Early on in the pandemic, when we’d just begun the lockdown with work places shutting down, restaurants closed, and schools closing, we were only just getting used to having the kids at home, shopping once a week, avoiding people as much as possible, including even our son who lived on his own, plus being in a constant low level state of anxiety, keeping ongoing lists in my head, living, breathing, reading, and writing everything I could about coronavirus 20/7 with four hours leftover for sleep. Often, I couldn’t get through that minimum of four hours. I tried watching the White House’s coronavirus briefings; I thought they would be useful and informative. I thought they would quell my anxiety of those early days of unknown. My priest called them “dark days of confusion,” and they truly were. We’re still in them sometimes now. Those briefings didn’t help; they left me with higher levels of anxiety.
Nine years ago today, my friend was murdered by her ex. Up until that point, I was mostly unaware of the enormous domestic violence problem we have in this country.
I was unawware that 1 in 3 people are abused in their relationships.
I was unaware that women go to jail more for defending themselves against their partners than their partners do for abusing them.
I was unaware that I was part of the problem by not believing my friend when she did talk about her experiences in our mutual friend circles.
I was unaware.
We can no longer live in the darkness of ignorance; of platitudes; of living in our own bubbles.
If you know someone who is being abused, reach out. They may not accept your overtures, but they’ll know that you will be there when they are ready.
If you are being abused, there is help.
Contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-700-7233 or (TTY) 1-800-787-3224
or online at The Hotline
In New York State, there are new options available related to an uptick (30% higher in this past April than in April 2019) in the domestic abuse incidents and reports since our pandemic related isolation began.
Coronavirus and Domestic Violence (NY Times)
New Yorkers in Need of Help or Assistance Can Text 844-997-2121
or Can Go to the New Confidential Online Site to Reach a Professional on http://www.opdv.ny.gov
It’s been 100 years since women were given the right to vote, and as I’ve written previously we’ve come so far, and yet, not so much.
Susan B. Anthony was born today in 1820 in nearby Adams, Massachusetts. I say nearby because I live several hours from her birthplace and her final resting place in Rochester, New York. Last year, in fact, my family and I were able to visit her grave site, something that felt very meaningful to both my daughter and me in part of the run up to one hundred years of women’s suffrage and women receiving the vote.
Hers was a family of activism and social reform, from abolition and women’s rights and suffrage to opening their homestead up to meetings of many, including Frederick Douglas. She and Douglas were close friends and anti-slavery collaborators (and are buried in the same cemetary), and she is known to have helped some with Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad. Tubman’s homestead is nearby in Auburn, New York.
In 1872, Susan was arrested at the house she shared with her sister in Rochester, for illegally voting. She was convicted and upon refusing to pay the fine, the authorities ceased any further action.
She became the first woman citizen to be featured on a US monetary coin when her image was portrayed on the dollar coin in 1979. I believe I still have one or two somewhere.
If she were alive today, I imagine she’d be astounded that we still haven’t gotten an Equal Rights Amendment in our Constitution. Perhaps, not astounded as much as disappointed. Hopefully, that can soon be rectified as well as ratified before another one hundred years passes. After all, we are more than half the citizenry; we should have at least the equal rights of men.
September 11th is one of those days that will remain with people for as long as they live. To me I imagine this is how witnesses to Pearl Harbor felt in those first few decades. My witnessing was on television, and knowing friends who were there and who survived as well as personally knowing someone who knew someone who didn’t woven with my own history of life in New York and Long Island (who disproportionately lost a significant amount of firefighters) really affected me in ways that I believe the rest of the country can’t even fathom.
On that day, we had just returned home from New York and Long Island. We traveled under a similar clear blue sky and looked from the bridge towards the Twin Towers which could be easily seen. The next morning the television was on, and our door was open to the neighborhood; to anyone walking by who wanted to glance in at our TV and get a quick update. It was surreal.
We spent days, weeks even, glued to the television, at that time thinking that more survivors could be found. We watched and mourned, tears easily coming without warning all throughout that time. I remember that entire first year of suddenly breaking into bouts of crying and flinching every time I drove by the nearby airport when a plane was taking off or landing, fear paralyzing my driving for a split second that the plane was low in the sky.
That first anniversary was my son’s first year of public school: kindergarten. I felt that they schools, especially New York schools, should have taken the first anniversary off. We kept him home that day. The three of us went to the State Museum in the capital of Albany and looked at the exhibit with other likeminded, numb, silent except for some quiet weeping New Yorkers. We stood by the chain-link fence with missing posters signs and ribbons, photos and other memorials. We stood in horror and sorrow at the fire truck crushed under the collapse and debris of the formerly magnificent structures known as the World Trade Center. We moved from one thing to the next until we’d seen all we could.
In subsequent years, we’ve done different things. Our kids continue to go to school, and this is the first year that our children will learn about Nine-Eleven. My daughter who wasn’t born in 2001 is in her last year of middle school. My oldest son who was there with us at five years old is now a volunteer fire fighter.
I did not want the nonsense of this present Administration to have anything to do with yesterday. I stayed off of Twitter, and avoided any political content until the evening and after hearing what happened in North Carolina, I was very glad that I made that choice.
Instead, I began my day with Mass, where our priest was celebrating a couple’s sixtieth anniversary of marriage. They renewed their vows. There was one woman present who lost her son on 9/11. The tollling of the church bells at the moments the planes hit the Towers was profound and solitary and emotional. Fr. J gave me two words to take with me yesterday morning: peace & justice.
I drove from there to the Hudson Crossing Park in Schuylerville, New York to walk and pray the labyrinth there. It was a wonderful experience. As I sat in the middle of the center and prayed, again I knew I had made the right choice. On the way out, I was in time to see the Erie Canal Lock #5 in action as the lock filled with water, raising what appeared to be a small boat but wasn’t. As the couple rose to my eye level, we greeted each other and talked briefly before the gates of the lock opened and they sailed north.
From there, I went to Cracker Barrel for no other reason than it was on the way home, and I enjoyed a quiet lunch by myself and did some writing.
In my small ways, I honored the day, and kept it solemn in a way that worked for me. On my way home, I felt blessed. I hope others did the same and got through the day in ways that felt blessed for themselves.
These are a few of the random images I wanted to share as a little preview to upcoming stories while they tell their own story. Honestly, so many stories. It was wonderful in so many ways.
Attending the dedication and unveiling of this new statue was an incredibly moving and surprisingly learning experience. I thought I knew who Harriet Tubman was and her place in history, but in listening to the speakers, the experts in African-American history and the history of Harriet Tubman in particular, I was more than a little surprised at how insufficient my knowledge of Harriet Tubman was. My knowledge was merely on the periphery, and lacked a more indepth substance of her life and who she really was. I was pleased to have had the opportunity to impart this new found information on someone at the statue the following day.
Unless we’ve taken electives in high school or college that focus on the African-American experience, much of this substance is missing. I knew the basics. My daughter is currently studying for her seventh grade finals which include the Civil War, and I don’t think that Harriet Tubman is included much beyond those bare facts that I remembered. Her knowledge (and mine prior to this event) could fit into a thimble.
This would be a travesty in any study on the plight of the slaves, but it is even more so in my home state of New York, where Harriet Tubman eventually made her home.
Put simply, her life was a miracle. She was born on a Maryland plantation where her parents were slaves and where she was forced to work as well as being loaned out. She was named Araminta and called Minty. He didn’t change her name to Harriet until later on in her life, naming herself after her mother.
She was hit on the head by a large object by a slave owner in town. She was unconscious and bleeding, and it is believed that she sustained a concussion. From that time on, she would involuntarily fall asleep at all sorts of unpredictable times. She also had dreams and visions that she took as signs from G-d, calling them revelations. He guided her and she her people to the promised land of the North. She was often referred to as Moses because of her embracing of the Bible’s Exodus story.
She was illiterate, and never learned to read or write. I think that her statute outside a public library is such a testament to how far you can come and who you can be when you use whatever skills you have.
She made thirteen trips back and forth to get slaves north, her final rescue in 1860. Because of the Fugitive Slave Act, she brought the slaves in her charge including her parents further north to Canada, to St. Catherine’s where they lived for a time but found it too cold.
One of the things I didn’t know was her role in the Civil War after her time with the Underground Railroad. She was a cook, a nurse, scout and a spy. She carried a pistol. She guided a raid that liberated seven hundred slaves at Combahee Ferry, and that was after helping John Brown plan and recruit for his Harpers Ferry raid. Despite her service for the Union Army, she didn’t receive a government pension until 1899. She was also involved in women’s suffrage with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
She was unstoppable.
William Seward, in addition to buying Alaska, was the governor of New York and the Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln. On the night of Lincoln’s assassination, he was also attacked as part of the same plot, and stabbed several times, but survived the attempted assassination and brutal assault.
He was an early abolitionist and provided monies for their works including the Stephen and Harriet Myers home in Albany, NY.
He and Harriet Tubman became close friends. Seward sold Harriet land in Auburn, New York where she settled and moved her parents there when it was relatively safe and St. Catherine’s became too cold. I’m not sure they found the Upstate New York climate much warmer than southern Canada. The land she owned became a refuge for her family and other former slaves. She sold some of it for the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and founded a home for the aged for African-Americans. She lived there until her death in 1913. She was buried in Auburn with semi-military honors.
She and Seward had become so close that she trusted he and his family to care for her niece while she continued her work as conductor on the Underground Railroad and her Union Army service, although the girl may have actually been Harriet’s daughter.
It was this friendship that formed the inspiration for the statue at the Schenectady Public Library.
Earlier in the month our family was having some difficulty deciding on a vacation destination. Our original plan was to take nine to ten days, but our son couldn’t get the first day off (or approved yet) and a very close friend is getting married during the second weekend. Consequently, our time away was cut down to five days. That’s still a decent chunk of time, and we are very grateful to be able to take our kids somwhere special.
I made a Facebook post solicitating suggestions from my friends. I gave them three criteria:
1. Nothing south of the Mason-Dixon Line
2. Nothing west of the Mississippi
3. Able to enjoy ourselves for 5 days with no air travel.
I’m sharing what places were suggested along with some links to the area tourism and travel guides.
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Nashville and/or Memphis, Tennessee
Ontario, Canada – Toronto and Niagara Falls (or Niagara Falls, NY)
General Travel Info
I had the honor of attending the dedication and unveiling of the Harriet Tubman-William Seward Statue at the Schenectady, New York Public Library. I will post more about this event in the next few days as well as today’s related family adventure, but I need to say how much I learned from the speakers and how emotional I found this event. I feel blessed that I was able to attend.
As we wound down our staycation, I kept trying to make things interesting. We were all a little depressed that we weren’t able to go away this year, and really, after the wonderful time we had in Ireland last year with family, there really was no way to attempt to equal that, but I did want the kids to feel that they’d gotten a break before school returns next week.
I gave them each a journal, and began to dictate topics to start them off. They were not thrilled.
Then I hit up the I Love NY app, and found a perfect (on paper) idea to both give us a tourist opportunity, and remind us of our Irish adventure.
We discovered the Irish-American Heritage Museum. I had misread the website, so there really isn’t a large exhibit space. They typically have events, and in fact, later that week, they were hosting a Celtic cruise on the Hudson. They did have a display of Saratoga Race Track Travers’ Race posters by Greg Montgomery.
They also had a couple of small spaces of interest, both in current Irish-American life, history, and the diaspora. There was a table of Kennedy family photos, which I thought their prominence so clear that there was no label as to who they were. I did recognize one photo of the President and his mother.
Another section told the story of the Ancient Order of Hibernians Honor Guard, and still another was some religious items and artifacts, including a relic of St. Columba.
All along the walls depicted the history of the Irish-American beginnings especially in the Albany-Saratoga region with several track photos as well as Honorary Diplomas from the Educational Institute of Scotland for both Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan.
We spent a lovely hour looking around and asking questions.
Admission is by donation, and there was also a little gift shop.
After that, we stopped at a local Irish pub for lunch.
It really was a nice way to end our summer before going back to work and school, and offer homage to our once in a lifetime trip last year, which still calls to my heart.
Next week, I will surprise the kids with Irish candy as a before school treat. It’s been too hot to get it even the short distance to the Irish shop in town.
What adventures have you found this summer?