Friday, August 12, 2016

As I pause to reflect and remember where I was on September 11th, colors come to my mind: the beautiful and powerful red white and blue! I remember seeing our flags flying everywhere, reminding me of our freedom and our one common thread.… Patriotism.  Somehow, flying those flags was our way of showing we were together, a unified country, as if it could to help take our pain and suffering away. Though it was fifteen years ago, we can still easily recall our very own memories of where we were on that dreadful day. Each of our memories share their own place in our hearts and minds.

I have my memory/story that I would like to share with you:

I was living in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where my husband, Gary, was commanding Womack Army Medical Center. Just as you, I was glued to the television, but in the pit of my stomach l felt the urge to do more. So I increased my volunteer efforts at our local Red Cross by answering phones. This helped somewhat, but I knew this was not enough. To make a long story shorter, I began taking classes in American Red Cross Disaster Services. I am a Registered Nurse and they found a good fit for me in that field. Two weeks later, my training and paperwork were complete and I was on a flight for New York City.

I was asked if I wanted to volunteer my time at Ground Zero in one of their First Aid stations, and without trepidation, I said yes. This decision would change my life! Thousands of volunteers came to help from everywhere around this country, and world. The outpouring of patriotism was overwhelmingly strong. We were there to answer the call of help, and we did so without looking back.


For six and a half weeks my job was to give first aid to the recovery workers. (FDNY, NYPD, FEMA, OSHA, ironworkers, engineers, heavy machine operators, asbestos workers, carpenters, pipe fitters, electricians, volunteers and the list goes on). As you remember, the fires on the “pile” burned for months, 99 days to be exact, therefore there were many eye injuries, sore throats and the dreaded WTC cough, not to mention more serious issues that needed emergency care.  The stories I heard, the sadness and devastation I saw, the people I met, will be with me for a lifetime, I will never forget them. When it was my time to return home, I did so, but with sadness and heaviness in my heart. I felt the pull of New York City, but the time had come to begin the next chapter of my life.

Here we are, fifteen years later, and life keeps offering us many more memories. I ask you for this month, to please step back and reflect, fly your flag, remember your patriotism, and NEVER FORGET.

Jane H Davis


Author and Speaker of “First Aid for Heroes”

Saturday, June 7, 2014

In Sickness and in Health

In Sickness and in Health
  (and the importance of support groups)

I have become a caregiver, so they say.  When that day happened, I cannot tell you, as it has been insidious… somehow slowly worming its way into my life.

Four years ago, I became a member of an extraordinary group of caregivers from the Well Spouse® Association, WSA.  I joined the WSA as I felt I had nowhere to turn and I needed to be around those that were experiencing similar issues… the issues I just didn’t feel comfortable sharing with family or friends. Why four years ago? My husband had received the news of his second medical diagnosis of Stage IV lymphoma. His first diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease was just a mere three years earlier. Why would I want to be so immersed with this group of people? They are an amazing group of caring, loving individuals. They offer no judgments and if people want to rant, it is accepted. They also “get it,” whereas many friends and family may not… or just don’t want to. These caregivers have been through the trenches… they understand. Caregiver groups are very supportive of each other; they are our cheerleaders, our therapists, our friends, or friends when we need them.

When looking at my life, overall, as many of the other caregivers do, I sometimes have wondered if I really am a caregiver. I am learning (I jokingly call it the ‘caregiver light’ phase) as my spouse is still working and fairly self-sufficient. Even if some of us feel our lives at home are a challenge, we don’t seem to feel that we are having it as bad as other caregivers. There is this common thread: we downplay, feel guilty, and get embarrassed to even complain. We hear the stories of what many caregivers are dealing with and then say to ourselves, or to our fellow caregivers, “I can’t complain, look what they are going through! It is much worse than what I am dealing with!”  We also hear, “How can I complain about my life, when my spouse is so ill?”  Sound familiar?

Here are a few comments that I recently read from my fellow caregivers’ online support page:

  • ·          While these things that have happened were not part of our plan, I'm learning to dream new dreams.” Anonymous

  • ·         "Whenever you feel down, alone or unable to face a situation that you are in right now, let me tell you, that it’s totally fine. It is okay not to be okay all the time. It is okay to be on the ground, to cry and to hate everything. But it is only okay as long as you get back up again. Take your time to get all of your emotions out, but always keep in mind that the moment you’re in won’t last forever. Just don’t give up. Life isn’t about being strong all the time, but about the ability to become strong again after a defeat or bad experience. It’s about not losing hope in life and first and foremost – in yourself.” D.C.

  • ·         “I am finally enjoying our new normal because I take care of me and have accepted that things will be different. Exercise, lunch trips with friends, as well as meditation made the difference. Also learning that there will be days that we just don't know how to get through another day is part of being a caregiver and it will pass but reoccur.” Susan B.

  • ·         “Caregivers have the most difficult jobs. You can only hold up for so long and then something has to give! I know it's easier said than done but try to take make time for yourself, even if only for a short time, so you can be fresh to start again. Even during an airplane emergency you are instructed to put YOUR mask on first so you can help others to put on theirs.” Beth D.


Ironically, I have used that line, “Put your mask on first so you can help others put on theirs,” frequently in my speeches. In other words, we are not being selfish if we take time for ourselves, as it will help refresh us to handle those difficult times that we know will arrive.

What am I taking away from this caregiver experience? I am gaining the strength I know I will need or require in the future. It could be tomorrow, or five years from now but it will happen, and I know I will have the support when I move onto that next phase of my life.


If you want to learn more about Well Spouse® Association, please go to: www.wellspouse.org




Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Memoirs- why write them?
Jane H Davis

               Readers love stories that they can connect with,  
                 we all have a story worth telling.
 (Kathy Pooler)

Why write a memoir? That was the question I pondered ever since my writing instructor, Alison, suggested that I should share my story. Really, I thought, who would want to read about me? She was pretty adamant that I would have a story that would hold interest for many. Alison was patient but persistent, “Jane, I don’t tell this to very many of my students, but you really do have a story that you need to tell the world!”

My original thoughts when taking the online writing class, “How to Write Your Life Story,” was sharing with my family my own story. I wanted them to know about me and what my life was about, my accomplishments, fears and even failures. I didn’t want to be remembered as an ancestry.com statistic… Name, birth date, and death date. I figured there was a bit more to me and maybe my grandchildren and great grandchildren would like to read it.

I thought about what Alison suggested for a long time as I knew this would be a huge undertaking. Where does one begin when talking about themselves? How do I hold the interest to those reading? First of all, I am a registered nurse and not an author! I struggled with coming up with a response and replied, “Alison, one writing class does not make a writer!” I was perplexed and I knew I needed help. She offered to work with me and help guide me with my writing skills. At first it was incredibly helpful and I relied on her heavily. She helped in what I like to call, fluffing my chapters. She had such a knack of making my words much more eloquent than I knew how to make them. But an interesting thing happened over time, she was not fluffing as much and soon I found that my writing skills were improving immensely! I finally decided to “fluff” on my own!

Even though I had been journaling most of my life and occasionally blogging, I had no idea the scope of this project! The first concern was, where do I start with my story? I knew if it was for my family I could start anywhere, but if it was going to be for a larger audience I had to make a decision about choosing a period of my life that would hold the most interest for my readers. I decided to limit it to a ten year period, beginning in 2001, just a few days before 9/11.

I really had no idea that I had so many memories/stories, but the more I sat down at my computer and typed, the more they floated to the surface. I was finding it very challenging as there were so many stories! I had to question everything; which were the important ones, and which ones should I let go? How much do I share as I worried my family would be hurt by some of it. I also had my own inner demons and sometimes too painful to even write, but I persevered and worked through it. An amazing thing happened; I found it quite cathartic and felt like I was healing myself the more I wrote.

A fellow blogger and memoir writer, Kathy Pooler, sums it up very well: It is a well-known fact in memoir writing circles that writing a memoir is a daunting task fraught with many challenges, not the least being: excavating painful memories, standing in your truth, and dealing with family members or close friends who may not agree with your perception of the truth. http://krpooler.com/blog/

In 2011, with the help of my favorite publisher, Frank Monahan of Rocket Science Productions gave me a deadline. “If you want this out by the ten year anniversary of 9/11, you have to have it all to me no later than early July!” Oh that was just what I needed! I am such a procrastinator and having Frank give me a deadline just pushed me to the finish line in record time. I was even a week ahead of schedule!

Would I do it again? I have thought about that many times: would my readers be interested in a bit more about “me” or should I venture out and write some fiction? I guess you will just have to wait and see!






Monday, September 9, 2013

2,996 (a number to remember)

2,996 (a number to remember)

I am sitting at my computer today putting on the finishing touches to a speech I will be giving on Thursday, September 12th at Kings Park Library. I must pause for a minute and remember. Why this is all so important to me, why do I feel the need to keep telling my story about my 9/11 experiences? Of course the anniversary date of that heinous act is in two days and all my memories start working their way to the surface.  In two more days we will pause to remember those that lost their lives on that tragic day in  2001.

Do we still remember what we were doing at that time and what we did in the days that followed?
We lived through it though.  I wrote a book about it and I also go around the country and speak about it. I therefore live through it almost daily as I speak about my book many times throughout the year. Is it still painful? Yes. Does the story lose impact over time? No. Must the story continue to be told? Yes. We can never forget.

We can learn to live with it and move forward, but we can never forget. I frequently compare it to a wound. When it first happens the wound is raw and bleeding. Eventually the scab forms, but at any time it can be scratched and start bleeding again. In time a scar will form. That scar is always visible so we remember, though it continues to fade throughout the years, it is still there.

2,996-

This is the number of people that died in the attacks on our country that day 12 years ago.
The World Trade Center alone lost 2,606 lives.
The Pentagon lost 125 lives
The combined Airlines lost 246 lives
And yes, the 19 hijackers also lost their lives.

The American Red Cross trained me to be a disaster nurse and  I was sent to help New York City. Why did I feel the need to go? How could I not? Every part of my being knew that I had to do more than I already was doing.  I HAD to help. In less than three weeks, I was on my way to Ground Zero to help administer First Aid to the recover workers.

It changed my life...



Sunday, May 20, 2012

Meet and greets and new heroes

"Hi there, my name is Jane," I say, reaching out my hand to a woman I have never laid eyes on before. She warmly smiles at me and finds my hand. I sense a sadness in her eyes. I glance around the room and it seems to me everyone has that same look. Do I possess that same look? 


We all are thrown into situations where we either know not a soul or maybe we do. The usual conversation goes something like this, "Hi, my name is Jane. Where are you living now? How many children do you have? How many grandchildren? What are you doing for a living?" Sound familiar? The script may vary a bit depending on the situation, but you get the general idea.


My most recent Meet and Greet was unlike any I had ever been to before. I am still unsettled by it, probably as it is a new experience for me and I am trying to understand the importance of it in my life. This new conversation continued, "Where do you come from, where is home?" she asks. "Tell me about his illness." There it was... the reason we were brought together.. our spouses illnesses. It was so unlike the usual questions we are asked when meeting someone for the first time and she went right to the heart of it. I continued to make my way around the room, meeting these amazing women and men, and each conversation was a similar play on the first one.


We were all trying to escape from the reality of our home life and share for a few days, our common bond, being Well Spouses. We traveled near and far for a Respite weekend, a weekend for just us, a weekend to renew old friendships (for many) and to make new ones (like me, as it was my first ever Respite weekend). A weekend to relax, go to dinner, walk on the beach and have inspiring conversations. A weekend away from a life that has become something that most never expected or wanted. 


I felt like I didn't fit in. Am I now being identified as a caregiver, a Well Spouse because of my spouses illness? I felt that I wasn't escaping from anything, I felt that I really didn't need a respite. My spouse, Gary, is still holding down a job and living a very normal life. Was I really supposed to be there? Did I really fit in with the group? I am sure everyone feels the same way when they arrive at their first Respite weekend. Deep in my heart, I knew why I was there. I was there to establish those connections, make those friendship bonds that I would be able to grasp in my time of need. I needed to work on building those connections.


These men and women are true heroes in every sense of the word. They have made their commitment and are in it for the long haul with their spouses, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. They are making their ill spouses lives as comfortable as they are capable of doing. Many have sacrificed so much of their own lives for their spouses by choosing to end their working careers early to become full time caregivers. Many do it with very little help from the outside world. I am in awe of their commitment.


I would encourage you to check out www.wellspouse.org and learn about this amazing group of selfless individuals. I found them two years ago when Gary received his cancer diagnosis. I was overwhelmed, he had already been diagnosed three years before with Parkinson's and then the dreaded cancer. I went online and looked for a support group and was fortunate to find out that Wellspouse had a support group very close to my home. I needed people who understood what I was going through. I needed to find somebody to lean on. I needed the support.


I am early with this group, I know that, but I am developing a relationship with individuals that get it. They know, they understand. So even though the questions were hard to answer at the Meet and Greet, it made me realize I need their strength and support.



Monday, September 19, 2011

Coming Home

Last week I had the opportunity to travel back to my home town of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. It always gives me pause returning, as so many memories come flooding back whenever I am there. What I find interesting; it is not just memories of my being a little girl growing up in this lovely little town but also my more recent memories, the reconnecting with friends again. I have not lived in this town for over 40 years and have barely returned except for high school reunions. Something happened in 2009 when I returned for my 40th reunion, something wonderful. I felt a sense of belonging, a sense of a closeness that only people that are the same age and grow up in the same town can experience. It is a rare experience to find such camaraderie.


I arrived on Sunday, September 11th, such a somber day. There were my friends, Bill and Dave waiting to take me out to dinner and help me get my books ready for the next day's upcoming events.

I returned to speak to the entire student body of Cuyahoga Falls High School. This would not have happened if it weren't for the persistence of my high-school friend, Bill. He made it happen.

He asked me what he could do to help and he didn't rest until he got the speaking engagement for me.

Three of my class of 1969 friends also came to hear me speak,Jerry, on the right, (who filmed the entire speech), Dave (my neighbor from a long time ago) and Bill (the organizer of my event!). I spoke about my experiences in New York at Ground Zero after 9/11 and encouraged and challenged the students to think not just about themselves but to also think about helping others, The message came through loud and clear and I had many students stop by after to talk to me and ask questions. Several purchased my book, First Aid For Heroes.


My high-school friend, Monica, suggested that I have a book signing at a local bookstore in Hudson, Ohio. After many phone calls we finally got it to happen and that very evening after my speaking engagement I held a book signing at The Learned Owl. My friends descended on the store and some of them titled themselves the "flashmob."

There was laughter and a strong sense of support. I will never forget my "cheerleaders" being there for me and making me feel as if I were a celebrity!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Flight 93

Yesterday as I drove back to Northern Virginia from a speaking and book signing event in my home town of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, I decided to take a detour. Actually I decided to take that detour several days before, September 11th to be exact. I decided that I could not drive past this area without stopping, I was drawn to it as if it was out of my control, as if auto-pilot had taken hold of my car.


The area around Shanksville, Pennsylvania is filled with rolling hills, farms, roadside stands, just the inordinate beauty of our back country USA. Signs were posted everywhere guiding me to the Flight 93 Memorial. Pride for our country was everywhere with the flying of the American flags, to signs sharing our country's sentiment "We will never forget."

I made the turn to the Memorial and kept driving and driving down a curvy newly made road. I knew I was in the right location, I just didn't know how far I had to drive. I kept going and going, but the more I drove, the more I understood. This was an area far removed from main roads (until ten years ago). The only way to observe the site, was to build a better road.


I exited my car, after pulling into a gravel parking lot and walked towards three signs. There were a few people there. I thought that was a bit odd, where was everyone. Didn't people come to pay their respects? I later found out that this was an entrance to view the area from above the crash site, this was the area the plane flew over prior to crashing. I continued on my journey in my car to the memorial area, just a short 1/2 mile or so to the area below.


Where was the site? I couldn't see anything that would identify it. Then I heard why. A few years ago they filled in the crash site and planted wild flowers. And then I saw it.. just peaceful flowers with the large evergreen trees framing the top of the area. They have moved a boulder to the exact area where the crash occured and family (I assume) left flowers and flags surrounding it. We were not allowed to walk on those hallowed grounds, but observe from a distance. I wish I had a better camera with me, as I only have pictures from my cell phone, but it can give you the sense of what it was like.

What I felt was peace and a palpable feeling of calmness which seemed to fill the entire area. There was a slight breeze with the smell of fresh wildflowers permeating the air. I felt sadness, how could one not? But mostly I felt an inner peace. This was a place to go and reflect, to go and remember what courage took place on Flight 93, September 11, 2001. The courage of the flight 93 heroes and their fight with the terrorists to protect our country.


I continued my walk, in the direction of the flight path and came to the names carved in marble. The designer built the wall so as you looked down the length of it you would be observing the flight path. The hill to the right was the hill that the plane flew over. The opposite end is where the crash site is located. The white marble wall was magnificent. I had to look for Todd Beamer's name. His last audible words were "Are you guys ready? Let's roll". You can find out more information about this hero by checking out his Wikipedia page Todd Beamer.

This past Monday, September 12th, after I spoke to the entire student body of Cuyahoga Falls High School about my 9/11 experiences and my book , a group of students took a few minutes to talk to us about the Flight 93 fund. This group is encouraging students to just donate 93 cents. Eventually, it will make a difference. Check out the article that was written about them: Falls High students laud courage of Flight 93 with donations


In closing, I will add several more pictures that I took that day outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.