Category Archives: Uncategorized

Valley Forge Christian College: A Greatest Hits Collection 1993-1997

vfcc signBelow are a collection of memories about Valley Forge Christian College.  I have rehearsed them often while falling asleep or driving a long distance in the hope that I do not forget the details.  Feeling especially nostalgic today made me want to record them.  Perhaps I won’t have to rehearse them as much now.

“All my life I want to be a Patriot.  Bang! Bang, baby!  Bang! Bang!”

cross countryAfter arriving on campus for a week or so in the fall of 1993, Rachel and Jamee told Josh and I that the Cross Country team needed more male runners.  If they didn’t get more runners, they may not have a team.  I think that all Josh and I heard was, “Girls,” and we were sold.  The first day, we ran hills up Mary Hill Road.  Running hills was a terrible idea.  Hills go uphill.  When hills don’t go up hill, they go down hill, which is bad, as well.  When we weren’t running up or down hills, we ran out Seven Stars Road to a quarter-mile gravel track and sprinted.  One day right before practice, Josh and I ate a medium pizza from Bob’s Haven Deli.  Surely pizza would empower me to run better.  It didn’t.

On the first race, we went for a warm-up run- a warm-up run of 5 miles.  FIVE MILES. TO WARM UP.  I had no idea that running involved so much running.  I came in last place.  People were eating their bagged lunches by the time that I crossed the finish line at 43 minutes.  The winner finished in half of that time.

However, running sparked something in me: Courage.  And, courage’s cousin: Not-Fear.  Sports were rare for someone who was my size.  I was average to below-average at throwing, kicking and especially physical contact.  Bumping into another player during an athletic competition usually meant that my teeth were rattled, my contacts were knocked out and it hurt a lot.  Running didn’t have the hazard of running into another person.

I discovered that I could run for a long time.  Moreover, each race had faster finish time than the one before.  In my final race of my first season I had my fastest time, we were at Roberts Wesleyan for the National Championships.  Snow was on the ground.  A lot of snow.  It was cold.  In my wisdom, I covered my entire body in Atomic Balm while getting ready in the locker room.  If I could get used to shivering in the locker room, it wouldn’t be as much of a shock when I walked out into the cold.  Thirty-two minutes later (and still in last place), I crossed the finish line.  Not sure about the Atomic Balm but I really did want to get back inside.

Running led to trying other sports like soccer, volleyball and baseball.  And the best part was, I even got a nickname: Pete.

“Who gave me this flower I’m holdin’?  I guess I gave it to myself again.”

jc powerhouseAfter running on the Cross-Country team, I was introduced to JC Powerhouse Coffeehouse.  Dave Seyfried and Mike Leo were hilarious.  The Somethings and Rainchildren became the soundtracks of my college experience- even more than Jars of Clay, DC Talk, any of the Winds of Worship, The Cranberries, The Counting Crows or the Gin Blossoms.  The skits were the funniest performances that I had ever seen.  I needed to be a part of this.

gimpy and peteThe first act was a Gimplestein and Brownfunkle number in the theater.  The student center was only operational for my first semester so I never experienced the beginnings.  Gimpy and I practiced in the hallway of #91 Down and I can’t remember the tune or the words.  What I remember is that people laughed and wanted more.  No one in the audience knew that I was not very cool in high school.  In fact, I was probably a geek.  There, on that stage, I started over.  No one knew how awkward I was at Roswell Kent or Garfield.  Here, people liked me; they really liked me.  If running helped me to be courageous, Joe C and JC Powerhouse fanned a flicker of self-confidence.  It wasn’t long before Paul, Pat and I were singing about a hot dog, Beth Bertone, being a Jesus Freak and the being house band with Steve, Josh, Jason and Dennis.

“Just wave at him.  He can’t hear so he probably won’t talk back to you.”

Several jobs occupied my time at Valley Forge: Clerk at J. Riggins at the King of Prussia Court, delivery guy for the “Evening Phoenix” newspaper and delivery guy for Bob’s Haven Deli (to this day, still my favorite meal).  My favorite job, however, was cleaning and straightening the Chapel.  Each night, I rearranged the maroon Chapel chairs into neat rows, picked up trash and ran the vacuum.  Straightening 500 chairs each night in silence was therapeutic.  I walked into a cock-eyed room and left it ready for the next day.

Some nights, worship teams or drama teams practiced.  It was months later that I was told but one group had convinced a member of their team that I couldn’t hear or speak.  And, for some reason, I only waved at them while they rehearsed.

“Today’s reading from The Blue Book is…”

Most people go to college for the classes.  I did too.  New and Old Testament with Brubaker, Youth Ministry with Comenzo, Romans with Dippold, A/G Theology and Hermeneutics with Marino, History of Christianity with Miller were my favorite courses.  Up to this point, I had a haphazard sense of theology and ministry.  These classes helped me find channels or courses in which to focus my thinking.  Never before had the rapture or St. Augustine or crisis ministry been explained so clearly and helpfully.  I was a sponge; an over-sized-flannel-wearing, Doc Marten-wearing sponge. While I didn’t truly enjoy reading until a year after leaving Valley Forge, my thinking began to stretch and focus at the same time through my exposure to ideas in the classroom.

“I could do that.”

tim wolf and jesseTwo men had the greatest impact on my life during those years: Tim Wolf and Mr. Tavani.  Tim and Mr. T were in the Student Life office and I enjoyed talking with them (and still do). There were two defining moments with Tim Wolf where I felt a stronger sense of direction for my life in Higher Education.  The first was at a welcome back event in the fall of 1995.  Tim and I sat and talked about the upcoming year and it was here that I learned that I could work at a college as an occupation.  Up until this point, I was planning on being a pastor but that night talking with Tim opened my eyes to see that there were other vocational opportunities that were just as important as working with church folks but I could work with college folks.

The second defining moment was during a crisis on campus.  A member of the student body had unexpectedly passed away during the school year.  To help students process their grief, Tim invited anyone who was interested to come to the big classroom outside of Chapel to talk.  The room was full of students seated at desks.  Tim spent the next hour or two sharing his thoughts and hearing the concerns of the students.  He affirmed their grief and confusion and let them speak their minds.  I didn’t know the student too well but wanted to support my friends who did.  As I watched Tim navigate the collective grief and pain, something in my heart said, “I could do that.  I could help students make sense of their joys and pains.”  From this point on, I wanted to work with college students.

“I’m not here to be your friend.  I have enough friends already.”

tavanis and jesseMr. Tavani was new to Valley Forge.  I was a resident assistant my senior year and Mr. T was hired only weeks before the school year began.  We had all gathered outside of the Admin building to leave on a retreat and he arrived: shirt collar popped, laughing loudly, fingers running through his thick Italian shock of hair.  Who pops their collar anymore?  This was 1996 not 1986!

We arrived at the retreat site and spent the day as a whole group.  It was great to be with Jake and the other RAs and talk about the upcoming year.  That night, we met- just the male RAs with Mr. T.  He started our small group with, “I’m not here to be your friend.  I have enough friends already.”  I guess that a lot of people would have bristled at that: “Who was this new guy?  And, why wasn’t he even interested in our friendship?”  I, however, didn’t feel this way.  I was hooked.  What I heard from his statement was, “I’m not here to have favorites.  I’m not here to fancy-pants around and waste time.  I’m here to help you guys work with your students and kick butt for Jesus while doing it!”

This was the beginning of a great mentoring relationship between Mr. T and I.  We spent hours upon hours talking about college, learning, love, communication, family, parenting, girls, relationships, or being a dad.  We drank a lot of tea and listened to jazz records.  I could go over to his apartment whenever I wanted to talk.  He let me ask dumb or embarrassing questions.  He was always excited to see me.  He always sent me away encouraged. He fed me.  He didn’t laugh at the immature things that I said or did.  He believed in me.  Away from home, he parented me.

“Meet at the G-Lodge for lunch?”

ocean city njLastly, I made friendships.  I am disappointed at the reality that I no longer see my friends from Valley Forge except through Facebook.  Moving 12 hours away from college and the east coast has lead me away from many of their new homes.

I would have never made it without Gimpy, Tim, Luis, Josh, Fresh Dan, Pat, Gary, Jake, Abie, Dave and Phil; Rachel, Jamee, Sara, Carrie, Jeannie, Dorie and Janel.  Without my friends on the cross-country team, the soccer team and in 91 Down (#9), my life would have been tasteless and boring.  Knowing that my friends would be in the same seats at Chapel or for dinner, gave me rhythm to my day.  Knowing that we would stay in the dining hall until Chris kicked us out gave me the satisfied feeling that the day would be closing soon.  Eating at TD Alfredo’s or the G Lodge Diner; walking through Valley Forge National Park; visiting Ocean City, NJ each Labor Day; getting a sub at Wawa before curfew; going on a spring break trip to Myrtle Beach; walking into a crowded room at Josh C’s side the night that he got all of his hair cut off; playing roller hockey; watching “So, I Married an Axe Murderer” or “Son-In-Law” in #5 Up; going to the laundry mat on Saturday mornings or just making up a stupid game that involved smashing each other’s hands on the table, my life was enriched with their presence.

Many times since then, I have wished that we could get back together so that we could help one another navigate through the stages and questions of life following college: buying a home, electing a president, picking a church, becoming a parent, reading good books, having a real job or just following Jesus.

Whenever I left campus to go on break or just went to Wawa, it was my friendships that I couldn’t wait to return to.

I knew that it wouldn’t last forever but I hoped that it would.

Sometimes I think

we could have gone on.

All of us. Trying. Forever.

But they didn’t fill the

desert with pyramids.

They just built some. Some.

They’re not still out there,

building them now. Everyone,

everywhere, gets up, and goes home.

“On The Strength Of All Conviction And The Stamina Of Love”

Jennifer Michael Hecht


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January 20, 2013 · 8:00 am

Want to start running? Here are a few ideas.

Running is therapeutic.  Running clears out cobwebs in my spirit.  Running makes me more patient with my children.  I turn on the U2 Pandora station, ESPN radio or my 90’s rap / rock iTunes running mix and feel the sunshine for an hour or two.  I enjoy the exertion of my body and the accomplishment of pushing myself for a distance.

As someone who enjoys running and shares workouts over social media, I have many conversations with friends about running: “Training for any races?” or  “I saw you on Jefferson the other day.  How far did you go?” or “I can’t stand running.  I don’t know how you enjoy such a miserable activity.”  For other runners, we share a bond similar to motorcyclists on the highway.  For some non-runners, running is a curious punishment.  For others, they are curious about starting.  In response to a handful of friends interested buying new shoes, how to train or just beginning, here are a few ideas to get you going:

  1. Start with a manageable running distance.  For some folks, going around the block non-stop is an accomplishment.  For others, a mile or two is a good beginning.  Whatever the mileage is, start with a manageable running distance.  After a few weeks, increase the distance at least once a week.  For example, if you run 1 mile, 3 days a week, add a second mile for your 3rd run that week.  Scaling distances like this is easy to do and feels non-threatening.  You don’t need to run 10 miles every time that you walk out of the door with your running shoes on.  Some days are easier than others.  Increasing time or distance is easier to do once you get going.
  2. Saucony+Kinvara+200728Pay attention to clothing / shoe technology but don’t let it stop you from running.  My former running equipment consisted of shoes from Wal-Mart, swimming trunks, cotton tee-shirts and whatever socks that I could find.  I now run in a decent pair of very light shoes ($70 Saucony Kinvara, pictured here), thin and light shorts (but not short shorts), and cushioned running socks.  While I cannot say that it has impacted my speed or endurance performance but it has made me more comfortable while running.  Light clothes weigh less and have less friction.  Running is already an uncomfortable activity.  Don’t make it more uncomfortable by wearing heavy clothes and shoes.  My latest purchase was a pair of compression socks.  They are like sports bras for your shins and worn by people with cranky legs.  Not wanting to be confused for a cranky old man running, my socks are lime green.  The jury is still out on their effectiveness with leg cramping.  Having said all of this, don’t NOT run because you don’t have ideal shoes and clothes.  Start running in what you have.  The more time spent running, the easier it is to dip into your monthly budget to support your habit.
  3. About running shoes, go for comfort and fit.  Some running stores will watch you run and give you feedback regarding pronation (foot angles inward) or supination (foot angles outward).  I have never been fitted for shoes to correct either concern.  In my opinion, I don’t know if it matters after you have run for a few miles and your form breaks down. When you run on a treadmill for a minute in front of a shoe person, your body is on its best behavior.  It may take a few shoes and many miles to find some that are comfortable.  Once you find a good pair, you can easily shop around online to find the best deal.
  4. mapmyrunKeep track of your miles.  There are a number of apps and online sites that Google can provide.  I use Map My Run on my iPhone.  With GPS, I can keep real-time track of miles run or the monthly / annual number of miles.  As you keep track of hours, minutes and miles run, you can be encouraged by how far you’ve gone over a period of time.  For example, to date, I’ve run 575.92 miles over 126 hours, 59 minutes and 47 seconds.  From my home, that is equivalent to running to eastern Pennsylvania; western Tennessee; and almost to Thunder Bay, Ontario.  Even if you’ve only run 30 miles in a month or two, that’s at least equivalent to somewhere that you drive that you would not have considered running to before.  Also, with Map My Run, there is the option of a voiceover on your music for mile splits.  No longer do you need to have a course mapped out ahead of time.  You can walk out the door, start running and not be concerned at how far you’ve gone or when to return home.  Keeping track of miles and time will also help you keep track of your per mile pace.
  5. Post your workouts on social media.  Posting your workouts is a way to connect and be encouraged by others.  No matter your experience, it is greater than someone else’s and your workout can be an encouragement to others.  Many people will approach me about my running that I would otherwise not speak to.  It has opened doors of communication with many people.  Some people have asked me, “Isn’t that a big arrogant to post a workout?”  Perhaps but as long as it is common for people to post pictures of what they’re eating, I’m going to post pictures of what I’m running.
  6. Bo_JacksonSign up for a race.  Here is where the rubber hits the road because now you’ve got skin in the game. No longer are you just running willy-nilly, fancy-pantsing around your cul-de-sac in your cute shorts.  You switched from running to training.  Do you know who else trains?  Athletes train.  Bo Jackson trains.  You train.  You have something in common with Bo Jackson: You both sweat, prepare and work hard for a chance at greatness (or at least, not dying) in a 1-miler, 5k, half-marathon or even more.  These are all bucket list items.  There are several online calendars for bigger races and it is difficult to go too many weeks in your region without some organization having a 5k.  Soon, you’ll have obscure racing tee-shirts and be the envy of all of your non-running friends.
  7. You don’t need to win the race.  Many people don’t sign up for a race because they won’t win the race.  Chances are, if you are able to win a race, you aren’t reading these beginning running tips.  Don’t worry about winning a race.  Be concerned about trying hard and accomplishing goals.  For your first goal, just finishing the race is an excellent goal.  Or, not walking.  Or, finishing in under 30 / 60 / 90 /120 minutes.  My goals: To finish a half-marathon in under 1:40:00 and a full marathon in under 4:00:00.  Right now, my best half-marathon is 1:44 and my best full marathon is 4:11:00.  In each of the last 3 marathons that I’ve run, I cried each time that I crossed the line because I was in so much pain that I was relieved that I didn’t have to run any longer.  I’ve got work to do.
  8. Speaking of friends, find a running group.  Running is a community event.  Runners like other runners.  Runners speak runner.  Find a group of like-paced runners at your church, work, Facebook or YMCA to meet a few times a week or month.  Perhaps Saturday mornings are group runs while other runs are more solo-efforts.  Friends can provide accountability and support.  Even if the group is diverse in pace and experience, many experienced runners will run slower paces to run with the group.  Perhaps you can train for a future race and run together.  Honestly, this is advice that I don’t follow.  I’m more of a solo runner because it is time for me to recreate.  I would benefit more from taking advantage of my local running community.
  9. light poleDon’t be afraid to walk.  I enjoy running distances of over 4 miles.  I don’t even leave my house without running 4-6 miles and many times, it is 8-12 miles.  People often ask me, “How do you run for 12 miles without stopping?”  My answer, “I don’t run non-stop.  In a 12-mile run, I will walk at least 3 or 4 times for 30-60 seconds.”  Walking helps to re-set your muscles all over your body.  I am amazed at how refreshed I feel when I can walk for a short distance before picking up the pace again.  The key, however, is to either know the time or distance that you will walk before you start walking so that you don’t walk indefinitely.  I usually pick a street light or mailbox as a point at which I will regain my running pace.
  10. Some safety tips: Don’t run at night or with two ear buds in.  In my town, many drivers are not paying attention to runners.  I rarely run after dark because I am concerned about cars, dogs and the uneven ground surface.  Moreover, I only use one ear bud (I just cut off the other ear bud) so that I can listen for cars and dogs.  I take it upon myself to NOT get hit by a car or eaten by a dog.  I hate being startled while running.  My running takes balance and I am often lost in thought.  A hard-charging Labrador or even a Poodle can make me wet myself so I’ve learned to be attentive to animals who believe me to be a giant chew toy.  And, sometimes it is good to listen to your footfalls and heartbeat.  Having too much musical distraction takes away from the opportunity to reflect on your insides and the rhythm of your breathing and stride (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 breath, repeat).
  11. Drink what tastes good.  I love Gatorade.  After a long, hot run, there is nothing more refreshing than sitting on my front steps and drinking Gatorade that has been in the freezer for the length of my run.  For longer runs, I keep drinks and snacks on my front porch and plan my course to go by my house often enough to eat or drink.
  12. finish lineLastly, enjoy yourself.  This is probably easier said than done.  Some days you may even experience a runner’s high from the released endorphins.  I have probably experienced this a few times but don’t chase after it.  My enjoyment comes from knowing that I have pushed my body to do what I have told it to do (too often it is the other way around), I’ve accomplished running a designated distance (especially the long routes that go up the hill on Route 24), and the feeling of blood coursing through my legs, arms, chest and even my forehead as I sit still finally on my front steps with my Gatorade.  That is satisfaction.

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Death of Martin Luther King, April 4, 1968

On this date, April 4, 1968, pastor and civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King was killed in Memphis, Tennessee.  His last days were spent raising awareness of a sanitation workers strike.  The day before, April 3, 1968, he had delivered a passionate speech which later became titled, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”. 


Much celebration is given to Dr. King’s birthday (January 15, 1929) but it seems appropriate to spend time reflecting upon his final moments and the loss that the world experienced in the blink of an eye.  Below is King historian, Taylor Branch’s account of King’s final moments on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel which are taken from Branch’s extensive book, “At Canaan’s Edge: American in the King Years 1965-68”, pages 765-766:


King walked ahead of Rev. Billy Kyles to look over the handrail outside, down on a bustling scene in the parking lot. Police undercover agent Marrell McCullough parked almost directly below, returning with James Orange and James Bevel from a shopping trip to buy overalls. Orange unfolded his massive frame from McCullough’s little blue Volkswagen, tussling with Bevel, and Andrew Young stepped up to rescue Bevel by shadow-boxing at a distance. King called down benignly from the floor above to be careful with preachers half his size. McCullough and Orange walked back to talk with two female college students who pulled in just behind them. Jesse Jackson emerged from the rehearsal room, which reminded King to extend his rapprochement. “Jesse, I want you to come to dinner with me,” he said.

Kyles, overhearing on his way down the balcony stairs, told King not to worry because Jackson already secured his invitation. Jackson does not try to bring his whole Breadbasket band, while Chauncey Eskridge was telling Jackson he should upgrade from turtleneck to necktie for dinner.  Jackson called up to King: “Doc, you remember Ben Branch?”. He said Breadbasket’s lead saxophonist and song leader was native to Memphis.

“Oh yes, he’s my man,” said King. “How are you, Ben?” Branch waved.  King recalled his signature number from Chicago. “Ben, make sure you play ‘Precious Lord, Take My Hand,’ in the meeting tonight,” he called down. “Play it real pretty.”

“Okay, Doc, I will.”

Solomon Jones, the volunteer chauffeur, called up to bring coats for a chilly night. There was no reply. Time on the balcony had turned lethal, which left hanging the last words fixed in a gospel song of refuge. King stood still for once, and his sojourn in earth went black.


If you are interested in having a copy of his speech, it is free from iTunes (just search for “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop).  Please take time today to reflect on the life of Dr. King and how each of us can continue to work towards harmony with one another.  “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” is a powerful speech where King’s cadence and inspiration stir the soul in hopefulness.  

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Coffee d’Vine- A Sanctuary

Before the meeting room inside of Coffee d’Vine was built, the large wooden table by the mirror sat in the room’s footprint. Bookshelves and tables filled the remaining half of room by the fireplace. The other half of the room was more tables, chairs and the comfy furniture. The Beatles, Deliriou5, David Wilcox or classical music created an audible spine for the room. Several poster boards with senior pictures and newborn babies pictures were on the wall near the ramp.

The first owners of Coffee d’Vine, Bob and Cristi Sloan, were pastor-shepherds. They talked about Jesus, music, books, ministry and movies and wanted teenagers to loiter outside and didn’t mind them smoking in the parking lot. “I’d rather have them here than somewhere else,” one of them would say.

Their hearts were warm.

They were leading a movement.

They created a sanctuary for all sorts of people.

Rising early and reading has been my pattern since college, but in the fall of 2003, I developed an additional habit: morning coffee. At the large table, in the same seat with the same view, I sat and warmed my spirit for the coming day with Northern Lights. On difficult mornings, an extra shot darkened the coffee.

The other usuals eventually arrived for sanctuary and conversation: Robert with the newspaper, the tall man with the refillable mug, the man who sat on the leather couch, the dental assistants, the drive-thrus and the men who talked politics.

Other than my home, Coffee d’Vine was the holiest retreat in Huntington — a place where I met and talked with God through the Journal Gazette, Merton’s wanderings, Earnest Gaines’ old men, Wangerin’s mice and hens, Dostoyevsky’s Alyosha, Bonhoeffer’s grace, Buechner’s peculiar treasures, John Lewis’ walk over the Edmund Pettus Bridge and reading after reading of John’s Gospel.

I and others are indebted to Bob and Cristi for creating a sanctuary. For the many friends and strangers, we thank you for caring about Huntington. We thank you for creating a place to meet with one another, meet with ourselves and meet with the Father.

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Opening Lines of Novels

Below are some opening lines in novels written in 2006 and collected by Dave Eggers in his 2007  book The Best Non-Required Reading.”

That 1901 winter when the wife and her husband were still new to Washington, there came to the wife like a scent carried on the wind some word that wolves roamed the streets and roads of the city after sundown (Edward P. Jones, All Aunt Hagar’s Children)

He came up with the names.  (Colsen Whitehead, Aphex Hides the Hurt)

At the close of the workday on Thursday the twenty-fourth of January, 1822, Prue Winship sat down at the large desk in the countinghouse of Winship Daughters Gin to write a letter to her daughter, Recompense. (Emily Barton, Brookland)

I was not meant to be a dissident.  (Nell Freudenberger, The Dissident)

It is easy for a life to become unblessed. (Dana Spiota, Eat the Document)

It was Joseph Brodsky, the one person who had never caused any trouble, who did not want his daughter to marry David Bloom.  (Jennifer Gilmore, Golden Country)

When he looks at his hand, he sees the hand he remembers- ropy branching veins, a ridge of waxy skin on the inside of the wrist where he fumbled a glowing iron rod at his father’s forge one afternoon in 1966.  (David Long, The Inhabited World)

The castle was falling apart, but at 2 A.M. under a useless moon, Danny couldn’t see this.  (Jennifer Egan, The Keep)

He was lost.  (Kate Atkinson, One Good Turn)

She dreamt that it rained and she could not go out to meet him as planned.  (Leila Aboulela, The Translator)

The following might have happened on a late-fall afternoon in the Boston suburb of West Salem. (Heidi Julavits, The Uses of Enchantment)

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A belated Father’s Day poem

Driving State Road 60 northwest out of Salem,

10 miles out—
and 10 before you come to Spring Mill Park—

off to your right—for just a blacktop minute—
is Campbellsburg,

which was a town
when the man you were named for had his store there,

but a glance through your window reveals it’s now gray abandonment—
ugly sag and fall.

And you wonder who lives there now
and how anyone
even to have a brick store all his own
ever could.

But nothing about it matters to you half as much as that your dad
came in from that hill farm to the north
to go to high school there.

And that’s what you always point out to whoever’s with you in the car.

And through the years what all your passengers have had in common is
no matter how you point it out
they can’t care enough.

“Campbellsburg” by Reid Bush

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The last day of Amelia Earhart

On this day in 1937, Amelia Earhart was last heard from, somewhere over the Pacific. She had set out, with navigator Fred Noonan, to fly around the world. She said, “I have a feeling that there is just about one more good flight left in my system, and I hope this trip is it.” They left Miami on the first of June, and had completed all but about 7,000 miles of the trip when they landed in New Guinea. Maps of the area were inaccurate, and Noonan had some trouble navigating between the islands in the central Pacific. U.S. Coast Guard ships were stationed on the route to their next stop, the tiny Howland Island, to help guide them.

Earhart and Noonan took off from New Guinea, and were in sporadic communication with the Coast Guard cutter Itasca. The weather was cloudy and rainy, with very low visibility, and transmissions — when they came through at all — were faint and full of static. At 7:42 a.m., Earhart communicated: “We must be on you, but we cannot see you. Fuel is running low. Been unable to reach you by radio. We are flying at 1,000 feet.” Her last transmission, at 8:45 a.m., was “We are running north and south.”

There’s a growing body of evidence to suggest that she and Noonan may have made a forced landing on reef near a waterless, uninhabited island called Nikumaroro, and that they may have survived as castaways for a period of some months, collecting rainwater in the leaves of tropical plants and living off fish, birds, and turtles. Scientists are analyzing DNA from a number of sources, and an underwater exploration to look for remnants of the plane is scheduled for the summer of 2012.

She had a habit of writing letters to her husband, George Putnam, before each expedition, in case it should be her last. In one, she wrote: “Please know I am quite aware of the hazards. I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.”

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