August 30, 2011

Rick Rescorla saved thousands on 9/11

Because September 11th is coming up, I wanted to tell a couple of hero stories from what happened that day 10 years ago.  That day, when so many people suddenly needed help, many people became heroes.  Today I will tell you about one hero named Rick Rescorla. 

Rick was born in England near an army base that was staffed with soldiers from America.  He came to idolize the American soldiers so much that he hoped to grow up to be an American soldier.  When he turned 18, he did the next best thing—he joined the British Army.  He served for a few years, becoming an intelligence officer and helping police borders.  When his term was over, he moved to New York, started a YMCA and waited until he could join the US Army.  He got his chance in 1963 when he was 25.  His service took him to battles in Vietnam and earned several awards due to his bravery and compassion for his fellow servicemen.

I mention all of this previous stuff because it sets the stage for his greatest achievements during the 9/11 tragedies.  His service in the military gave him the experience he needed in figuring out dangerous situations, so that he was hired to serve corporations to keep them safe.  He was the director of security for a big company that was headquartered in the World Trade Center. 

In 1992, Rick realized that the World Trade Center towers would make a good target for terrorists, and thought that they might even use a truck filled with bombs to do some damage.  He warned security in the building but they didn't listen.  Just a year later, this prediction came true and Rick was able to evacuate all of the employees for the corporation he served.  He knew all were out because he was the last one of them all to leave.

Rick still saw trouble and urged his company to relocate to another building, but the company executives ignored him.  So Rick did what he could; he forced all of the thousands of his co-workers do emergency drills every 3 months, so they could practice getting out of the World Trade Center quickly. He even made the company executives practice.  If he was responsible for their safety, he'd see that they were prepared for any emergency.

On September 11, 2001 the terrorists indeed attacked the World Trade Center.  Rick and all of his co-workers were ready.  Although the building security told everyone to stay put in the South tower, Rick got on a bullhorn and ordered his company employees to evacuate.  

He had 3700 people from 20 floors at the World Trade center in his company to worry about, and another 1000 people from his company in a nearby building.  He knew that the practice he had forced them to do would pay off now, and wanted everyone to leave calmly and unafraid.  He told everyone to be proud to be an American and that they'd be famous tomorrow for their escape of the attack.  Then he started singing the American National Anthem into the bullhorn.  (I hope he had a good voice…;) 

After the anthem, he sang an English fight song with these words:

Men of Cornwall stop your dreaming;
Can't you see their spearpoints gleaming?
See their warriors' pennants streaming
To this battlefield.
Men of Cornwall stand ye steady;
It cannot be ever said ye
for the battle were not ready;
Stand and never yield!

Indeed, the employees he served were ready.  Because of his foresight and training, all but 7 workers escaped. So he saved almost 5000 people.  The experiences he had as a young man in battle proved so important in the lives of the many people he saved that day.   

Sometimes people have to do things that irritate others in order to help them.  You might think that those who want you to do things like physical therapy are irritating.  But if you do what they say, you will benefit, like the coworkers of Rick Rescorla.  They probably hated practicing leaving the building every few months.  What an inconvenience!  But doing so ended up saving their lives later. 

August 23, 2011

Jeremy Maddox Keeps Racing Ahead

Jeremy Maddox loved to ride his Big Wheel at full speed when he was little, and his speed just increased with his age and equipment.  “Anything I could get on that you could go fast or jump or whatever, I always wanted to be on it,” he said.  He advanced to riding in Motocross races, eventually qualifying for the National Motocross quarterfinals here in Georgia in 1998.  But he landed badly after a jump during the race and became paralyzed at age 16.  Although he was sent to the best hospital in the area, the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, his spinal cord damage was done.  He was afraid he’d never race again.  

Some kids who faced being in a wheelchair for the rest of their life would be discouraged.  Some might just lay in bed than try to do anything in a wheelchair.  But not Jeremy.  He decided he would get an education and go on with his life, and even get back to racing.  Somehow.
So he hooked up with the Shepherd Center’s basketball team.  After playing a few wheelchair basketball games, he started looking into racing.  Now he’s sponsored by the Shepherd Center in races all over the country.  When he is in an airport flying somewhere to compete in a race, people notice him and ask him questions.  

He explains, “They’re just amazed that you’re getting back out, that you’re not letting things keep you down,” he said. “One thing I tell people is we all have issues — you can just see one of mine.  [Bad things] happen to everybody. There’s always another side and you’ve always got to look at the brighter side. You have to decide every day if you’re going to look at every day in a positive or negative way.  There are times to be sorrowful and mourn. But at the same time, you have to know what’s appropriate to mourn for. Sometimes you’ve just got to suck it up and go on.”

He said that wheelchair racing often feels like a roller-coaster ride.  Going up the hills is hard, taking lots of upper body strength, but coming down is crazy.  He chuckled, “You talk about getting over 35 mph in a race chair, it starts getting a little hairy, especially if you’ve got to turn and you’ve got people a couple of inches from you drafting. One person makes a mistake and you’re all going for a fuuuun, hospital-ending ride.”  

Jeremy has a good outlook on his life.  “[Some people] think just because you have a disability, you’re disabled and you can’t do anything.  It’s just awesome when you’re doing a race like [the Peachtree road race,] you’re pushing a four-minute mile and you know that there’s only a few Kenyans that are right behind you that can keep up with you.  It’s nice to know, people may look down at you, but at the same time in the back of your mind, you’re thinking, ‘Yeah, but I’m a whole lot faster.’”

So Jeremy took a rough break, adjusted to his new limitations and got an education, married a nice girl and became a father.  And he got back to his favorite sport, racing.  He helps others find their way through their new disabilities at Shepherd Center, giving back to the facility that helped him recover his freedom and racing passion.  

For more information, see:  Troyke, Christine Gwinnett Daily Post  With a Purpose, UGA Grad Uses Wheelchair Racing as Inspirational Tool.  2 July 2011, found at

August 15, 2011

Chef Marcus Samuelsson Gives Back

I just got back yesterday from a family reunion.  On the airplane, I read about a young man who did some amazing things.  His name is Marcus Samuelsson, although it once was Kassahun Tsegie.  He was born in Ethiopia in 1970 to parents who struggled with Tuberculosis.  His mom died when he was just 3 years old.   He ended up in a Swedish-sponsored orphanage, where a young Swedish couple saw him and adopted him and his older sister.  They renamed him Marcus and his sister they renamed Linda, and they gave the two their last name of Samuelsson.  
Marcus had a completely different life in Sweden than he had experienced in Ethiopia.  In Ethiopia, food was scarce and the people worked hard to survive.  In Sweden, food was more abundant like we’re used to here in America.  Marcus learned to fish and cook the fish he caught.  His grandmother was a chef at a restaurant, and he loved to watch her cook.  He started to cook with her, and he learned how to make delicious Swedish meals from her.
At age 16, Swedish children choose their career paths, and he chose cooking.  He took the proper courses at a culinary school by day and practiced at local restaurants by night, as his career training dictated.  He was ambitious and worked hard.  After graduating, he apprenticed (or practiced being a chef in restaurants under guidance from an actual chef) in Switzerland and Austria, and then in New York City.  After his apprenticeship ended, he worked in New York City at a restaurant called Aquavit at the age of 20.  He rose quickly to the position of ‘Sous Chef.’
The goal of every chef is to become the Executive, or head chef at a restaurant.  It usually takes years of cooking and working under the Executive chef’s direction before a cook becomes an Executive chef.  Marcus proved himself quickly, becoming the youngest Executive Chef ever at the age of 24 at Aquavit in 1995.  If you’ve watched the Disney movie, ‘Ratatouille,’ you can appreciate how hard he must have worked to become the head chef so young. He also won the coveted ‘Best Chef New York City’ award.  Imagine how hard that would be in such a large city with so many great restaurants!  And he has written several cookbooks, appeared on TV shows including ‘Martha Stewart Television’ and written columns for the New York Times.  
But Marcus had other goals as well.  Coming from a country that struggles to feed it’s citizens, Marcus has always wanted to help out.  He said, “I always think, how can I give back?  I have an obligation that’s larger than myself.”  He donates time to the Careers through Culinary Arts Program in New York, which teaches young people how to cook so that they can find work to support their families.  
On an international level, Marcus has served as an Ambassador for UNICEF for over 10 years.  His emphasis is raising money for the treatment of Tuberculosis, the disease that affected his early life so dramatically.  The money is used to develop programs to treat victims of the disease in developing countries like Ethiopia.  
He said, “I appreciate my Ethiopian roots because I see how hard people have to work there to survive, and I understand just how fortunate I am to live in this country. I am inspired by the way the people of Ethiopia lead their lives, and how everyone tries to help one another in the community. Their drive inspires me to work as hard as I can to take the knowledge I have about food and to share it with those who want to learn how to prepare fresh, affordable meals.”
The next time we go to New York City, we are going to look for his new restaurant, Red Rooster Harlem and try to meet the owner.  He came from a rough beginning, took advantage of his opportunities and worked hard to made a better life for himself, and he shares it with others through his charity work.  


“Chef Marcus Samuelsson of Red Rooster:  Biography.”  Star August 2010: n. page. Web.  15 Aug 2011.
Samuelsson, Marcus.  “About Me.”  Marcus  Web.  15. Aug 2011. 
Zimmern, Andrew.  “Three Chefs Who Give Back.”Delta Sky Magazine, August 2011:75.  Print.

August 8, 2011

Young King Josiah Impacts Hundreds of Thousands

This week I found a young man who impacted thousands of people.  Hundreds of thousands of people, really.  He was King Josiah of the Old Testament.  You may have heard of him before, but I hadn’t, so I thought I’d tell you about him.  

Josiah was 8 years old when his wicked father King Amon was assassinated by some of the leaders in the kingdom.  He was the King of Judah, and a very bad man, just like his father Manasseh.  So Josiah, at 8 years old, was made King of Judah because the people knew he’d be a better king than the two reigning kings before him.  While his dad and grandpa ruled Judah, people had started worshiping idols.  Solomon’s temple had been shut down, and other small temples throughout the kingdom had been polluted with idolatry.  They had been weakened as a people so much by wickedness that they paid another kingdom, Assyria, heavy taxes to keep them from destroying them.  Josiah allowed the good men that put him in power help him rule the kingdom.

When he was 16 years old, he decided he needed to know the truth.  He ‘sought after the God of David.’  He gained a testimony of God and His work among Josiah’s people, the tribe of Judah.  He realized the wickedness going on in the temples, and he started to destroy all of the idols in the kingdom.  He closed the temples and desecrated the altars used to sacrifice to idols.  He stopped the human sacrifices that had also crept into their worship.  And he set aside funds to restore Solomon’s temple, so it could be rededicated to God and used as God intended.  This took a few years to do all of this.

While workers were cleaning out Solomon’s temple as part of the restoration, when Josiah was about 20 years old, they found some scriptures written on scrolls.  The workers sent them to King Josiah, who was anxious to see what they said.  When the scribe read what the scrolls said, Josiah was upset.  He was so upset that he tore his clothes and wept.  The words condemned the people for idolatry, talking of destruction and horrible things.  Wasn’t Josiah trying to eradicate it?  Was God still unhappy with them?  Josiah did what any good King would do—he consulted with the Prophet, or in this case, a Prophetess.  

The current Prophet was Jeremiah, but he couldn’t read.  Hulda, the Prophetess could read.  Servants took the scrolls to her and asked her to speak to God to clarify things.  Hulda confirmed the words in the scroll, saying that people would indeed suffer as described in the scroll because their hearts were still idolatrous.  But to Josiah personally God said, “Because thine heart was tender and thou has humbled thyself before the Lord, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes and wept before me; I also have heard thee.  Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace, and thine eyes shall not see all this evil which I will bring upon this place.”  

When Josiah heard these words, he was still upset.  He loved his people and didn’t want them to suffer as was spoken.  So he called for a huge meeting, kind of like King Benjamin did in the Book of Mormon.  He invited all of the tribes of Israel, not just Judah, to meet at Solomon’s temple.  There, he read all of the words of the covenant that had been found on the scroll.  And just like King Benjamin, he covenanted with God there to ‘walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all his heart and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book.’  All of the people there, in Jerusalem and Benjamin, agreed to also keep the commandments.  A huge group of people listened to a young king and covenanted with God to be righteous.  

Josiah’s campaign against idolatry gained new momentum, as he spread his destruction to all of the other tribes’ lands too.  More idols were broken into pieces and the priests who participated in the rituals were stripped of authority.  iHThe temple continued to be rebuilt and cleansed, in preparation to being rededicated to God.

For the first time in generations, Josiah held a massive Passover at the temple.  It was a great occasion because people from all of the 12 tribes of Israel came to celebrate!  And at the Passover, the whole group declared their independence from foreign powers and their dependence on God.  Josiah had been successful at uniting all of the tribes in their dedication to righteousness.

Not all of the people were there.  Many loved their idols too much to repent and change.  They stayed home.  But Josiah must have been happy to see that he could help the people willingly turn from their idolatry and find God’s blessings.  Josiah lived to see peace and unity in his kingdom for several years before he died at the age of 39.  His sons, one after another, reigned in Judah, but without the commitment and zeal that Josiah had.  Within a few years, the prophecy Huldah confirmed began to be seen.  Babylon swept through Judah and forced them to pay taxes or be destroyed.  When one of Josiah’s sons stopped paying that tax, the city was besieged, people were taken hostage to Babylon and Jerusalem had fallen.  

Josiah’s reign was a short peaceful era, all begun because a young king became converted to the Lord and encouraged his people, and surrounding peoples to participate in his covenants with God.  This is what was said of him in 2 Kings 23:25, “Like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him.”  

Even young men can make a huge difference in the world. 

Aside from 2 Kings 22-23 and 2 Chronicles 3-4, see Olsen, Camille Fronk. Women of the Old Testament Pages 145-160, the section on the Prophetess Hulda.

August 2, 2011

Linda West's Injury That Prompted Friendship

This story is about a girl named Linda that I didn't meet until she was all grown up.  This girl grew up to be my Mom!  I want to let her tell you the story.  She wrote:
When I was about nine or ten years old, I was hit in the eye by a large rock.  My eye was blackened and my nose bloodied, plus a bump was raised on my nose.  I faithfully rubbed olive oil on the scars and they went away, but the bump didn't.  I became extremely self-conscious about my nose.  It was rather large in comparison to the rest of my face, and I took a lot of teasing.  Up until then, I had usually felt like I fit in with my friends, but now I felt really different, and ugly.  For a while I went into a shell and just felt ugly.  I didn't like people to see my profile and I used to look at people with straight noses with envy.  Then somewhere along the line the idea came to me, 'Well, if they don't like me for my looks, I'd better have something else to offer!'  I decided that I would be a real fun person to be with and try to be interested in other people and their lives, instead of feeling sorry for myself.  I made a real effort to do this, and it worked!  I forgot about my nose and myself in reaching out to others.  I was still a little self-conscious around people I didn't know, but I gradually came to think that if people didn't like it, they could lump it.  They could learn to like me for myself, not for what I looked like.  This process took a long time and there were a few setbacks, but usually I felt pretty good about myself.

I have to add more to this story.  It doesn't end here.  When she said she'd become a 'real fun person' she meant it.  Linda became the 'life of the party' wherever she went.  Her cousins, who knew her as a kid, thought she was great fun.  She came up with fun things to do and always looked for the positive in what was going on.  And she showed an interest in them and tried to help them.

As a kid, I had the funnest, craziest and happiest Mom ever.  All of my friends loved to play at my house.  She played games with us kids, took us fun places and made us feel like we were the center of the universe.  She loved life and made life great for everyone around her.  Whenever she drove kids somewhere, like to Girls' camp, all of the kids wanted to drive in her car.  Sometimes I'd end up in some other car because they'd pass a sign-up sheet around and by the time I'd see it, her car would be full!  And when she went to Girls Camp as a leader, she pulled as many pranks on everyone as the kids did.  When I'd have problems with friends or kids at school, she'd always come up with ways to make friends with the person, not retaliate.  And when I felt like I didn't fit in, she'd tell me to start a new trend, not to follow the crowd.  Many times I'd come home from school to see other young people at my house, talking with her.  She helped them work through their problems by listening and offering encouragement.  Somehow she always made it seem like everything would be all right. 

Linda's nose, a real trial in her life, became the reason she learned how to become a good friend.  Because she felt ugly, she decided to develop her personality instead of focusing on her appearance.  And it paid off her whole life, because as she became a good friend, she was always surrounded by good friends.  Her 'ugly' nose became a real blessing in her life and in the lives of all of those she treated kindly.  She forgot herself and her problems and reached out to help and make life better for others.

It's a good exercise to try to figure out what good can come from our trials.  How would her life turned out if she had just felt ugly and felt sorry for herself?  Probably nothing like the wonderful friend and mother that she became.  And when her nose was first injured, would she have called it a blessing?  No!  She could only see the value in this trial afterward.