast and Sorta Awesome. And then a new to me is Bill Simmons Rewatchable in which the commentators discuss some of the most ‘rewatchable’ movies. I am now dying to re-watch movies like A Few Good Men and Silence of Lambs. If you haven’t listened to this podcast yet, I highly recommend it!

Favorite Instagram:

I have been on and off Instagram for years. In September though, I decided to jump in with a renewed focus on books and reading. I am having a blast and meeting a lot of fun new bookish friends. If we aren’t connected on Instagram yet, come find me! I am @staceyloscalzo.

My favorite Instagram from the month has to be the one in which I am reading with my favorite cat wearing my favorite shoes 🙂 

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Sep 27

Little Fires Everywhere: A Review

by Stacey

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When I heard that Celeste Ng had a new book coming out, the first thing I thought was, ‘Oh, no!’ Ng’s first book, Everything I Never Told You, was such a huge hit that a follow up seemed risky. Interestingly, and for no particular reason, I never read Ng’s debut but after reading Little Fires Everywhere I plan to rectify that mistake immediately. Up until this read, either Beartown by Frederick Backman or The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close had claimed spots as early runners for my favorite book of 2017. After closing the cover (which is beautiful by the way) of Little Fires Everywhere, there is now an unequivocal leader.

Typically I enjoy a book for either the story or the writing. It is awfully hard, I have found, to write a page turner using gorgeous language. This book, however, has both. Along with fully formed love-able (and sometimes hate-able) characters. Little Fires Everywhere is a family story. A story of race. And social issues. Of teenage angst and maternal love. And maternal pain. We follow the lives of the Richardson family, a seemingly perfect suburban family of six. Alongside their lives we journey with Mia, a single mom who is raising her daughter Pearl. The families find each other and their lives become entwined in ways that are both lovely and not.

I hesitate to give you any more detail. I knew little of the story going in and I’m sure it made the read all the richer. I recently heard a reader say that they just couldn’t stop reading because they were so worried about the characters. I had a pit in my stomach for most of the book and there were times when I wanted to look away like I do when watching scary things on tv. Nothing truly scary happened but there were so many decisions made by so many of these characters that you just knew were going to have unfortunate outcomes. I guess I thought looking away could change the plot.

Definitely let me know if you have read Little Fires Everywhere. It begs for discussion.

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Sep 11

Never Forget

by Stacey

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With Harvey and Irma and the state of the political world, our hearts are all so heavy. But still, the pages of the calendar turn and another September 11th arrives. Our collective heart is so burdened these days. Perhaps that it why the ‘Never Forget’ messages rings more true to me than ever on this September 11th.

While I have the luxury of being able to turn off the news when the family members begin to read the names of their loved ones, there are so many thousands of people who hold the memories of September 11th in their hearts every single day. For them, even when it is super hard, like it seems to be today, we must ‘Never Forget.’

Living as we do now in a suburb of NYC, I have always felt like an outsider on this day. So many of our friends and neighbors were there, in the city, close to the Twin Towers, if not in them, on that day. Rob’s sister and father were both in the city on 9/11. We were hundreds of miles away in Richmond. The stories that others have told me seem like fantasy. We watched that day unfold from afar while so many people were living it. That said, I do still have very distinct memories that I know will follow me always. Here they are.

I remember the perfect fall weather. Even in Richmond, the air was crisp and the sky was a distinct blue. Each fall we have a few days that feel exactly the same and someone will always mention the weather and how much it feels like 9/11. And the stories will begin.

I remember sitting in my classroom at Northstar Academy. Stephanie Brown, the history teacher, a tiny women with dark hair and a tweed skirt, stood in my doorway and delivered the news. There was a faculty room with a tiny television and in-between clients, I would go there and watch in silence with the other teachers. My friend Mary Margaret was pregnant and I remember looking at her belly, wondering how she was going to bring a child in to this changed world.

I remember sitting in this same faculty room pressing the buttons on the grey phone, trying again and again to reach Rob. He was a few hours away at a work off-site and I just wanted to hear his voice. I remember trying to figure out where his dad and his sister were in the city. At that point, I didn’t know the city at all and I had no idea how close or far they might be.

I remember finally reaching Rob and exhaling when he said he would be coming home. The off-site was canceled. Somehow, this more that anything, made me realize the enormity of what had happened.

I remember watching Katie Couric and Matt Lauer and getting cold despite the warm day. They looked as confused as well felt and that just didn’t seem right.

I remember listening to the directors of the school debate if we should tell the kids what had happened before we sent them home. I can’t remember what we did. I know there was a meeting in the gym and I feel like the kids were given a general idea but nothing specific. One of our students was the daughter of a secret service agent and I remember wondering where her dad was.

I remember returning to our first house, the one of Fitzhugh Avenue, and sitting down and turning on the tv. I’m pretty sure the tv was on for the rest of the day and into the night.

I remember that by the time Rob got home, he had spoken to his family and  we knew that his dad and sister were in the city but they were safe. We also learned that our brother in law, who lived in the city but was consulting on a job in Richmond, had been in the air when the attacks happened.

I remember going to sleep that night knowing that nothing would ever be the same again.

*Photo credit to Jin Lee. And if you are lucky enough to live in Ridgewood, stop by the library today (or throughout the month) to remember our community members who died on 9/11.

 

 

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