Posts Tagged ‘Atlantiv City in October’

Atlantic City in October

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

Atlantic City in October
Sharing the Story of Honor and Valor with a Group of Educators in New Jersey

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

From sandals to stilettos and foie gras to funnel cakes, Atlantic City offers something for everyone. The Atlantic City Alliance

On a sun-drenched October afternoon, our Face of AmericaIMG_6489 journey took me to Atlantic City. Unfortunately, I was flying solo, something I rarely do. Kitch was attending the funeral service for one of her childhood friends. Kathy had entered a hospital in California for a hernia operation. During the procedure one of the members of the surgical team nicked an artery. Kathy died from internal bleeding.

An adaptation of the words of Mary Shelley accurately describes Kitch’s state of mind as she dealt with this tragedy:

She was determined to transfer her love and support to the members of Kathy’s family.

On the Boardwalk

Kitch loves the ocean.

If Gustave Flaubert had asked this of Kitch, I have no IMG_6495doubt what her answer would have been:

Doesn’t it seem to you that the mind moves more freely in the presence of that boundless expanse, that the sight of it elevates the soul and gives rise to thoughts of the infinite and the ideal?


Knowing her feelings about the ocean, my first stop after I registered was a visit to the boardwalk. With camera in hand, I took several pictures that were designed to give Kitch a feel for the atmosphere, the place and its surroundings.

One of my favorite shots speaks to what I found at the ocean. There was only one person on the beach and a few seagulls circling above.


Shortly after 6 p.m., I joined Tom Kasper, Linda Bond Nelson and Dr. Marilyn Birnbaum. Tom and Linda are school board members in North Plainfield, New Jersey. Dr. Birnbaum was the Superintendent of Schools during the years Kitch and I volunteered as teachers with a camera in the school district.

Tom, Linda and Marilyn are excellent representatives ofIMG_6521 North Plainfield. They are committed to the school district in all the ways that matter. Above and beyond that, they are nice people to be with.

For more than three hours we exchanged stories, and we got to know one another in the ways that neighbors and friends know one another.

We talked about the problems School Board Members face, the merits and demerits of No Child Left Behind, the ways in which the digital revolution is changing education, and the challenge facing those who want to maintain traditional values like accountability, character, integrity, discipline, and respect.

As you might expect a good part of our conversation focused on entitlement and the emphasis on “me” in a world of histrionics and entertainment.

At one point in our conversation, I felt so comfortable; I shared my lifetime struggle with anxiety. It’s been my demon since I was a child, and as I get older it seems to become even more of a challenge. It is particularly vexing before and during a location shoot or any kind of presentation.

As an editor and producer, my brain is programmed to find imperfections and correct them. I worry about the things that can and often do go wrong. As a teacher, I was committed to teaching the principles of critical thinking, customer service, and planning to avoid unpleasant situations.

The most memorable moment of our reunion happened when Dr. Birnbaum told the story of a recent controversy that put North Plainfield on the CBS News. It involved an act of prejudice against North Plainfield athletes before a high school football game. When a reporter asked a North Plainfield student about his reaction, He replied, “Here in North Plainfield there is only one color…Maroon…that’s our school color.”

The Event

At 11 a.m., the educators who wanted to see our Graphicdocumentary, Four Days of Honor and Valor in Gettysburg, were in their seats in room 409. After a brief introduction in which I thanked, Tom Kasper for suggesting this event, Dr. Birnbaum for supporting the work we did in North Plainfield, the school board members from North Plainfield who were in the audience for their help and encouragement, Kitch for her unwavering support and Diane Morris, the staff member from the New Jersey School Boards Association who was responsible for organizing all of the workshops at the conference.

The lights were dimmed, and for the next hour, I sat in the back of the room observing the audience as they watched the documentary. It’s amazing how much you can learn by watching body language during a screening. In this instance, it was all positive save for one young man who arrived late. During the screening, his head remained down and his eyes were focused on his Smart phone as he texted for more than 40 minutes. He left the room before the documentary ended.

Such is reality in the digital age.


Ask any documentary filmmaker, and they will tell you the most anxious time is before the screening begins, and the most important time is during the Q&A session.

On this day, we were blessed with participants who wanted to share their opinions.

An historical reenacter invited everyone in the group to an event in Gettysburg. His reaction to the documentary was short and to the point: “It is excellent.”

A teacher who had served in the military liked the information about the Medal of Honor Convention and the values the students learned from the experience.

A woman who described herself as a mom was impressed by the story, and she said these are the values her students and others must learn to live a good life. Her friend reinforced that point.

A woman said she came to the workshop because of the material she read in the program, but she found the documentary to be so much more beneficial than she had expected.

A man in the very first row identified himself as a former U.S. Marine. He liked the message of patriotism and service.

Virtually everyone who offered a comment shared these two thoughts. This film should have been shown to the entire convention. It should be shown in every high school in America.

Memorable Moments

After the session ended a teacher approached me to discuss the film. She told me she wants to show it to her students, but it will be a challenge making the time to do it. Nevertheless, she is going to do her best to make it happen.

Before, I left the room, Dr. Marilyn Birnbaum former Superintendent of Schools in the North Plainfield School District said something that touched my heart in a very special way” “You are the first person to see it all. You captured who and what we are. Please stay in touch.”

Our IMG_6512_AC_FFCworkshop at the convention attracted about 25 people. By conventional standards, that is not a large number. If, however, you see beyond the obvious and connect with what these people felt and said, the workshop was a success.

There were no sandals, stilettos, foie gras or funnel cakes in room 409 of the Atlantic City Convention Center. There were, however, educators who appreciated the work and want to help get the message recorded in Four Days of Honor and Valor in Gettysburg to a much larger audience in schools across the country so that teachers and parents can help students better understand the importance of character, integrity, gratitude, kindness and service in leading a quality life.

In my opinion, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Thank you, North Plainfield for giving an old teacher with a camera an opportunity to tell this story.

Thank you, NJSBA for hosting this event.

Thank you to the people who took the time to attend the event and capitalize on what was offered. In my opinion, you are the Face of America on its best day, and I am in your debt

Please provide feedback to: