September 11 Ground Zero Heroes

by Chaplain Bob Ossler and Janice Hall Heck

“Heroes may not be braver than anyone else. They’re just braver five minutes longer.” Ronald Reagan

First responders, emergency workers, firefighters, police officers, construction workers search and rescue teams, search and recovery teams, and all the volunteers associated with the war-zone clean-up of ruin and loss–these were the true Ground Zero heroes. Showing strength deep within their souls, these men and women embodied the definition of endurance, heart, and true grit.

Working on The Pile photo by Dan Shafer. Used by permission in Triumph Over Terror by Bob Ossler and Janice Hall Heck

“Working on The Pile”– photo by Dan Shafer. Used by permission in Triumph Over Terror by Chaplain Bob Ossler and Janice Hall Heck

A hero willingly and knowingly risks personal safety and well-being for another human being. At Ground Zero, heroes of all kinds surrounded us. These heroes worked long hours during the day and then worked more hours at night under blazing lights. Committed to teamwork, they worked to the point of exhaustion and beyond, single-minded in purpose and laser-focused on the job at hand. After the hope of finding survivors faded, they doggedly searched for remains of work associates and civilians.

Danger surrounded them. Cave-ins on the Pile occurred without warning. The air they breathed contained not only the stench of death, but also asbestos particles, fiberglass splinters, toxic chemicals, and incinerated human remains–air that could poison their futures.

These heroes sacrificed time with their families to serve their crews, their city, and their country.

A few said, “It’s hard to be called a hero when you feel so eaten down and demoralized.” But these folks rose out of the ashes and served well. They deserve to be called heroes.

Excerpt from Triumph Over Terror

 

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Never Forget: Missing Persons, September 11, 2001

By Bob Ossler and Janice Hall Heck

In memory of those who lost their lives at Ground Zero after the terrorist attacks, and in recognition of the heroes who served there in the search and rescue, search and recovery, clean-up operations, and the volunteers who assisted them,  we will post multiple short excerpts from our book,  Triumph Over Terror during the month of September.

Missing Persons: Have You Seen Me?

“Walking the short distance to St. Paul’s Chapel, we encountered somber evidence of the huge number of people who died in the World Trade Center collapse.

MIssing Persons - After September 11. Photo by Mary Eble. Used by permission. Triumph Over Terror by Chaplain Bob Ossler and Janice Hall Heck

Missing Persons after 9-11 Photo by Mary Eble. Used by permission in Triumph Over Terror by Ground Zero Chaplain Bob Ossler and Janice Hall Heck

Frantic, grief-stricken loved ones, in confusion and disbelief, plastered photos and flyers for missing persons everywhere around the perimeter of Ground Zero and Lower Manhattan. Fluttering posters covered buildings, lampposts, fences, pillars, and windows.

Signs hung on chain-link fences and blocked existing ads on kiosks and subway walls.

Missing Persons photo on fence at St. Paul's Chapel. Photo by Mary Eble. From Triumph Over Terror by Ground Zero Chaplain Bob Ossler and Janice Hall Heck

Missing Persons photo on fence at St. Paul’s Chapel. Photo by Mary Eble. From Triumph Over Terror by Ground Zero Chaplain Bob Ossler and Janice Hall Heck

Signs. All sizes, colors, and shapes.  Hand-printed and computer-printed flyers. Hand-drawn and crayon-colored pictures by children. Photo collages of missing persons. Pictures of firefighters and police officers and emergency responders. Multi-generational family pictures. Photos of men and women, young and old. Thousands of pictures.

Loved ones…all lost in this vast destruction.”

Excerpt from Triumph Over Terror

 

 

 

 

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ADD/ADHD: Impulsive Artist

A short attention span is generally seen as a negative. In my case, I called it curiosity. I wanted to know everything, see everything, do everything. I couldn’t do this very well sitting on a hard seat in a classroom. I needed to move and jive and experiment and do things with my hands. Inattention wasn’t my problem. I paid attention to everything in my environment, but I could not focus on the teacher or the instruction at hand. Distraction could have been my middle name.

No surprise, academics was not my strong suit, but I found success in other areas. I had many competing interests and was always on the lookout for new…umm…distractions.

One time, midway in my military career, I went shopping at a hobby store and saw a

Seascape by Bob Ossler

Seascape by Bob Ossler

seascape painting.  I can paint that! I looked at art books and saw a tutorial on how to paint scenery. I bought the book and a beginner paint set with brushes, oil paints, and canvases then headed back to the dorm to try out my new hobby.

I tried to paint the seascape but got frustrated. The oil paints took too long to dry, and I was impatient to have my finished result. My tendency towards perfectionism kicked in and brought on frustration. My painting looked a bit messy from rushing with the slow-drying oil paints.

Obsessed with conquering this new desire to paint, I headed back to the art store and bought faster-drying acrylic paint. This worked better for me, but I hadn’t finished  my first painting when I started looking at other things to paint.  I hyper-focused on the idea of painting, but I wasn’t hyper focused on finishing the paintings.  Sounds like my life history: starts projects but doesn’t finish them.

bob painting masted ship

painting by Bob Ossler

I painted one seascape painting that looked pretty good. A few of my friends saw it and said, “Wow, you have talent.” One guy offered me five buck for the painting.

This floored me. I realized I could make a buck here and there by selling my paintings. I did a sunset harbor scene that a lot of people really liked. Most of my paintings took an hour or two to complete, sometimes a bit longer to allow time for drying. I calculated how much money I could make if I kept painting.

I got bored with seascapes and landscapes and wanted to paint other scenes. I painted the Eiffel tower, airplanes, flowers, and lighthouses. I even did a portrait of a girl that I liked. That painting surprised a lot of people, even her. I was precise on details. I got the crookedness in her teeth almost perfectly. This annoyed her.

After a while, reality dawned. Painting was fun, and people complimented me on my results. But I was no Picasso (even though I copied one of his paintings–“Peace and Joy”).

Painting would have to remain a hobby. I realized I had to put some of this same energy and enthusiasm into my work assignments (x-ray technology) in the military. After all, the training I received in the military would give me a means of earning income in civilian life.

Art would have to remain a hobby, one interesting distraction among many.

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Read Triumph Over Terror, a multi-award-winning book about Chaplain Bob Ossler’s interactions with suffering people in New York City’s Ground Zero after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. His stories will touch your heart and fill you with compassion for those emergency services workers, search and rescue workers, recovery workers, construction crews, and volunteers who served there in impossible conditions. #NeverForget this time in US History. Read the message of hope in this book.

 

 

 

 

 

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A.D.D. and High-Risk Jobs

People with ADD/ADHD often end up with high-energy, fast-action, high-risk jobs. Bob Ossler is no exception.

In his life time Bob has been an EMT, a paramedic, a firefighter, and an air-sea rescue diver with the Chicago Fire Department.

Bob at Meigs Field, Chicago ice dive 2003

Bob (Middle) at Meigs Field, Chicago ice dive 2003

In his early 20s in the military, Bob had a spiritual encounter that changed the direction of his life. Over the years, in addition to gaining further emergency services training, Bob sought out spiritual training.  After seventeen years of part-time study and despite his learning difficulties, Bob was ordained as a pastor. He became a part-time chaplain for the Melrose Fire Department while continuing to work for the Chicago Fire Department.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, he responded to the call for chaplains at Ground Zero in New York City. He shares many of his experiences of counseling families of victims, workers, and volunteers at Ground Zero in his book Triumph Over Terror.

As an adult, he was diagnosed with ADD which helped him understand why he had such trouble learning in school. Over the years he developed his own techniques for learning and remembering while studying in self-paced independent learnings settings. This type of learning became the key to his success.

Bob is now writing about his life and the lessons and strategies he used to compensate for his learning difficulties. He’s retired now, but he volunteers his time as chaplain of the Cape Coral Fire Department in Cape Coral, Florida. He still races to fires and accidents and other tragic situations, not to assist as an emergency service provider, but to serve as a chaplain. He offers comfort to people in distress and offers prayer when appropriate.

It has taken years, but Bob has found his calling.

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Read Triumph Over Terror, a multi-award-winning book about Chaplain Bob Ossler’s interactions with suffering people in New York City’s Ground Zero after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. His stories will touch your heart and fill you with compassion for those emergency services workers, search and rescue workers, recovery workers, construction crews, and volunteers who served there in impossible conditions. #NeverForget this time in US History. Read the message of hope in this book.

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ADD/ADHD: Like a Runaway Train

By Bob Ossler and Janice Hall Heck

Once people find out that I talk and write about ADD/ADHD, they want to talk. (ADHD is the official term for this disorder generally associated with children–attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. ADD, attention deficit disorder, is more commonly associated with adults, but in everyday conversation, people use and recognize the term ADD.)

A woman came up to me after church the other day and said, “I heard you were writing a book on ADD.”

“Yes,” I said, “I am working on a book with my coauthor Janice Hall Heck, a former teacher of children with special needs and an educational administrator.”ADHD signs

“My nephew has been diagnosed with ADHD. Can you tell me in five minutes what that means?”

“In my case, it means that my brain and my body are constantly on overload. It’s like having a runaway freight train in my head…it’s constantly needs to blow off steam and race down the tracks, skipping stations as it goes. I have a hard time putting on the brakes.

I’m a guy on a unicycle doing a high wire act while balancing and juggling a chainsaw, a ball of fire, a beehive, and a porcupine. High risk activities fall in my bailiwick.

I have difficulty with focus and attention. I see, hear, smell, and sense everything going on around me. My brain doesn’t filter out all these extraneous things, but treats them all with equal attention.

It’s like the computer analogy: garbage in, garbage out. Because my brain doesn’t filter out extraneous information, everything gets thrown into the hopper and ends up in a jumbled, tangled mess up there. This problem slows me down as I have to work harder to sort things out and figure out what is important to pay attention to and what I should ignore. That’s actually hard work.

As a child, I tuned out and went off on my own daydreams. Teachers called me a space cadet. Classmates called me stupid.

As an adult, I’ve learned to pay attention to what is happening around me. I have trained myself to focus in on our conversation, for example. I work hard to shut out all those other conversations going on around us,  as well as the actions, and other distracting elements in the environment so I can focus on you and our specific conversation.

A child with ADHD does not understand why this bombardment of competing distractions happens, why he seems to be so different from other children, or why other children seem to learn things faster. It takes wise parents and wise teachers to understand the dilemma the child faces every minute of his life. Overstimulation does not go away, so the child has to learn to manage it. The teacher and parents need to assist.

Bob and runaway freight train...

“My nephew has ADHD. Tell me in five minutes what that means.”

Parents need to be the child’s advocate and develop a friendly, working relationship with school personnel. By working together, the ADHD issues can be tamed but never eliminated. It’s a constant, ongoing battle.

Parents need to read everything they can get their hands on to learn about this learning difference. (I prefer to use the term learning difference, rather than learning disorder.)

 “I think I understand a little better now,” she said. I hope I didn’t overwhelm her.

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ADD/ADHD: Misbehavior or Undiagnosed Learning Disorder?

I admit it. I was a naughty boy. But, I wasn’t bad on purpose. I just managed to get myself in hot water just about every day. Daydreaming. Constantly up and out of my seat. Excessive talking. Unfinished work. Totally cluttered desk. A few well-deserved pokes at other kids here and there. Goofy faces and silly voices at the wrong times.

I guess you could say I was inattentive, distracted, and hyperactive.

Because my reading and math skills were poor, I was retained in second grade. I’m not sure I learned much more the second time around, but they passed me on to third grade.

In second grade the second time, I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. I was embarrassed at my failures and had no idea how to manage or change my learning or my behavior. Nowadays, my reading problem would be identified as dyslexia, and I would be offered assistance at school in learning how to read.

The teasing I had experienced previously expanded to torment when I repeated the grade. Former classmates, now in third grade, taunted me with calls of “dummy,” “retard” in the hallway. Now with me having to wear glasses, classmates added “four -eyes” to the name calling. My new classmates quickly picked up on the teasing and had a field-day themselves.

My difficulty pronouncing the letter L gave evidence to their dim view of me. I couldn’t even talk properly. When in the spotlight, as in oral reading, I goofed off, used silly voices and distorted facial expressions to avoid demonstrating my speech problem.

I actually learned to read with the patient help of my neighbor, Mrs. Kraus. She knew the key to success with me: bribes, I mean rewards. I struggled through every after-school reading session with her, sounding out words, rereading, and retelling stories.  With a closet full of coke and a freezer full of ice cream bars, she was my savior. One hour of struggling with reading equaled one ice cream bar. That’s good math in my book.

In third grade, Sister Johanna was my teacher, a no-nonsense nun who I called the “Warden.” She would’ve beaten Ali in the ring. She was nice but yelled and was wise to my antics. She ruled with her ruler…not for measuring but for hitting desks and occasional knuckles…the kind of discipline that wouldn’t happen in today’s world.

I tried to match wits with her many of times, arguing and trying to squirm my way out of trouble. She actually let me sound off,  and in the process, let me dig my own grave.

“Bobby, where are your glasses?”

“My doctor said I don’t need to use them anymore.”

“Really, Bobby? I will check with your mother.”

“That’s okay, Sister Johanna, my mom agreed with the doctor. She says I don’t need them.”

“I will check with your mother.”

Of course, my classmates loved that. “Bobby’s gonna get in trouble. Bobby’s gonna get in trouble.”

I hated the kids mocking me for being dumb and having to wear glasses, but I thought I’d rather be blind than be tortured by their comments. I fumed, but I couldn’t do anything about it.

I learned to be a manipulator.  I conned Mike out of his Twinkies or Hostess cupcakes every single day. One day I sold him a red/green inked pen, took it back later and sold it to him again the next day. This happened several times until Sister Johanna caught on and pulled me into the cloak room for a “private discussion.” She towered over me like a gorilla standing over a tiny child and soundly berated me.

“If you don’t change your ways, you’re going to end up in prison one day,” she said.

“I promise never to do anything like that again, ” I told her, crossed fingers behind my back.

Sister Johanna  was right about me going to prison. Years later, I became an ordained chaplain and did prison ministry for five years. Inmates need rehabilitation. They often meet Jesus in prison and attempt to mend their ways with his help.

ADD/ADHD back in PreADD days was seen as a discipline problem, not a diagnosis.

*****

Bob Ossler and Janice Hall Heck are working on a book about ADD/ADHD (as yet untitled) which we hope will be published in 2019. Follow this blog to keep posted on the timeline. Bob tells his stories of growing up and living as an adult with ADD and offers strategies he has learned at each point for coping with ADD.  ADD is no fun, but you can tame it.

*****

Read Triumph Over Terror, a multi-award-winning book about Chaplain Bob Ossler’s interactions with suffering people in New York City’s Ground Zero after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. His stories will touch your heart and fill you with compassion for those emergency services workers, search and rescue workers, recovery workers, construction crews, and volunteers who served there in impossible conditions. #NeverForget this time in US History. Read the message of hope in this book.

 

 

 

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ADD/ADHD Shame

This morning I read an article on the Internet about a middle school student who received an end-of-year award in front of his classmates.

His mother later reported: “He had tears in his eyes. He’s embarrassed because he had to accept it in front of his entire class.”

ADD award 

Name——————————-

Most likely to be distracted by…look something shiny!

Having ADD or ADHD is no fun. Classmates label children with ADHD “dumb,” “stupid,” or even more insulting names, usually out of hearing of the teachers or other adults.

Frustrated teachers, tired of the excessive talking or movement of children with ADHD sometimes drop remarks that singe the child’s emotional well-being. Being called a “space cadet” or a “talking machine” invites snickers from classmates. Other students receive the subtle message that it is okay to tease students whose learning style is different.

Educators know that children easily recall those things tied to emotions.

Shame and depression - pixabay

Shame and depression – Pixabay

Negative remarks affect us more than positive remarks. We play them over and over in our heads. We recall the full emotional impact of remarks made to us as children: who said what, where we were, what we were wearing, who was nearby. We can even remember what the weather was like that particular day. Stinging remarks have strong, long-term emotional impact.

Negative remarks ferment in our memory banks. They may be tucked away and forgotten for awhile, but they resurface in inconvenient times, even years later, complete with full emotional impact, when a similar event arouses them out of their reverie.

Facial expressions and body language can be just as bad. A frown, rolled-eyes, a deep sigh, a head shake, a pointed finger. All these send messages to the child or adult who learns differently.

Sad stories hit the news. Really? Do these thoughtless things happen?

Yes. Too often.

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Have you had a similar experience with derogatory remarks or actions being made towards you because of your learning differences?

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Note: future blog posts will suggest alternative responses that teachers and adults can use in situations where a child’s ADHD interferes with learning–his or her own or others.

*AD/HD is the official DSM-V diagnostic label for children who have attention, distraction and or hyperactivity behaviors to such an extent that they have difficulty with academic and social learning. (The slash is often dropped for ease in writing.)

ADD is an earlier term used for this disorder. It is often interchanged with ADHD, especially with adults where hyperactivity is not the main issue.

New Book on ADD/ADHD

Janice Hall Heck and Bob Ossler are working on a book about the challenges and difficulties of growing up and living with ADD/ADHD. Bob Ossler’s shares stories of difficulties he faced in life with his undiagnosed ADD, the lessons he learned in managing his learning style differences, and where he is today. Janice Heck adds strategies for assisting learning in academic and social settings. Check this website for information about the release of this book, most likely in 2019.

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Click here to order Triumph Over Terror on Amazon. This book is about Chaplain Bob Ossler’s experiences at Ground Zero after the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

 

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