Sunday, April 25, 2010


Okay, I'm ready, willing and able. I have my cerebral tool belt on, stocked with note pads, research material, books on the subject, calendars, letters, and whatever else I can cram into it. So here I go.

I’ve entered a contest for “The First Three Chapters” of your book and it got my juices flowing. I can do that! I can take my first three chapters of “A Broad Abroad in Iran” and win this contest. Thank you, Women on; I guess I needed a jump start and a good goose!

So I started this morning. I had it roughed out, but today I got serious. Here’s one chapter and I’d like to know what you think. Please leave me a comment, and join my blog as a follower.

LEAVING IRAN, November 1978

Our plane is sitting on the tarmac. Jet engines revving. Exit door closed. But nothing is happening. I fear if we don’t become airborne soon we’ll be grounded, grabbed by the Islamic police and marched into a holding room to be interrogated. Who were we? What crimes had we committed against Islam? Were we CIA, the evil spies of the hated American government?

Then I feel a slight tremor under my feet. Is it my imagination? Are we really moving?

I hold my breath as the plane inches forward.

We are moving!

I watch the surrounding buildings slide slowly past my window. We are going to get out of this horrible nightmare after all. Mentally I pull back on the stick as the plane begins to gain speed and altitude. I exhale, slowly. Tentatively.

We are finally leaving this terrifying place.

I try to shake the fear that has held me so rigid in my seat. Until I feel the plane’s tires lift off from the tarmac, I can’t let go of the panic. My cheek is numb from the freezing glass of the window as I strain to watch the fires and ropes of smoke below; a city burning, growing smaller as we ascend to our flying altitude.

I close my eyes and try to slip into a zone of REM, but acrid fumes still invade my dreams. Memories sear through my mind. Screams assault my ears. I see the charred human remains caught in a flash fire of pipe bombs and incendiaries from the Polaroid that crossed my desk a few weeks earlier: DEATH TO AMRIKANS—YANKEE GO HOME scrawled in blood-red paint across the gutted bus.

They are chasing me, trying to stone me as I run for my life.

A foreign voice startles me awake. The pilot announces that we may now remove our seat-belts. I shake my head to be rid of that recurring nightmare. Next to me my husband slumbers, seemingly without a care in the world. My two little ones, in the seats in front of me, sleep peacefully while slumped on top of each other in innocent dreams. I'm thankful they weren’t in this hellish dream with me.

Monday, April 5, 2010


The following is an article I wrote for the O.C. Register, the Palm Desert Sun, and the L.A. Times. Because they all had their own journalists working on stories, they missed out on this special one; a story from a mother's perspective.

So, with the shake-up we had Easter Sunday, it brought it all back to mind. In fact, as I stood ready to bolt from the house, I thought about those poor souls in Haiti and how this one was just a hiccup compared to what they suffered:

RETURNING HEROS: A Mother’s Answered Prayers

Television cameramen vied for spots to get their best shots. Children waved “Welcome Home” banners, balloons floated through the air as men embraced their families, and some wept openly. I stood in line behind my daughter-in-law and three grandchildren to get my hugs. They were worth waiting for.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department's finest—Urban Search and Rescue, USAR-2—had just returned home, after fourteen long and exhausting days in Haiti, escorted by a helicopter and flashing lights from fire trucks. As the buses pulled into the Technical Operations Facility in Pacoima, my heart thudded in my chest. My son, Captain Dennis Cross, was on that bus and as a mother, my life was wrapped up in his safety.

The team was greeted by hundreds of family members waving American flags and chanting USA-USA! As they stepped off the buses, the men appeared to be in high spirits, but I was sure the glowing smiles belied the unimaginable sights and tragedies they’d experienced while in Haiti.

When we returned to my son’s home in Laguna Hills that night, he uploaded a video and pictures he’d shot during some of the rescues, while he narrated. One particular scene was heart-wrenching. It was filmed inside a confined space where a woman was trapped.

The woman was the manager of the bank that had collapsed. When her husband heard her cries for help, he ran to my son’s team. “She’s alive,” he told them. She was calling out: “Help me Jesus,” over and over when the team arrived. He told the team that his wife had called to him saying she didn’t think she was going to get out alive and wanted him to know she loved him.

As a mother, I was griped with anxiety as I saw my son and his team put their lives in such eminent danger. I watched, transfixed, at the remarkable expertise of the rescue team as they brainstormed a way to save this woman. After clearing an opening about the size of a paper plate, they were able to see and speak to her. They cautiously and systematically removed steel and concrete to gain access to the void space. Then two rescue technicians slid into the void, and lying on their back, they cut, sawed and pried their way to free her hands. After four hours of extreme heat, raw nerve, and perseverance they were able to pull her to safety. As she was brought up into daylight, she began to sing a Haitian religious song, and the bystanders cheered and joined in with her. It was magic, my son said, and it made all their work worthwhile. But, along with their elation at saving someone, came the heart-wrenching news that a young girl they’d rescued had succumbed from her injuries.

Before each rescue a structural engineer, also a member of the team, was brought in to check the integrity of the building. Facing the massive walls of concrete they had to cut through, my son said it gave the men a much needed sense of security. But as I watched other rescues, I thought, these men had to have been unnerved as they crawled over those loose crumbling layers of debris. But, like diamond cutters, with precision and exactness, they worked for hours just to remove one layer (one floor level at a time) of concrete and steel.

The USAR-2 team pulled a total of nine people from a sure death; some rescues taking eight hours or more. One rescue took thirty-two hours to free a single survivor, according to my son. They worked for over twenty-four exhausting hours, until they were finally relieved by another U.S. team. Eight hours later the victim was pulled to safety.

When the rescuing was called to a halt, the team now had time for humanitarian work, which my son said helped offset the pain and suffering they’d witnessed.

They were told that an American working in Haiti needed their help. His wife and two children had been in their apartment when it collapsed. He thought they were dead, he said, but needed to know for sure. The team brought in the K9s that are trained to smell for signs of life under the rubble; they would not signal if they came upon a cadaver. Sadly, they did not signal. The team then breached through multiple layers of concrete and steel until they reached the bodies. Though his family was dead, it gave the grieving man a much needed closure to this horrible ordeal.

There were several instances where the team was called upon to do this; a Canadian who’d lost his daughter, and a Brazilian who lost his wife. The team was able to call for excavation equipment which enabled them to locate the deceased. Now the families were able to take their loved ones back to their homeland for a proper burial.

At the end, the team went about the devastation, delivering food and water where needed. They set up tents for medical teams operating out in the open air. They also donated several thousand dollars worth of tools and equipment to the destroyed Haitian Fire Department, who had lost almost everything in the earthquake.

My son sat with his children when he returned home that night. He told them of the poverty and ill health that the Haitians have to live through. He told them how he’d seen children making kites from trash bags and sticks. When they got the kites in the air, they were smiling and laughing as they ran, surely forgetting about their problems for awhile, as only children can do, that there was no home to go to, and no dinner awaiting them.

After seeing all the poverty and devastation in my son’s videos and pictures, I thought how lucky we were to have been born in the United States. But, what if we’d been born in Haiti? When you think about it, this could have happened to any of us, because our place of birth is determined by our ancestors; where they came from, and where they settled. So, if not for them, our children might have been pulling a plastic kite behind them. Maybe a silent prayer of thanks to our ancestors might be called for.

As my son tucked his beloved girls into bed that night, we all said a prayer for the Haitian people, and a prayer of thanks for my son’s safe return.