Posts Tagged ‘It Is well with My Soul’

A Poignant Face of America Moment

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Flight of Valor: a Poignant Face of America Moment in North Plainfield, New Jersey

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

Music is the medicine of the breaking heart. Leigh Hunt

North Plainfield High School

Some of the most priceless memories of our Face of America journey are deeply rooted in the high school in North Plainfield, New Jersey. This is the place where Kitch and I first discovered the Face of America’s tomorrow today.  It’s the place where the seeds of our project germinated. It’s a place where good things are happening for students, teachers, parents and administrators who reap the benefits of diversity.

In many ways, going to North Plainfield is like going home. It happened again this week when I visited the high school to interview students for a documentary we will screen in Shanksville later this year.

The visit was suggested by Tom Mazur, Supervisor of Fine, Practical and Performing Arts. Tom invited me to attend the spring concert. When I was told the concert band under the direction of Heather Fencik would play Flight of Valor, James Swearingen’s inspirational composition dedicated to the Heroes of Flight 93, I requested permission to record the event.

As has always been the case, everyone at the high school who was involved in arranging my visit did what had to be done to create a welcoming environment. Skip Pulcrano, the coach of the North Plainfield cheerleaders, went out of his way to make this location shoot a success.

Prior to the concert I interviewed four students and one teacher from North Plainfield, and a mother and her daughter from Point Pleasant, New Jersey.

Yamna Anwar is one of North Plainfield’s most accomplished students. Recently she distinguished herself with a perfect score on the state mandated test for juniors. During our conversation she shared her thoughts about America and her dream of becoming a medical doctor.

Maximiliano Torres is a member of the wrestling team, and the owner of a golden voice.  Kitch and I were taken by his rendition of God Bless America, prior to our screening of Visiting Shanksville in the Rain. During our conversation he spoke passionately about his love for America.

Guedis Cardenas is president of the senior class, and a member of the tennis team. He is a cheerleader who commands the respect of everyone on the squad. Sitting in front of the Healing Field Flag of Honor, he talked about the things he learned during his visit to Shanksville. Three days after our interview Guedis was selected as the outstanding male cheerleader in the country at a national competition in North Carolina.

Amber Henderson and her fifth grade teacher, Megan Hendrickson, shared their story of rescue, hope, inspiration and friendship.

Anna Norcia and her mother, Marie, talked about their visits to Shanksville with Skip Pulcrano when he was a teacher in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. That is where this marvelous public service tradition started. All these years later, it has been developed to its highest potential in North Plainfield.

As you can well imagine, these wonderful and uplifting stories added a special dimension to our Face of America project.

The Back Story

A few moments before the concert began, I read an interesting comment in the program. It told everyone in attendance that the composer of Flight of Valor drew upon a well-known hymn, It Is Well with My Soul. That piqued my curiosity, and I made a mental note to check out the back story to the music.

When the appointed moment arrived for the performance, I was located high above the stage in a control room where I could get a good shot of the concert band and audio to match.

The students performed Flight of Valor with dignity and class. It had all of the emotion, intensity and inspiration associated with this very special composition. Without question, Flight of Valor was the high point of the concert.

You can watch our production of Flight of Valor at this address:

On my way home, I thought about the back story, and as soon as I reached a computer I began my search for information about It Is Well with My Soul.  What I discovered is heart wrenching and inspirational.

Horatio G. Spafford, Jr., was a prominent Chicago lawyer. He and his wife, Anna, were the parents of four girls: Annie, Maggie, Bessie and Tanetta. In 1870, their only son was killed by Scarlett Fever.  In 1871, they lost all of their real estate properties in the Chicago fire. In 1873, they lost their four daughters in an accident at sea.

Spafford learned about the tragedy in a telegram from his wife.  It read” “Saved alone. What Shall I do?”

After the telegram arrived, Spafford left for England to join his wife.  He wrote the lyrics for It Is Well with My Soul shortly after the ship that was taking him to England passed the spot where the accident occurred. The opening stanza summarizes his feelings and speaks to his great faith:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Many believe It Is Well with My Soul is one of the most comforting Christian hymns. It speaks to faith and hope in the face of unimaginable pain and sorrow. It is the perfect model for Flight of Valor which celebrates the courage, determination, heroism and patriotism of the passengers and crew of United Flight 93. On May 17, the North Plainfield Concert Band captured all of the emotions expressed in Spafford’s hymn and Swearingen’s composition. It was an extraordinary Face of America moment and a proud memory for everyone in North Plainfield, New Jersey.

On this Memorial Day weekend it is well for our soul to remember all those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, and the 1,007,448 men and women who have given their lives for our country since 1775. They are the face of American freedom. Their courage, honor, sacrifice and valor must never be forgotten. They paid the price for our freedom, and we are in their debt.

Tony & Kitch Mussari