Thursday, I had the inspiring experience of attending a Naturalization Ceremony in my adopted home of Burlington, Vermont. One may assume that because I have endured a great loss at the hands of terrorist infiltrates who took advantage of our resources and open-door policy, that I might hold reservations about immigration laws and side to close our borders out of fear for future safety. However, my feelings could not be farther from such a claim. I feel grateful for all of the valiant human’s who sacrificed for my life of freedom in this country and for the wonderful people whom I have met in my lifetime, who are themselves hardworking immigrants and sons and daughters of American dreamers, movers and shakers.
Beginning in 1849, mine and my husband’s ancestors have braved turbulent seas from ten countries to become part of the American tapestry. They risked their lives as crusaders for religious freedom. They have forged and developed the North-Western frontier, bore children who fought in great American wars, and were entrepreneurs and who built our small towns and cities and died for our great American pastime of baseball.
In 2016, all six American winners of the Nobel prize in science and economics fields were immigrants. Since 2000, forty percent of Nobel prizes were awarded to United States immigrants in chemistry, medicine and physics, according to research from the National Foundation for American Policy. www.forbes.com.
One of America’s most famous architects, Ieoh Ming Pei was born in Canton, China in 1917 and came to the United States at the age of 18 to study architecture. He attended MIT and Boston. In 1942 he became a concrete designer. He worked as an assistant professor at Harvard and in 1960, started his own architectural office, now Pei, Cobb, Free & Partners. Pei’s designs are famous for their geometric patterns and their characteristic use of glass. Among Pei’s many building designs are the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Co., the east wing of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library in Boston and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His accomplishments also include updating the Louvre in Paris.
Our the first female Secretary of State and the highest-ranking woman in the U.S. government, former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, was born in Czechoslovakia in 1937 and moved with her family, to the United States in 1948, fleeing the Communist takeover. She graduated from Wellesley College with honors in Political Science, and received her master’s degree and doctorate from Columbia University’s Department of Public Law and Government. Secretary Albright has served as a staff member on the National Security Council, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic Studies, a professor at Georgetown University, President of the Center for National Policy and, finally, as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations before being confirmed as Secretary of State in 1977.
The world-famous naturalist, John Muir, was born in Dunbar, Scotland in 1838 and moved with his family to Portage, Wisconsin at the age of eleven. He became a creative inventor and studied at the University of Wisconsin. In 1867 he began his travels around America, settling in California where he continued his study of glaciers, and the Sierra. Muir wrote for Century magazine explaining the devastation of open spaces by ranch animals. This exposition led to Congress in 1890 creating Yosemite National Park. He also helped establish Grand Canyon, Sequoia, Petrified Forest and Mount Rainier national parks. Muir founded the Sierra Club to protect these areas, and is today remembered as the Father of Our National Park System.
The son of a Jewish father and Catholic mother, Joseph Pulitzer, set the standards for editorial excellence. Born in Hungary in 1847, he attended private schools in Budapest until age 17. His weak eyesight prevented him from joining the Austrian Army, however, he made his way to America to join the Union Army during the Civil War. Later he was hired by a German language paper in St. Louis and by the age of 25 he was a publisher and eventually owner of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Pulitzer’s paper gained favor among the public for exposing corruption and tax dodgers. His purchase of The New York World, and his brilliance in marketing, including raising public subscriptions for building a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty so it could be shipped from France, made him the publisher of the best-selling newspaper in the country. Pulitzer died in 1911, leaving as his greatest legacy an annual series of journalistic awards, the Pulitzer Prizes.
Felix Frankfurter was born in Vienna, Austria in 1882 and moved with his family to the United States in 1894. He attended the College of the City of New York, and Harvard University. He was appointed as assistant U.S. attorney in New York City in 1906 and moved to the War Department in 1910. In 1914 he became a leading constitutional scholar as a teacher at Harvard Law School. He advised President Roosevelt on the selection of members to lead agencies established during the New Deal. Frankfurter also participated in drawing up the Securities Act (1933), the Securities Exchange Act (1934) and the Public Utility Holding Company Act (1935). In 1935, Frankfurter was nominated by Roosevelt as an associate justice of the Supreme Court, until his retirement in 1962.
Hakeem Olajuwon, born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1963, is considered by some to be the most famous continental African to have played in any sport in the entire American continent. At age 15, Olajuwon was 6’9″ and soon became the center for the Nigerian national team. From 1981-84 he attended the University of Houston, where he led his team to three consecutive NCAA Final Four appearances. In 1984, the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association (NBA) drafted Olajuwon, and he developed into one of the dominant big men in the league. Nicknamed, “The Dream,” Olajuwon led the Rockets to the NBA championship in 1994 and 1995, and was voted the league’s most valuable player for the 1993-94 season. During the 1990s, sportswriters and fans considered him, and Shaquille O’Neal, as the NBA’s best centers. Olajuwon retired in 2002 after signing with the Toronto Raptors the previous year. “The Dream” became an American citizen in 1993.
The 1983 Nobel laureate for Physics, Subranhmanyan Chandrasekhar, was born in Lahore, India in 1910. He studied at Madras University in India and at Cambridge University, where he received his doctorate in 1933. While at Cambridge he submitted a paper to The Astrophysical Journal on the upper limit to the mass of white dwarf stars. He joined the University of Chicago in 1937 and spent his career there, publishing a number of books. During the 1940s, Chandrasekhar drove 100 miles from Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin to Chicago for many weeks to teach a class of only two students. Some wondered why he bothered. Ten years later, his entire class won the Nobel Prize in Physics. Chandrasekhar’s 1983 prize was for his studies of the physical processes of importance to the structure and evolution of stars.
Born in Russia in 1888, Irving Berlin’s family moved to New York city when he was four years old. As a young man, he found work as a singing bus boy in the Bowery before publishing his first song in 1911. He went on to write eight hundred more, many of which would become some of the best loved American songs of all time, including “White Christmas,” “Easter Parade” and “God Bless America.” Among his stage productions are; There’s No Business Like Show Business, Top Hat and Annie Get Your Gun.
When David Ho was 12 years old, his father sent for the family to join him in a new land where an unfamiliar language was spoken. Despite being laughed at by classmates who thought he was stupid because he couldn’t speak English, he graduated summa cum laude from Cal Tech, earning a scholarship to Harvard Medical School. As a young physician he saw some of the first known cases of AIDS. His pioneering work with “cocktails” of protease inhibitors and other antiviral drugs has brought about remarkable recoveries, and raised hope that the virus may someday be eliminated. Now Dr. David Ho is Director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center. He was chosen by Time Magazine as its 1996 “Man of the Year” for his discoveries.
Among the unexhaustive list of other immigrant notables are Albert Einstein, Germany (1879-1955), the greatest Physicist of the twentieth century, Mary Harris Jones, Ireland (1837-1937) organized labor representative who fought for the rights of coal miners, steel workers and children until her death at nearly 100., Rita M. Rodriguez, Cuba (1942-) who became one of five directors of Ex-Import Bank, an independent bank whose chief purpose is to improve U.S. trade with other countries an author of numerous books and articles on international finance.
Immigration laws matter, particularly in determining whether the United States gains from increased globalization and rising educational achievement in foreign nations. A greater openness to immigration has helped make the United States the leading global destination for research in many different science and technology fields, including computers and cancer research. Sir J. Fraser Stoddart, a Scottish-born Anerican citizen and winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2016, notes that “his research group at Northwestern University has students and scientists from a dozen countries. His work on molecular machines has helped take chemistry to epoch heights.
Immigrants are not only an integral part of American culture and society but also important contributors to the United States economy. Immigrants work and pay taxes and also create new products, businesses, and technologies that lead to jobs for all Americans.
Immigrants tend to be highly entrepreneurial, creating jobs here in the United States. Research from the Small Business Administration suggests that immigrants are more likely to start a business than are non immigrants. A recent study found that between 1990 and 2005, immigrants started 25 percent of venture backed U.S. public companies, employing more than 200,000 U.S. workers. And some of the companies at the forefront of the digital revolution were co-founded by immigrants: Intel, Sun Microsystems, eBay, Google, and Yahoo to name a few examples.
Immigrants are an important part of our international competitiveness, especially in technology-intensive and service industries. Compared to U.S.-born Americans, immigrants are more likely to hold an advanced degree and are almost twice as likely to hold a Ph.D.
The positive economic effects of immigrants are not just limited to individuals with advanced degrees. Immigrants also play an important role in the economy by filling niches where the domestic supply of workers is limited. In many cases, these immigrants do not compete directly with other domestic workers, but instead complement the work of U.S.-born workers. Immigrant workers also increase the affordability and availability of services such as child care, cleaning services, and gardening. These services in turn increase standards of living and free up time for consumers to devote to alternative economic activity.
Scientific research and economic growth will remain strong in America as long as we don’t enter an era where we turn our backs on immigration. I support legal immigration. I welcome humanitarian refuge and asylum. “One nation, under God, Indivisible, for liberty and justice for all.”
Welcome 2017 citizens of the United States of America.
Friday’s child is Loving and Giving
A nurse, a ballerina, a pirate, an Indian princess, one witch and an assortment of fairy princesses and superheroes assembled in a dark walnut paneled, gold and orange hued kitchen accented with avocado appliances. A harvest yellow enameled casserole pot, filled with water and whole apples is set on a Newsday-lined counter top beside a table-top rotary telephone. A dozen boys and girls spent an afternoon in “make-believe”, wearing Woolworth costumes that came in cardboard boxes with clear plastic windows. I am Pocahontas. Dressed in faux deerskin with a rainbow of feathers reaching up from a headband. As my mother gripped my two blonde braids, I aspired to dunk for the McIntosh holding the prize coin (an unsanitary group activity by today’s standards). Seven months pregnant, she threw me a costume party for my eighth birthday and baked a jack-o-lantern decorated orange chiffon cake surrounded by chocolate cupcakes. I still have an appetence for the orange essence of my youth. “…a good time was had by all dunking for apples.” (Long Island Advance, Nov. 4, 1971)
A nurse, a teacher, a computer programmer, one three year old princess and an assortment of retirees, divorcees and college students assembled in a neo-Mediterranean theme restaurant highlighted in swirls of varying shades of golds and dark wood tones. A paper bag filled with apples from my own apple tree is set upon a shiny lacquered table. Beside it sits three neat rows of quart-size Ball jars containing stewed apple slices adorned in pinking sheared squares of fall-inspired fabrics. An assortment of friends and relatives spend an afternoon in “live reality”, wearing Levi, Ralph Lorene Polo and Vera Wang purchased online and from designer factory outlet malls. I am wearing a “Zaras” costume consisting of a mid-thigh, satin fitted dress, splashed in bright tones resembling blurred computer pixels. Blonde highlights fall freely to my shoulders. I am feeling fabulous at fifty as I stand among the real super heroes in my life. Everyone wins the prize, simply by surviving the decades, showing up and taking home the apples….
…Favor tags: “Thank you for Sharing Debbie’s 50th… October 27, 2013”.
Several people have passed since that photo was taken forty-six years ago, including my mother. Others have moved in different directions as we all became consumed building our lives. Despite my home being vacant of children, this year I brought myself to the occasion of my 54 th, returning to New York to visit family, see a show, eat great food and finding new friendship with a recently discovered DNA cousin.
Fall has always been my favorite time of year. With cooling thermals and foliage alighting the landscape with sunset hues, field mice scramble to warm indoor nooks as growing things relinquish their vigor to long dark days. And I am compelled to feel nostalgic. I reminisce of leaping into crisp leaf piles and licking sticky candy apples on popsicle sticks. Smoky scents of maple and oak fill the evening air and aromas of cinnamon and allspice emanating from bubbling apple crisps and pumpkin custard, spice my Vermont home just the same as the kitchens of my childhood. It is as though the memories that invigorate our senses and make us feel nostalgic, are carried along the generations on a single ethereal stream of fondness. As with the passing of recipes, comforting redolence is carried from the kitchens of the ancestors we’ve never met but have always known. The change of seasons reminds us that nothing remains as it is for too long, all things living must rest. Winter will drape a white coat over the fallen, preserving the seeds underneath until the next change inspires new growth. We are akin to these cycles and also need to allow ourselves to rest, breath steady in the dark, and wait it out. Each one of us is significant in infinite ways. Every birthday is your gift.
David had a running annual riddle he wrote in every birthday card he gave me. Being a numbers person, he’d calculate the shrinking distance between our ages in the form of a fraction. Joking that we were getting closer in age as the years progressed, with the distance between us decreasing, bringing us closer. “When I was 4 and you were 2, you were 2/4 (of ½) of my age. Then when I was 8 and you were 6, you were 6/8 (or ¾) of my age. Then I was 16 and you were 14, you were 14/16 (or 7/8) of my age… See, you are catching up! With Love & getting younger, your Dear.” October 25, 2001, I would have been 38/40 (or 19/20 or .95 = 5% difference) of his age. He was right.
“To everything, there is a season, And a time to every purpose, under Heaven”(Byrds, “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, 1965)
The “funk” has begun. It always creeps up on me, disguising itself as a simmering sub-dural hum from the August week we return from Maine until it manifests as an undeniable migraine when I find myself screaming WTF! I return to the realization that I have, once again, lost full control of my emotions and rational reactions to everyday situations and succumbed to the fugacious vices of my private lament amidst the currents of a national remembrance campaign that is becoming as remote a concept to iGen neo-digitals as snapchat would be to the baby boomers who whose lives were vaporized that day. Reflection and journaling become my anodyne. From the weeks marking summer’s end with her long, loose, fair weather sun-lit days and backyard barbecues to autumn’s cool crisp nights and simmering stews, I am reminded of those final blissful days leading up (or is it down) to the end of Eden. September’s mourn is my inescapable truth. That I am another year from “normal”. My solar arc has drifted interminably from my mortal eclipse and I descend into a catabolic reclusion caught in an inverted time frame. I find that there is a natural human tendency to replay the series of moments leading to the final end of a loved-one’s life, whether anticipated or sudden. Below are some of mine.
From August 18 to 25th, we spent our third year on Great Pond, ME with Dave’s family and our camp friends. We extended our vacation for two more days of fun and adventure in Plymouth Mass, returning home across the Long Island Sound via the New London/Orient Point ferry on a warm sunny morning, then spending a pleasant afternoon among street artists, riding an antique carousel and feasting on a fantastic seafood supper in the North Fork town of Greenport. In the week to follow, David and I returned to our careers. Labor Day weekend offered us one more extended weekend to play, so I packed the gold Chrysler Voyager for a weekend at our favorite place, David’s childhood home with his parents in Wappinger’s Falls, NY. Here he enjoyed his Mom’s Japanese curry, paella and toasted mochi cakes floating in sweet red bean soup and wrapped in toasted nori.
He visited with his childhood friends and took his final ride on the Wellcraft bow rider we kept there, racing up and down the Hudson, visiting our favorite light house and attempting to teach the boys how to water ski.
I have a striking memory of leaning back at the stern, arms outstretched, feeling adrift in a timeless moment of divine awareness. David, strong at the helm, racing against the wind, the blackish water surging with glistening caps and our two little boys bracing the bucking bow with guttural squeals of delight. I thought of my own mother who met an early death at 38 following a lifetime battle with mental illness and cancer, who could never have dreamed of such a moment for herself. I thought; How wonderful it is to be here, in this life we have made. On Monday we were informed that our sick cat had died as we returned to Freeport. The 4th to the 7th was spent working and checking off the class supplies lists for the boy’s start of pre-k and third grade for which they anticipated with great excitement. We met with our financial planner on the 5th to discuss creating our will and tying up IRA and disability insurance investments. We joined the little league teams on the 8th for an awards picnic at Cow Meadow Park, after which we enjoyed a final sunset in the surf and sand at nearby Jones Beach. On Sunday, September 9th, we visited with most of my extended family for a backyard barbecue at my cousin’s home in Shoreham. I was looking forward to a new career move in the coming week which included writing bilingual emerging language children’s books and further building my private practice as a direct provider with the county. We slipped into routine-mode on the tenth, with David returning to work and his job hunt and our 8 year old bounding onto the school bus for third grade. This Monday he was working at GHI in midtown, an unusual switch with his job with Marsh & McLennan at one World Trade Center where he usually worked Monday, Wednesday & Friday.
Since 9/11, a continuous cacophony of media reports, notifications of anniversary event planning and legal updates fill my electronic and postal mail boxes from July through September. Friends and acquaintances inquire of my plans for the anniversary. Strangers who make my introduction cannot resist the opportunity to share their personal “this is what I was doing, or my nephew was going to school in NYC at the time, or my friend volunteered to help in disaster recovery and had to quit their day job to re-invent themselves on a tropical island” stories. Everyone has a story that begs to be told and my disclosure in a classroom, on a ship in the North Sea or on a wooded path in VT, draws them forth.
This sixteenth anniversary year is bookmarked by our annual August pilgrimage to Maine unfolding into my quasi-adult offspring returning to college (at NYU), ripened garden tomatoes dropping underfoot and crafting logistics with family and friends for our remembrance plans. No matter how we choose to honor David in any year, the public events marking the collective anniversary of the murder of my beloved husband, my sons’ father, Richard’s brother, Hiro and Stanley’s son and the loved ones of 2,976 other civilians whose similar fate were live-streamed for the world to gasp (and in some cases cheer) cannot be dismissed.
I was born in October under the seventh zodiac on the cusp of the eighth and fall had always been my renaissance, finding peace and serenity in the cooling thermals, leading me to orange dotted pumpkin fields stretched along a narrow byway parting pebble beaches with long Indian names and New York island farmlands with corn mazes and pie stands. Joan Didion wrote: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live. We also tell ourselves stories in order not to die. And at any moment these stories can change.” In a 1400 sqft house set on a sandy island jutting forth into the Atlantic, twenty-five miles east of New York City, the moment found me.
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In front of me as I write is a photograph, snapped July 25, 2001 on a Kodak Advantix by our eight year old. It was taken on the cedar deck we had just built in the backyard of where we lived in Freeport, NY. In this photo, Dave and I are retiring on our newly purchased picnic set on a sweltering mid-summer evening following a vigorous day of domestic beautification. Dylan, our four year old, naps in a chair beside us. There is a slightly scuffed carrot cake on the table that despite its appearance, promises the divinity reminiscent of the day we lit the unity candle fourteen years ago. I don’t recall what bauble was contained in the little box as much as the scent of his bare chest, glistening with July humidity, and the smile reserved only for me that said, “thank you dear for giving me this moment.” We were backyard casual, keeping it low key because having the boys celebrate the sacrament and joy of our union, that began six and ten years before their conception, was where we wanted to be. We were the future we wanted them to see. There were still many five-star anniversaries ahead once the boys tired of us in their teens. And fifteen felt more significant for a grander affair. We were grateful. We were proud. We were home.
Next to that photo I have queued another one snapped from the same deck, one year later, the morning of July 25th . A vaporous “X” marked the cloudless cerulean sky and a single red rose bloomed at the edge of the cedar where we once ate cake. We can sense that outside the frame, beyond where the jets fly off the page, there is a void. An infinite vastness that recedes to the heavens, undefined.
When we mourn the loss of someone we love, there is a human tendency to see beyond the mortal margins for less tangible, yet personal signs of spiritual affirmations. In order to validate our existence to prove to ourselves that we are more than just a shaky leaf in the fugacious tree of life, we innervate a path of synapses in our emotional cortex where only the bereft go. Seeing beyond where others see to appease the pain and say “yes, I am here, you are aware of me and we are connected in this moment. It is a hyper-awareness, or a sixth sense to what is otherwise dismissible in the ordinary. A phone that rings without offering a voice or dial tone, always at the time you are preparing supper. A doorbell that chimes precisely at 6:45 PM, and no one is hiding in the bushes. An orb beside you in a photograph in the absence of his presence. Or a kiss in the sky on the day you were wed. I say, he is here, in this moment to re-affirm our connection, beyond flesh and earth, there are souls and love that remain in a spiritual phase. The intangible becomes tangible. The heart and our spirit are re-innervated with a new sense of hope that we are more than just atomic matter. A hope that whispers we are significant, we are not alone and we can embrace another dawn.
Like I’ve stated before, none of us need anniversaries to remind us of what we cannot forget. Especially when similar “celebrations” are happening simultaneously all around us. This year, my father who married two weeks after Dave and I, are celebrating, as are our our good friends who married two weeks before us. Another friend just returned from Tahiti for their thirtieth. He’ll give her roses and she’ll carefully trim the stems and place them in water. They’ll embrace the night together and add a new pearl to their thread of life.
So today I will embrace myself, cherish my rose and find my pearl. I am so grateful to have shared a life with you dear, to be the mother of your sons and I would do it over again. I loved you in life, never dismissing a moment. No foreign act of hate can erase what remains in my heart. Our love lives on in the positive engagements I have with other selfless humans and in the pages that your sons will turn.
Happy 30th Anniversary! I love you forever Dear…
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No one needs bumper stickers or museum kiosks to remind them of what they cannot forget. Most kids aren’t reminded of their parent’s date of death by the vehicle ahead, when heading to the Little League field. Lunch out with a friend isn’t usually jolted by political debates over the circumstances of your spouse’s death, leaking over from the neighboring table. And strangers don’t typically run up to snap your photo while posing in front of your loved-one’s memorial.
I am Deborah Garcia and I belong to the 9/11 widow’s club. My sons, the 9/11 orphan’s club. My circumstance is not like most widows and widowers who lay their loved ones to rest and mourn within the confines of family and friends. I lost my husband, instantly, in a national tragedy, along with 1,609 other spouse’s and sixteen years later, most Americans share my grief. What’s on everyone’s mind every September in the developed media-driven world, is the modern day tragedy that has come to be known as 9/11. 2,977 civilians were murdered in the largest attack on American soil since December 7, 1941, and my husband, David Garcia was among them. The grief still resonates deep in the memories of those old enough to have known, those of us who were close enough to have been directly impacted, and those who fight to protect our nation’s borders.
How do we move through this? How do people adapt to a new normal while living in a continuous thread of multiple simultaneous messages from multiple directions? How do we nurture our children of public tragedy, in a world where there are no privacy settings?
This is my endeavor to share my experience of moving from surviving sudden life interruptions in a national crisis that is personal and persistent, while composing a new life. To find healing and peace in one single day.
I am interested in learning how others move from similar circumstances to reinvent their lives and raise a new, productive generation with hope and joy. If you like my content, I invite you to comment. If you have a story related to 9/11/01, or any global tragedy, I invite you to share and engage in my blog form.
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