A moving tribute

| vschneps@queenscourier.com |


I joined Matilda Cuomo (far right) and (from left) Faith Hope Concolo, Ann Marie Borghese, Sharon Walsh and Susan Barber at the 9/11 tribute.

It was a day that will live on in infamy for generations to come. Is there anyone who doesn’t remember where they were that bright early morning of September 11, 2001?

That day, as I always do, I was watching the TV news during my daily workout. I saw the report, then the photos, of the first World Trade Center tower being hit by a plane. My first reaction was ‘what a terrible accident’ but within minutes we all knew it was a purposeful hit. How terrifying! I rushed to my office to reassure my staff and get to work putting out our newspaper.

Some of my staff thought I should send everyone home but during such a horrific time I believed we were better off together, covering the news as it unfolded and we feverishly gathered the breaking news and photos for our newspapers and supported each other by being together.

Each year the tragedy comes alive again as we remember those lost and those still suffering.
It was my privilege this year to be invited by Matilda Cuomo to a unique dance performance called the Table of Silence Project 9/11, which is a tribute and ritual for peace.

It was an incredible sight to see the white-robed dancers, men and women from all over the world, and dozens of dance groups performing around the Revson Fountain at Lincoln Center. It was worth getting up at 5:30 a.m. to be there.

I stood with Matilda and a few of her friends overlooking the scene from the balcony of the State Theatre. Seeing the concentric circles of dancers from that height enhanced the power of their performance that began exactly at 8:15 a.m. — the time the first plane hit — and followed with a minute of silence when the dancers raised their arms in a “universal gesture of peace and tolerance.”

“Our silence,” they explained, “honors our ability to listen, creating a transcendent experience that gives voice to those who have lost their own.”

The dance was created in 2011 on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 by the Buglisi Dance Theatre and its artistic director Jacqulyn Buglisi. I hope they will extend the group’s visibility and performances. It moved me and I’m sure anyone fortunate enough to see it will feel the same.

A Buglisi dancer performing the tribute at Lincoln Center.


Geraldo recognized

I was surprised to get a call from a man who was creating a documentary about Geraldo Rivera and his life-changing TV reporting and in-depth coverage of the problems at the infamous Willowbrook State School on Staten Island.

During the years when my daughter Lara was there in the early 1970s there were no other options for a child with multiple disabilities. Willowbrook had a unique infant rehabilitation center built just a few years before and held out hope for Lara’s development.

But when budget cuts tore into the delivery of services through a severe reduction in staffing, people began dying from neglect. Geraldo climbed over walls and snuck into the back wards to tell the tale of the people living there.

His sensitive, powerful and consistent coverage forced the hand of the parents’ association and we filed a federal class action law suit. Its success ushered in the opening of group homes and day programs.

The first group home for children from Willowbrook was opened in Little Neck by the organization I had founded several years earlier, WORC, which bought the house and named it in Geraldo’s honor

I met the two gentlemen who were making the documentary at the Geraldo House showing the outgrowth of Geraldo’s award-winning coverage. It is almost 40 years since the house became a home and it is as amazing today as it was when it opened.

I was proud to share my memories of those first years. It’s remarkable that the pair came from Delaware to add coverage of the home to their story on the impact of Geraldo’s life !

Scott Michaels and Brahmin Jackson have created a documentary on Geraldo’s life.



The holiday of Yom Kippur requires fasting for 24 hours. As always its specialness for me is the gathering of my family and this year for the first time I extended a ritual my husband Stu started by beginning the fast with a special meal.

For this all my children and grandchildren gathered at Bryant & Cooper in Roslyn for a delicious, filling dinner of steak, potatoes and creamed spinach. Untraditional, but it worked to sustain me thought the next day’s fast.

It’s an intense day of asking for atonement for all my sins of the previous year and asking to be written in the Book of Life for the coming year. The prayers and beautiful songs intensify with each passing hour until sundown. And then there is the wonderful meal that “breaks the fast.” I ate my heart out, feasting on bagels and lox and smoked fish and salads and then wicked desserts all presented by my daughter Samantha, a great hostess.

Thankfully, There was great togetherness that night, especially seeing the children all enjoying each other. So much to be grateful for . . .