Posts Tagged ‘Screening in North Plainfield’

A Standing O Event, Part 2

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Screening Walking Into the Light in North Plainfield, New Jersey

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

When Tony left the stage, my heart was beating faster than I can ever remember, and I was experiencing feelings of pride and joy thatIMG_3986_ajmMB are impossible to describe. My husband and partner had done the courageous thing. He spoke from his heart with a kind of candor and humility that one seldom hears. His remarks resonated with the audience.

Before he took his seat, Dr. Birnbaum embraced him and thanked him in a warm and family way. It is a frozen frame I will not soon forget.

The lights dimmed. The large crowd settled in with attention and silence. Our company logo and  music announced the beginning of Walking Into the Light at Gettysburg. It was time to sit back and watch what transpired in April 2012 when ten students from North Plainfield first stepped onto the battlefield where 162,000 soldiers engaged in the greatest battle ever fought in the Western Hemisphere


During the screening, the audience was riveted on the sights, the sounds, the images and the stories of General and Mrs. Robert E. Lee, Bruce Rice, a licensed battlefield tour guide, President Abraham Lincoln and the students who are their friends and neighbors.

While the scenes recorded at the Cyclorama, the museum, Culp’s Hill, Little Round Top and the Pennsylvania Monument appeared on the screen, you could hear a pin drop. When General and Mrs. Lee and President Lincoln shared their insights, I could hear the hushed sounds of ohs and ahs.

Thoughtout the film, Tony asked the students to react to each event.Adriana C3

It was evident to those watching the film that individually and as a group, the students were overwhelmed by what they saw and heard. The experience taught them things about Gettysburg and the Civil War that would help them change and grow as individuals and citizens. In some ways, this experiential learning weekend made them different people, more mature, more positive, more grateful, stronger and more willing to try new things and less afraid of failure.

At the end of the film each student had an opportunity to express their feelings and talk about their experiences both on camera before they left Gettysburg.

Family_smOne month later, several students came to the May meeting of the Board of Education to tell their story.  Adriana Miranda, one of the students who attended the meeting, summarized the trip, the opportunities and the consequences with two words on a sign, Gettysburg Family.

The surprise ending of the documentary caught everyone’s attention.

Before the credits came up, the audience was on its feet, and enthusiastic applause filled the auditorium with the sweet sounds of affirmation and gratitude. The people who came to the screening loved the documentary. They got the message, and they wanted Tony to know how they felt about his work.

When Tony returned to the front of the room, he was overwhelmed byIMG_9429_250 the emotion of the moment.  He looked at the audience with tears of joy in his eyes. I could see him searching the room for the students and their parents. For what seemed like an eternity, he was unable to speak.  Then, he composed himself, and he spoke not only to those attending, but especially to the students in his Gettysburg family.

Pacing the front of the auditorium in the same way I had watched him do in his classroom, he looked into the eyes of the students and he summarized the subtext of the documentary, and the most important messages he wanted to convey in it.

Character  Quote_sm2

“It’s not about becoming famous. It’s not about making students celebrities. It’s not about getting headlines in the newspaper or on the evening news. It’s not about making a video that will go viral on YouTube,” he said in a voice that was part teacher, part grandfather, part friend. “It’s about finding the best edition of yourself, finding the real meaning of joy, overcoming your fears, believing in yourself and your dreams.”

Looking directly into the eyes of one of the students, he said,Loncoln on Failure_sm “You have so much ability, please don’t reach down for something less than yourself, reach up. Make yourself better.”  
These were genuine moments of love. He was talking to the students, but thinking about his son. He was using his family experience and the Gettysburg experience to encourage these students and remind them of the dangers of the digital age.  

He was pleading with them to cultivate real friendships in real time, not artificial friendships in cyberspace time.

“When things are going well,” he told them, “Look IMG_4071_rockGBat that rock the I gave you at the Gettysburg screening and be grateful for what you have. When you encounter challenges and difficulties, look at that rock and remember the 51,000 men who were casualties at Gettysburg.  They did not give up.”

In what was the most beautiful and poignant public moment of the evening, Tony made it crystal clear how much he thought of each one of the ten students who accompanied him to Gettysburg.

“I want each of you to know that the memories of you and our experience will remain in my heart forever, and when my last day comes, I will take those memories of you to the other side.”

He wanted to end this beautiful moment with the words he coined about his experience in North Plainfield, “This is the place where I found the Face of America’s tomorrow today.”  As he looked at the students, their teachers, the administrators and board members he admires so much, he was overwhelmed with emotion, and he choked up.

Sensing the genuine emotion of this extraordinary human moment, the audience helped him out with a kind of applause, I will never forget.

In that moment, everything he hoped for and worked so hard for came together. It was his Face of America moment shared with people whoLive by lightA_sm appreciated the many ways he tried to help these wonderful students benefit from the powerful examples of the Battle of Gettysburg and the painful experiences of a father who loves his son, his work and his desire to help.

As we were driving home, I asked him about the screening and the reaction to it. He told me he was very apprehensive before the screening, and he was pleasantly surprised by the warm and heartfelt reactions of the people who approached him at the social after the event.

The comment made by Nabil Twyman’s mother touched his heart in a very special way.  It made all the months of worry, hard work, struggle and disappointment worth the effort when she spoke these words:

"Thank you for saying all the things I wanted my son to hear. It was a powerful film and a beautiful evening."

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