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Creating a life worth living

It’s in every one of us: Remembering Richie Pearlman

I originally wrote this essay in February 2009 for Scout Sunday and shared the excerpt below on my business blog September 11, 2010.  In 2011, I decided to make this an annual post in remembrance. Every trip I have made to New York since 2002, I go down to the WTC site and pay my respects to Richie, an 18-year-old man who answered a call of service to others with such passion and commitment, he never saw his 19th birthday. In May 2013 I saw this, a more permanent reminder of his remarkable courage…

I hope you’ll consider joining me in a moment of silence at 8:46 AM Eastern Time today to remember Richie Pearlman and the nearly 3,000 people who died twelve years ago. 

From February 2009…


A few weeks ago, I was in NY and made a visit to the World Trade Center site as I have on every trip to the city since 2002. This trip I was able to go to the museum for the first time and reflect on that tragic day. As I made my way around to the photographs of the three thousand or so individuals who lost their lives, I caught a glimpse of a familiar face. It was the face of Richard Pearlman. Suddenly, I couldn’t contain my grief. Standing there looking at that wall, at the picture of Richard, the tears streamed down my face. Although I did not know him personally, I did know his story.

In February 2009, I had the privilege of sharing the message for Scout Sunday at my church. My message that Sunday was based on the New Testament book of Luke 6:17-26, commonly known as the “Beatitudes.” I closed the message with a story about Richard Pearlman that I compiled from news reports. Below is the story and the message closing:

…let me share with you the story of Richard Pearlman. He knew a little something about making an effort and the responsibilities of taking care of others.

Richie joined the junior corps of Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps. When he was 14, working as a volunteer dispatcher. At 18, he joined the Senior Corps as a paramedic, where he immediately became a source of knowledge for new dispatchers and new volunteer members. He looked forward to starting his EMT courses and a career in emergency services.

Richie was a constant presence at the Corps. He was the regular Tuesday night and Saturday daytime dispatcher. He was present at every can shaking and blood pressure screening the Corps held. But he found his passion when became involved in the Boy Scouts of America, as an Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 106, in Queens, New York. Richie was committed to both Scouting and caring for others. The summer of 2001, Richie was a staffer at Boy Scout Camp Aquehonga in Narrowsburg, NY. He served in the trading post, camp services, assisted the commissioners and as an office manager. While in the office, Richie found his calling and a new nickname, “Mother.” He earned this name for the way he doted on injured campers and staff. Richie was a trained in CPR and as a first aid technician, but his specialty was psychological first aid. He had a knack for calming down the most upset and injured Scout and Scouter alike.

Richie lived with his parents in Howard Beach, NY and was working as a messenger for a New York Law firm the morning of September 11, 2001. He was delivering a package to One Police Plaza when he learned that the first airplane had struck the World Trade Center not far away. He called his boss and told him he had gone over to help. His employer ordered him back to the offices where he would be safe. However, Richie knew in his heart where he belonged. He saw total mayhem before him, and his training kicked in. He shared that he saw people hurt and bleeding. “I have to stay and do what I can to help.”

Upon arriving, the 18-year-old flashed his gold paramedic’s badge #3754 and rushed into a building to aid in the rescue effort. Despite the chaos at the scene, Richie’s heroics were later confirmed on pages 16-17 in Newsweek’s Extra Edition of America Under Attack which shows a picture of Richie aiding the injured—helping a woman covered in blood, but alive, from one of the towers. After getting her to safety, he ran back in to find more survivors. Shortly afterward, the towers came down.

Richard Allen Pearlman, 18, an assistant scoutmaster with Troop 106, chartered to Trinity Lutheran Church in Queens, NY became the youngest victim of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. He received The Honor Medal, with crossed palms, the highest award given by the Boy Scouts of America for an act of Heroism at extreme risk to oneself.

“He used to always say,” his mother shared at his funeral, ‘I’m going to be a famous person one day, Mom. I’m going to help save the world. ‘You’ll see.’ “And he did save the world…at least the world for the one woman he helped escaped the towers that day.

Richie Pearlman was an exceptional man. He was a brave, courageous, tenacious, and strong. But, we learned that he was also loving, compassionate, empathetic, and kind-hearted – everything we hope for in ourselves and others. In our scriptures today, Jesus is clear about his expectations of us; that as His followers, we are held to a higher standard through this “code of conduct.”

Richie Pearlman was just the kind of person that God calls us all to be.

The Scout Sunday message closed with this video:

May God bless and keep the families of those who perished on September 11, 2001 (911).


If you would like to commemorate the life of Richie Pearlman, please consider making a donation to the Richard Allen Pearlman Memorial Annual Scholarship, providing scholarships for EMT or Paramedic Training.

It’s In Every One Of Us, by David Pomeranz, is used with permission. The photographs of Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Venturers, and volunteers leader shown in this video were photographed by David Harkins and are also used with permission.

You don’t need a reason

This weekend, I scratched another item off my Bucket List. I spent almost four hours in good company climbing around the treetops and zipping between trees at Navitat Canopy Tour in Asheville.

When I finished, I had completed ten zip lines, two bridges, two rappels, and three short hikes. The longest line was just over 1,050 ft. long. The fastest was the one I show in the video (below), which has an estimated speed of 45 mph. The highest line was about 250 ft. off the ground.

I shared this story Monday with a small group of people and someone in the group asked me why I chose to experience the zip line course. She wanted to know if it was because I liked the thrill and adrenaline of traveling fast, or if I was trying to conquer a fear of heights, or did I have another compelling reason.  No, I told her, this was just about me doing something that I have always wanted to do. There was no other reason.

After she had left the room, I wondered how much of her life she has spent waiting for a reason to do those things she wants to do while the seconds of her life steadily click by.

Don’t do this, okay? Don’t let the moments of your life pass without enjoying each one as best you can.

Go. Do what you want to do, because you want to do it. You don’t need a reason.

An uncontrolled spin

I once had the privilege of being the marketing director for a large ski resort in the southeast. It was a cool job, with many perks–free skiing and snowmobile access. I even had a furnished condominium on the property as part of my compensation package.

These perks were meant to offset being on call 24/7 to address guest complaints, as well as the thirty-minute-plus drive down the mountain to a grocery store or a decent bar. It never balanced, though. During the ski season, for example, it was nearly impossible to escape the mountaintop, even for a few hours.

These perks were meant to offset being on call 24/7 to address guest complaints, as well as the thirty-minute-plus drive down the mountain to a grocery store or a decent bar. It never balanced, though. During the ski season, for example, it was nearly impossible to escape the mountaintop, even for a few hours.

Occasionally, my boss took pity on me for those long working hours and would grant a weekend furlough. On one such, get-away I spent the weekend in a major city about three hours from the resort. I left on Thursday night and spent a relaxing weekend with friends and family. I wasn’t quite ready to return to the mountain after such a great trip so I stalled my return on Sunday until about 4:00 p.m.

Because I was running later than planned, I decided to take a short cut. About halfway into the drive between the city and the resort I could drive over a scenic parkway and shave twenty minutes from my trip. However, when winter was in full swing, the parkway had a barricade at each entrance to prevent motorists from being stranded at the higher elevations.

On this particular Sunday, I arrived at the parkway entrance to find the barricade in place, even though there was no snow on the ground and the temperature was well above freezing. I decided to go around the barricade and over the parkway to cut down on my travel time.

I was twenty-five uneventful miles into the thirty-mile trip when I saw patches of ice on the road. I was near the highest elevation on the parkway, so I became concerned about those patches turning into a solid sheet of ice further down the road. I slowed down to 15 mph, but it wasn’t long before my fears came true–a solid sheet of ice covering both lanes of the parkway. I pumped my brakes lightly to slow the car down. Big mistake.

The light tap on the brakes caused the car to go into a spin. I was on a slight decline, so the spin quickly became a sliding spin. With each 360-degree rotation, I could see the side of the road and the near 4,000 ft. drop over the side. The only thing between me, and what might have been the world’s fastest shortcut off the mountain, was a small, rusty guardrail.

On the fourth spin, I hit that guardrail. Fortunately, I didn’t slide into it with enough force to break the barrier. Instead, there was just enough force to bounce the car back from the edge and across the road toward the rock wall just off the road shoulder. As luck would have it, the bumper of the car came to a rest on a small rock ledge in the wall, leaving the wheels hanging above the ditch.

I was relieved to have stopped, but I now had another problem. I had no rear-wheel traction, which is a big problem for a car with rear-wheel drive. I got out of the car to survey the damage. It tried to rock the car, it wouldn’t budge from the ledge. After about thirty minutes, I gave up on that plan. At that elevation, it was cold and the temperature was dropping fast as the sun set. I got back in the car to warm up and to think about whether to wall the next five miles to the main road or wait to see if some other foolish soul would brave the parkway.

Just as I was about to start walking, a couple of hunters happened by in a four-wheel-drive truck, graciously pulled the car off the rocks, and helped me on my way.

That uncontrolled spin on top of the mountain was literally the scariest event of my life. But, it has helped me to keep my perspective when life becomes difficult.

There are times in life when I’m moving along nicely when I see trouble ahead. I’ll try to prevent that trouble by tapping the brakes to slow life down, only to find the path I’m on is slipperier than I thought, and I find myself spinning out of control. When I stop the spinning, I often find myself at the mercy of others–strangers, even–who help me get unstuck and to set me on my way again.

Sometimes we choose to travel the closed roads in life and find ourselves spinning out of control. While an uncontrollable spin is a horrifying experience, I’ve learned the Universe has a way of bringing people into our lives who have just the right equipment to stop our spin, send us on our way, or when needed, go with us to our next destination.

The Universe works in its own time, we must learn to be patient. Waiting for those who the Universe chooses to send is much better than a long, cold walk on an isolated road, any day.

Trust me.

Photo Credit::Spinning top by David Boyle

Uniquely mine or truly unique

I resumed painting about a year ago, after a 30-year hiatus, as both an exercise in personal creativity and as a form of relaxation. I try to paint something at least once a week, but due to my travel schedule, today was the first time I’ve pulled out the paints in almost a month.

I completed one piece and worked on two others. Clearly, I needed to relax after so much recent travel.

I enjoy painting, and although I’ve completed many pieces in recent months, I’ve yet to paint using my own “eye,” instead of creating my new works through the lens of other artists whose work I admire. This frustrates me at times because I can’t seem to paint exactly the image I have in my head. I have the technical ability, and I’m dissatisfied with the outcome when compared to my vision.

I suppose it takes time to paint without the topic and style being influenced by others. Until then, nothing I create, although uniquely mine, will be truly unique.

It seems to me the same could be said about the life I’m living.

Now, what to do about it.

 

 

 

Be more happier

He showed up the door of the room on my third day in the hospital during the summer of 1971. He came by, he said, because had heard me cry-out the night before and wanted to make sure I was okay. We were both on the rehabilitation floor of the hospital; I was being fitted for a bent-knee brace and learning to walk on crutches as part of my treatment for hip dysplasia.

His first name was Dempsey, but I never caught his last name. He was ten-years-old, although much smaller in stature that I was at eight-years-old; the top of this head barely rose above the handle of my door. He had impressive cowlick above his left eye that caused his short-cropped blonde hair to stick straight out in the front. He seemed to vibrate with the energy of boy who had caffeine coursing through his veins rather than blood.

I told him that was upset the night before because two male orderlies woke me from a sound sleep and carted me down to the basement of the hospital for tests and measurements. The kindly, older woman nurse who had been taking care of me was not around. She explained everything; the guys explained nothing. I was so afraid because I didn’t know what was happening.

After hearing my story, he smiled and bounced into the room. He spent the next hour with me watching me draw and telling me how hospitals actually worked. He told me about hospital shifts, the grumpy nurse to avoid after lunch, who to ask for ice cream and get it every time, and what “physical therapy” really meant. Dempsey was hospital pro. He had already been there two weeks learning how to use the hooks that he called his new “hands.”

“He is a Thalidomide baby,” my mother told me when I asked about him as a teenager.

Thalidomide was a drug marketed as an over-the-counter sedative but was often used by pregnant women in the 1950’s and early 1960’s to treat morning sickness. Many women who used the drug found unfortunately discovered that their newborns suffered from limb deformities, including shortened or missing arms, among other more life-threatening and debilitating deformities.

Dempsey was missing his arms from the elbow down as I recall, but I don’t believe he had other challenges; at least none that were visible, or none that kept him from doing the things he wanted to do for those ten-days we spent in the hospital together. By the time I met him, he had mastered the large movements with his new “hands,” but still could not hold a pencil or spoon, let alone use one. Until he could write his name and feed himself, he couldn’t go home.

He did not seem to be in much of a hurry to do either.

Our daily routine at the hospital was similar. The nurses would wake us at 7:00 AM for breakfast and the orderlies would show up about 9:00 to take us to physical therapy. Physical therapy was a couple of hours, and we were back to our rooms in time for lunch. Our afternoons were “free,” if you could call them that. It only meant that we weren’t scheduled for any tests or therapy, and could spend that time doing whatever we wanted in our rooms, or in sometimes the out in the hallway. Dinner was about 5:30 and the hospital’s only visiting hours were from 6:00 to 8:00 PM. Lights were out at 10:00 PM for us.

My parents and grandparents visited every evening, and I talked to them at least once each afternoon on the telephone. My favorite aunt even sent me a care package or two from Kentucky to help me pass the time. Dempsey’s mom visited him a few times while I was there, but I don’t remember other visitors or care packages for him. I wondered why his mom did not come every night and why he didn’t have a dad who visited, too, but I never asked him. He didn’t seem to mind not having many visitors.

Dempsey and I became fast friends. We did everything together including, afternoon races down the hallway in wheel chairs (that grumpy nurse was always yelling at us), coordinating Jell-O®-slurping contests with the other kids on our floor at lunch, and making happy drawings for the terminal kids on the floor below. Of course, Dempsey could not draw or color because of he had not mastered the fine-motor skills with his hooks. Instead, he told us what to draw, or how to make our pictures, “be more happier” looking.

By my eighth day in the hospital, I had received the bent-knee brace and mastered the art of walking up and down stairs on crutches. Two days later, I said goodbye to the nurses and raced Dempsey one last time in the wheelchairs to the finish line where we met that grumpy nurse who somehow managed a smile.

Dempsey walked us to the elevator and said, “Be more happier! You get to go home today.”

I was sad to leave him.

That was the last time I saw Dempsey, but he has never been far from my mind. Throughout my childhood, I thought of him every time I faced a physical or mental challenge I wasn’t sure I could overcome, when I played basketball, and when I ran track.  As an adult, he comes to mind whenever I’m feeling sorry for myself, when I’m do something unexpected for someone that brings a smile to their face, and of course, whenever I slurp Jell-O®.

Dempsey taught me that life’s adversities could be easily overcome with a change of attitude and perspective.  He showed me that it was okay to take on the grumpy in the name of a little fun and that it is much better to help other people “be more happier” than it is to wallow in my own self-pity.

Having a handicap is a life challenge, but being handicapped is merely a state of mind.

Thank you, Dempsey. You made a difference. Wherever you are, I thought you would like to know that I’m still trying to follow your lead.

_____

Photo credit: Pubescent Boy in the Light by Lynne’s Lens

It’s in every one of us: Remembering 911

I originally wrote this in February 2010 and shared the excerpt below on my business blog September 11, 2010.  As prepare for the weekend and the 10th Anniversary of that tragic day in 2011, I’ve decided to make this an annual post in remembrance. I hope you’ll consider pausing for a moment at 8:46 AM Eastern Time on Sunday (911) to remember Richie Pearlman and the nearly 3,000 people who died that day. 


A few weeks ago, I was in NY and made a visit to the World Trade Center site as I have on every trip to the city since 2002. This trip I was able to go to the museum for the first time and reflect on that tragic day. As I made my way around to the photographs of the three thousand or so individuals who lost their lives, I caught a glimpse of a familiar face. It was face of Richard Pearlman. Suddenly, I couldn’t contain my grief. Standing there looking at that wall, at the picture of Richard, the tears streamed down my face. Although, I did not know him personally, I did know his story.

In February 2009, I had the privilege of sharing the message for Scout Sunday at my church. My message that Sunday was based on the New Testament book of Luke 6:17-26, commonly known as the “Beatitudes.” I closed the message with a story about Richard Pearlman that I compiled from news reports. Below is the story and the message closing:

…let me share with you the story of Richard Pearlman. He knew a little something about making an effort and the responsibilities of taking care of others.

Richie joined the junior corps of Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps. when he was 14, working as a volunteer dispatcher. At 18, he joined the Senior Corps as a paramedic, where he immediately became a source of knowledge for new dispatchers and new volunteer members. He looked forward to starting his EMT courses and a career in emergency services.

Richie was a constant presence at the Corps. He was the regular Tuesday night and Saturday daytime dispatcher. He was present at every can shaking and blood pressure screening the Corps held. But he found his passion when became involved in the Boy Scouts of America, as an Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 106, in Queens, New York. Richie was committed to both Scouting and caring for others. The summer of 2001, Richie was staffer at Boy Scout Camp Aquehonga in Narrowsburg, NY. He served in the trading post, camp services, assisted the commissioners and as an office manager. While in the office, Richie found his calling and a new nickname, “mother.” He earned this name for the way he doted on injured campers and staff. Richie was a trained in CPR and as a first aid technician, but his specialty was psychological first aid. He had a knack for calming down the most upset and injured Scout and Scouter alike.

Richie lived with his parents in Howard Beach, NY and was working as a messenger for a New York Law firm the morning of September 11, 2001. He was delivering a package to One Police Plaza when he learned that the first airplane had struck the World Trade Center not far away. He called his boss and told him he had gone over to help. His employer ordered him back to the offices where he would be safe, however Richie knew in his heart where he belonged. He saw total mayhem before him, and his training kicked in. He shared that he saw people hurt and bleeding. “I have to stay and do what I can to help.”

Upon arriving, the 18-year-old, flashed his gold paramedic’s badge #3754, and rushed into a building to aid in the rescue effort. Despite the chaos at the scene, Richie’s heroics were later confirmed on pages 16-17 in Newsweek’s Extra Edition of America Under Attack which shows a picture of Richie aiding the injured—helping a woman covered in blood, but alive, from one of the towers. After getting her to safety, he ran back in to find more survivors. Shortly afterward, the towers came down.

Richard Allen Pearlman, 18, an assistant scoutmaster with Troop 106, chartered to Trinity Lutheran Church in Queens, NY became the youngest victim of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. He received The Honor Medal, with crossed palms, the highest award given by the Boy Scouts of America for an act of Heroism at extreme risk to oneself.

“He used to always say,” his mother shared at his funeral, ‘I’m going to be a famous person one day, Mom. I’m going to help save the world. ‘You’ll see.’ “And he did save the world…at least the world for the one woman he helped escaped the towers that day.

Richie Pearlman was an exceptional man. He was a brave, courageous, tenacious, and strong. But, we learned that he was also loving, compassionate, empathetic, and kind-hearted – everything we hope for in ourselves and in others. In our scriptures today, Jesus is clear about his expectations of us; that as His followers, we are held to a higher standard through this “code of conduct.”

Richie Pearlman was just being the kind of person that God calls us all to be.

The Scout Sunday message closed with this video:

May God bless and keep the families of those who perished on September 11, 2001 (911).


If you would like to commemorate the life of Richie Pearlman, please consider making making a donation to the Richard Allen Pearlman Memorial Annual Scholarship, providing scholarships for EMT or Paramedic Training.

It’s In Every One Of Us, by David Pomeranz, is used with permission. The photographs of Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Venturers and volunteers leader shown in this video are also used with permission.

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