The Firefly at the Baseball Game – For H

I went to a Yankees game in August with my brother, my sister, my two nephews (5 and 2 years old), and two family friends. It was Star Wars night, and what a night! It was the boys’ first Yankees game, and they got to see the “real” Darth Vadar, Chewbacca, R2D2, Boba Fett (and yes, he was the REAL Boba Fett in my eyes and I was on Cloud Nine), and lots of other characters. We also witnessed a Yankees Grand Slam by Starlin Castro in their victory over the Indians. It was an all around wonderful night, one of the best nights of my life.

We were in our seats early to see the parade of characters on the field, then shortly after, the game began as the sun descended into dusk.

The 5-year-old, H, said to me, “Look at that firefly. He’s going towards the lights.” and he pointed to a buggy that was flying around.

I replied that I bet that firefly had a lot of stories to tell, living here at Yankee Stadium…and that got me thinking.

This is written for you, H., with love.

 

“The Firefly at the Baseball Game” by Jill Ocone (Copyright 2016)

A firefly named Sly lives up in the sky,  

The lights are his stadium home.  

He wakes at sun break then a tour he will take.

He will fly and he’ll spy and he’ll roam.

Over the field, his journey will yield

Green grass and the dugout and more…

The bases, the races, and all sorts of places

Will be full of the players at four.

Sly dives as he flies as the baseballs and guys

Begin to appear in the air…

The cracks of the bats and the blue baseball hats,

The strikes and the fouls and the fairs.

The outs and the bouts and the fans do they shout!

And Sly joins the crowd’s standing wave.

He’s bright as he lights and he loves all these sights…

The legends, the rookies, the brave.

Sly swirls as he twirls as the balls also whirl,

Whizz by and are hit oh so far.

Sly cheers as he steers from the bleachers…he’s clear…

Another home run by the star.

Sly flies as he dives in his own special guise

We won! We did it! Oh, yay!

Sly rests in his nest and watches the guests

And the players go home for the day.

It’s soon by the moon our friend Sly he will swoon,

He’ll dream that he’s one of the guys…

Running the bases, and walking the places,

His own home run up in the sky.

 

 

 

Always Remember…

Ground Zero Spirit by Thomas Franklin
Ground Zero Spirit by Thomas Franklin

It’s been 15 years since my 4th day of teaching, which was September 11, 2001.

Looking back at the timeline of events on that horrendous day, I can picture exactly where my feet were when each happened.

My first real Journalism lesson of this year was my 9/11 Lesson (last week). The lesson and presentation include video clips of events that transpired on September 11, 2001. It’s an important lesson for many reasons, but mostly, it gives students an idea of exactly how much life changed that day both in the world of journalism and for us all.

I begin by explaining that cell phones didn’t have cameras, bags were not searched at public events, a digital camera with .75 megapixel camera was considered “state of the art,” political correctness hadn’t yet run rampant to the point of being utterly ridiculous, social media did not exist (and wouldn’t for four or so more years) and posts on the Internet by news outlets were updated only once a day.

Even with evidence, it’s hard for them to truly grasp what life was like as we woke up that day, and how quickly things changed. Before I show each clip, I speak about the background and have them watch with an observant eye for details with a chance to respond through both discussion and writing.

One part of the lesson is a documentary titled “Witness to History,” created by photographer Thomas Franklin in 2011. He’s the photographer who took the iconic Pulitzer Prize winning photo (above) of the firefighters raising the American flag at Ground Zero for the Bergen Record; I’ve had the privilege of hearing him speak twice at Garden State Scholastic Press Association’s Fall Press Day. “Witness to History” includes Franklin’s account of 9/11, as well as those of other news photographers’ and how each got the “shots” amid sheer chaos and destruction.

One might assume the young eyes watching this year’s presentation were desensitized to violence and pain because of what they see on social media every day in 2016.

They weren’t.

They shared what will stick with them, long after the lesson’s objectives are forgotten.

I’ll remember the priest who was carried out by the men who were helping,” wrote one student. The priest was Father Mychal Judge. As a part of this year’s presentation, I included a picture I took in June of his name on the Reflecting Pool Memorial.

Another wrote that while she doesn’t want to ever see something like 9/11 happen again, she wished our country was still unified, together, as one with flags all over. She explained that she hates seeing everyone judge others so fast on social media. “People didn’t hate each other back then over what they posted. They maybe didn’t agree but everyone was together.”

One wrote that he’ll remember the tears in the players’ eyes and the emotions during the Mets/Braves game clip from September 21, 2001, and the Yankees/Diamondbacks World Series Game 3 and Game 4 clips he watched (including Tino’s and Jeter’s-Mr. November’s home runs in the 9th). For him, that show of emotion by pro ball players as well as by fans from all over demonstrated the immensity of 9/11 and its aftermath.

Another wrote that as he watched President Bush throw out the first pitch at Game 3, he’ll remember the chant of USA and that Americans did not let party lines divide them. It didn’t matter that Bush was a Republican. What mattered is that moment brought the country together. While I summed up his response, a lot of the words here were directly from the student.

A student reacted that she was surprised it was baseball that got us back to normal, even for a little while. She said she didn’t like baseball, but if she lived during 9/11, she’d probably like it more because of how important the games were to our country.

After writing that he will remember strangers hugging each other and the looks on everyone’s faces as they watched the towers fall, one of my students wondered if people would be as willing to hug strangers or be as shocked if something like this happened today. “But I would hug and be shocked,” he admitted.

Someone remarked that he’d remember me saying the smoke could actually be seen from the Inlet in Point Pleasant Beach that afternoon. “That’s crazy but shows how close it was.”

One of the reactions that hit me hard was, “Wow. It really did happen.”

As I do each year, I ask my students to put aside their personal opinions and keep an open mind; to see the bigger picture; to see the important role of first responders/police/firefighters and the military not only on 9/11 but in every day life; to see the connection each of them has to this ugly day in history by looking down at their desk and realizing that Nick Ott or Ron Kubik might have sat right there, in the same seat (both were killed in action in Afghanistan, a conflict that was a direct result of 9/11).

I also ask them to visualize a teacher running out of the school in uncontrollable tears because someone she loved worked in one of the towers, or another teacher crying because her husband’s brother worked there too and she didn’t know he missed his train that morning and wasn’t there.

I hope they realize a lot of people surrounding them every day have a personal connection to 9/11 in one way or another. I end by telling them I wish I could take them all back to September 10, 2001, for even just 60 seconds so they can get a small glimpse of the way things used to be.

Every photo and video clip in my lesson still gives me chills. It seems like a yesterday but so long ago…my emotions are still raw, still new, and still filled with denial that something like this could actually happen here.

But the truth is, it did happen.

15 years later, and I still remember how much life changed on that day.

I’m sure you remember too.

It’s our duty to make sure that WE, AS A COLLECTIVE, NEVER FORGET, so the next generation also remembers the selfless sacrifices of so many and the legacies of those who were lost.

Thank you to all police, firefighters, first responders, military, and everyone who put our safety before theirs, no matter what.

God Bless America.

To learn more about Thomas Franklin’s photo, please click here.

 

Day 28 of 31 Days of Summer Lovin’ 2016: Baseball

Last week, I went to my third New York Yankees game at Yankee Stadium. They played the San Francisco Giants and lost 2-1 in 12 innings.

The New York Yankees is my favorite MLB team, but I’m not a rival-hating crazy fan. Growing up in New Jersey, the Yankees and the Mets were always on television, and I tended to gravitate towards watching the Yankees. I do remember watching the Mets in the 1986 world series against the Red Sox, and I can clearly picture Game 7 in my mind’s eye. My grandma also liked the Mets and I remember watching games with her.

One of my biggest regrets was never going to Yankee Stadium to see Tino, Jeter, Pettite, Rivera, Posada, Williams, and the rest from that championship era play in action. I did see them all last year at the Yankees home game on August 22 when Posada was honored.

Saturday marked two years in a row I went with my friends M & D to see a Yankees home game, and we agreed this will be a yearly tradition, no matter what.  Perhaps next year we will go to Old Timers’ Day, one of my bucket list items. I’d also love to attend a game in Fenway, at Citi Field, and in Toronto someday. Maybe I’d like to hit every stadium…that might be something to think about!

Anyway, Saturday’s game was hot, but we got used to the heat rather quickly. And we were the smart ones…our cheapo 400-level seats were in the shade under an overhang the entire time, plus we enjoyed a breeze during the whole game. My highlights: getting to see Aroldis Chapman pitch (since he was traded two days later), watching Didi score, seeing Brett Gardner (my favorite), and the grounds crew’s performance to “YMCA.” It was Military Appreciation Day, and there were about 20 young people who took their oath for the US Army right on the field.

The awesome-ist moment: I stumbled upon the last two June “Pins of the Month” in the stadium, which had my favorite character ever on it…Boba Fett!   Can you believe it?!?!? I didn’t even know about this pin before I saw it, and they were honestly the last 2 in the stadium (bought them both, one for my collection and one to wear). I also purchased the Chewbacca July “Pin of the Month” for my collection.

A simple game, a simple day, leaving me with a stronger friendship and wonderful memories.  It doesn’t get any better than that!

I can’t wait to return in August with my two nephews for their first Yankees game….on Star Wars Night! May the force be with the Yankees! I can’t wait to see which Star Wars character will adorn August’s pin of the month!