Where were you?

Where were you?

9/11/01
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It's so hard to believe that it's been 15 years since the deadliest terrorist attack on United States soil. Everyone has their own personal story of what happened to them on that day, and what they experienced. The images of that day are forever ingrained in my brain. I was twelve years old and a student at St. Thomas Aquinas school, which was then located on 4th avenue and 8th street in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The building had four floors, many of the windows on the upper floor faced lower Manhattan.

On that sunny Tuesday morning, I left my classroom during first period. This was common, as the eighth graders headed downstairs to the Kindergarten classrooms and then to the library to participate in story time. I always enjoyed reading to the younger students, and I believe this probably contributed to my decision to become a teacher. During this time, the first plane had hit one of the towers. It was 8:46 AM.

After the period ended, I headed back up to my classroom with the other students. There was frenzy and chaos. The fifth grade class had a front row seat to the carnage that was going on outside their window. My mother, who taught seventh grade in the school at the time, luckily didn't witness what had happened, as her classroom was on the other side of the building. She was led out into the hallway by the screams of the other teachers as well as the students. Many of them had family members who were first responders or who had worked in the towers.

By this time, 9:03 AM had come around. I sat in horror in my desk, in the first row of the classroom, and watched the second plane hit the second tower. My teacher could no longer watch, so she shut the shades so we wouldn't be able to witness what was going on. The bell rang, and we switched classes.

The next class I had to go to was Social Studies, the class that my mother taught. We all settled into our desks in her classroom. My mother sent me down to the office with a note for the principal. Naturally, I read what it said. She had asked the principal for permission to turn on the radio so that we could all listen to the events unfold. She gave my mother permission, and I headed back up to the classroom.

My mother pulled me aside as soon as I entered the room. She wanted me to know that what had happened was not a tragic accident, but a planned attack on our freedom and our way of life. At the age of 12, I certainly understood what she was saying. I then desperately pleaded with my mother to check on the whereabouts of my father. He worked the overnight shift at the postal station across the street from the towers. Luckily, he had been off the night before. My sister, who attended FIT at the time and should have gone to class that day, stayed home. They watched the events unfold on the television.

We listened to the horrified voices of the news reporters as they told us of the events as they unfolded. It was time to switch classes again. I was headed back to my regular homeroom classroom for English class. The shades were opened. One by one, during the class that we desperately tried to hold, the towers collapsed and fell. The fiery inferno was reduced to rubble and smoke. The shades were drawn again.

The day droned on. We couldn't focus on learning with the carnage going on around us. As the day ended, my sister, my mother, and I were one of the last people to leave. My mother had to make sure all of her kids were safe and sound. We then left school. A teacher who I will forever thank, and who is no longer with us, drove us to 86th street and 4th avenue in Brooklyn, so we could catch the bus over to Staten Island. There was total chaos in the streets. People trying to get home, people worried about loved ones. People covered in soot and dust. My father desperately tried to get off the island to pick us up, but they had landlocked Staten Islanders but shutting down all the outgoing lanes on the bridges.

A few express buses were lined up outside the train station. They obviously, for reasons not needed to be stated, didn't need to be used in Manhattan. My mother walked on and asked where the bus was going, and he said Staten Island. She tried to dip her metro card, and the driver told her the ride was free. They just wanted to make sure that we all got home in one piece.

As we crossed the Verrazano, we once again saw the smoke revolving around lower Manhattan. The traffic on the bridge moved quickly, everyone just wanted to get home. School was cancelled the next day. I was fortunate enough to not have lost anyone in the attacks. My friends had parents who returned home covered in the dust. There were others who lost parents as well. My father picked us up at the bus stop immediately after the bridge, and we all headed home.

The news said that 10,000 had been feared dead. It was here that we learned there was an attack on the Pentagon as well as a plane that had crashed in Pennsylvania, possibly diverted from destruction by the brave souls on board who knew what had happened in Manhattan and on Washington. The plan was to attack several forces of American stability: our defense, our financial center, and our place of lawmaking.

I will forever remember a certain newscaster: Pablo Guzman. He worked for channel 4, NBC, at the time, and this was the channel that my family always turned to for news. It was about 6PM. The sun was still shining bright. Mr. Guzman was a tall man, but as he stood in the wreckage of what had happened on 9/11, he was up to his knees in debris. Burning papers, twisted metal, who knows what else he was standing in.

The smoke reached as far as my home. Every time I looked out the window, I saw it. This happened for days on end, and is certainly the reason many people suffer from cancer and other respiratory disorders after 9/11. Thank God for the Zadroga Act, but that's another story for another time.

School was cancelled the following day. We returned to school on a Thursday. My father took the trip with us to school to make sure that we were safe, and to provide us some sort of comfort. Not a sound was heard on that trip. Everyone was quietly reading their papers or being silently reverent. My sister couldn't control her emotion, and literally threw up when we got to school. I could tell that she was really scared, even at the young age of 11, she understood the magnitude of what happened that day.

So, as I sit here on my couch on this gorgeous Sunday afternoon, I listen to the memorial service on my television. Each name that is read resonates with me personally, as do all the names of the people who have died as a result of the subsequent failed war that followed. The mayor vowed that we would rebuild, and we have. The freedom tower is absolutely beautiful, and is a symbol of American resilience. Keep your conspiracy theories to yourselves, I don't want to hear them. Too many people died that day to not be respectful at least on this holy day of September 11th.

To those who passed away, I will never forget you. To the 2,996 that perished. To the 343 firefighters. To the 23 police officers. I won't forget you. I will make sure my child doesn't forget you. I will make sure my future students won't forget you, even though they weren't alive when you perished. They need to know why they have the freedom that they have today. It wouldn't have been possible without you.

Cover Image Credit: Max Res

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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Ozark's Largest Meth Ring

After a long history of meth in the Ozarks, in 2012 we see the formation of the largest band of dealers to reign over the area.

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For almost a decade, Missouri was the forerunner in the meth production market. Production started in the wooded areas near the Missouri-Arkansas border soon after the civil war. Southerners escaping the confederacy hid out in the dense forest of this part of the country and began the generations-long business in the meth industry (news.com 2012). In the spring of 2012, one man and one woman began the largest meth ring in Ozarks history.

The ring ran until it's final arrests were made on Thanksgiving day in 2014. This particular case took two years to investigate; with the final sentencing being set earlier this month. 11 million of Missouri's tax dollars are allocated to federal prisons housing these victims, racking up 312 years of combined sentencing.


Span of the Ozarks

The conspiracy was headed by two kingpins, Kenna Harmon of Republic, MO and Kenneth Friend of Springfield, MO.

Their role of oversight of purchases and distribution seem to be the only source of structure for this voluminous group of contributors. Both had a number of distributors under them that would purchase large quantities and sell them to others. One of the largest distributors, Carlos Tapia, funneled about 10 pounds of meth into Springfield every two weeks.

Other brokers would drive to Kansas City, St. Louis, and Oklahoma; some even drove to Texas or California for a large sum of cash. The two leaders pushed six hundred pounds of meth through the Ozarks in their year-long reign. Harmon has been sentenced to 21.5 years in prison; Friend was the last person in the ring to be indicted, with his sentencing being finalized in January of 2019, now must serve 30 years in prison.

Harmon's career in the meth industry began with her husband, Daniel Harmon; the two regarded as the ringleaders in the operation. Daniel began distributing in 2012. By the time of his arrest in 2013, he was known in the meth ring as a major dealer in the area.

Both Daniel and Kenna were spotted by police outside of St. Louis in a high-speed chase at 120 miles an hour, caught with four pounds of meth, $60,000, and a handgun. Kenna fled the scene. She continued the business out of her house in Republic for another year to keep up household income (KSPR 2019).

There is no released information about Friend's involvement with the group.

After the first 2013 arrest of Daniel Harmon, the DEA began wiretapping and intercepting phone calls to get a hold on sellers. Some officers were assigned to go undercover as potential buyers to catch distributors in the act. Their stories were all tied back to the homes of Harmon and Friend. Each of the distributors would buy several grams each week to sell to others in the community (KSPR 2018).

On Thanksgiving day in 2014, Friend and Harmon made plans over the phone to meet up for an exchange with one another. Federal investigators intercepted the phone call and decided to shut the ring down. Kenna Harmon's blue sedan was spotted within Springfield city limits.

Police pulled her over with a small quantity of meth and over $4,000. Investigators raided her home in Republic, MO, finding larger quantities of meth and over $60,000. Friend and his girlfriend, Donnette Davis, were pulled over just a few blocks away from his home in Springfield with four grams of meth and $20,000. Davis was sentenced to 22 months in prison for her role in distributing meth but also cooperating with police in helping them gain information, which knocked off a couple months of her original 2-year sentence.


Though this ring has come to an end and Missouri is no longer the top meth-producing state, the drug is still one of the most prevalent drugs here in Springfield, MO and the Ozarks as a whole (KSPR 2018). The problems that have not been solved within our county are the income disparities and resources for addiction recovery.

The demographic of meth consumers and producers have been cornered to the low-income, mostly white masses that fall outside of the heart of Springfield. Many of these business run in the family and are passed down to younger generations. And when there is little opportunity to work in these rural locations, there is always fall back to have some source of income.

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