Mireya Delapena came to the United States from Mexico when she was six. Now, she runs a small business in East Harlem, helping Mexicans in both countries transmit money and packages. But after President Trump signed an executive order last Wednesday to build a wall at the US-Mexico border, she is worried that her business will be severely affected.
Ellen McCann, 44, was held up a sign that read ” You run better than our government” to uplift every marathon runner passing by her on Sunset Park. Photo by Julie Liao
At 4th Avenue near Sunset Park in Brooklyn, Ellen McCann was hailing New York City Marathon runners with a smile and a sign that read, “You run better than our government.
Amused by McCann’s sign, a young runner shouted, “I do run better” as he gasped for breath.
“It’s just a joke about our government,” McCann said. “This means, ‘our government doesn’t run very well, but you do.’” she laughed. “While you’re running, you get very bored and the signs are funny and they make you laugh and they distract you.”
McCann was not alone. Standing beside her was her friend, Kimberly Gittines. They tracked down their friends and families on the phone who were running on the ready to cheer them on.
Around 11:00 a.m., McCann’s fiancé appeared in a group of runners. He dashed to her, kissed her hand, said,“ I love you”, and continued running.
McCann and her fiancé live in Virginia. Both of them are big fans of running.
“We work out about two hours a day, both of us together,” said McCann. “That’s how we spend time.”
Although she wanted to run in the marathon, she wasn’t chosen in the lottery.
“I like New York City,” she said. “It’s alive all day and all night. This isn’t the safest neighborhood , but it welcomes people. You don’t find that anywhere else. New York is awesome. I’ve always thought so.”
Last week, she ran the Marine Corps Marathon in Virginia with Gittines. They were next-door neighbors and knew each other for nearly three decades. The races are more like precious opportunities for them to spend time together.
“She lives in Virginia and I live in New Jersey and we don’t really get to catch up a lot,” said Gittines. “So it’s like catching up on the kids and work and our parents and all that stuff alike.”
When Gittines started to run marathons in 2011, her mother was severely ill because of cancer.
“I actually ran my first marathon two weeks before she passed away,” said Gittines. “I hadn’t trained. But I figured I’d go out and see how it was and I could push through the pain because I knew there was an end point. She didn’t have an end point and that’s what I thought when I ran. That helped me along in my run.”
After her mother died, she kept participating in marathons. Her memories with her mother always comes to her mind while she is running.
“I always think of her,” said Gittines. “When I grew up, we used to play golf with our families. And she was like, ‘here’s Kimberly! Putting for a birdie! It’s win! Yeah Kimberly!’ ”
Gittines said even though her mother had never watched her running marathons, she knew her mom would be supportive. “Whatever my brother and I did, she thought it was the best thing in the world.”
McCann’s niece, Regan Debennetto, 31, was also running in memory of her father, who died of a heart attack in 2002. After that, she began to run marathons. This time she ran for the American Heart Association and planned to raise money for them by finishing the whole course.
“For my niece, she says every five miles she runs for one person and she doesn’t want to let them down,” said McCann. “So five miles she runs for her father; five miles she runs for her grandmother and she wants to go home and tell grandma about those five miles she ran for her.”
Oxfam America, a global organization that addresses poverty, hunger and injustice arranged used refugee life jackets on Pebble Beach at Brooklyn Bridge Park. The display was on the eve of two United Nations summits that will deal the refugee crisis. Photo by Julie Liao
Scattered on Pebble Beach at Brooklyn Bridge Park, just under the Manhattan Bridge, were 400 worn refugee life jackets. One hundred of them were worn by refugee children. Some of them were ripped up and covered in dirt. Some of the refuges who wore them did not survive. The life jackets were collected from the beaches of Chois, Greece, where refugees from war torn countries struggle to make it to their shores. These tattered life vests were what they wore.
Most of these refugees came from Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Afghanistan. The conflicts, civil war and terrorism threat in the Middle East drove them to flee their homes.
But today, these life jackets stood as a symbol on the eve of United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants and Leaders’ Summit hosted by President Obama at the United Nations Headquarters.
The jackets were a symbol of hope, remembrance and action.
Oxfam America, a global organization focusing on addressing poverty, hunger and injustice issues, came up with an idea of displaying the life jackets to catch the attention of global leaders and as a call for action against global refugee issues.
Marissa Ryan, 32, advocacy and campaigns manager of Oxfam Ireland, saw theme as a testimony to the thousands of refugees who died while seeking refuge.
“If you look closely, the tiny life jackets belonged to babies who drowned, which is continuing year and year in the absence of any coherent or sane response to global migration from world leaders,” she said.
According to a report by the UN Refugee Agency, 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015, which was the highest number since World War II.
After today’s event, the collection will be sent to the United Kingdom, to bring attention to this worldwide crisis.
Lauren Hartnett, 32, the humanitarian press officer of Oxfam America, unpacked these jackets on Pebble Beach with her colleagues in the early morning. She said there were 300 jackets for adults and 100 for children. Although some of them were not very sturdy the refugees had used them to cross the sea.
“Some of them were tied together. You can tell (they were) from families that didn’t want to get separated,” she said.
Bogdan Krasic, 28, a Serbian researcher of Belgrade Center for Human Rights, helps refugees who seek asylum in Serbia and other countries. Serbia, serves as an intermediate transition on the road from Middle East to Germany or Austria.
Krasic said the majority of refugees were less educated, non-English speaking and even disabled.
While the number of displaced people has hit new records, Ryan pointed out that, the six richest world economies only accommodated nine percent of the global refugee population.
Krasic thought the most developed countries were very careful about accepting refugees. They resettled some refugees because of longstanding policies, but not because they truly cared.
As the largest economy in the world, the U.S. has always been expected to play the most significant role in solving this problem.
But the U.S. government has resettled 79,560 refugees, not enough according to Krasic and Hartnett.
“I mean we’re always wanting more,” said Hartnett. “Especially Obama is hosting the summit on Tuesday. So we’re hoping for a huge announcement.”
But the presidential election has greatly impacted refugees who have already lived in America and those who are eager to settle down in this country. While Hillary Clinton fully supports Obama administration’s plan to accept more, Republican nominee, Donald Trump wants to temporarily ban Muslim immigration.
A Franklin Delano High School’s students drawing of the 9/11 attacks hangs in a social studies classroom. The Bensonhurst high school teaches 9/11 every year. Photo by Julie Liao.
It’s just after noon on Friday at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School, in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Twenty seven students swarmed into their stuffy, 11th grade social studies class.
This was their last social studies class before the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that changed their city and their world. Michael Scherer, 38, their teacher, planned to teach his annual 9/11 class as he had been doing for the past five years.
“Raise your hand if you heard the word virtue before? What does it mean?” he asked the class.
He defined virtue as “doing what is right for the common good and expecting nothing in return.”
Scherer started a discussion about whether people do good deeds out of their natural kindness or for payback. He asked the students for their thoughts and the response was spilt down the middle.
“The point of today’s lesson is to kind of prove that wrong,” he said of those who believed payback was a reason to do good. Scherer had a very personal story to share about virtue and doing good for nothing in return.
Scherer’s father-in-law, Vincent J. Albanese, a veteran firefighter, was among thousands of heroic first responders, who rushed to the World Trade Center and helped to rescue trapped workers after the two planes crashed into the towers. For several months after the attack, he supported clean up efforts at ground zero.
But the toxic dust made Albanese sick, Scherer said. In 2010, he died of bladder cancer. He was 63.
“I watched him pretty much die,” he said.
Scherer isn’t the only teacher who emphasizes 9/11 education at the school. All the social studies teachers at FDR high school are required to teach 9/11 in their curriculum.
In fact, the first comprehensive 9/11 education plan for teenagers in New York City was released by a nonprofit group in 2009. Two years later, cooperating with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, the Department of Education of NYC provided online teaching materials for students from kindergarten to high school. Through stories, videos and interactive activities, the students would learn about the attacks in four parts, “community and conflicts”, “historical impact”, “heroes and services” and “memory and memorialization”.
But since it is not mandatory, not all schools teach it.
FDR high school administrators believe it is an important part of history and should not be ignored.
“We teach them those events and also some of the historical context in which they occurred to raise awareness about not only global terrorism,but about the resiliency of the American people after those events occurred,” said Christine Imbemba, the assistant principal of this school as well as a social studies teacher.
But 45 minutes is not enough to study 9/11. Although both Imbemba and Scherer said they are more than willing to spend the whole school day teaching 9/11, they have to comply with the school’s curriculum schedule.
After the discussion, Scherer had his students watch the documentary, “The Man in the Red Bandanna.” It is the story of Welles Crowther, 24-year-old equities trader working on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center during the attack. Somehow he found an escape route and led three trips up and down the stairs, even carrying survivors. His body was found in the rubble six moths later.
“… like what if that was me, what if that was my son, what if that was my brother,” said David Ismailati, 16, a student about the documentary. The teen believes terrorism is still a big threat.
Ismailati said he may do an oral history as his 9/11 homework assignment. His father was working about ten blocks away during the attack.
“He had to walk all the way from around the World Trade Center back to Brooklyn because there was no subway,’’ he said. “He came back covered in debris completely.”
Despite the limited time and resources, Scherer said he believes his students will understand his theme of selfless virtue and 9/11.
“I know it was just like a small message, but I think it might resonate,” he said.