Remembering Nine Eleven

This post was originally published September 11, 2010.

I finished my morning run on the dike, and walked to the car under deep blue skies.  The air carried the first smells of fallen leaves.  I unlocked the door, got in and took a drink of water before starting the car.  The radio greeted me with a special announcement rather than the music of Mozart or Beethoven.  This was the before moment.  Then there was after.

A plane had hit the World Trade Center.  No.  Two planes had hit the World Trade Center.

My cellphone rang and I answered, relieved to ramble with my brother about the certainty that these were terrorist attacks.  Who? What? Why?  And as we spoke, he cried, “Oh, my god! Something just hit T.C. Williams High School! Oh, my god! I will have to call you right back!”  And the phone went dead.

I drove home, in stunned silence, the radio serving as my companion through the next fifteen minutes.  National Public Radio hosts reported the Pentagon strike, and I thought of my brothers, the one coping with hearing the Pentagon’s explosion on his way to work, the other already in the Ronald Reagan Building near the National Mall.  What now?  Were they safe?  Was there more to come?

Oh, my god!  Perry! His office was just blocks from the World Trade Center! I checked in with my sister-in-law…he was so far safe.

I got home to speak with my house painters, who found it hard to concentrate as they applied one more coat to my trim. Their radio announced the Shanksville crash and they finally just climbed off their ladders.  We took turns sharing what we knew, breaking to call more family as we thought of one more person that might be stuck in DC or New York or Pittsburgh.   And then…

Silence in the skies.

It was still that perfect blue sky, with wispy clouds, sweetly fragrant with first fall smells. But it was so still.

My son called home to report that he had forgotten his trumpet and the band instructor would just KILL him if I didn’t bring it down real, real soon.  That was my moment of Can Do: we must be resolute, take this in stride, aid those who are hurt, show our children just how we Americans handle disaster.  I picked up that trumpet, got into that car, and headed into town, through the mountain pass along Toby’s Creek.  The valley opened up with those beautiful Poconos on the other side, the highway straightened out, cars picked up speed.  Just as I hit that 55mph there was a highway construction sign, the kind that can be programed for all sorts of alert messages.  Today instead of providing a heads up about construction it flashed:  All Roads to NYC CLOSED.

Up to that moment some part of my brain still said that this morning was a dream. That we had all just misheard the news.  But that pixelated message struck me with a ferocity.  We have been attacked.  We must learn to live and create now in fear’s midst.

I didn’t see the towers fall, I was too busy being resolute and determined to act with courage and be a rock for my children.  The trumpet was delivered and my child stayed in school all day.  Just like any other day.  My daughter stayed in school, with her classmates slowly being pulled out by anxious parents.  While they went through the motions of normality I found the nearest Red Cross Bloodmobile and joined dozens of Back Mountain residents giving blood for New Yorkers, who would never need it.

I continued the normal routine, which included cello lessons, and the children and I talked a bit along the way about what had happened and what we were feeling.  Keep going, I thought, just keep going.  Cellos got played and packed up–clack, clack, clack, clack went the latches of their cases.  We piled into our van and headed into the dusk.  The car seemed to drive itself to our church; I certainly had not intended to go.  But I had a sudden, overpowering need to be in community.  No one noticed or cared that we entered the crowded service very late.  We were all together, that is all that mattered.

The sun had come up and crossed a brilliant blue sky, and now it set in the same place as before.  East was still east and west was still west. But our moral compass as America had just been put to a huge test.  How would it survive?  How would we survive?

We were together.  We are together.  That is all that matters.  Still.

Stocking Up then Taking Stock

I live behind the mountains, just one of the ridges that form the Appalachain Mountain Chain.  On the other side of my mountain — Bunker Hill — lies the greater Wyoming Valley, subject of a piece on tonight’s NPR All Things Considered.  Wilkes-Barre and its sister community, Kingston, have been evacuated.

Susquehanna River from Rt. 309, northbound

Residents have carried pillows and blankets, toothbrush and medications, along with a few cherished photographs to higher ground. Businesses have sent employees home and locked their doors.  Nursing homes have relocated dozens of residents to open hospital beds.  Schools hold evacuees instead of students.

I am high, and dry, and will remain so even if the Susquehanna breaks through the sand bags and levees, and I can house anyone who finds themselves without shelter or food. So I filled my truck with fuel, and my pantry with dry and canned goods.  I added milk and eggs to my refrigerator shelves, and several pounds of chicken and beef to my freezer drawers.  Extra water was purchased and back up batteries stashed with freshly packed flashlights.

Four Fifteen at the Levee, by Ross

Folks are glued to their radios and televisions and websites; we are waiting for the announcement that our river has crested and is receding.  We all wait, safely gathered on some higher ground.

Higher ground.

For this I am grateful.

The Board of Education: (almost) Wordless Wednesday

I started today with a quick hunt through my Donald C. Minor Postcard Collection for depictions of rain or autumn or late summer or school.  My grandfather received this gem from a friend who signed him/herself as HM.

What a strange card for one child to send to another!

 

A letter from Mormontown, Iowa, 1882: Amanuensis Monday

A hearty thank you to John Newmark at Transylvanian Dutch, creator of Amanuensis Monday, for the gentle nudge to keep transcribing those family documents.

Every once in awhile, I come across an envelope and feel a thrill of anticipation. Letters, even business letters, can yield personal details, hints of who the author and the intended reader really were and what was going on in our country at the moment pen met paper.  The bundle of documents I am currently curating from the Minor Satchel has included a lengthy correspondence between a John P. Keenan of Iowa and my great-great-grandfather, Francis Marion Minor, of Whiteley, Greene County, Pennsylvania.

Mr. Keenan was apparently a debt collector for Francis Minor in Mormontown, Iowa in 1881-1883; each letter describes an attempt to collect money, pay taxes or settle a dispute about one of these issues.  Without a fuller review of ALL the Minor documents I remain mystified by the insinuations introduced in the notes.  Even so there are sentences, sometimes whole paragraphs, that begin to tell a personal tale, particularly if I use good punctuation!

Mr. F. M. Minor

Sir, I receive yours of the fifth. Now in regard to Evans I saw him to day. I told him you had to have that money.  He said he didn’t want to, he said, but (he) would have to sell his farm.  Now I tell you, I believe it can be bought worth the money he offered it to me for 25 dollars per acre but I believe it can be bought for less money.  It is a nice little farm and when times gets a little better it will fetch a good price.  Times are dull here and nobody wants to buy any thing.  We ain’t have a half of a corn crop and the oats won’t make over half crop.  We thought we had a big oats crop till we went to corting, but they ain’t half filled and when we lose crops it makes dull times.  This country is full of cattle and are going to be sold low.  There was cattle held over from last winter on the account of corn that will be sold this fall and the thing is worse now than last fall and I tell you I believe if you feel like investing any money in the west there ain’t been a better time for five years.  I know you are no western man but I tell you what, do come and see the country and I believe you can make expenses any way now .

I tell you about Evans when he finds you will close.  He is going to sell it worth the money. I would hate to sue him but would like to make a few dollars out on him.

Yours as ever, J. P. Keenan.  Please answer.

“Times are dull here.”  Times are dull, full of gambles and hopes. Unpredictable weather and volatile markets know no boundaries of time, as Hurricane Irene and a plunging stock market reminded me last week.

Just a couple of days ago, I handed a local farmer change for the apples and I asked how she had fared during Irene.  The days-long power outage was the least of her concerns; newly planted apple trees had had to be propped up and trees, shaped-trained for years, were just chopped down  –  too bent over to be recovered.  She said, “It reminds me of my father, who was asked if he was going to the newly developed race track at the Pocono Downs (1960s).  He said, “Absolutely not.  Why gamble there?  I gamble every day I farm.”

That is my take away from this letter  –  no matter the era, we humans take chances, tell stories, pursue dreams; we gamble that tomorrow can be better than today.  Sometimes we lose the farm.

Teater, Teeter, Tieter = Thaeter, Dieder, Dather : Surname Saturday

Part One of Teater, Teeter, Tieter

I open the memory of my grandmother’s Huston Street home in Chase City, Virginia and enter the filtered light.  I move across the living room to look out onto a small covered porch. Indirect light bathes her African violets, perched on top of their window stand, their pink and purple blooms nodding in the summer breeze.  I wait to greet my grandmother with the news:   Hendrich was not the Immigrant Teater after all.

Anna Florette Strickland spoke her English with a Southside Virginia accent, slowly, carefully, vowels lingering in the air.   I long to sit on that couch and unfold the tale of her great-grandmother’s ancestors, and listen to her southern wonder.  Her grandma was a Yankee, a northern abolitionist moved south after the War of Northern Aggression. Serena White Sayles taught French in Mecklenburg County, Virginia schools, places whose names have been lost to family memory. Serena was herself the daughter of a teacher, Nancy Teater White; in fact, Nancy Teater was the first teacher in Allegany County, New York, in 1814.  This part of the story my grandmother knew and passed on.  Picking up the family lore, I have discovered that Nancy Teater’s father, John Teater, was originally from Dutchess County, New York.

Last week ancestry.com sent “You’ve got hints!” mail, and I learned that John Teater was the son of Revolutionary War soldier John Teeter, Sr., and the grandson of the Revolutionary War patriot, Hendrich Teeter  –  both of Dutchess County, New York.  I began collecting the surname variations and deduced that my forefathers had crossed the Atlantic with an umlaut — making the Immigrant Teater a native of Germany.  Tödter! That is what I searched for in every data base with every search engine in my command.  But then I was astounded by a document within the ancestry.com results.

Teater, Teeter, Tieter morphed into Thaeter, Dieder, Däther, an umlaut that led me back into a history along the Hudson of which I was totally unaware.  And this is the story I would sit and share on my grandmother’s couch.

From the website of the Palatine Project: http://www.progenealogists.com/palproject/

Conditions were bleak for residents living along the Rhine in 1708 and 1709. Repeated French invasions of the region had led to deprivations and terror, particularly for German Reformed (Calvinists) and Lutheran Protestants.  The weather had been bitter and cold.

Elizabetha Dotter, wife of Hans, died July 31, 1708 in Leonbronn in what is now Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, about 14 miles northeast of Bretten.  Hans (Johan) Dotter or Dother died on January 13, 1709.  The three children, Lorenz, Jorg and Maria Margaretha, joined the mass emigration of Palatines hoping to find a better life among the colonies of Great Britain.  Lorenz and his siblings boarded Captain William Newton’s ship at Rotterdam and sailed for England on July 3, 1709, and they were among the 2814 Palatines who left London for Queen Anne’s work camps along the Hudson in December 1709.  Thus Lorenz Däther, my Teater Immigrant, was a member of the first and largest mass emigration to America in the Colonial period.

Lorenz Däther worked off his passage in Dutchess County, New York, from 1710-1712, at which time Queen Anne and the English government stopped paying subsidies to the immigrants.  Some of the Palatines moved to New Jersey and Pennsylvania seeking farmland.  Lorenz stayed along the Hudson, settling near Rhinebeck, New York.  He married Margareta Lnu about 1710 and was naturalized in about 1715.  The couple had their son, Hendrich Teeter in 1716 in what would become Dutchess County, New York, and obtained a life lease on land at the Livingston Manor in 1717.

Hendrich Teeter married Caroline Bender, daughter of Valentine and Anna Margaretha Stoppelbein Bender, in Dutchess County, New York.  The couple had at least one son, John (Johannes), on March 2, 1742.

In 1775 Hendrich declared his loyalty to the fledgling colonial government by signing the Articles of Association:

“Persuaded that the salvation of the rights and liberties of America depend, under God, on the firm union of its inhabitants in a rigorous prosecution of the measures necessary for its safety ; and convinced of the necessity of preventing anarchy and confusion, which attend the dissolution of the powers of government, we, the freemen, freeholders, inhabitants of _____, being greatly alarmed at the avowed design of the Ministry to raise a revenue in America, and shocked by the bloody scene now acting in Massachusetts Bay, do, in the most solemn manner, resolve never to become slaves and do associate, under all the ties of religion, honor, and love to our country, to adopt and endeavor to carry into execution whatever measures may be recommended by the Continental Congress, or resolved upon by our Provincial Convention for the purpose of preserving our Constitution, and opposing the execution of the several arbitrary Acts of the British Parliament, until a reconciliation between Great Britain and America on constitutional principles (which we most ardently desire) can be obtained ; and that we will in all things follow the advice of our General Committee respecting the purposes aforesaid, the preservation of peace and good order, and the safety of individuals and property.”

My information is second-hand.  I have read reports authored by a Philip Teeter, who digested the genealogical works of Henry Jones and Anne Cassidy, who did examine records and conduct primary research.  I have perused countless public trees and genealogical message boards.  I am satisfied that I have a profile, a bundle of clues, connecting my grandmother’s great-grandmother, Nancy Teater, to the Palatines of New York.  Imagine the many tongues that have spoken the hard initial consonant and repeated the germanic vowel; Teater, Teeter, Tieter, Thaeter, Dieder, Dother, Däther = optimistic colonial pioneer.

Source used by most of my sources: Jones, Henry.  “Palatine Families of New York: A Study of the German Immigrants Who Arrived in Colonial New York in 1710.”  1985.