Posts Tagged ‘America at its best’

America At Its Best: Dr. Stephen Post

Saturday, May 21st, 2016

15 Things We Learned About the Power of Good from Dr. Stephen Post

Anthony J. Mussari, Sr.
Kitch Loftus Mussari
The Face of America Project 

It is good to be good and science says so.  Dr. Stephen Post 

On June 9, 2016, Dr. Stephen Post will receive the Nonprofit Leadership Award from the Project Pay It Forward organization in New York City.

Stephen Post Tribute Journa_FCl_sm_FC
To celebrate Dr. Post’s accomplishment, Kitch and I submitted this tribute for all that he has done to make our world a better place. 

Dr. Stephen Post has spent a lifetime researching, studying, teaching and writing about the power of good. Dr. Post is a good and decent human being. When we hear his name, five words come to mind: Altruism, Compassion, Happiness, Hope and Love.

Dr. Post is the director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics. He is the president of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love.  More than anyone in our country, Dr. Post knows what the pursuit of happiness is all about.

Our Face of America Journey took us to the Stony Brook University Medical Center for an interview with Dr. Stephen Post, the author of Why Good Things Happen to Good People and The Hidden Gifts of Helping.  

These are 15 things we learned about the power of good and the pursuit of happiness From Dr. Stephen Post.

1. Thinking about others, not just living for self, does make us happy.
Why Good things Happen to good people_SM

2. People who give generously, generally speaking, live happier, healthier and longer lives.

3. We Americans should always think of ourselves as teachers of caring for others.

4. When people do “unto others” in kindness, it lights up the primitive part of the brain that also lets us experience joy.

5. In the giving of self lies the discovery of a deeper self.

6. People have more today, but we are not happier.

7. To be happy, Americans must learn when enough is enough.

8. The key to happiness is contributing to the lives of others, a simplistic thoughtfulness and moral integrity.

9. We need to learn more about how we can nurture the best in America: courage, faith, gratitude, hope, joy, love, nobility of purpose and wonder.

10. No matter how difficult life can be, never give up on the power of love. It is the one thing that can carry us through the difficult times.

11. Love people where you are, and do dig deep and meaningful roots.

12. Make it a practice to help one person every day.

13. The power of giving, compassion and hope can get us through hard times.

14. Helping someone who is hurting not only benefits those we assist, but it is good for us as well.

15. Love is not just a feeling to be hidden away in the heart and enjoyed privately. Love is something we show in everything we say and do; a witness to our families, our friends and the world. We must be on guard to prevent the love of power from overwhelming the power of love.

America is one of the few countries on the planet that guarantees its citizens the right to pursue happiness.  Logo Image SM According to Dr. Post, give and you will be happy, give and you will be healthy, give and you will live longer, give and you will fulfill the promise of America. He believes that America is the land of the free and the home of the good.

To paraphrase the words of Cleveland Amory, now more than ever we need a new kind of army – the army of Dr. Stephen Post. He is a classic example of the Face of America at its very best.

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The Shanksville Standard

Friday, September 11th, 2015

The Shanksville Standard: America at its Best

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by Kitch and Tony Mussari
Copyright 2015
Mussari-Loftus Associates
The Face of America Project

Memory is the mother of wisdom. Aeschylus

In the Quiet of a Garden

I spent the first part of this beautiful September day in our Angel Garden. In the quiet of the morning hours, I looked at eachAngels of the 40 angels, and I thought about their courage, their honor and their sacrifice. These are the men and women who gave their lives in a successful attempt to prevent United Flight 93 from reaching and destroying the U.S. Capitol building on September 11, 2001.

Throughout the day, my thoughts took me back to Shanksville, a place that is like a second home for Kitch and me.

Over the years, we have designed educational experiences that enabled us to take about 500 people to this sacred place. These visits gave us the opportunity to produce 16 episodes in our What Is America? Series. They provided opportunities to make friends and learn and grow in ways we never thought possible.

In so many ways, September 11 is a day of national reflection. On this the 14th anniversary of the day the earth stood still for America, my thoughts focused on what I like to call the “Shanksville Standard.” It’s a standard comprised of 15 elements that were best articulated by people we talked with at the memorial in Shanksville.

1. Reach Out:

06Collage sm

Our friend Doug Macmillan provided a key element when he shared this thought:

“There will always be struggles… every hardship is an opportunity to reach out and make a difference in the lives of people.”

2. Remain Positive:

Janie Kiehl is the first person we met when we visited Shanksville in 2001. At the time of our meeting she was at the site volunteering as a Flight 93 Ambassador. Her contribution to the Shanksville Standard was best expressed when she spoke these words:

“Understand that life goes on. Despite the tragedies, you have to stay positive.”

3. The Power of Hope:

During one of our visits, we found a ceramic tile inscribed with five of the most beautiful and powerful words I have ever read:
“Hope is stronger than death.”

The young student who designed this work of art left a permanent mark on the hearts of everyone who saw this masterpiece.

4. Have Faith:

Chuck Wagner participated in every phase of the temporary and the permanent Flight 93 Memorial. His faithfulness to the heroes of Flight 93 earned him a special place in the history of the memorial. When I asked him to share his thoughts about his life and his volunteer work, he responded with this biblical citation:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

5. Love and Kindness:

Telk Gohn served as a Flight 93 Ambassador. She and her husband Bob did everything in their power to make people feel welcome at the site. Her beautiful contribution to the Shanksville Standard is deeply rooted in these words:

“Every day should be reserved as a day the Lord has made Thankslivingto do something for someone else and to share his love.”

6. Gratitude:

On a cold and damp afternoon at the site, we encountered a young man who was with a group of wilderness camp students. This teenager was so moved by what he was experiencing, he used a magic marker to express his gratitude. His message was simple:

“I thank all of you.”

I don’t know his name, but I will never forget his act of thanks-living.

7. Transformation and flexibility:

Mary Alice Mankamyer and her husband Clay highlighted the importance of transformation and flexibility. Both of these Flight 93 Ambassadors believe the Shanksville experience changes people forever. They are quick to admit it has changed them as well.

“I think the site has changed peoples’ lives forever.”

8. Peace

One of the most insightful dimensions of the ShanksvillePeace Standard was recorded in a message painted on a guardrail at the temporary memorial:

“The peace you find here is eternal.”

If ever there is one recurring theme in Shanksville, it is peace of mind and peace of spirit.

9. Memories

Joanne Galvin and her husband Steve created the National 9/11 Remembrance Flag. Joanne believes in the power of memories. When I asked her to explain her thought, she offered words that came straight from her heart:

Galvins and Flag

“We have to make sure that the memory of these people stays alive.”

10. Community

Joanne’s son Dan Fitzmaurice identified an important element of the Shanksville Standard.

“The Flight 93 Memorial brings people together.”

11. Heroism

Kelsey Lee visited Shanksville with our group in 2008, 09Title 09Final copy She was deeply moved by the genuineness of the place and the people she met. It inspired her to share this thought:

“It really taught me don’t worship false idols when you have real heroes all around you.”

12. Perspective

During the same trip, another student Laura Lomascolo offered this poignant observation:

“Out of every bad thing that happens later on something awesome comes out of it.”

Her friend Maria Romero used the word perspective several times to explain what she had learned. Visiting Shanksville empowers people to see beyond the obvious.

13. Strength and Perseverance:

Lee Snyder was the first person we interviewed in Shanksville. 07Miseri Collage 07FF copyShe is the author of a scrapbook of memories and mementoes entitled Patriots of Peace. Her contribution to the Shanksville Standard came out of her writing and publishing experience:

“It taught me to be strong and keep moving forward.”

14. Respect

Dana Pienta was a senior at Misericordia University when she visited Shanksville in 2006.

“People respected that site. It is a place of reflection, deep thought and deep prayer. Those 40 people have so many people that love them, respect them and treat them like heroes.”

15. Don’t Take Things for Granted

Val McClatchey is the person who took the picture thatVal Take nothing for granted captured what she called The End of Serenity. This picture and everything that happened on the day it was recorded taught Val to take nothing for granted.

“I no longer take little things for granted like a clear sunny day, because you never know when something is going to come up and cloud over those bright sunny skies.”

Anyone who is looking for a description of what America is on its best day will find it in Shanksville.

Anyone who wants to see the Face of America on its best day need only look at the pictures of the 40 men and women whose heroic acts of courage and selfless service earned them the admiration and respect of people all over our country and the world.

Doug Adam

Anyone who wants to improve the quality of their own life and the lives of the people they interact with every day need only embrace the elements of the Shanksville Standard. That is the good that has evolved from the tragedy and suffering of September 11, 2001, when United Flight 93 ended its journey in a bucolic field in Shanksville, PA.

The way Kitch and I see it, “Memory is the Mother of Wisdom.”

God Bless the heroes of Flight 93.

God Bless all the people who worked for 14 years to make the dream of a permanent memorial become a reality.

God Bless America.

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Happy Birthday America, 2015

Saturday, July 4th, 2015

Happy Birthday America, 2015

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2015, Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD
The Face of America Project
All Rights Reserved

America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness                  
And every gain divine!
Katharine Lee Bates

America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.  Alexis de Tocqueville

America Defined

More than a century has passed since Katharine Lee Bates wrote the first version of the poem that eventually became the lyric forATB_91-100 America the Beautiful. According to those who have studied this icon of America music, the final expanded version was written in 1913.

Samuel A. Ward provided the melody for this American anthem.

This musical masterpiece defines our country in 290 words and 8 verses.

In anticipation of our national birthday, I decided to acquire a copy of the lyrics so I could read them, think about what they mean, and compare them with definitions written by men and women who cared deeply about the essence of America, hope and opportunity.

This is a summary of the messages contained in Bates’s masterpiece and interpretations of the powerful words she used to describe America at its best.


America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood  
From sea to shining sea!

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. summarized this part of the American credo with these words:


We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

We have flown the air like birds and swum the sea like fishes, but have yet to learn the simple act of walking the earth like brothers.

All my adult life I have deplored violence and war as instruments for achieving solutions to mankind’s problems. I am firmly committed to the creative power of nonviolence as the force which is capable of winning lasting and meaningful brotherhood and peace


America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,        
Thy liberty in law!

Eleanor Roosevelt gave us a priceless aphorism about self control:
To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.

In her diary, Anais Nin gave a wonderful insight into the power of self-control:

The knowledge that we are responsible for our actions and attitudes does not need to be discouraging, because it also means that we are free to change this destiny. One is not in bondage to the past, which has shaped our feelings, to race, inheritance, background. All this can be altered if we have the courage to examine how it formed us. We can alter the chemistry provided we have the courage to dissect the elements.

Love of Country and More than Self

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!

Two men from Illinois penned words that give meaning to this insight into heroism:


We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stre[t]ching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature. Abraham Lincoln

When an American says that he loves his country, he means not only that he loves the New England hills, the prairies glistening in the sun, the wide and rising plains, the great mountains, and the sea.  He means that he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw the breath of self-respect.  Adlai Stevenson

Success with Nobleness

America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness                 
And every gain divine!

Benjamin Franklin used 13 words to define nobleness:

To be humble to superiors is duty, to equals courtesy, to inferiors nobleness.

Harriet Beecher Stowe told us about the duty we owe our friends:

I am speaking now of the highest duty we owe our friends, the noblest, the most sacred – that of keeping their own nobleness, goodness, pure and incorrupt. If we let our friend become cold and selfish and exacting without a remonstrance, we are no true lover, no true friend.


O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!

President John Quincy Adams best described the magic of perseverance:

IMG_0314_ACourage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.

President Calvin Coolidge helps us understand the uniqueness of perseverance:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Harriet Beecher Stowe gave us a very practical insight into perseverance:

When you get into a tight place, and everything goes against you till it seems as if you couldn’t hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that’s just the place and time that the tide’ll turn.


America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till souls wax fair as earth and air   
And music-hearted sea!

A brilliant American writer and author of Little House on the Prairie, a popular American President and two Justices of the Supreme Court provide us with personal and poignant definitions of fairness:

Persons appear to us according to the light we throwIMG_0177_A upon them from our own minds. Laura Ingalls Wilder

Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace.  President Dwight Eisenhower

Fairness is what justice really is. Justice Potter Stewart

Today’s Constitution is a realistic document of freedom only because of several corrective amendments. Those amendments speak to a sense of decency and fairness that I and other Blacks cherish. Justice Thurgood Marshall

Avoid Selfish Gain

The 26th President of the United States said just about everything that needs to be said about avoiding selfish gain

Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance. Theodore Roosevelt

Celebration of life WC

The pictures in this article were taken at a Celebration of Life Ceremony hosted by our friends,Charles and Winnie Ukattah. Charles and Winnie and many of their family members immigrated from Nigeria in the 1990’s. They came to America in search of hope and opportunity. They have worked hard and long hours to achieve success in their adopted home for themselves and their children.

This celebration of life in honor of Winnie’s mother was held shortly after the horrifying events in Charleston at the Mother Emanuel AME Church.

For Kitch and me, the celebration of life in Charleston and Avoca personified everything that America is on its best day, and it gives truth to the messages in America the Beautiful.  With God’s help we can mend our every flaw, because hope is stronger than death, and hate is no match for the amazing grace of forgiveness.

Happy Birthday America.

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Happy Anniversary: Our Journey Continues

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

Happy Anniversary: Our Journey Continues

A Year of Memorable Moments

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by Kitch Loftus-Mussari and
Tony Mussari, Sr.
Copyright Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD 2015
All Rights Reserved

To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it more fit for its prime function of looking forward. Margaret Fairless Barber

The Numbers

On this the last day of February in 2015, Kitch and I celebrate the fifth anniversary of our Face of America Journey.

These are the numbers for 2014:
FoA Map sm

We traveled 5,100 miles visiting 24 cities in eight states;

Eight screenings of our documentaries were held in seven cities;

We posted 36 articles in our blog;

Ten of these articles focused on medical issues as we documented every step in Kitch’s total knee replacement surgery and other medical experiences at Geisinger/CMC in Scranton;

Ten articles were posted about our documentary Four Days of Honor and Valor in Gettysburg.


As we review our travels, there are several moments that we will never IMG_6889_240_forget. The naturalization service in Binghampton, New York, on the day Dr. Rex & Viola Dumdum became American citizens is in a class all by itself. Rex and Viola are two people who personify America at its very best, and they define genuine friendship in acts not words.

Celebrating the people we met during Kitch’s knee replacementIMG_5627 surgery at Scranton Orthopaedic Specialists and Geisinger/Community Medical Center in Scranton brought both of us great joy. The people who cared for Kitch were thoughtful, kind and professional in every sense of the word.

Working with Drs. Judith and Bob Gardner and their associates in the Education Department at Wilkes University was an honor and a pleasure.

The opportunity Dr. Bill Kashatis gave us to work with Dr. Mollie Marti to tell the story of Judge Max Rosenn at the Annual History Conference at Luzerne County Community College was a delightful experience.


Our visit to Eagles Mere in July was simply beautiful. We enjoyed the setting, and the people we met were delightful. If all goes as planned we will return to this wonderful community again this year.

Our friend, Amy Clegg, invited us to participate in two seminars Amy Jack2sponsored by Express Employment Professionals. Amy is a consummate professional as is Jack Smalley.

We made two trips to Baltimore, Maryland: one to celebrate Vicki Perez and to present a short film about her heroic daughter, 2d.Lt. Emily Perez; the other to celebrate our friend Mary Jane Norris at the 15th Annual Women in Maritime History Awards Ceremony.

In the spring, we traveled to Marywood University to speak at the annual ethics conference. We returned to Marywood 11 months later to keynote a Speed Networking event. Both experiences produced special moments and new friendships that we treasure.

In May, we screened Four Days of Honor and Valor in Gettysburg at the high school in North Plainfield, New Jersey. Five months later we joined a delegation of wonderful people from North Plainfield at a screening of the same documentary at the Convention Center in Atlantic City.



Anyone who has followed our travels since 2010 knows that we have spent more time in North Plainfield, New Jersey, than anywhere else in the country. These are the numbers:

We produced four documentaries about students from North Plainfield and their educational experiences during their visits to Shanksville, PA and Gettysburg PA;

We produced three short videos about North Plainfield students for our website, and we published 44 articles about North Plainfield students, administrators, teachers and school board members in North Plainfield in our blog;

We averaged four trips a year to North Plainfield. If you add the location scouting and post-production trips we made to Shanksville and Gettysburg for location shoots, we have logged over 10,000 miles while working on these projects.

During our first visit to North Plainfield, we saw what we believe to be the Face of America’s tomorrow today in the high school. That a_20yardline7beautiful mosaic has not changed. In fact, it is forever enshrined in a special place in our hearts, in our minds and in our garden.

The road to and from North Plainfield is paved with all the things that life has to offer. There were beautiful moments of discovery. There were challenging moments of obstacles to be overcome. There were community moments of celebration and there were many, many wonderful teaching moments of growth, learning and transformation.

Unfortunately, the prophetic words of Candy Villagomez accurately describe the effort, energy and time we invested in the work we have done in North Plainfield: “Nothing lasts forever.”

The day before his death, Leonard Nimoy beautifully expressed this thought about endings with these words:

A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memories.

This is the year our work in North Plainfield came to an end. The perfect moments will live on in our memories of this very special place.

The Dream

When we began our journey, we had three objectives:
FoA Logo copy

We wanted to visit every one of the 48 continental states;

We wanted to build a mosaic of the Face of America on its best day;

We wanted to write and publish a book about our discoveries.

As you know, we accomplished all but one of these goals. We could not find a publisher who was willing to take an interest in our book.

IMG_8304 for Article

This year we found an alternative.

Knowing that I am in the last quarter of my life, I decided to do something special for my grandchildren this Christmas. With encouragement and help from Kitch, we wrote a book entitled Papa Tony’s Gift: Life Lessons from the Heart.

It is a visual narrative. The majority of the pictures in the book were taken during our journey. The 214 graphics in the book speak to all of the values we associate with America on its best day.

The idea for the book is rooted in our experience at the 2013 Medal ofIMG_5862dp Honor Convention. Four months later during the screening of Four Days of Honor and Valor in Gettysburg, I looked out at the audience and my eyes focused on my grandchildren. Without thinking I spoke these words from my heart:

“I am worried about your future, your generation and the challenges you will face in your lifetime.”

I also made the point that we must not permit digital relationships to replace personal relationships.

Shortly after we returned home, I began researching and writing in February 2014. During their Christmas visit, we presented a draft copy of the book to the children. Recently, we picked up the final edition of the book at Offset Paperback Manufacturing, Inc.

Of all the things Kitch and I have had the opportunity to do and see during our journey, writing and publishing the book was the most challenging, difficult and rewarding experience.

Looking forward, we will be doing more writing and less documentary production. To be honest, as much as we enjoy the documentary process, writing is our first love.


Our year ended with a wonderful experience provided by a student at Marywood University. Matthew Parkyn needed a keynote speaker for a Speed Networking event, and he turned to us for help. That opportunity enabled us to spend five weeks researching and writing a presentation that has opened many doors for future activities.

To everyone who offered encouragement, empathy, help and the steadfast loyalty of friendship and understanding during this transitional year of our Face of America Journey, Kitch and I thank you with a promise. We will continue our search for examples of the Face of America, the people, the places and the values that speak to America at its best. We will continue to write about these experiences.

Looking back on our Face of America Journey in 2014, the words of a great writer and statesman come to mind:

The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see. Winston Churchill

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Welcome to America Viola and Rex

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

The Newest Faces of America

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by Tony Mussari
Copyright Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD 2014
All Rights Reserved

The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respected Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges…George Washington

The Broome County Courthouse in Binghamton, New York, isIMG_7453 a national treasure. Designed by Isaac G. Perry in 1897, this Renaissance Revival masterpiece with its freestanding Ionic columns, gabled roof, eight-sided copper dome supporting a huge statue of the Lady Justice stands majestically in Courthouse Square. It demands the attention of everyone who visits this historic section of the city.

On a cold November morning, our friends, Uldarico, better known as Rex, and Viola Dumdum joined 20 other men and women who came to the courthouse with their family and friends to pledge their allegiance to America and to be welcomed as the newest faces of America. The majesty of the courthouse was an appropriate setting for the dignity and class of this American moment of moments.

Special Moments


Shortly after we entered the courthouse, Viola was the first person we met. She greeted us with a welcoming wave and a beautiful smile. Together we took the elevator to the second floor. When we entered courtroom 202, we were taken by the feeling of anticipation and excitement. Everywhere we looked people were shaking hands and embracing one another. The sense of community was palpable and priceless.

It did not take Rex but a few seconds to find us. WhenIMG_6833 he did, he expressed his appreciation with a warm hug and beautifully chosen words of appreciation and friendship.

Of the 22 people who were to become citizens, there is no question in my mind that Rex’s journey to this moment was the longest. He came to the United States in 1977! During the years that followed, he managed to earn an MS, an MBA, a certificate in leadership and a Ph.D. and become a university professor.

Rex and Viola are respected IMG_6889_240_members of their community. They are parents and grandparents who never gave up on their dream of becoming American citizens. They are two beautiful people with hearts of pure gold and friendship forged in platinum.

It was fitting that they occupied the very first seat in the courtroom and the one closest to the judge who would administer the oath.

When I think about their story, the words of Ben Franklin come to mind:

Diligence is the maker of good luck.

The Final Steps

After Gwynne Dinolfo, a representative of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, attended to a number of procedural matters in a very helpful and pleasant way, Judge Joseph F. Cawley, County Court Judge & Acting Supreme Court Justice Broome County New York, entered the IMG_7112_250courtroom. He introduced Pastor Elder Arthur W. Jones, Jr., Pastor, Mt. Sinai Church of God in Christ.

Standing beneath an engraved wooden plaque that read “In God We Trust,” Pastor Jones offered a kind and thoughtful invocation.

He asked God to bless those who serve in the armed forces, and our leaders who serve here at home. He prayed for world peace.

Making specific reference to the fact that we are in a season of thanks, he thanked God for the 22 people from 14 countries who were about to become citizens of our country and all the members of the committee who made this day possible.

For many of the people in the room, the most memorable line in the pastor’s invocation contained eight words:

“Thank you for letting their dreams come true.”

When Pastor Jones spoke those words I thought of an adaptation of the words of Aesop that perfectly describes Pastor Jones and the 22 candidates for America citizenship:

Gratitude is a sign of a noble soul.

Welcome to America

It did not take Judge Cawley long to get to the business at hand. He welcomed the candidates, and he introduced Gwynne Dinolfo. She presented the petitions for IMG_7074_250citizenship. Judge Cawley ruled favorably on the petitions. Then Richard R. Blythe, Broome County Clerk, administered the oath.

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen;IMG_7121 that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

When this poignant moment ended, Judge Cawley spoke three words:

Welcome to America

The First Vote


Mr. Carl Wokan is a representative of the League of Women Voters. He knows the significance of this moment. He is a naturalized American citizen with a classic immigration story. His life documents what our first president was talking about when he declared America a place for the oppressed and the persecuted from all nations.

Mr. Wokan talked to America’s newest citizens and their guests about their right and their obligation to vote. His story about his mother never missing an opportunity to vote resonated with the audience.

When he finished Mr. Andrew Baranoski, a representative ofIMG_7063 the American Civic Association, reinforced this message, and he led the candidates in the Pledge of Allegiance.

The sound of the candidates enthusiastically reciting the pledge was a beautiful moment.

Mrs. Sharon M. Exley, Executive Deputy Broome County Clerk led the candidates in a reading of a patriotic document entitled The American’s Creed:

I believe in the United States of America, as a government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a Republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect Union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.

I therefore believe it is my duty to my Country to love it; to support its Constitution; to obey its laws; to respect its flag; and to defend it against all enemies.

William Tyler Page, 1918

Closing Thoughts

In his closing remarks, Judge Cawley shared heartfelt IMG_7110_250thoughts about American citizenship. He admitted that sometimes he takes for granted our rights and our freedoms. He spoke eloquently about his admiration for the 22 new Americans. “I am inspired by your journey and your dedication that has brought you here today.”

He spoke about freedom of speech, religion and assembly, “rights that are sadly not granted or even possible in other parts of the world.”

He reminded everyone in the room that democracy is often unpredictable and uncertain. He said the recent elections prove that point, but in his heart and mind, democracy is the best and most stable form of government known to civilization today.

He talked about trial by jury, and the importance of jury duty.

He ended his comments with these words:

We welcome you to this diverse and proud nation ofIMG_7153 shared rights, freedoms and obligations. Your own unique, diverse backgrounds add to the collective wisdom that is the United States of America. The experiences that you bring to this country, your opinions, your dreams and your commitment will make this country better and stronger.

We are honored to have you join us today as American citizens. I and my colleagues want to welcome you and ask you to enjoy all that this country has to offer and all that you have to offer it.


While the judge was speaking, my mind was focused on his words, but my heart was captivated by the expressions on the faces of the new Americans in the courtroom, especially Viola and Rex.

They personify everything the judge was saying about America at its best. They, like the other members of their naturalization group, want to make the most out of their American experience. They want to learn and grow. They want to contribute in positive ways. They want to make the place where they work and the neighborhoods where they live reflect the light of their beautiful faces of America on its best day.

Justice Louis Brandeis said it best with these words:

The only title in our democracy superior to that of President is the title of Citizen.

On November 14, 2014, in courtroom 202, Kitch and I IMG_7079_250encountered 22 beautiful Faces of America. When we started our journey five years ago, we never dreamed we would experience a moment like this. The people we met and the symbolism of this magical ceremony gives us hope that our tomorrows can be better than our yesterdays.

Thank you, Rex and Viola for making us part of your family. We are blessed to know you, and America is fortunate to have your commitment, determination, example and service. God bless you and the members of your naturalization class, and God bless America

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Gratitude Moments

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Gratitude Moments at Scranton Orthopaedic Specialists

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by Tony Mussari
Copyright Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD 2014
All Rights Reserved

Gratitude is the foundation for joy. That’s the secret! Until you find and live with gratitude and appreciation, you will never find joy.  Amanda Gore

Expressing Gratitude

For much of this year, Kitch and I have been working with Dr. Harry Schmaltz and his team of professionals at ScrantonIMG_5627 Orthopaedic Specialists. Kitch did all of the heavy lifting. She had total knee replacement surgery. I was fortunate to be her caregiver, her encourager, her helper. The words of Simone De Beauvoir accurately describe what I learned walking beside Kitch during her time of need:  

One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion.  

Two words best describe the care Kitch received from Dr. Schmaltz and his team, excellent and compassionate. This is our attempt to express our gratitude to the people we met on this journey.

The English novelist and author of Black Beauty, Anna Sewell, once wrote:

It is good people who make good places.

IMG_5522 - Copy

For Kitch and me, those words summarize the atmosphere at Scranton Orthopaedic Specialists. It is a welcoming place, and one of the persons who sets the tone is the administrator, Stephanie Bewick. Some would call her the office manager, Kitch and I call her a kind and thoughtful friend.  During one of our recent visits, we met Stephanie, and Kitch was able to personally express her gratitude for the all that Stephanie does and has been doing for many years.

The expression on Kitch’s face when she embraced Stephanie reinforces the wisdom of Anna Sewell’s words. Stephanie is a good person who makes Scranton Orthopaedic Specialists a good place.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., was a keen observer of humanIMG_5581 nature. He told us:

Learn the sweet magic of a cheerful face.    

That message resonates with Dr. Schmaltz and the people who work with him. On September 25, we met Mary Ann. She is Dr. Schmaltz’s nurse. During Kitch’s recovery, she did everything in her power to minimize any inconvenience and pain. It is no exaggeration to say that Mary Ann is on call 24-7 in the service of patients once they leave the hospital. The smile on her face when she met Kitch provides an insight to her caring nature and kindness.  

When Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., encouraged us to learn the sweet magic of a cheerful face,he was describing the secret to Mary Ann’s success with Dr. Schmaltz’s patients.  

A Portrait of Competence and Compassion


Dr. Schmaltz is a pleasant person to be with. He is a thoughtful person who exudes a quiet confidence and humility. He always compliments the members of his team, and he celebrates the progress of his patients. His advice is deeply rooted in years of surgical and post-operative experience.

Dr. Schmaltz welcomes the participation of the caregiver in the process. When you meet with him, you get a feeling of belonging that lessens your anxiety. He talks with you in a conversational way that encourages questions. Yes, he takes great pride in his work, but he is not arrogant or dismissive.

During our post-operation visits with him, he took the time to explain every step in the process to full recovery. HeIMG_5601 showed us the images of Kitch’s knee replacement, and he assured Kitch that she was making great progress. He offered a few practical suggestions that would help Kitch, and he made one observation that put everything in perspective. Every month you will be more comfortable with the knee replacement. On the first anniversary of the surgery, you won’t even know that you have a replacement.

When Thomas Merton wrote this description of compassion, he was describing the atmosphere Dr. Harry Schmaltz creates for his patients:

The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.


After our visit with Dr. Schmaltz, we had a chance meeting IMG_5634with a very pleasant nurse named Grace. We were soon to learn that Kitch and Grace have something in common.  They are breast cancer survivors. While they exchanged stories about that challenging moment in their lives, a question a student asked me during a presentation at Luzerne County Community College flashed through my mind, “Where do we find our heroes?”

I was looking at two women who fit that description. During this moment the words of one of Kitch’s heroes took on new meaning.

Elizabeth Edwards battled breast cancer in 2004 and again in 2007. In 2010, this insidious disease took her life. Her inspirational legacy lives on in survivors like Kitch and Grace who fully appreciate her definition of resilience:

Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.  

The people at Scranton Orthopaedic Specialists are dedicated to helping patients put together something that’s good.

While we were checking out we met two delightful people,IMG_5640 Janet and Gretchen. They help people arrange follow-up appointments. Their smiles are infectious, and their words are always kind and encouraging. Gretchen has been doing this work for 31 years. The picture captures their spirit of friendly cooperation. The atmosphere that makes Scranton Orthopaedic Specialists so special is a brilliant example of America at its best.

Thomas Fuller was absolutely on target with this advice:

Do something for your fellow man, not for the gold, but for the love of Man, and you shall truly have the gold. Thomas Fuller

Thank you, Stephanie Bewick for your welcoming way.

Thank you, Mary Ann for always being available to help Kitch.

Thank you, Dr. Schmaltz for your competent and compassionate care.

Thank you, Grace for your inspirational example.

Thank you, Kitch for your resilience.

Thank you, Janet and Gretchen for your friendliness and service.

Thank you, Scranton Orthopaedic Specialists. You can be sure we will enthusiastically recommend your services to our friends and relatives. You are one of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s treasures.

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America at Its Best: Kitch’s Operation, Quiet Heroes

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

America at Its Best: Kitch’s Operation, Quiet Heroes, Pt. 6.

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Digital Photographs by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Copyright 2014
Mussari-Loftus Associates
The Face of America Project

In our world of big names, curiously, our true heroes tend to be
Daniel J. Boorstin

What Is a Quiet Hero?

Six years ago, Secretary of the Navy Donald G. Winter, defined quiet heroism with these words:

20101117_winterdonald 300 It does not boast.

It does not seek the limelight.

It is carried silently, with dignity, and with quiet pride.

It is completely unlike the trappings of those who are often acclaimed as heroes on television and throughout our popular culture.

The Chicago journalist, Studs Terkel gave us this definition of a quiet hero:

Heroes are not giant statues framed against a red sky. They are people who say: This is my community, and it is my responsibility to make it better.

A blogger, Marci Fair gave us another insight into the heart of a quiet hero:

A quiet hero is not a myth, an icon or a legend – it is someone who is solid, genuine and real. The critical factor is not scale of heroism, but in fact that someone chose to “do the right thing, at the right time.”

During Kitch’s total knee replacement surgery, we were KLM SOS_3450privileged to meet several quiet heroes. The articles in this series were designed to express our gratitude to these people who, in our opinion, represent America at its best.

Today we want to thank two people we have never met. They are part of the heart and soul of Dr. Harry Schmaltz’s team. On several occasions they went out of their way to help Kitch resolve a number of problems she was having with the medications she was taking for pain.

Maryann is a nurse. She is a person with a caring heart and a willingness to help people. We do not know her last name, but we have a good idea about the beauty of her heart and the excellence of her service.

On several occasions she responded to our calls for help, and she never failed to respond in a timely way with good suggestions and encouragement.

Kitch and I are deeply grateful for her help.

Stephanie Bewick is the Practice Administrator at Scranton Orthopaedic Specialists. She has been doing this job for 23 years.

I met Stephanie on line three weeks before Kitch’s surgery. Since then, we have had a number of e-mail exchanges. Although we have never met, I think it is fair to say that Kitch and I have beenQuiet Heroes blessed by the beauty of her heart of gold.

Here are a few examples that will help our readers better understand the fundamental kindness of this quiet hero.

The notes she writes are always filled with affirmation and gratitude.

On the day of Kitch’s operation, she promised to stay in touch with members of Dr. Schmaltz’s team to monitor Kitch’s progress. She also told us it was a good omen that the operation was taking place on her 45th wedding anniversary.

Whenever she can help she does. She answered one of my notes from a location outside of a theater in New York City.

She defined one of the cardinal rules of her office when she wrote these words:

“…communication is the key–and we continually have to strive to be available to our patients to answer their questions and ensure the best possible outcome.”

Stephanie knows the territory. She has had both of her knees SOS_3460replaced by Dr. Schmaltz. When I told her that Judy Cutler was at our first in-home physical therapy session, this was her reaction:

A friend I’ve known for 30 years…and my home therapist when I had my knees done. She is a great motivator…compassionate but knows what she is there to do…follow her advice and she’ll lead Kitch far…

Our most recent exchange was about caregiving;. I told her I enjoyed being a caregiver, and she responded with words that perfectly define who she is:

I too like to be a caregiver. 32 years ago my husband was in a car accident after we were married for 7 years. It left him as a quadriplegic. We just celebrated our 45th anniversary…so I understand the meaning of caregiver. When it’s someone you love…It’s never work.

Mary Ann and Stephanie are quiet heroes. They are motivated by service not celebrity. They want to do the right thing for people who need help. They are living examples of the truth of Daniel Boorstin’s belief. True heroes do what they do without noise or notice, and that is what America is at its very best.

Thank You, Maryann.

Thank You, Stephanie.

Thank you Scranton Orthopaedic Specialists.

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America at its Best: Happy Birthday America, 2014

Friday, July 4th, 2014

America at its Best: What America’s Ten Greatest Presidents Say About America at its Best

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Digital Photographs Tony Mussari
Archival Photographs Library of Congress
The Face of America Project Copyright 2014
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great. Alexis de Tocqueville

As we pause to celebrate the 238th birthday of our country, America and its citizens are challenged onFlags_WP many fronts in many different ways by problems that are complicated and cry out for solutions.

Despite these life and death issues and all the distractions that come with the frenetic pace of life in the digital age, Kitch and I believe in the fundamental goodness and decency of the American people. During our Face of America journey, we experience it in quiet, but meaningful ways, in the hearts and souls of the people we meet, the values they cherish and the acts of kindness they practice.

During our journey we have interviewed hundreds of people in our attempt to identify the qualities of America at its best.

On this day of parades, picnics, musical celebrations and fireworks displays, we decided to step back and research what our ten greatest presidents had to say about the qualities that are the foundation of America at its best.

This is what we discovered.


The man celebrated as the father of our01869r_sm country, George Washington, used 26 words to describe what he believed to be the most important virtue:

I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man. George Washington

Washington’s legacy is embedded in everything that is good, decent and wholesome about our country and its citizens.


The American president who saved our union Lincoln_smand issued the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln, is known for many accomplishments. He authored poetic words like those recorded in the Gettysburg Address. Senator Charles Sumner called that speech a “Monumental Act…The world noted at once what he said, and will never cease to remember it. The battle itself was less important than the speech."

Lincoln’s correspondence is filled with letters of compassion and caring. It is fair to say that Abraham Lincoln was a leader who personified the virtue of kindness:

I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice… When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion. Abraham Lincoln


Our 32nd president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, defined courage in realistic terms. He knew well what courageFDR_in_1933 was all about, and he inspired our citizens to be courageous in the face of economic depression and totalitarian aggression.

He recognized our natural tendency to be fearful in times of danger, and he showed us the way to overcome our fears:

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear. Franklin D. Roosevelt


Our third president, Thomas Jefferson, the Sage of Jefferson3Monticello, was best described by President Kennedy at a dinner honoring Nobel Prize winners of the Western Hemisphere in 1962:

“I want to tell you how welcome you are to the White House. I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.

Someone once said that Thomas Jefferson was a gentleman of 32 who could calculate an eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a cause, break a horse, and dance the minuet…”

It should come as no surprise that the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence when he was 33 years old believed that Americans should learn something new every day:

Every day is lost in which we do not learn something useful. Man has no nobler or more valuable possession than time. Thomas Jefferson


Our 26th president embraced the principles of theTR Progressive Movement. Theodore Roosevelt was the youngest man to become President of the United States. He well may have been the most energetic occupant of the White House. He used his energy to push an agenda which he defined as a “Square Deal” for all Americans.

He summarized what America is at its best with these words:

This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in. Theodore Roosevelt

Unbeatable Determination

When Harry Truman was a youngster he wanted to Harry_S__Trumanbecome a professional baseball player. One of his friends wanted to become president of the United States. Life had a much different destination for this self-described farm boy from Missouri and his friend.

Truman’s great gift was the art of plain speaking and an ability to connect with people.

I experienced that gift in 1948 when my dad took me to hear President Truman speak at a campaign stop in our home town. To this day, I remember the moment when “the little man” with eyeglasses just like mine inspired a youngster to believe in himself.

America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand… The difference between a strong man and a weak one is that the former does not give up after a defeat. Harry S. Truman


Woodrow Wilson was the president of Princeton University and Governor of New Jersey before he became our 28thWilson2_sm president. He occupied the White House during World War I. Presidential scholars believe that most of the models for government as we know it today were established while Wilson was in office.

Wilson believed that America is about dreams:

We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of a spring day or in the red fire of a long winter’s evening. Some of us let these dreams die, but others nourish and protect them; nurse them through bad days till they bring them to the sunshine and light which comes always to those who sincerely hope that their dreams will come true. Woodrow Wilson


Dwight David Eisenhower was one of our most popular Ikepresidents. Americans liked “Ike.”

To be honest, I liked Ike so much I disobeyed my mother, and I walked to Ike’s campaign headquarters on Public Square to secure campaign buttons and signs that I fashioned into my Halloween costume.

General Eisenhower was swept into office in 1952 on a tidal wave of admiration, gratitude and respect for his accomplishments during World War II.

A West Point graduate and a five star general, President Eisenhower recognized the importance of education and the vital role teachers play in guaranteeing the best possible future for our children and our country:

Teachers need our active support and encouragement. They are doing one of the most necessary and exacting jobs in the land. They are developing our most precious national resource: our children, our future citizens. Dwight David Eisenhower

Equal Opportunity

James K. Polk is often mentioned as our first -James_Polk“dark horse” president and the last strong president before the Civil War. During his presidency, America fought a successful war with Mexico over the annexation of Texas.

He served but one term as he promised. He accomplished all of his goals. He died shortly after he left office.

President Polk is best known for his doctrine of “Manifest Destiny,” that America was destined by God to spread democracy to the Pacific Ocean.

He presided over the largest expansion of the country since the Louisiana Purchase, more than one million square miles. It included territory from Texas to California including New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Washington and parts of Wyoming, Montana and Colorado. He also settled Oregon’s northern boundary dispute with England.

His words address a fundamental obligation of democratic government:

One great object of the Constitution was to restrain majorities from oppressing minorities or encroaching upon their just rights. James K. Polk


General Andrew Jackson gained national prominence Andrew Jacksonwhen he defeated the British at the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812.

Historians tell us that Andrew Jackson was the first self-made man to become President of the United States. He was the first person born in a log cabin to be elected president.

To his friends and supporters Andrew Jackson was ‘Old Hickory.” Many historians call him ‘The People’s President.”

To his critics, he was “King Andrew I.” Not unlike what we are experiencing today, it was a very contentious time in Washington, and Andrew Jackson enjoyed the conflict.

When an assassin attempted to shoot him, the president pursued him and according to accounts, he almost pummeled him to death with his walking cane.

It should come as no surprise that the 7th president of the United States, Number 10 on the list of the ten greatest presidents, felt passionately about doing the right thing::

Any man worth his salt will stick up for what he believes right, but it takes a slightly better man to acknowledge, instantly and without reservation that he is in error…It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes. Andrew Jackson

As I come to the end of this assessment of America at its best as seen through the actions and Flags_1870experiences of our ten greatest presidents, I can hear the wind whipping the flags that fly over the garden in Windsor Park. I can hear the faint sounds of firecrackers exploding in a yard below. I can sense the excitement building for the family gatherings that will take place this evening in our neighborhood, and I can better appreciate the wise and poetic words of spoken by President Lincoln during his second Inaugural Address :

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

Happy Birthday America.

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Thank You Geisinger-Community Medical Center

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Thank You Geisinger-CMC

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2014
Mussari-Loftus Associates
The Face of America Project

Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also love of humanity. Hippocrates                  

Destination: Scranton, PA

On a beautiful June morning, Kitch and I took the short route to Geisinger-Community Medical Center in Scranton, PA.Main Entrance_1006  The purpose of the trip was medical. I would have a test that I have avoided and feared for more than twenty years. The consequence of our visit to the hospital was much more than we expected.

Located on Mulberry Street in the Hill section of Scranton, Hahnemann Hospital then CMC, as it was affectionately known to most patients for more than 100 years, opened its doors as a not-for-profit charitable hospital in 1897.  In 2012, it merged with Geisinger, one of the most trusted names in health care. The hospital is currently undergoing a $97.1 million expansion project.

This would be my first experience in the Geisinger system.

The Sky Is Not Falling


As with most patients who go to the hospital for tests or procedures, I was anxious and on edge. To be honest, I was worried and fearful about what the outcome might be. I think that’s the way most people react when they are about to have a colonoscopy.  Adding to my fear was the fact that my father lost his battle with colon cancer.

Frank Herbert’s words apply:

Fear is the mind killer.

Caring People Make a Difference

The first person we met after we parked our car was an older gentleman who was sprucing up the floor in the parking garage.  When we approached him to ask for directions, he stopped what he was doing, and he went out of his way to give us directions that would get us to the main entrance.

That’s a no brainer some might say.

Not so, we respectfully reply.

Because of the extensive expansion project and our apprehensions, his help and politeness were greatly appreciated.

One of the ancients said it best:

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. Aesop

We quickly made our way to the information desk at thewelcome_0989 entrance to the hospital. There, we were greeted by a young man who spoke the most important words in the dictionary of customer service:

What can I do to help you?

His voice was pleasant, and his smile was welcoming. He put a human face on the hospital. For the first time I felt a sense of calm.


At the admissions office, we met another pleasant person who made us feel comfortable. Yes, she checked all of the data in her computer, but she did it in a thoughtful way, not a bureaucratic “just the facts,” I don’t have time for any small talk impersonal way.

Although she had provided the same service to hundreds of other patients, she did it in a way that made me feel comfortable about the uncertainty of this day.

Our Home Away from Home

When Kitch and I entered the GI Lab, we were taken byGI lab_0946 the sights and sounds of disciplined professionals working together to help patients. Strange as it may seem, the atmosphere was joyful not frenetic. The doctors, nurses and technicians were warm and welcoming. Everyone we met tried to help us.

Renee Rojenches was the nurse assigned to my case. Calling upon more after_0923than two decades of experience, she knew exactly what to do and how to do it in a way that put the patients’ needs first.  Renee is an impressive person who has mastered what are commonly referred to as “Soft Skills,’’ the things relating to feelings and emotions: attitude, adaptability, body language, communication, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism.

The moment we met we had an instant connection. I honestly believed she cared about me, and she wanted to do everything in her power to make this a very successful experience. It enabled us to build a relationship that was best described many years ago by the woman who is most identified with the profession of nursing, Florence Nightingale:

Nursing is an art;
and if it is to be made an art,
it requires as exclusive a devotion,
as hard a preparation,
as any painter’s or sculptor’s work;

For what is the having to do with
dead canvas or cold marble,
compared with having to do with the
living body – the temple of God’s spirit?

It is one of the Fine Arts;
I had almost said
the finest of the Fine Arts   

The Most Important Person in the Room

Based upon previous hospital experiences, I believe that one of the most important people in the room is the anesthesiologist.  Dr. Jamshid KhademiAnestio is a board certified anesthesiologist. That speaks volumes about his competence.

He is a person who is blessed with a million dollar smile and an engaging way. He is thoughtful and very down to earth.

Several times he came to my bedside to talk about the procedure and to get to know his patient. He explained the nature and type of anesthesia in a way that would impress the most gifted wordsmith. I understood what he said.

During our conversations, I got the impression that Dr. Khademi is a man blessed with the gifts of humility and kindness.  I felt secure in his care.

Dr Grad_a

His colleague Dr. Charles T. Grad is the Director of the GI Lab. He is a gastroenterologist who would perform my procedure.  Dr. Grad took the time to walk me through the steps of the procedure, and he explained exactly what would happen. He was confident, but not arrogant. He was professional yet very personable. He was encouraging and very compassionate.  When our eyes met, I saw character, integrity and genuine concern.

Like Dr. Khademi, Dr. Grad made me feel much better about the situation. He personifies in word and deed what Emerson tried to teach us about success:

To know that one life has breathed easier because you have lived, that is to have succeeded.

Dr. Grad has helped thousands of people breathe easier because of way he practices medicine.

The Procedure

When I reached the room where the procedure would take place, I met another part of Dr. Grad’s team.  His name is Gary, and he is a nurse anesthetist.  After I was hooked up to all of the monitors, Gary administered the drug that put me into a relaxing sleep. Throughout the procedure, he stood at the head of the bed monitoring the anesthesia.  Kitch told me that after the procedure he helped wake me upDebby Kitch_0969 with gentle encouragement.

Once I was fully awake, I was told about the success of the procedure. No cancer and only one suspicious polyp.


A wonderful nurse, Debbie Gattens, helped me make the transition from the GI Lab to life as Kitch and I know it.  She is a seasoned professional with a sensitive heart. The good news of this day and the profound gratitude I felt caused me to hug Debbie at least twice before I left the lab.

Going Home

Before an impressive young man named Tony Sandy accompanied me to the tony 7 dad_0982first floor of the hospital, he introduced me to his dad with infectious enthusiasm and pride. Tony works in the transportation department, his father works in the GI Lab. Tony dreams of one day becoming a massage therapist. He wants to start his own business.

I wanted to learn more about Tony’s dream. It’s the teacher in me.

While we walked to the entrance of the hospital, we talked like two teenagers who were sharing their dreams.

Then it happened. Out of nowhere a voice called out, “Is that you Dr. Mussari?”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. A smiling faced that I did not recognize and a voice that I could not remember told me he had taken four of my courses in college. Then he identified himself, Ray Moran class of ’83.

What an incredible moment of unexpected celebration and joy.

Wendy Bob_1005

I was about to join Kitch as she made her way out the front door when I met a distinguished man who looked like a hospital administrator. It was my good fortune to meet Dr. Robert Joyce, OPS Director, Cardiology. We had a brief conversation about my desire to write something about my experiences at the hospital.

While we were talking, Wendy Wilson, Media Team Director for the Geisinger Health System, joined us. She assured me that she would help in any way she could. She kept her promise. She provided all of the information I requested.

The Larger Picture

While Kitch drove home, and I ate the peanut butter sandwiches she made for this part of our journey, the effects of the procedure began to diminish, and I began to see the larger picture.

The people I met in the hospital, the way they worked together helping and supporting patients and each other, theActivity_0935 genuine atmosphere of community in the GI Lab, the values of caring, compassion, character, competence, cooperation, empathy, gratitude, kindness and service are central to America at its best. That’s what made this experience so special. That’s what I will remember about the procedure.

Yes, I came to Geisinger-Community Medical Center for a colonoscopy, but while I was there I saw a mosaic of the Face of America on its best day.  I placed my fate in the heads and hearts of quiet heroes, and they delivered.

Someone once wrote:

The meaning of life is to find your gift.

The purpose of life is to give it away.

Kitch and I came to Geisinger-CMC filled with anxiety, apprehension and fear. We left the hospital with priceless gifts that reflect the radiant light of the Face of America at its very best.

Thank you Geisinger-Community Medical Center for all that you have done and will do to maintain “the finest of the fine art” in medicine…the human connection.

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Gettysburg Gifts: Preserving the Memory

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

Gettysburg Gifts: Preserving the Memory

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Digital Photographs by Tony Mussari
Copyright 2014
The Face of America Project
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it. L.M. Montgomery

During these harsh days of February when the weather outside isPark Feb dark and dreary and the conditions inside are jinxed by the flu, all of us need something that will lift our spirits. It might be an unexpected telephone call or an e-mail from someone who has been out of contact for a while. Often it is a thoughtful, handwritten card or note from a neighbor, a friend or a former student.

While Kitch and I watched the snow pile up in front of the entrance to Windsor Park, the sound of our mailman’s truck brought anticipation and, on several days, delightful surprises.

Every day we received a note or a symbolic gift from someone who attended the premiere of Four Days of Honor and Valor in Gettysburg.


A typewritten letter from Gettysburg Mayor Bill Troxell contained several beautiful thoughts about the screening, the reception, the gratitude gifts and the friendship that developed during our many visits to his office while we were producing the documentary.

His kind words reflect the spirit of Melanie Greenberg’s words:

Gratitude can lead to feelings of love, appreciation, generosity, and compassion, which further open our hearts and help rewire our brains to fire in more positive ways.

Jim and Amy Clegg attended the screening with their children.Amy_250 Their thoughtful note carefully folded and placed in an envelope they stamped with a Medal of Honor commemorative stamp touched our hearts in a special way.  

Amy is a doctor of hope in our little corner of the world. She is the face and the voice of Express Employment Professionals. Her name is prominently displayed in the end credits of the documentary. Without the opportunity she created for us, we would not have had the resources to produce Four Days of Honor and Valor in Gettysburg.

Amy helps people who are struggling understand the powerful words of T.S. Eliot:

Sometimes things become possible if we want them bad enough.

Several years ago, Kitch and I met Bill Gaydos in Shanksville at stamps2_250the People’s Memorial to the Heroes of Flight 93. In that sacred place, while we were producing one of the documentaries in our What Is America? series, we became fast friends.

Bill is a retired educator, a photographer and a poet. His is one of the finest men of faith Kitch and I know. He is loyal, encouraging, helpful, and reliable. He understands how difficult it is to produce documentary in a generic way.  He has been with us on many documentary shoots in Shanksville, and he has attended every one of our screenings since the day we met.

This week Bill blessed our home with a portfolio of collectablePoem_250 Medal of Honor stamps and a framed copy of his beautiful poem about the documentary.
When Kitch and I think about Bill Gaydos the words of an ancient quotation about friendship come to mind:

A friend is someone to whom one may pour out all of the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keeping what is worth keeping and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.

Bill’s poem occupies a prominent place in our home in the room where another priceless treasure evokes wonderful memories of January 18, 2014.
E  J Surprise When we entered our room at the Wyndham Hotel in Gettysburg a colorful bag had been placed on the desk. It contained a framed copy of the title card of the documentary.

Our dear friends Ellen and Jerry Mondlak who own and operate Mondlak Printery had this treasure placed in the room to ease the anxiety we were experiencing before the premiere. The note that accompanied this gift lifted our spirits, eased the tension and made us feel good all over.

As a companion to Bill’s gift, it evokes memories that are best described by Willa Cather:

Some memories are realities and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.

One of the most symbolic surprises came from the heart of JoanneJoanne_250 Chabalko. We met Joanne during the production of Windsor Park Stories. She is the person who introduced us to 2d Lt. Emily Perez.

To honor her friend Steve Woods, a former Green Beret, she gave us the only one she had.  Her kind words touched our hearts:

I wanted to share this labor of love with you. I was in graduate school at Wilkes and they were selling these cards to donate the proceeds to survivors. I purchased several, and this is my last one. It seemed too sacred to write in. I know you will find a place for it.

We are now three weeks away from that wonderful evening in Gettysburg, but the memories of that night are alive and living in the hearts of people who attended the event.
Like the heroes we celebrated in the documentary, the people who shared their gifts with us taught us some very important lessons:

morning sun

We are our memories;

Our memories can save us;

Everybody needs memories;

We live best when we think of others;

Gratitude is the spark that lights the candle of joy.

Thank you Mayor Troxell, Jim and Amy Clegg, Bill Gaydos, Ellen and Jerry Mondlak and Joanne Chabalko. 

You filled our home and our hearts with February sunshine. You eased our anxieties and freed our spirit. You have given us memories that will brighten every day and give us the strength to keep moving forward. You are examples of America at its best, and Kitch and I are in your debt.

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Anniversary: Oh, How the Years Go By, Part 3

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Anniversary: Oh, How the Years Go By, Part 3

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2013
The Face of America Project
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

“Do the things that interest you and do them with all your heart.” Eleanor Roosevelt

This morning, Kitch reminded me that today is the third anniversary of our Face of America journey to California, the official start of our search forIMG_6597 examples of America at its best.

To be more specific, on this date in 2010, our destination was Shanksville, Pennsylvania. On the way we made a sentimental stop in Centralia, PA, the place where our documentary career took flight in 1983. Then we drove to Mechanicsburg to have lunch with Katy and Bob Finn, two very special people in our life.  


We ended the day with three of the best people we know Janie Kiehl, Chuck and Jayne Wagner. For ten years, Janie, Chuck and Jayne helped us tell the story of Flight 93 and the People’s Memorial to the passengers and crew who gave IMG_6722their lives for their country on the day the earth stood still for America.

Our dinner and visit in Shanksville ended one of those days that can only be described as practically perfect in every way. Wherever we stopped on February 28, 2010, we felt the warmth and the sense of belonging that is central to America at its best.

The Numbers for 2013

These are the statistics for the third year of ourGNMP_0768_150 project:

9,000 miles traveled in 5 states and 20 cities;

44 articles posted on our Face of America website;

14 visits to Gettysburg.

We produced an hour documentary entitled Walking Into The Light At Gettysburg.

Title Walking Into the Light AA_250

We screened the documentary and hosted a banquet in Gettysburg on January 19, 2013. Without question this was the most ambitious, complicated, challenging, rewarding and time consuming activity of the year.

We are eternally grateful to Bonnie & Frank Orlando, Tim Johnson, Ann Costa, Mandy Moore, Tom Mazur, Ellen and Jerry Mondlak. They encouraged us, helped us and inspired us to make the documentary and the premiere weekend happen.

In July, we started production of a weekly “America at its Best” commentary for the Business Builders Show with Marty Wolff. What a wonderful learning experience this has been. Thank you, Marty.

During the year, we delivered guest lectures at Marywood University, The Community College of Baltimore, Luzerne County Community College and Wilkes University. Thank you, Gale, Rick, Bill, Judy and Bob; we are forever in your debt.

Book Report

This year, we had two false starts with our book America at its Best, and little success in finding a traditional publisher.Lincolnsm

At the moment we are exploring the opportunities available in digital publishing.

Last evening we received a telephone call from a representative of an alternative publishing company who encouraged us to sign a contract with her company. Strange as this may seem, this morning we had a request to write a chapter book about one of our life experiences.

Robert Dahl’s words about writing continue to inspire us: “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

Looking Forward

In the days and weeks ahead, we will honor an invitation to screen Walking Into the title_250_GLLLight at the annual meeting of the Wyoming Valley Civil War Round Table.

We will present our thoughts about “Gettysburg, Lincoln and Leadership” at the 11th annual Forum and Conference on Ethical Leadership and Corporate Social Responsibility at Marywood University.

We will participate in the annual arts festival at the North Plainfield High School, and the school district will host a community screening of Walking Into The Light at Gettysburg.

We will host our annual Windsor Park Camp for our grandchildren. Without question it’s the best event of the summer.

We have a very special documentary project in its preproduction phase, and we will continue the renovation of the garden we began last summer.

A Moment Like No Other


Last month, we received this note from Martin Young:

Hi Tony, Kitch I just posted the song for you guys to check out, I hope you like it. I feel like it came out really well. I may still do a few more things to it but this is certainly very close. Hope everyone is well, take care, Martin

What a joy it was to hear the song we wrote about surviving cancer. We are indebted to Mike Lewis and Martin Young who helped us refine the words and produce the music.

We are in the process of securing a copyright.

A Priceless Gift

Yesterday we received a priceless gift from our friend, Bill Gaydos. Before we left Gettysburg on January 20, Bill told us he intended to write a poem about the documentary.  This week we received a beautiful framed first edition of Bill’s poem.

You can read Bill’s poignant verse at this address:

To everyone who helped realize our dream to produce a documentary about the magic and mystery of Gettysburg, we say thank you.

ALstu_9426_250This has not been the easiest year for us. We encountered many bumps on the road, and we are dealing with some challenges we never expected. That being said, we are determined to keep moving forward.

President Abraham Lincoln said it best: “Adhere to your purpose and you will soon feel as well as you ever did.”

Until the next time, we hope that all of your stories have happy endings.

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Gettysburg Documentary Educates, Informs, Inspires

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Walking Into The Light At Gettysburg: A Review

Written by: Gale & Robert Jaeger
Photography: Bill Gaydos & Kitch Loftus-Mussari
January 19, 2013
Lenfest Theater, Visitor Center
Gettysburg National Military Park
Copyright 2013 Face of America, Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

On a recent bright and shining Saturday morning, weGNMP_0768_250 traveled from our home in Waverly PA to a most enchanting and inspiring place… the Gettysburg National Military Park.  Although it has been on our list of places to visit for many years, it was the first opportunity we have had to actually get there, and we were not in any way disappointed.

The purpose of our trip was to attend the premier of a production by Dr. Tony Mussari and his wife and able partner, Kitch Loftus Mussari. We knew that our travels would reward us with an exceptional experience and we were correct in our supposition. It was an evening we will long remember.


As we all assembled in the theater, having been warmly welcomed by Tony and Kitch, people prepared to settle down and see the show. Mr. Frank Orlando, a former public school principal clearly devoted to education and learning, was the master of ceremonies.  He and his wife, Bonnie, were attired in civil war costume and proceeded to act their roles while providing the audience with charming reflections and historical facts of the era.

Following the Orlandos was Mr. William Troxell, longOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA time mayor of Gettysburg. He gave some history of this historic town – really a lovely hamlet of sorts – and told of his many generations of relatives who had resided here before him.  He was most gracious in his welcome and made us all feel quite at home.


Ms. Stacy Fox, VP of Sales and Marketing, Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau, was exuberant in her discussion of the military park and all that it stands for in terms of American history.  It is easy to see why she holds the position she does!

Finally, just before the actual screening, Dr. Tony Mussari gave some reflections on why he and Kitch had decided to produce this documentary.

He spoke about visiting Gettysburg for the first time with his brother. Tony was 15 at the time and the experience, in his words,”changed his life.”

A part of the Face of America Project, Walking Into the Light is indeed enlightening. It educates us about the infamous Battle of Gettysburg. As important, as we view the monuments and battlefields through the lens of period photographs and renderings, we feel both the terror and the courage that these 161,000 soldiers must have experienced in this history making three day battle.

We were inspired and moved as the Battle Hymn of the Republic and other very moving music, well selected for this documentary, played in the background with footage of our great flag imposed across the screen, undulating in a stiff breeze. It was truly inspiring and our hearts were filled with pride for our new republic and for what it has become.

Central to this documentary was the presence of ten OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA students from North Plainfield High School in New Jersey. A diverse group, there was clearly one thing these students had very much in common: a thirst for knowledge and a true sense of astonishment and amazement at what they learned through this life changing experience – exactly what Tony and Kitch had hoped for.

Articulate and insightful beyond their years and life experiences, these students learned how much their forefathers sacrificed for our collective freedom. It caused them to do some critical thinking and express gratitude for all that they enjoy today. It clearly changed them in very real ways. We wondered how this experience might also move and inspire university level students who might come to Gettysburg with a higher level of understanding and perhaps see things that might have been lost on such young students. Clearly, people of all ages leave this place enriched and inclined to learn much more about our nation’s history during those Civil War years.


Also notable were the many comments made by General Robert E. Lee, so nicely interpreted by Frank Orlando.

While we never understood him as well as we did after hearing some of his “commentary,” we were reminded that even those whom we might disagree with ideologically, have something to say and, when given the opportunity, it is often something we can admire. We wondered what General Grant might have told us about and what memorable quotes we would have taken away from his commentary had he been a part of the proceedings!

And finally, the memorable quotes from President3a11366r Last portrai 300t Abraham Lincoln, a man who overcame so many obstacles to be a president who changed the world in so many ways, touched our hearts once again. Some were new to us, other we had known. All were words which are timeless and could have been spoken today with just as much meaning and power.

Iconic in today’s world for his many contributions, Lincoln was often misunderstood in his lifetime. One who understood him was T.V.Smith who said:

“This Lincoln, whom so many living friends and foes alike deemed foolish, hid bitterness in laughter, fed his sympathy on solitude, and met recurring disaster with whimsicality to muffle the murmur of a bleeding heart… and won through death what life disdains to bestow upon such simple souls –lasting peace and everlasting glory.”

While Lincoln and the soldiers who fought so valiantly at Gettysburg may not have provided for a lasting peace – perhaps humans are not capable of that –they did provide us with everlasting glory.

Gettysburg groupThank you Tony and Kitch for this extraordinary film and for all the expertise, insight and love that went into it.

Surely you changed the lives of many of us in your audience just as you changed the lives of your ten students, and just,Tony, as your own life was changed when you first visited Gettysburg many long years ago
with your beloved brother. He is surely proud of all that came of that visit and smiles on you today.

Godspeed to you and to all who helped to make this fine documentary a reality.

Emily Perez: America At Its Best

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Emily Perez at 29, September 12, 2012

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2012
Mussari-Loftus Associates
All Rights Reserved
The Face of America Project

We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours.  Dag Hammerskjold

September 12, 2012

In about two hours the sun will rise on America. Alarm clocks will ring, mothers and fathers will get children up and ready for school.

On street corners all over our country, students will gather to catch the big yellow bus that will take them to the place they will call home for about eight hours.

Red and blue-lined roads will be jammed with traffic as parents make their way to the office or factory or department store.

On the buses and in the cars, radios will provide a serenade of sounds that will greet this day with joy.

That’s the way it will be on this morning of opportunity in America, but in one community in Maryland, it will be very different.

I doubt that the pickup truck carrying this father to work will have any music blaring. I think the same will be the case in his wife’s car. I am almost positive the mood in both vehicles will be sad, poignant and questioning. The faces of the drivers will reflect the emptiness and pain of the loss of a child. Their hearts will be beating in harmony with the significance of this day.

For most of us it is September 12, the day after our national expression of grief for the 2900 Americans who lost their lives on the day the earth stood still for America.  Today is a new day in America and the routine of life resumes for most of us but not all.

For Vicki and Daniel Perez the mourning continues, because this is the day their precious Emily lost her life in Iraq six years ago.

2nd LT Emily Perez

By every measure, 2nd LT Emily Perez reflects the light of America on its best day.  She was a leader in her class at West Point. She was a leader with the uncommon blessings of courage, determination, focus, kindness and a natural born instinct for selfless service to others.
Everyone who knew her talks about her radiant smile, her competitive nature, her willingness to do the right thing regardless of the consequences. She was small in stature, but a giant in all the things that matter.

I’ve been told, she was not ordered to Iraq. She volunteered to switch her assignment so a friend could be with her fiancé. She did not have to lead the convoy on the day of her death. She volunteered because she did not believe her recently arrived replacement was ready for the assignment.

Emily’s big brain and bigger heart would have enabled her to go to any college of her choosing in America.  Her athletic ability would have been celebrated with scholarship assistance.  She decided to make West Point her home for four years. She was a member of the 9/11 class, and that had meaning for this indefatigable teenager who wanted to serve her country just like her father had done in Germany where she was born.

To know Emily was to admire Emily. Kitch and I did not have that privilege, but we did have a priceless moment with Emily while she was a cadet at West Point.  It is included at the end of a short video about her legacy.  You will find it at this address:

On this September 12, Kitch and I will be thinking about Emily and her parents.  We will give thanks for the gift of her example and their friendship. We will celebrate her wonderful life and many accomplishments, and we will pray that the work of her parents to share Emily’s message through their Emily’s Way Foundation will be blessed with success.

America needs the light of Emily Perez. American youngsters need the example of Emily Perez, and Americans of all ages need to be reminded that the heartbeat of Emily Perez and many like her is the heartbeat of America on its best day.

She never gave up on her dream.

She never gave in to the people who made life difficult for her.

She never turned away from people who needed her help.

She always put the needs of her country and the people she was leading before her own needs.

She always looked up for inspiration, and looked out to inspire others.

She wasn’t rich, and she isn’t famous. She was, however, simpley the best America has to offer.

The day Joanne Chabalko introduced us to 2nd LT Emily Perez was one of the best days of our life, and until the end we will continue to sing her praises and spread her message because, in our opinion, she is the Face of America on its best day, and all of us, young and old, can benefit from her example.

Thank you Vicki and Daniel for giving our country the priceless gift of Emily.

Thank you for working long and hard hours to mentor young women in Emily’s Way.

Thank you for the dignified and inspirational way you have carried on despite the grief and sadness of your loss.

Thank you for your quiet acts of kindness that exemplify your beautiful faces of America on its best day. All of us who know you are in your debt.

2nd LT Emily Perez did not choose the frame of her destiny, but what she put into it clearly speaks to America at its very best.

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Shanksville: Where Hope Is Stronger Than Death

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Shanksville, PA: A Place Where Hope Is Stronger Than Death

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2012
Mussari-Loftus Associates
All Rights Reserved
The Face of America Project

Our worth is always determined by our deeds, not by our good intentions, however noble. Og Mandino

An Anniversary Like No Other

When Kitch and I made our first visit to Shanksville, our lives were changed forever.

The genuineness of the People’s Memorial to the Heroes of Flight 93, the welcoming way of the ambassadors we met, the natural beauty of the setting, the poignant reminders of the courage and determination of the passengers and crew of Flight 93 and the heartfelt tributes left by thousands of visitors made an indelible mark on our souls.

This week I opened the door to my memory room.  Once inside, I spent a good deal of time thinking about what I learned during our visits to the People’s Memorial and the annual screenings of our Changed Forever series in Shanksville. Thousands of images flashed through my mind. The rush of emotions accompanying this kaleidoscope was humbling.

These are some of the images that spoke to my heart.

Memorable Quotes

The seven words written on a guard rail, “The peace you find here is eternal,” reminded me that most of the things we think are important don’t give us peace of mind.

The handcrafted note from a child named Shelly, “Thank you for what you did even though you were scared.”  Embedded in these words is the powerful and healing virtue of gratitude. As one of the ancients said, “It is the queen of all virtues.”

The inscription on a tile that read, “A hero is one who keeps trying.” In this world of bigness, most of us feel a sense of overwhelming smallness, yet the child who wrote this note reminds us that perseverance and perspective will help us make it through the distractions and the nights of darkness into the light of understanding.   

The seven words written on the wall of tributes in 2002 by one of our students Chuck Moran: “A piece of us all stays here.”

Those words set the tone for all of our visits that followed.

Another member of our group, Jeff Soles wrote this note: “One nation under God indivisible thanks.”

Jeff Soles was one of the most impressive and courageous people I have ever met. He was battling cancer when he visited the site. He lost his battle shortly after he wrote this note.  His words had special meaning then, and even more meaning today.

Images of Horror and Hope

The black mushroom cloud hovering over the red barn in Val McClatchy’s picture is the classic image of what happened in Shanksville on September 11, 2001.

In another respect, that black cloud is symbolic of the darkness of animosity, hatred and violence that darkens our world to this day.
Val has paid a very heavy price personally and professionally because of her picture. Yet she remained true to her mission. She wanted to share it with the world no matter what her critics said. Today Val’s picture is one of the icons of that place and that day.

For 10 years, the 40 Angels of Freedom watched over the huge debris field as they paid a personal and poignant tribute to the men and women who fought the first battle in the war against terror. These slate angels created by Eric Pierson and his wife Tammy gave the site a quality of comfort and warmth that is difficult to describe.

Chuck Wagner’s captivating picture of the site at sunset may very well be one of the most beautiful pictures of the symbolism of this sacred place.

Chuck is a thoughtful man.  In his world, faith and family set the agenda. He and his wife Jayne have spent countless hours working at the site as Flight 93 Ambassadors.  Chuck has taken more pictures of the site than anyone I know. This picture records the beauty and majesty of this place of hope and heroes.  

This picture of the MacMillans entering the site records a special moment in the life of a family whose friendship and love for Todd Beamer and his family brought them here to celebrate his life. It speaks to the joy of community. It represents friendship, loyalty and love. For Kitch and me all of these things are embedded deep in the soil in Shanksville.

Everything about the People’s Memorial told visitors they were not alone.  They were a part of the Shanksville family, and, in another respect, they were an essential part of the American family.

Joanne Galvin presenting the National 9/11 flag to the students
from North Plainfield High School is a bridge to the next generation of Shanksville storytellers. It is a powerful reminder that we must never forget what happened to our country on September 11, 2001. It represents the fulfillment of a promise Joanne made to her late husband to continue his mission, and the hope that the next generation will keep this important national symbol flying in every state.

Kitch’s impressionistic picture of the shadows cast by the tributes on the chain link fence records the haunting feeling one gets while visiting the site. There are so many questions, and very few answers.  Why did it happen?  Why were so many innocent lives taken in New York, Washington, DC and here without cause? Why do people hate and kill in the name of God? When will we learn to resolve our differences without murdering innocents?

Questions and Answers

In 2009, Clarence Michael looked at the wall of tributes, and
he asked the quintessential question, “I wonder what I would have done?”  In my heart of hearts, I believe that most of the people who visited the site silently asked themselves this question. They know what they would have liked to do, but few are certain about what they would have done.

Chelsea Blue was a freshman at the North Plainfield High School in New Jersey when she defined heroism with these thoughtful words:

“A hero is someone who does great things and you look up to them, and you try to follow in their footsteps. A hero is not a celebrity. A hero is someone who stands up for what’s right, does what’s right, and never breaks the law or does anything bad. You never know your heroes until they are gone.”

Our chance meeting with the cheerleaders from North
PlainfieldHigh School in New Jersey in 2009 opened the door to opportunities for teaching, learning, growing and service we never thought possible. Shanksville was our second home during the past ten years. North Plainfield has become our new second home. We are deeply grateful for the friends we have made in both communities.

The Gift of Friendship

This picture of Janie Kiehl telling the Shanksville story to a group of students from our last class evokes warm and sentimental feelings of gratitude for the gift of friendship.

Janie Kiehl was the first person Kitch met in Shanksville. We did not know it then, but she would become the person who made all of our screenings happen.

On the day we literally bumped into one another, Janie was the Flight 93 Ambassador on duty at the site. Today, Janie is an admired and cherished friend. Every year she arranged the community dinner for our guests, and she secured the Methodist church for our screening. In more ways than I can describe here, she personifies what friendship is all about.

During our last interview, I asked Janie what she would want people to know about Shanksville. She thought for a moment, and then she replied, “Welcome to small town America.”

Today the People’s Memorial is only a memory of a time when citizens of goodwill joined together to remember and pay tribute to 40 heroes and heroines who defined in courageous and heroic ways what America is on its best and worst day. The design came from their hearts, their beliefs and their experiences.  The construction was the work of their hands. The atmosphere reflected their caring hearts.

The temporary memorial was open, honest, welcoming and oh, so memorable. For those of us who experienced its transformational power, it will live in our hearts forever, and it will give us hope.

As one youngster wrote, “Hope is stronger than death.”

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A Few Words from Andy Rooney

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

A Few Words from Andy Rooney: A face of America Commentary

By Tony Mussari
Copyright 2011
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD
The Face of America Project

A writer’s job is to tell truth. Andy Rooney

The news of Andy Rooney’s death took me by surprise. It came on a day when I was thinking about death of another kind. That’s a story for another day.

Andy Rooney lived a charmed life. He did what he loved to do. He wrote for a living. At first he did it for others, and then, when he was old enough to be a grandfather, he did it in a very public way for the most celebrated news magazine on television, 60 Minutes.

Rooney was blessed with a name that was easy to remember, and a way with words that was hard to forget. At 60 Minutes he had a boss, Don Hewitt, who believed that words, not gimmicks, made good stories. That being said, it was what Andy Rooney did with words that made all the difference.

When you and I look at a door, it is something that allows entry and exit. When Andy Rooney looked at a door, it became a highly respected television special.

Andy Rooney was a little bit of all of us; impatient to be sure, observant to his advantage and our delight, and grumpy when his privacy was violated. 

At times he was impulsive and insensitive. He paid a price for that, but he redeemed himself with the honesty he sought in others. A thoughtless remark about homosexuals resulted in firestorm of protest. It produced a genuine apology: “I am guilty of what I said about gays, and I deeply regret having offended them, but on the other charge, I am absolutely innocent. I never made any remark about blacks having ‘watered down’ their genes.”

I once had the pleasure of walking behind Andy Rooney on West 42d street in the shadow of the nondescript building that is the home of CBS in New York.  He was smaller than I imagined and slower moving than one would expect. His appearance was anything but impressive, and he had the biggest feet I have ever seen.

None of these imperfections mattered very much, because the words he used enabled him to connect with us.

These are some of the most memorable words to come from Rooney’s brilliant mind, and his carefully guarded heart. They speak to the strength of his character and the reason for our admiration.

“All men are not created equal but should be treated as though they were under the law.”

“Computers make it easier to do a lot of things, but most of the things they make it easier to do don’t need to be done.”

“Don’t rule out working with your hands. It does not preclude using your head.”

“If you smile when no one else is around, you really mean it.”

“People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe.”

“The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there’s a 90% probability you’ll get it wrong.”

“The closing of a door can bring blessed privacy and comfort – the opening, terror. Conversely, the closing of a door can be a sad and final thing – the opening a wonderfully joyous moment.”

“We’re all proud of making little mistakes. It gives us the feeling we don’t make any big ones.”

“A writer’s greatest pleasure is revealing to people things they knew but did not know they knew. Or did not realize everyone else knew, too. This produces a warm sense of fellow feeling and is the best a writer can do.”

“I think of myself as a critic. We need all types in the world. We need poets and we need people who can make things. And … we need critics of the things that are made, too.”

“Death is a distant rumor to the young.”

“Most of us end up with no more than five or six people who remember us. Teachers have thousands of people who remember them for the rest of their lives.”

In my opinion, Andy Rooney was a Face of America on its best day.  He was simply the best at what he did.  His artfully crafted words made us laugh, cry, think, celebrate and give thanks for the blessings we enjoy as Americans. He was a member of the greatest generation who taught us in words and actions how to be our own greatest generation.

This is a sad day for television news because we have lost a giant who will never be replaced.  Thank you, Andy Rooney for showing us the way to maximize freedom of speech, critical thinking and storytelling with meaning and purpose.

You and your work will be remembered by more than five or six people because you were a teacher’s teacher with a magical gift of words.

(Photograph by Stevenson Brown uploaded to Flickr and available in Wikimedia Commons)

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