As we come to the thirteenth anniversary of the attacks of 9/11 I think it is important to take a moment to remember all of the heroes that we lost that day.
I found out a few years ago that I had once met one of those heroes thirty-eight years ago while I was still in college.
He was the twin brother of one of my friends and I enjoyed a few beers and some laughs with him during a visit to Buffalo. I recently asked my college freshmen if they remembered 9/11 and they said that they did, but they were only about 5 years old at the time. Soon we will have a generation who does not remember the world before that day.
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Please take a minute to remember him and all of those who we lost on 9/11.
My vacation in May of 1990 started out just like the
previous eight years.
After the last show of the school year was done and school
was over for another year I took a few weeks off and went back to Long Island
to visit my family.
As I had done most years before I came home to relax, visit
with family and friends and maybe go into the City and see a Broadway show.
That May I saw The
Steppenwolf Theatre Company production of The Grapes of Wrath with
Gary Sinse as Tom Joad.
It was a great play but I was stupid and bought box seats on
I could see backstage and saw how things worked but still I
wish I had a seat more to center.
I was not impressed by the stagehands in shorts and a
printed t-shirts walking on the stage at intermission.
Also while back on Long Island there were several used book
stores that I liked to visit and of course I had to get some Pizza.
I am a bit of pizza snob.
I like New York Style Pizza and although I had some favorite
places to go I found that almost anyplace I went on Long Island I would find better
Pizza than I could back in Brockport.
This trip was different because my mother was sick.
She had seemed to have a cold or flu that had gone on for
My mother was in good spirits but her voice was going and
she found it hard to talk.
After two weeks it was time to go back to Brockport and
start work on the summer musical 42nd Street.
When I got back to Brockport we got right to work on the
It was going to be a big show but we had a good crew and I
was happy because I able to hire on a former student who just got out of
Graduate school as my assistant.
Things on the show were going well but each time I called
home my mother’s voice got worse and after a while see could not talk loud
enough to use the phone.
In early June I got a call that my mother was in the
hospital for tests but she was doing OK.
At first they said she had Lyme Disease.
It seemed to fit some of her symptoms but not all of them.
After a week I got a call, my mother had cancer, but it was
the “Good Kind”.
I did not know that there was a “Good Kind”.
It did not sound good so I made plans to go home.
The play could wait.
The Scene Designer and ATD said that they would take care of
things while I was gone.
The day before I was leaving for home I got a call, it was
too late, my mother had passed away.
She had insisted on starting chemotherapy treatment but it
was too late and too much for her.
So now I was driving home for a funeral, not a visit.
Needless to say it was trip that I do not remember making.
My mother was a member of the local volunteer ambulance
company and they were great in helping with everything.
There were people in uniform standing as an honor guard each
day at the funeral home, EMT’s, firemen and police.
Funerals by their nature are not funny but some things do
happen that can make you laugh.
I drove my father to the church and the cemetery after the
Instead of a hearse the coffin rode in a box ambulance along
with a police escort.
My dad smiled a bit when he saw the motorcycle cops block
the entrance to the highway so that the funeral procession could get on.
As we were nearing the cemetery another funeral procession
was pulled over to the side of the road so that we could go past.
The other people in the other funeral procession had seen
the police with lights on and the ambulance so off course they pulled over to
the side to let them by and we just drove right by them all.
This made my father laugh and said something about how my
mother would have liked what had happened.
This has been hard for me to write and what makes it more poignant
for me is that my mother was just 58, the age I am now.
A few days later I returned to Brockport and got back to
work on the summer show.
Everyone was nice and had kind words of support when I got
back and although it was hard it nice to have something to take my mind off of
what had happened.
It was good to get back to work but of course my mother was
still on my mind.
Somehow we all pulled together and got the show done and
managed to have some fun doing it.
Unfortunately a few weeks later the mother of one of my
student workers was killed in a car accident and everyone was numb for a while
After the show was over I went home again in August for a
It goes without saying that it was hard to go home but I
wanted to support my dad and sister who also lived there.
Of course this was a major milestone event in my life and
these events, both good and bad, happen on
their own schedule and never seem to happen when it is convenient.
Back in college my grandfather died during the blizzard of
’77 and there was no way for me to get home for the funeral.
My one grandmother died when I was a senior in high school
and her funeral was the day I was supposed to take the NYS Regents Exam, similar
to the SATs, that was used to award scholarships.
After talking with my family it was decided that my
grandmother would have wanted me to take the test and take care of my future and somehow I was able to do well and I even got a scholarship.
Working at a college and also in Theatre sometimes I feel a
bit insulated from the real world and unfortunately it take something like my
mother’s passing smack me in the face
and make me see the real world.
I am sure that everyone’s parent’s passing is hard and affects
each person in a different way.
For me getting back to work was just what I needed at the
time, but even today 24 years later there are times that my minds wanders and I think of my
mother and have to stop and reflect for a few moments.
Even with the measles delay Purlie
did open and it was worth the wait.
As you can see from the production photos the show had a big
There were a lot of moving parts with several rolling
platforms and flying wall units that all came a went from a large basic
multi-level platform unit.
With all the many parts there was a great deal to figure out
and I do know that I made a few mistakes.
One of the rolling platforms units, which was also raked(on
an angle), ended up too being short and instead of making all new legs I just
scabbed on about a foot to each of the
It might not have been the best way to do it but it was the
Purlie calls for a large cast of Black actors and we were
fortunate that we had a good number of very talented African-American students
at that time.
Being one of the
smaller departments on campus we do not always have the greatest ethic
mix and cannot always do plays like Purlie.
One of the actresses did help fill out the cast by bringing
in four of her children.
Her oldest son was not in Purlie but would be in 42nd
Street that next summer.
More about him and that show coming up soon.
Originally we were scheduled to do the much smaller play version
that the musical was based on but the powers that be in the department decided
that we could it and I was glad that we did.
Back then I was often not in on the talks when big changes
were made and even today 25 years later sometimes things change and sometimes I
am the last to know.
That's Show Biz for
Working in theatre, especially with college students I hear
about their lives and problems all the time and unless I watch the news I can lose
contact with what is going on in the world.
When I was younger I did not mind hanging out with the
students but as I got older and over thirty I wanted to be more of part of the adult
real world, have conversations and relationships of substance.
What would happen next would shake my world in such a way I that
I did not see coming and was not ready for and would change my life forever.