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Archive for September 2011

Hire some senior whisperers

When I go to the grocery store with my 90-year-old mother, I always make her put her cart ahead of me in line so I don't watch strangers get exasperated with her as she counts out her money. (I get exasperated with her but try to be nice about it. Succeed half the time.)

Anyway, when she senses the frustration around her, she says: “Just wait until you're 90!”

I had a “just wait until you're 56!” moment yesterday at a computer store. A 20something salesperson, technologically good, was impatient with my analog brain style. He wandered off, as I struggled with a few things on the computer, to help his fellow workers. I finally confronted him and said I needed his full attention and if he couldn't give it to me, he needed to find someone else who could.

He got with the program right away and the rest of the time went well. Gina Boysun, one of our wonderful Web people here, said computer stores need to hire “senior whisperers” — digital brain staffers who are patient and kind to analog brains like me.

Good point Gina. By the way, she's got the whisperer touch.

Freedom Knox?

 The Amanda Knox appeals trial will soon yield its verdict: will her conviction be overturned, allowing her to come home to Seattle? When I was a woman of 20, I spent a year in Florence, Italy, as a college student.  Our class of American students, 92 of us, traveled, studied, experimented, took risks and immersed ourselves in Italian culture – a culture we did not always understand.  Many students drank way too much for their own safety. Some students easily hitchhiked, dated and traveled with casual or instant acquaintances.  We had no clue of any danger to us. After all, we knew what we were doing. When I recently viewed a lovely photo collage of our year there, my first reaction was: “We were so young and innocent!”

Amanda Knox is no different from the 92 Florentine students.  What happened to Amanda could easily have happened to one of our students. Amanda innocently traveled to a lovely country to learn its language and its customs. Unfortunately, the biggest part of her education has been to learn about its (unjust) justice system.

My prayers and hope are for her release and her return home.

(AP photo)

“I’m older than Google!”

My great-nephew, Matthew, will turn 16 in two weeks. On his Facebook page, he wrote: “I'm older than Google!”

A friend of his same age wrote back: “Tell your grandkids that one day. They won't believe it!”

Matt was born in 1995. Google, according to its company history, filed for incorporation in California on September 4, 1998.

Wow. It goes so fast! I first met Matt when he was 3 months old and somedays, it seems like yesterday. And I can't imagine a world now without Google.

What historical milestone do you track the years with?

(AP archive photo)

Did the insurance company kill Paul?

Any The Big C fans out there? Paul, the wife of the main character (who has terminal cancer) dies of a heart attack in the Showtime season ender, which aired Monday.

As a death and dying issues blogger, I love the series for its interesting take on the dying process. Paul battled his wife's insurance company all season over a scan they wouldn't cover. That stress surely contributed to his death (he might come back if it turns out to be a near-death experience only.)

If you've ever done phone battle with insurance companies or doctors' offices over disputed bills, you know what I mean by this unique stress.

I've been “in dialogue” with a health care provider's parent company for several months now over a bill they have misprocessed, despite all the documentation I've sent in.

One night, after receiving the same wrong bill yet again, I left angry messages on two company voicemails. I felt bad about my tone the next day, but it made me appreciate Paul's anger over a much bigger issue. That kind of helpless anger could lead to a heart attack and death, I have no doubt, especially if (as in Paul's case) you have other medical issues.

How have you solved a medical bill's insanity without going insane?

(S-R archive photo of  Oliver Platt, who plays Paul, with his series wife, Cathy, played by Laura Linney)

Another good reason to quit smoking

Quitting can lengthen your life, lessen health woes and make you smell better, too.

And today, yet one more reason from HealthDay.

It may help improve your everyday memory. The team at Northumbria University in Newcastle, the United Kingdom, gave memory tests to 27 smokers, 18 former-smokers and 24 never-smokers. The test involved remembering to do assigned tasks at different locations on the university campus. Smokers remembered only 59 percent of the tasks, compared with 74 percent for former-smokers and 81 percent for never-smokers.

My father, a Winston two-pack-a-dayer, gave it up the day a friend died of smoking-related lung cancer and never smoked one more cigarette. I've always been in awe of his willpower.

What finally got you to quit smoking?

(Photo of my dad, Joe Nappi, circa 1960s. Cigarette was likely in the hand not showing)

A moment… to honor his service

We continue to read about them each week – soldiers killed in Afghanistan. It is good to pause, to honor, to read their story and hold their loved ones in our hearts. Sgt. Tyler Holtz, 22, a member of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, was serving on his fourth deployment to Afghanistan when he was killed. Holtz is survived by his father, Andrew Holtz of Capistrano Beach, Calif.; his mother, Karen Holtz, and his three brothers, all of Dana Point, Calif.

Do you know a family waiting for a service member to return home? How do you support that family?

Shoot the pope? Sinead wants to.

Sinead O’Connor, the singer who once tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II while on Saturday Night Live, has threatened to shoot Pope Benedict if he visits Ireland, according to CathNewsUSA. 

Her friends worry about her mental health. Wonder if she'll get the same amount of attention over this action, as she did in 1992. Likely, not. We're a culture gone numb by violence, threatened and real.

(S-R archive photo)

The bunny man sends his best

John Kaplan, the subject of my Sunday story, took a photo early in his career in Spokane (around 1982 or 1983) of a man in a bunny costume (selling doughnuts on Easter Sunday). During his break, the man removed the bunny head and smoked a cigarette and that's the photo John captured so beautifully.

The “bunny man” saw my story Sunday and called to see if I could get a message to John to wish him well during his cancer journey and the documentary he made about it.

The bunny man's name is Jacke Zarko. He's now 56. He recently retired from the baker's union, after a 30-plus year as a baker in Spokane establishments and grocery stores.

He said he remembers the day distinctly, and how hard John worked to get the photo and he also rememberd John quoting him saying: “Being an Easter bunny is enough to drive you batty.”

John never forgot the bunny man, and vice versa.

The phone call reminded me that we never know in life whose lives we'll touch in memorable ways, even if it's only for a few hours. It would be a great way to go through life, acting as if every encounter was significant in another person's life.

Would it make us all kinder? Or less inclined to interact with others?

(Photo courtesy of John Kaplan)

Not as he pictured it

In my Sunday story today, John Kaplan, a former Spokesman-Review photographer, talks about the documentary he's made detailing his cancer journey. The University of Florida photojournalism professor told me he told himself he would quit photographing, and videotaping, the journey if it started not to feel right.

Glad he didn't stop, because the documentary Not As I Pictured is excellent. But it prompts this question:
If you had/have/will have cancer, how do you feel about sharing the journey with others?

(Photo courtesy of John Kaplan)

Go, granny, go

 Our boomer generation is again making headlines as we become grandparents: The newer grandparents are still working, with greater disposable income and now make up 1 in 4 adults. And more than ever, grandparents are once again parents - to their grandchildren - either offering financial assistance or becoming the in-house parents.

 Our children have to face a daunting economy in which to find work that supports their own families.

Unemployment among workers ages 25 to 34 last year was double that of Americans ages 55 to 64. So today's grandparents - often still employed - are likely to pay a grandchild's school tuition, or pay for activities like music lessons, sports or summer camp.

 Some aging boomers even assume fulltime parenting roles. (Nearly 8 percent of all children are living with grandparents.)

 Do you know someone who is raising or supporting a grandchild?

Prius brains at work

This past week at work, I spent about one quarter of my time on Spokesman-Review website work, blogging, facebooking and tweeting. And three quarters of my time on print product work, interviewing, writing and working on stories that will appear in our newspaper this weekend and next.

It dawned on me that those who remain in modern newsrooms can look to a machine for inspiration: The Prius. With its electric motor, and gasoline motor, the engine goes back and forth between both with ease.

So we journalists need Prius brains in this transition time. The “electric motor” is our website brain. The “gasoline” motor the traditional journalism brain. The goal now it to  more seamlessly use both motors.

How does this tie into a blog on death and dying? It's a stretch, but here's what I came up with. Toward the end of my life, when I bore to death younger family members with old-time stories, I'll tell them about a time when we had to report, write and edit for two things in one: newspapers and websites. I want to mark the day here when I realized my brain had to split in two to get it done.

To which my great-grandchildren and great-great nieces and nephews may reply: What's a newspaper? What's a Prius?

What would be your final meal request?

Executed killer Lawrence Russell Brewer requested this for his final meal Wednesday:

Two chicken fried steaks smothered in gravy with sliced onions

A triple meat bacon cheeseburger with fixings on the side

A cheese omelet with ground beef, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and jalapenos

A large bowl of fried okra with ketchup

One pound of barbecue with half a loaf of white bread

Three fajitas with fixings

A meat lovers pizza

Three root beers

One pint of Blue Bell vanilla ice cream

A slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts

He didn't eat any of it.

What would you choose for your last meal?

(S-R archive photo of one of my selections)


Say yes when a young person calls

Two weeks ago, a University of Washington student, Sarah Ward, emailed me with this request: I am taking an interviewing class this quarter in which I need to have an informational interview with someone, that I do not know, in my field of choice.

I didn't know Sarah but I remembered the words of Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen who said to me years ago : When a young person comes calling always make room in your schedule.

So it was an automatic yes to Sarah. On her second email, she revealed this: Her mother, Geneva Ward, had just died. Her mother's hope was that Sarah would finish the class she had postponed to be with her  in her last days at Hospice House in Spokane.

And, in all ways Spokane, I knew Sarah's mother when we were younger. Geneva went to Holy Names Academy at the same time I was attending Spokane's other all-girls high school, Marycliff.

So I'm so happy I said yes even before I knew this.

And Sarah's here with me today, asking about journalism and writing. I know why her mom was so proud of her. She's smart and beautiful and she didn't hesitate, at 26, to put her Seattle life on hold while being with her mother in the sacred days at Hospice House.

Here's a photo of Sarah with her mom at UW's graduation June 11.

(Photo courtesy of Sarah Ward)

More older people dying at home

Where do people die?

The Centers for  Disease Control and Prevention looked at that question and compared data between 1989 and 2007 to answer it in a press release today.

Of 700,000 people 85 and older who died in 2007:

  • 40 percent died in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
  • 29 percent died as hospital inpatients
  • 19 percent died at home.

Compared with 1989, the percent of people who died at home increased by 7 percent and the percent of people who died in a hospital decreased by 11 percent.

Definitely a trend in the works here.

440 pound man stuck in his house

Out of Australia this morning from OfficialWire:

A morbidly obese man had to be removed from his Melbourne house with a forklift in a medical rescue that took almost four hours. More than 15 paramedics and firefighters were involved in the delicate removal of the 200-kilogram man (440 pounds) from his home in Essendon yesterday afternoon. Ambulance Victoria spokesman Paul Bentley said paramedics were called about 4pm after the man in his 50s developed breathing problems.

Older people in my life worry about paramedics being able to get into a locked house. Imagine adding this worry.

Lunch in a funeral home

Paula Davis, funeral director at Heritage Funeral Home in Spokane, truly puts some fun in funeral home, to use the cliche. One to two times a month, she hosts lunches at the funeral home. She invites people she knows in civic and history groups and cooks all the food herself.

During the lunch, in a low key way, she does a sort of “commercial” for the funeral home, talking about the need to preplan and to write your obituary in advance.

She invited me to her luncheon yesterday. Menu: soup and salad and amazing desserts. I sat at a table with Dorothy Powers, Spokesman-Review legend and two local writers, Penny Hutton and T. Dawn Richard, all pictured here.

Paula may be at the cutting edge of a trend for funeral homes in our communities: Make funeral homes seem less funereal. 

(Photo courtesy of Heritage Funeral Home)

Sad emergency room tales

A relative has been sitting for four hours in an Inland Northwest emergency room waiting room with her daughter, who has pneumonia. The wait is long, so she is texting us updates on emergency room conversations.

Here's one: “The people next to me are three adults and two babies. The three adults are coordinating their stories to get oxycontin. One will say a toothache. Another woman is telling another that she has six kids but CPS has taken four of them. Her (two) kids are 3 and 4 and so cute! Her husband is taking anger management classes. They are bragging about their DUIs.  I am going to tell the Dr. when we go back to the room.”

The relative did tell the nurse and in a later update said: “She said they do not give out narcotics and people like them are in the system. They said they wouldn't leave here with narcotics. They can spot them.”

Does this kind of report make you sad, angry, frustrated, all of the above?

Coming home

After two years in a Tehran prison, two Americans are headed for home after $500,000 bail for each man was posted. 

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were arrested along the Iran-Iraq border in July 2009 and sentenced last month to eight years each in prison. A third American arrested with them, Sarah Shourd, was freed last year on bail. The three were hiking in northern Iraq’s scenic and relatively peaceful Kurdish region when they may have accidentally strayed over the unmarked border with Iran.

They were imprisoned and accused of being spies. During their time in captivity, Bauer proposed marriage to Shourd. She was released last September.

If you were imprisoned, what would you think about to keep your mind focused and your heart/emotions strong?

Grief of place

We grieve the loss of loved ones, but today I wonder about the grief created by the loss of place. Not a home, but a work space where people  evolved into a community of supportive colleagues, caring for each other as they went about their assigned task: to heal.

I walked through the once-bustling work space today; the last three employees stood around a work station, the overhead lights now dim, the equipment inventoried and ready for re-location. The employees left. I lingered. I opened the doors along the corridor, remembering how people had struggled, worked, cared, consulted, prayed, encouraged, diagnosed, healed. How most patients returned to their lives while some did not.

Our loss is of a healing community, once united and focused on their shared work, in this unique space, those people are  now dispersed to new lives. As my footsteps echoed in the hallway, I stopped to hear the silence, to remember the years of compassionate care, to offer one moment of thanksgiving for this sacred ground - its future unknown.   

Have you ever felt grief from the loss of a place?

Speaking with the dead

Carolyne 'Chevy''Pickup sent my editor this email about the “Speaking with the Dead” workshop Oct. 8 at Spokane's South Hill Library, 3324 S. Perry.
Will let Pickup describe it in her own words:
When someone we care about passes away conventional religious practice is to hold a funeral, then for those of us who are left, we are to lean on our faith until we too join them. The reality is that the person who passed meant so much to us that they leave a huge, gaping hole in our lives when they are gone.
I used to wonder why old people were so sad all the time and now I understand; there are so many holes from the people who they have loved and lost that they cannot find wholeness. In my journey I have learned to connect with the dead. It started with my mom. Before she passed I read about a woman who was psychic and so was her mother. When her mother died she was able to carry on complete conversations with her now deceased mother.
I decided that that was what I wanted and that if this woman could do it with her mother then, when the time came, I was going to do that too. Mostly it is a matter of permission. If you have permission then you open your mind and let down the boundaries which society, religious practice, and family dictates have built. These boundaries were given to us so that we can navigate life and we fit in without rocking the boat. They were given with good intention but are not always useful throughout all of our lives.
If I wasn't able to communicate as I do with my mother I know that I would be bereft and that my life would not be as productive as it is now, the sadness would be too much. What I want to pass on to people with this class is that their beloveds who have passed are with them, supporting them, watching over them, hiding their car keys and visiting them in their dreams. That they too can communicate with their beloveds, it is only a matter of love and faith.
(If you are interested, contact Pickup at
(S-R archive photo from the movie “Sixth Sense” in which living and dead interact)

The death of two political family daughters

Over the weekend, the families of Eleanor Mondale and Kara Kennedy announced the death of their two loved ones.

Both women were 51. Eleanor died of brain cancer. Kara of a heart attack, though she had lung cancer in 2003.

Both had led interesting lives, not just because of their famous fathers. Kara was the daughter or Sen. Ted Kennedy and Mondale the daughter of presidential candidate Walter Mondale.

Both had found a place in the world to use their talents, their gifts.

 I'm just a few years older than both women and the shock for me was how fast they had grown up and become women in their 50s. Both were frozen in time for me when much younger, when their fathers were in the news a lot.

I also thought of all the sorrows that Kara's mother, Joan Kennedy, has endured. She has fought alcoholism, breast cancer, the cancer of one of her sons who lost a leg to the disease. And the father of her children, Ted Kennedy, also died of a brain tumor.

“I'm in a state of shock,” Joan Kennedy told South Coast Today. “She was my best friend and I think I was her best friend.”

(S-R archive photo of Eleanor Mondale)

Imagine the plotline

Most movies do a poor job of depicting death in any realistic manner. So I'm calling on EndNotes readers to imagine more realistic movie plots that contain a death or two. Or keep to the convention and have wild plots that contain highly unrealistic death scenes.

Sounds morbid, perhaps, but we can make it a creative, dare I say fun, exercise.

So here's how this will work. I will take movie titles off random signs I see.

Here's today's title I'd like you to match with a plot. (Saw it while driving home from Missoula Friday)

“Cyr, Montana: No Services”

I'll get you started:

This is a movie about people who don't desire funeral services. They move to a town where they will be accepted for this desire. While there, they discover an ancient well. They drink from it and are rendered immortal and then they really need no services.

What would Jesus think? Cool!

St John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota, and Donald Jackson, scribe to the Queen of England, have completed an amazing project: the only hand-scribed and illuminated bible (well, in the last 500 years).

The St John's Bible project began with a conversation between the renowned scribe and St John's leaders when Jackson visited the campus as a professor of calligraphy. He mentioned that his dream project is to hand scribe the bible with illuminations of key texts. With the Target Corporation as a sponsor, several alumni (like me) and many trained scribes to assist, the 1150-page bible began.

The remarkable work includes social messages within the illuminations: such as the AIDS virus and cancer depicted as modern pestilence (not God's punishment).  Artists included images taken from nature such as butterflies from the St. John's campus. The bible illustrates the ancient Word of God with social commentary on our particular moment in time.

Jackson completed the last page of Revelation, with the last word, “Amen,” and recently delivered the final pages to St. John's, where the original seven-volume work will reside permanently, bound with wood taken from Jackson's native Wales.

Prints, cards, and an everyman's publication of the bible are available for purchase.

What would Jesus think about this project? I imagine exactly what I think: cool, very, very cool.

(S-R archive photo of a hand-drawn illustration for the Gospel According to Matthew is on a page from The St. John's Bible, pictured in May, at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn. )

No worries? Right…

 Everyday, I read about something new to worry about.

A few weeks ago, I read that dishwashers can contain a nasty fungus impervious to hot water and detergent.

In Monday's Earthweek column, Steve Newman reports that a University of California geophysicist is worried that that the sun will soon “spew massive amounts of charged particles toward Earth” knocking out a great deal of our ability to communicate electronically.

As a natural worrier since childhood (at 9, I talked to adult guests at our table about my fear of World War III) I don't really want to add any more worries to my list.

And usually, in the end, it's not the stuff you worry about that gets you. Right?

(NASA  image of the asteroid Vesta was taken in July from a distance of about 9,500 miles away.)

Til death (or illness?) do us part

Christian televangelist Pat Robertson has infuriated many of his viewers with his comment that a person is within his/her moral right to divorce a spouse who has Alzheimer's disease. The extremely conservative pastor defended his stance by saying that Alzheimer's disease “is a kind of death.”

 Have you had a conversation with your spouse…”Honey, if I am diagnosed with dementia, I would want you to…”? 

 Certainly Robertson's comments are a good conversation starter.

(Spokesman Review archive photo of Nancy Reagan with husband former president Ronald Reagan, who died of Alzheimer's in 2004)

The dying among emerging “minority”

Heading to The University of Montana in Missoula this morning to do a guest stint in a journalism diversity class. Will be talking about emerging minority groups that might get vocal and activist in the next decade.

One guess: Aging baby boomers protesting in the street over Social Security and Medicare cuts.

Another: Dying and chronically sick people organizing against policies that discriminate against them or prevent them from exiting the world in the ways they wish.

Your guesses?

“It saved our lives”

Alcoholics Anonymous hosted a community outreach lunch yesterday in downtown Spokane. Men and women working the 12-step program asked people from different professions to the luncheon meeting to raise awareness about AA.The folks in recovery told their stories. Almost to a person, they said that getting sober saved their lives.They didn’t mean it just metaphorically. They meant that stopping the booze stopped the physical decline which would have led, eventually, to a premature death.

How do you approach a co-worker, a family member or a friend who you suspect is alcoholic and in physical and or emotional danger because of it?

Best bet: Say you are concerned about the person, and have materials in hand, such as an AA brochure that lists meetings. There are AA meetings nearly around the clock, every day of the week. And a 24-hour number: (509) 624-1442.

Don’t expect gratitude. Most people you approach will express outrage, and they may even stop talking to you.One of the speakers, Diane M., (AA members don’t disclose last names) said she was in denial when first approached and insulted that someone would think she had a drinking problem. But eventually, she was ready to hear the message and get sober, which she’s been now for nearly 30 years.

Oh, Jackie

Jacqueline Kennedy recorded opinions and her worldview on a series of audio tapes a few months after her  husband's death. Their daughter, Caroline Kennedy, released those audio accounts, unedited, as a book. Excerpts of the tapes played last night as ABC's Diane Sawyer took viewers on a trip back to 1964.

The soft, wispy voice of the former first lady spoke of her feelings for LBJ, Charles De Gaulle, and Martin Luther King. She did say she “got her opinions” from her husband.

Jacqueline Kennedy was a private woman, but a favorite quote of mine from years ago was when she was asked what she was most proud of. She answered, “My children. They are my best work.”

In her later years, we caught glimpses of a self-assured, smart, in-the-real-world woman, who said she thought it was sad that many women never get to use their talents in that world.

While Jacqueline Kennedy was an icon for women in the 1960s, she continues to be a study of the evolution of women over the last 50 years.

(In this Oct. 5, 1960 AP file photo, Jacqueline Kennedy poses at her typewriter where she writes her weekly “Candidate's Wife” column in her Georgetown home in Washington)

Letting friends know when a parent dies

When I run into oldtime friends I haven't seen in awhile, I always feel bad if they have lost a parent I knew or had heard a lot about. With some friends, I've made this pact: Let me know when your parent dies, please.

Not sure I had the pact with Scott Sines, a former managing editor here, now at the Memphis Commercial Appeal, but I was so happy today when he emailed me the eulogy he wrote for his mother, Norma. It's a beautiful eulogy that captured the spirit of a woman who lived much of our modern history.

Norma was a pretty good athlete before it was fashionable for women to play sports. She taught the boys how to swim and dive without making a splash. She was a member of First Pres. for many years and willingly served on any church board that needed help. She laughingly referred to those groups as the “Biddy Committees” and she could get away with it because she was the chairman of many of those groups and made sure that no need was unmet during her service.

So thanks Scott, for letting me know. I'll do the same.


Looking back, living ahead

We have spent the last week remembering the devastating events of September 11, 2001. Yesterday was a day filled with honoring lives lost, recalling the horror, but also honoring the spirit of hope that pulses through Americans everywhere.

Perhaps the best way to continue our reverence for lives lost is to live our lives with courage and hope, creating communities of peace for each other.

The last “Extra”

MSNBC rebroadcast their 9/11 NBC broadcast and I watched it for about 90 minutes this morning, until the fall of the second twin tower. It's the news account I watched that morning, 10 years ago.

My journalist eye was intrigued by all that has changed in the media and in our awareness of what could happen in an attack of that scope. For example:

  • Cell phone technology existed, and many folks had cell phones, but no one could take photos with them or video or send texts or tweets.
  • The Today show journalists, Katie Couric and Matt Lauer did a great job, considering. But, for instance, when the first tower went down, Matt said something like “a good chunk of the building seems to have fallen down.” It took several more minutes for them to report that the tower had actually collapsed. Likely, they couldn't imagine that the towers could come down. It didn't exist in our “imagination.”
  • That's likely why, when the first tower was hit, everyone thought it was a small plane and an accident. Now if a plane hits a building, we would automatically think terrorism.
  • At The Spokesman-Review that morning, we put out an “Extra” Spokesman-Review. It was our last one. We also had 100 more journalists in the newsroom than we do today.
  • We had a website back then, and it was a good, progressive one, but media websites were not used in the ways they are now. For instance, this week I posted about 45 photos on a 9/11 website picture story about people's memories of visiting the twin towers. We only had room for five in the actual newspaper story.

(Photo courtesy of George Buckley of Spokane who kept the brochure he received at the towers, as well as his ticket to the observation deck)

Roll Call of Remembrance

 Port Authority Police, who were the first law enforcement personnel to respond to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, quickly rushed into the burning buildings and helped to rescue thousands of employees. Some of them climbed high up into the burning towers to assist those who were seriously injured or trapped.

Thirty-seven of these heroic men and women were killed that day. Following are the 37 police personnel killed in the line of duty that day:

Officer Christopher C. Amoroso 

Officer Maurice V. Barry   

Officer Liam Callahan

Lieutenant Robert D. Cirri      

Officer Clinton Davis       

Officer Donald A. Foreman

Officer Gregg J. Froehner   

Officer Thomas E. Gorman 

Officer Uhuru G. Houston

Officer George G. Howard

 Officer Stephen Huczko    

Inspector Anthony P. Infante Jr.

Officer Paul W. Jurgens    

Sergeant. Robert M. Kaulfers 

Officer Paul Laszczynski

Officer David P. Lemagne    

Officer John Lennon   

Officer J.D. Levi

Officer James F. Lynch    

Superintendent of Police Fred V. Morrone

Captain Kathy Mazza             

Officer Walter A. McNeil  

Officer Donald J. McIntyre

Officer Joseph M. Navas  

Officer James Nelson      

Officer Alfonse J. Niedermeyer

Officer James W. Parham    

Officer Dominick A. Pezzulo 

Officer Bruce A. Reynolds

Officer Antonio J. Rodrigues   

Officer Richard Rodriguez   

Chief James A. Romito

Officer John P. Skala     

Officer Walwyn W. Stuart 

Officer Kenneth F. Tietjen

Officer Nathaniel Webb       

Officer Michael T. Wholey

And Sirius, a police dog, was also killed.

Today, we pause and remember…

Sept 11, 2001 our story

I left for work…turned on the radio … heard the news of the first plane hitting the tower…My mind raced, “Where is everyone in our family?!” Oh, God! Jim is in Manhattan! My brother-in-law, based in London, was in New York this week. I returned home… screamed to my husband… checked the email. No messages…I called my sister in London…no answer. Called my dad..”Haven't heard from her, Cathy, but mark my words. This is the beginning of war.” Dad had served in WWII, after Pearl Harbor…In London my young nephew had been watching cartoons…  “Mom, the cartoons went away… a plane crashed in New York…” She watched in horror. No  answer on her husband's cell phone…She called the  school where her two other sons were…”we will keep the students safe… come now.” She did. The school staff had formed a protective human shield in front of the school. She ushered her two older sons into the car…warily raced home…wondering if Americans world-wide were targets.  As she dashed up the steps at home, her cell phone rang…Soon an e-mail arrived at my home: “Jim is safe…he was walking down the street with a co-worker, debris started falling from the sky…people panicking..a police officer… banging on a locked post office door…the door opened. Jim is safe inside.”  He stayed there…called her again…when he witnessed the second plane hitting the second tower. ..  

…Jim and his co-worker returned to his hotel….. they watched the coverage on television… when the power went out, he packed a few belongings into a garbage bag…walked through the chaos…to the edge of the destroyed area…found a cab to another hotel…where he stayed until Sunday when flights to London resumed… 

For one hour…we lived in anguished horror that we had lost a beloved family member.

For ten years now, we hold close all the families who did.

We remember…the first one counted, the priest

Father Mychal Judge died on September 11, 2001. Five fire fighters carried his body and laid it at the foot of the church's altar. As these men moved down the street, the first tower collapsed.

The following is an excerpt from the eulogy delivered at Judge's funeral.

“Mychal Judge’s body was the first one released from Ground Zero. His death certificate has the number one on the top … and I meditated on that fact of the thousands of people that we are going to find out who perished in that terrible holocaust … Why was Mychal Judge number one? And I think I know the reason. I hope you’ll agree with me. Mychal’s goal and purpose in life at that time was to bring the firemen to the point of death, so they would be ready to meet their maker. There are between two and three hundred firemen buried there, the commissioner told us last night.

“Mychal Judge could not have ministered to them all. It was physically impossible in this life but not in the next. And I think that if he were given his choice, he would prefer to have happened what actually happened. He passed through the other side of life, and now he can continue doing what he wanted to do with all his heart. And the next few weeks, we’re going to have names added, name after name of people, who are being brought out of that rubble. And Mychal Judge is going to be on the other side of death … to greet them instead of sending them there. And he’s going to greet them with that big Irish smile … he’s going to take them by the arm and the hand and say, “Welcome, I want to take you to my Father.” … And so, he can continue doing in death what he couldn’t do in life …

“And so, this morning … we come to bury Mike Judge’s body but not his spirit. We come to bury his mind but not his dreams. We come to bury his voice but not his message. We come to bury his hands but not his good works. We come to bury his heart but not his love. Never his love.”

(AP photo of messages scrawled in debris dust on the ladder truck door of Ladder Company 24 join a growing memorial on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2001 in New York Cit. Ladder Company 24 lost 7 firemen in the attack, including Fire Chaplain Father Mychal Judge)

In the Shadow of the Towers

I've spent more than a week compiling our reader response to a request for twin towers memories. Lon Gibby, president and CEO of Gibby Media Group Inc. in Spokane Valley, sent me a videotape response which he compiled that shows the World Trade Center — before and after.

Here's the explainer:

I have been to the World Trade Center many times over the years on business to  NY.  On one of those occasions  my company was  shooting  a news  TV program downstairs in the lobby for a period of  three days. During that time I had the opportunity to shoot some footage up on the roof , and in  many locations within those towers,  inside and out with lots of  people in motion. The day 911 hit I was stunned like everyone else.  I sat outside on our porch and played my guitar to try to calm myself.  The chords to this piece that came to me at that time  was based on the feeling  I felt that day,  as I thought about the people and places I had been within that building. I recorded the song and edited  this video within  a week of the event in 2001. I did it  back then  for personal  therapy. I have decided to share it,  on this 10- year anniversary with family friends and business associates, to pay tribute to this day in history remember the  innocent  people who died working  in these structures. It is like a freeze frame in time for me.

Thanks Lon, for your creativity!

Watch it here.  

As blue as that September 11th sky…

…are Lauren McIntyre's eyes. Lauren's father, a Port Authority Police Officer died on September 11, 2001. Lauren, born after the attacks, is one of ten children profiled in this week's People magazine. She says of her dad, “He would have liked me.” The pendant around her neck carries his photograph so he can be with her all the time…each year Gabi Jacobs Dick sends balloons up to his dad, Ari Jacobs, who died in Tower 1. He attaches notes that let his dad know that his life is “going great.”…Alexa Smagala holds her dad's firefighter's helmet and knows she can curl her tongue like her dad could do. She says she wishes her dad wasn't so brave.

As we recall our own memories of that horrible day, these children must create images of the men who gave them life; images through stories told to them, as well as the longings of their hearts. When we say we shall always remember, we do well to remember the strength of these families, the hope found in these sweet faces.

NBC: “Spokane is dying”

On an NBC nightly news report over the Labor Day weekend, a Spokane man, now living in oil boomtown WIlliston, N.D., said that he moved there because “Spokane is dying.”

Spokane architect Greg Higgins pointed the clip out to me and wonders: “At the very least, I think the Chamber of Commerce should contact the Nightly News producers, who chose to use the quote, and point out to them that Spokane is not nearly as destitute as other cities in the US.”

 What do you think? Is Spokane dying? And if no, should citizens protest the clip?

Keeping the promise: we remember

 In the weeks after the 9/11 attacks, The Port of Seattle Police Department sold hats to raise money for the Port Authority Police Department Benevolent Fund in New York/New Jersey. That department lost 37 officers in the attacks.  Each hat had the name of one officer who died Sept. 11. At the time, my husband was part of the POSPD canine unit; he bought a hat with the name Sirius on it. Sirius was the PAPD police dog killed at the World Trade Center. My husband also bought a hat for me.

 Here is what I wrote about my hat.

  I have a hat 

  In memory of a police officer

  I never knew.

  His body finished, fallen;

  While his spirit ascended home.

  I have a hat

  In honor of a man

  Others loved each day.

  I run my fingers

  Over the stitching

  Spelling his name.

  I weep.

  I wear the hat

  Like a guardian angel

  Object of protection.

  Memories belong to others;

  Prayers to me.

  I wear Paul's hat

  To honor those

  Still here.


  They continue…

  Waking early;

  Kissing sleepy spouses,

  Hugging drowsy children.


 Of quiet commitment

 And uncommon courage,

They slip into place.

  … The beat goes on.

 This week, we remember those who died…and their loved ones who remain.


Feeling 9/11 grief in head and shoulders

All last week, I worked on a 9/11 picture and story project on our website, using photos and short essays more than 80 Inland Northwest readers had sent us about visiting the Twin Towers. The stories were, in a sense, remembering the Twin Towers “in happier times” but most of the short essays ended in the sadness people felt watching them come down and the symbolism of all the horror of 9/11.

Thursday afternoon, after working on the project for five straight hours, I experienced an ocular migraine, in which you look up at something and you see 27 of them. I get these maybe every two years, usually from stress. And that night, my shoulders and upper back ached beyond belief.

I blamed the intense computer work but now I am wondering if it wasn't just that. I had been immersed in these stories of life before 9/11, when people happily visited the Twin Towers, and then came the grief we all shared as a nation.

We feel grief in our bodies. I have long known that. But last week, I didn't recognize it in myself.

(AP photo archive)

Sunday obits: My favorite today

Evelyn Ginnold of Spokane died less than a month shy of her 100th birthday. Her obit, in our classified section today, was beautifully written. She worked as a secretary for a Washington state governor, married her husband during the Great Depression, and despite his hard time finding a job then, they had two children in that terrible economy. Both found good jobs after.

The graph below caught my imagination:

She graduated from North Central High School in 1928, with a B average, at a time when less than one in five young women even went to high school. After high school, she learned shorthand and trained on the Comptometer, a forerunner of the computer for office functions.

Comptometer? According to Wikipedia it was “patented in  1887, and was the first commercially successful key-driven mechanical calculator.”

So thank you Evelyn, for living such an interesting life, and for sharing, in your obit, a bit of technology that passed on, too.

Pretty vs. Smart? Oh, please!

In junior high school I was placed in the honors math program at a time when girls were considered a bit out-of-their league if they excelled at subjects like math. After all, we were still slated to take home economics (you know, cooking, sewing, keeping the woodstove burning) and forbidden to take woodshop. I did write to Dear Abby asking her how I could learn those boy-only skills when school would not allow me to learn things like how to operate a drill press. (She told me to find a family friend to teach me - fat chance!) 

Young girls have come a long, LONG way since the ancient 1960's…until J.C.Penney marketed their recent shirt to girls which reads: “I'm too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me.” Ugh!

After the uproar, (thank you high school classmate and brilliant writer, Carla Baranauckas,) the shirt has been taken off the market. I hope this recent action is the EndNote for messages that encourage young girls not to use their talents, to be less than they are.

Living past the age your parents died

In my Wise Words interview today with Walla Walla winemaker Myles Anderson, he noted that, at 70, he has outlived every male family member. He said:

My father was a very hard worker. He worked for Gulf Oil as an accountant. When I was 17, he died of a heart attack. He was 45. I am the oldest living male in my family. No one has lived as long as I have.So life is something I cherish. I figure any time in the next 12 months might be my last 12 months. So I make decisions around the fact that maybe life is limited, and I’m being chased, maybe, by death. I need to honor that every day. And not waste what I’m doing.

I've heard a lot older people comment that they feel something — often relief, sometimes sadness — when they reach the age when their parents died. And then live past that age.

What about you?

(Christopher Anderson photo/Spokesman-Review)

Workplace grief

Yesterday in his Huckleberries blog, Dave Oliveria published the names of the 12 Spokesman-Review newsroom staffers who took an early retirement offer.

Ten of us who were also eligible — you had to be 55 years old and been at the newspaper 20 years — decided to stay.

Most of the 12 who are leaving will remain through December, so we didn't have any quick good-byes. Thank goodness. But when I see them in the newsroom, I get a twinge of sadness, knowing their time here is so limited.

The 22 of us who were eligible for the early retirement offer “grew up” together in the newsroom. We've watched each other go gray. We lived through each other's stories of new marriage, children, grandchildren. We're a newsroom of veteran journalists who lived through journalism's boom years and are now trying to understand its lean years. Sports writer Vince Grippi joked a few years ago that soon, we'd all be shuffling through the newsroom on our walkers. I'm sad I won't see that happen with Vince. He took the offer.

I've not seen much written about workplace grief, but there must be plenty in this economic downturn, as people leave almost every workplace in the country, either through layoffs, buyouts or early retirement

Cosmic board of directors

A friend who works in another department at the newspaper decided to take early retirement, and he said he wished his father had been alive to talk with about making the hard decision.

Lots of people I know carry on “imaginary” conversations with loved ones who have died, and it's a staple in some TV shows where a dead loved one comes into the scene and helps problem solve or scold. Fans of “Six Feet Under” and “Dexter” know what I mean.

A mystic I once met said we should all have a “board of directors” — people who have passed on who had wisdom while living. You can ask them to help you with problems, if you believe that these dead folks are somewhere where this is possible. Or you can act as if it is possible.

Or you can ask in hard times: What would Grandma do?

One person who would be on my board of directors, John Traynor, former president of Gonzaga Prep, who died of a brain tumor in 2006. A true mystic. I sometimes ask: What would John do?

Who would be on your cosmic board of directors?

(Photo of John (far left) surrounded by family. Courtesy of Traynor family)

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About this blog

Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

Ask a question: Catherine welcomes questions about aging issues and grief. Email her at

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