I’ve spent some time reflecting on 9-11. The Garden of Reflection is a good place to do that. I’ve  spoken with Rabbi Richard Hirsh, Reverend Sherri Hausser, and Imam Marc Manley, all three of whom are among those involved with the Philadelphia Interfaith Center, which since shortly after 9-11 has endeavored to encourage respect between and among religions and the people who practice them. 

Courtesy T. Manion Foundation

I’ve thought about Janet and Thomas Manion, who seek to promote character and service, goodwill and more in the name of their son, Lt. Travis Manion, who died in Iraq.  Tom carries with him the baseball cap NYC firefighters gave Travis before his final tour of duty.  I’ve thought about the military families I’ve seen crying in a fire hall as their loved ones left for deployment overseas.  I’ve thought about my reporting on and immediately following 9-11-01 and a year later at the Pentagon.  I’ve thought, too, about how we civilians often fail in times of crisis with displays of panic or greed.  We will be challenged in the future.  Our response will be driven by necessity and also by anger and fear.  But that response is not most of the solution for our children and beyond. 

A military component of our path to security and peace will be necessary, but we can do much more than we have been doing to end the greed, fear, ignorance and poverty which lead to the darkest displays of human behavior in the name of religion.

Ellen Saracini

Bucks County, Pennsylvania, lost 18 residents on 9-11, 9 of them were from Lower Makefield Township. Ellen Saracini, wife of United Airlines Flight 175 Captain Victor Saracini, is one of the co-founders of the Garden of Reflection in Memorial Park in Lower Makefield.

Ellen tells me the one thing she would say to you is to love your family and be with them as much as possible. She also says about the Garden of Reflection that it has become a place to get away from the anger, to move toward peace and to be at peace.  I cannot think of a better road to choose.

The Fight Goes on!

Thank you to all who contributed this year to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.  The September 4th Telethon was a success.  Nearly 2.3 million dollars was raised in the Philadelphia region this year and 61.5 million throughout the U.S.  It was great working with Lori Wilson and all the folks involved with the PHL17 broadcast. We are especially grateful to the MDA families and physicians who spent time with us to raise awareness about neuromuscular diseases and further the progress of research. Together we can Make a Muscle and Make a Difference.


Telethon Time!

It’s time to take the next step in helping some of our neighbors!  The 46th annual MDA Labor Day Telethon takes place this Sunday night, September 4th, from 6pm to midnight on PHL17.   On behalf of so many people, thank yous go out to the firefighters of the IAFF, from Philadelphia to Reading, Upper Darby to Burlington County.  Thank you to great corporate supporters like Lowe’s, ACME, Genuardi’s, SuperFresh, Walgreen’s and more.  And, of course, thanks to the Harley Davidson owners and stores.  Your work makes a difference in the lives of people like Obie Hazzard III.  His mom and dad are great people.  His father is a Philadelphia Police Officer who lives up to the respect the badge deserves.  Young Obie was made an honorary chief last month in the Philadelphia Fire Department.   Lookin’ good, Obie!

This year is a new model for the telethon.  The roughly 21 hour event which used to run from Sunday night to Monday evening is no longer.  It’s just Sunday night this year.  As of this moment, Jerry Lewis will not make an appearance.  These two changes have happened for multiple reasons. Lewis himself announced earlier this year that he would retire.  What I know is that the folks at the Muscular Dystrophy Association respect the contributions and dedication of Jerry Lewis who has spent most of his life, even if imperfectly at times, trying to help people the government or corporations chose largely to ignore.  Television and viewing patterns and the business of television are very much different from what they used to be.  Change is one of the few constants.

What I am 100 percent certain of is that the children and adults living with neuromuscular diseases deserve just as much love, respect and attention as any one else. I know that MDA has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for research. That research has yielded some treatments and spurred current clinical trials with treatment potential.  I know families who appreciate MDA and those of you who contribute.  I’ve done a few telethons, but my connections with these families and with MDA are more than 1 night a year.  I’ve met with doctors and researchers in Philadelphia and in the suburbs who work with MDA clients or who work on research.  Some of this science may yield benefits for people with other diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. 

It is my hope that as part of each of our efforts to find cures for a variety of illnesses, from heart disease to cancer,  we also remember our neighbors and classmates living with neuromuscular diseases and disorders. 

Smart people are laboring at Drexel University and other academic institutions to aid practical research efforts by small and large biopharmaceutical companies.  In laboratories work is being done on the genetics of diseases, which often involve some defect that makes the body fail to produce sufficient amounts of a needed protein or involve a problem with an enzyme.  The exact protein or enzyme, locations and timing vary with each illness.  The illness may be ALS, primarily affecting adults, or it could be a range of other diseases hitting young children, like brother and sister, Evan and Gracie, seen to the right. 

So much has been learned in recent years.  There is reason to hope.  But in the real world, this hope also needs money.  I contribute.  One way I do is taking part in Abbey Umali’s reading challenge.  Abbey, a national MDA Goodwill Ambassador, has not yet given me her final number of books read this summer, but I’ve pledged  a certain dollar amount for each book she’s read.  Last year she raised about $20,000 from people who took part in her effort and this year I think she’ll top that.  Whatever path you can take, thank you.

Please tune in the MDA Telethon this Sunday night, September 4th, from 6pm to Midnight on PHL17 and contribute if you can.  In the words of the kids I talked with at camp this year in Montgomery County, “Make a Muscle, Make a Difference.”