Thirty years ago, Francine’s closest friend was diagnosed with AIDS and lived about only 30 months longer. As Francine and her husband visited her during those painful months, they saw how GMHC – Gay Men’s Health Crisis organization – was the one source of help. She promised her friend to do everything possible, so no one else would have to suffer that way, and ever since then Francine’s kept her promise.
AIDS WALK NEW YORK is famously the world’s biggest single-day fundraiser for AIDS, and over the years our family has known Francine, I’ve seen first hand it’s always the right month, the right day, the right time and place for her to ask someone to sponsor her. She’s seriously dedicated to raise funds to help – through GMHC’s prevention, care and advocacy programs – thousands of people affected by the disease in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
A quarter century ago, AIDS touched my family. Touched? It slammed, smashed and destroyed someone I grew up with and loved and wordlessly expected would be around – would BE – for so many more days and decades. It’s a big reason I’ve joined countless others cheering Francine on.
May 20th, the day of the walk, is a couple of weeks away, and Francine’s about $15,000 away from raising $600,000. For 30 years and counting, she’s been running a marathon, and her white and red race shirt says: “AIDS WALK NEW YORK • GMHC END AIDS. LIVE LIFE.”
UPDATE May 13, 2018: Francine’s about $9,600 away from her goal, and AIDS WALK 2018 is a week away.
On each anniversary of September 11, 2001, but not only on each anniversary, I remember the events of that day and how they’ve changed our world.
On Sept. 11, 2001, we were a week or so into the new school year at Grand Avenue Middle School in Bellmore, Long Island. Except for our class computers suddenly losing internet access early that morning, it began as an ordinary Tuesday.
Then, as students passed from one class to another, a few of my writing students came in announcing news they’d heard on the radio in art class: “Two planes crashed into the Twin Towers!”
“What?!” I said. “Well… one plane might have that sort of accident, but not two – the same day. Someone must’ve heard the info wrong.”
But, over the loudspeaker later that morning, our principal, Fino Celano, gave us the news – calmly, solemnly – of the terrorist attacks on Manhattan’s Twin Towers, the Pentagon… then the plane crash in the Pennsylvania field. No one had heard the info wrong.
When I got home from school that afternoon, the tile floors our construction workers had ripped up from the kitchen and surrounding rooms the day before were more scattered than stacked. We were replacing our radiant in-floor heating, and the ground floor looked “like a bomb went off” – though I felt guilty even having that thought.
So the night of September 11, 2001, my husband Len, my older daughter Sue and I ate dinner at a local cafe.
Throughout the meal we watched the news coverage of the attacks on the TV up in the corner, and whispered “Nightmare… surreal… oh my god….”
My younger daughter Laurie was at college in Westchester. During one of our calls later that week, I told her I wanted to get her a cell phone, especially because of her trips between college and home.
Though she didn’t think she needed one, by the end of the call she understood that her mom really needed her to have one.
UPDATEJuly 30, 2019: Head of the U.S. Executive Branch signed bi-partisan 9/11 Victim Compensation bill: “Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act.”