Posts Tagged ‘The Shanksville Standard’

Dealing with Disappointment

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

Dealing with Disappointment: America at its Best

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

Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it. Eliza Tabor Stephenson


For the past six months, Kitch and I have spent a good deal of time conceptualizing and organizing an educational experience for a groupSign_3898 of our friends and ten students who attend Misericordia University. The project was designed to acquaint the participants with the elements of what we call “The Shanksville Standard.” The capstone of the project was a visit to the new Visitor Center at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Stoystown, PA.

This may sound like a very simple undertaking, but, believe me when I tell you, it demanded a great deal of time, effort and energy on our part, and cooperation from a number of our friends in Shanksville and beyond.

To give you one measure of the challenges we faced in organizing Desktop file_5017this educational experience, there is a folder on my desktop computer labeled Shanksville 2015. It contains 1,424 files in 75 folders. One of these folders contains a PowerPoint presentation Kitch and I designed to help the students better understand the history of the Flight 93 Memorial and the objectives of this experience. This presentation contains 56 slides. To help us tell the story visually, we inserted 61 archival pictures and 35 graphics on these slides.

Our Shanksville 2015 file does not include more than 200 e-mails that were sent, and dozens of telephone calls that were made.

To attend to all the little details that make an experience like this successful, Kitch and I hosted four meetings with food and beverages in our greenhouse for people who made special contributions to the project.

In September, I traveled to Shanksville Visitor Center 1A_4120for two days to meet with several people who were essential to various aspects of the trip. We also participated in a meet-and-greet session arranged by Dr. Brian Carso for his students at Misericordia University. Dr. Carso was our partner in this project, and he devoted a good deal of time and energy to make it a success.

Our dear friend Mary Jane Kiehl volunteered her time to help us with all the refinements that have been a hallmark of our visits to Shanksville over the years. She hosted a dinner at her home which was the highlight of my trip to Shanksville in September. It was a celebration of friendship, a planning session and a reunion with our friends Chuck and Jayne Wagner.

Tropical Depression 9

While I was driving home from Shanksville on September 15, a tropical depression was forming in the Atlantic Ocean. TD 9 was located about 1200 miles east of the Lesser Antilles and about 1300 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands. It was moving slowly with maximum winds of 30 miles per hour.


TD9 eventually became Hurricane Joaquin, a Category 4 storm with 130 mph winds.

On September 30, Kitch and I composed a note for all of the people we invited to join us in Shanksville:

Kitch and I have been researching weather conditions for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

As you probably know the weather conditions for Friday, Saturday and Sunday are not good.

This morning I made contact with our coordinator in Shanksville, and she told me the prediction for Saturday is 100% rain for most of the day with high winds, cold temperatures in the low 40s, and flooding.

In the interest of safety for everyone who will be traveling to Shanksville, we have decided to cancel the trip.

In our opinion it is the right thing to do.

Please know that Kitch and I appreciate everything you did to make this trip a success.

The note produced thoughtful and encouraging responses:

NWS Oct 2

It’s probably for the best…if the power goes out, you’ll have even bigger problems.
Thanks for letting me know so quickly…”

“You made the right decision to cancel. This could be bad… I know you must be disappointed considering the herculean effort you put into making it happen.”

“No problem…I understand…I look forward to working with you again.”

“I know this is a disappointment when you have worked so hard to put this together, but there is always another date and time.”

“Sorry you have to change your plans after all that you have done with the preparations. I am sure you have made the correct decision when personal safety is the issue.”

“Thanks for the messages about the cancellation on the computer and by phone. You absolutely made the right decision.
It was a hard decision, but the right decision in regards to the safety of us all.”

Our dear friend Bill Gaydos added this insight:
Pict PMI did want to see how much things have changed since those former years when the feelings about Flight 93 rose up from one’s soul. We had a very special bond with the people of Shanksville and family members of Flight 93. You were really in the forefront in shining a light on the heroism of Flight 93.

He ended his note with the poem he wrote for the visit:

The Shanksville Visit
Passengers Crew_3957

We travel to Shanksville to honor the heroes of Flight 93
Their courage and action forever lives in the hearts of you and me.
Those immortal words of action "Let’s Roll" Todd Beamer was heard to say
They live forever in our hearts and minds right up to this very day.

God Bless America
God Bless the Heroes of Flight 93

Lessons Learned

One of the most important lessons I learned from this experience was best described by Henry David Thoreau:

If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.

Paulo Coelho, a Brazilian lyricist and novelist, provided another insight into disappointment:

When you find your path, you must not be afraid. You need to have sufficient courage to make mistakes. Disappointment, defeat, and despair are the tools God uses to show us the way.

Disappointment is something all of us can expect. It’s an essential part of life. It’s how we deal with it that matters most. Focusing on the good that can be found in every situation, the lessons we learn, the kindness we experience, the people we meet and the way we can grow from what we have experienced enables us to accept what has happened and move on.

William James put disappointment in perspective with 15 words:

Accepting what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.

Beverly Knight was right: “Shoulda woulda coulda can’t change your mind.” They can’t change the situation, because in the end, disappointment teaches us to accept what is and why.

Organizing the Shanksville Experience 2015 was a wonderful opportunity with many beautiful moments of connection and Hopeconfraternity. Even though Hurricane Joaquin disrupted our plans, it gave all of us a better understanding of how to deal with disappointment.

To everyone who tried to help us make this dream become a reality, we thank you. Your kindness and your friendship give us hope, and that is the best medicine for disappointment of any kind. It is also a characteristic of “The Shanksville Standard” and America at its best.

Graphics of Hurricane Joaquin were provided by the National Weather Service.

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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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