Six-Week Sprint

Sprinting sucks. Literally. It sucks the air right out of you.

You need oxygen. Especially when you’re running. Your legs and lungs demand it. Your guts and bowels back up the demands with threats. But there’s just not enough oxygen to be had. Sprinting sucks so hard.

But sprinting is good for you. It covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time. It builds greater strength, burns more calories and fat, trains the body to process oxygen more effectively, and ultimately offers higher efficiency in training.

So, I build sprints into my training regimen, when I’m training for a race: intervals… sprints… strides… hill repeats… fartlek (“speed play”)… Whatever variation or name, these high-intensity sprinting strategies work. But they make me work. And they feel like work, not play.

Collegiate ministry can be a lot like sprinting.

Welcome Week is an extra-intense part of the experience, but I think it’s fair to say that we undertake a Six-Week Sprint every year: from Freshmen Move-In Day to our Fall Retreat in the last weekend of September. This Six-Week Sprint helps us cover a lot of ground, and it quickly establishes an effective rhythm for the rest of the school year… but it doesn’t necessarily feel great in the midst of it.

I’m catching my breath now, over Kent State University’s Fall Break (which is a welcome adjustment to the academic calendar this year!). I’m excited to settle into more sustainable rhythms and routines for the rest of the school year, once all the students return.

But I’m also glad we also ran hard to start things off. And I’m praying that God will use our Six-Week Sprint to lay a solid foundation for the rest of the year.

Posted in Church, H2O Kent, Running, Transition | Comments Off on Six-Week Sprint

Ten Years of H2O Kent

We celebrated the 10th birthday of H2O Kent this weekend, with a bunch of different activities including a 5K race, a brunch, a tailgating party, a banquet, and a worship gathering (also: let the photographic record show that I wore a different H2O Kent T-shirt to each activity!).

I wasn’t a part of the original church-planting team back in 2008, but I feel like I’ve been blessed with a unique vantage point to the church’s “conception” and “birth” through the years. Because of my friendship with Jason Slack, I was invited to a special ordination and commissioning service at H2O Bowling Green in the Fall of 2007.

Two years later — after the church planting team moved and settled into Kent — I was afforded another opportunity to attend a worship gathering in the Fall of 2009. This was just as the church was starting to hold its first public events on-campus, meeting in the Multi-Cultural Lounge of the Kent State Student Center.

At the time of that visit, I wasn’t really thinking about the possibility that me and my family would ever play a more active role in ministry at H2O Kent — but I remember being encouraged and impressed by the way the church was establishing itself back in the earliest days of their life in northeast Ohio.

Then, of course, I got to be much more intimately acquainted with H2O Kent when our family moved to Kent in the summer of 2012. We felt immediately accepted and embraced, starting with the warm welcome we received at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

Our full-fledged involvement over the last six years has only deepened my appreciation of everything God has done (and is doing) in this church. Our church is certainly not perfect, but we’ve fostered a strong culture of plurality, humility, and family that has lent itself to slow, steady growth through the last ten years.

At one point this weekend, we said: “The vision has never been stronger; the need has never been greater.” And I think that’s so true. The story of H2O Kent is still being written. We’re genuinely excited to see what God will do in the next ten years!

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Tarnished-but-Golden Years

On my way over to Europe, I reflected on the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA Championship. It felt arbitrary at the time (and indeed, it may have been nothing more than silly sports nostalgia)… But whether it’s God’s providence or simple serendipity, my thoughts have continued to percolate and point towards deeper truths in my life.

The summer of 2014 through the summer of 2018 represented some good years in Cleveland. The Cavs’ championship in 2016 was the crowning jewel — but all four seasons in that stretch resulted in conference championships. The Cavs were relevant in each of these four basketball seasons. I expect history will show that these were golden years for players, coaches, and fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Even though these four seasons included challenges like injuries (to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, especially)… poor decisions by players (JR Smith dribbling out the clock in Game 1 of the 2018 Finals), coaches (David Blatt calling for a time out he didn’t have in 2015), and front office personnel (letting David Griffin and Kyrie Irving walk away in the summer of 2017)… and losses to end the season in 2015 (4-2), 2017 (4-1), and 2018 (4-0)… some perspective and time will prove that these were good years. Worthwhile years.

The freshest memories in this moment may be a lot of “What if”s: What if we kept Andrew Wiggins instead of trading for Kevin Love? What if Kyrie Irving could have been brought back into the fold with a long-term contract in Cleveland instead of being traded away for minimal returns in the summer of 2017? What if the Cavs could have stolen Game 1 in 2018 instead of suffering a heartbreaking loss? What if LeBron James chose to finish out his career with a long, extended run towards retirement in Cleveland, instead of Los Angeles? These “What if”s are natural, I think. But…

The “What if”s are not the whole picture.

As much as I love the Cavs and could talk a long time with anyone who wanted to chat about basketball — I’ve really come to feel like the Cavs are a useful vehicle for assessing my Amsterdam years. The recent travels to Europe have helped me to gain some healthy perspective on mistakes I made on my way out of Amsterdam, and I’m thankful for the insights that have come along these lines in the last week or so. But really, there’s only so much to be gained from these discussions.

Obsessing about the unsavory elements of the Cavs’ run from 2014-15 to 2017-18 ultimately becomes silly, inaccurate, and deranged. If JR Smith were to get stuck on the last five seconds of Game 1 in the 2018 Finals, and that’s all he ever wanted to talk about — to show his contrition, even if reporters wanted to ask about the 2018-19 season, or his family, or his foundation to help underprivileged children in New Jersey, or his recollections of hitting those big shots at the beginning of the 3rd quarter in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals — then he would be pathetic and pitiful.

And if I were to camp out on the mistakes I made in 2011-12 — seeing just my “game-ending blunders” without the “shots, rebounds, and defense” throughout the rest of my time with “the team” — then I, too, would be pathetic and pitiful. Short-sighted, at the very least.

I feel freshly grounded in a wider perspective, which I believe more closely adheres to God’s perspective.

The first chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes says, “Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes” (v. 4). “Everything is weary beyond description… History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new… We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now” (v. 8-11). “I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless — like chasing the wind. What is wrong cannot be made right. What is missing cannot be recovered” (v. 14-15). “The greater my wisdom, the greater my grief. To increase knowledge only increases sorrow” (v. 18).

A wider, God-sized perspective seems to give up on setting the record straight about “that one conversation” from “that one time” in 2011, or 2014, or whenever. A wider, God-sized perspective seems to suggest that I need to embrace God’s forgiveness.

I still want to be sensitive to others, particularly if they feel injured by any of the events of 2011-12. Gratitude and grief from the past are not mutually exclusive. But if my perspective remains planted where it rests at this moment, and it eventually sprouts, flourishes, and produces fruit in my life, I think I will be able to move forward with a new sense of freedom. And I’m pretty excited about that.

Posted in Amsterdam50, Church, European Missions, Introspection | Comments Off on Tarnished-but-Golden Years

A September Day in Stockholm

Nobody blogs anymore.

Our society seems to have shifted away from textual communication, in favor of visual communication. Specially-designed platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter provide much of the same ability for self-expression, without requiring so many words — and most people seem to prefer that.

Except for me.

I dabble in the newer forms of social media (find me in the links listed on the sidebar) — and I’d really rather stick to observing the shifts in cultural communication, not criticizing them. Still, my preferences in communication are not invalid — and the fact of the matter is that I like words (in addition to images), and I appreciate some sense of permanence.

Consequently, I like to maintain an online presence here, in my own little corner of the internet, where I can keep a record of my life (for my own reference) while also providing a window for others who want to know me.

Among the college students with whom I work, it seems that short-term (24-hour) stories on Instagram and Snapchat are the preferred way of telling stories — so I decided to practice cross-cultural story-telling while I was in a cross-cultural setting: using my Instagram story to reflect on my day in Stockholm (Sweden).

Since it automatically disappears within 24 hours, though, I wanted to save a parallel version here on my website — for posterity sake — while also taking advantage of the opportunity to evaluate the mode of communication itself.

Publishing to my Instagram story felt clunky and cross-cultural. Like any sort of second language. But I think I was able to express myself pretty effectively. I didn’t like the way that the medium limited me to vertical (“portrait”) images, whereas I’m used to shooting in horizontal (“landscape”) mode. The two images above and below, from the Stockholm Public Library, originally had a lot of wasted space above and below them.

I didn’t really have a lot of meaningful stuff to say about them, just: “I started, by myself, with a visit to the Public Library” (with a location tag and a GIF sticker of a book with pages flipping) and “Almost all of the books are in one, big, round room!” (with a nerdy smiling face emoji).

In retrospect, I think these lame library posts were just me getting used to the medium, taking my lumps in learning how to tell good stories by telling some bad ones, too. The pictures — even expanded horizontally — don’t do that library justice, though. It was a pretty neat place to visit.

I didn’t go to Stockholm for tourist purposes, though. I went there for ministry purposes.

H2O Kent has established some key partnerships with Christians in Stockholm who are working hard to establish missional initiatives in unreached (or under-reached) communities. There’s one American missionary with Great Commission Europe, who has been living in Stockholm for three years (in Sweden for six years), and she’s currently working in an immigrant community called Tensta. The vast majority of her neighbors come from the Middle East — but many of the people from these “Muslim” countries are surprisingly open to learning about Jesus.

We currently have one young Kent State graduate who is raising support to join these efforts (please pray with us that God could clear the way for Janelle to move this winter!), and it was very helpful to connect with one of the leaders from this community to learn about his experiences and receive his insight for how we can continue to provide meaningful partnership with this missional initiative.


Even while we’re praying and preparing for a new Kent State connection in Tensta, it’s significant to note that H2O Kent already sent out a staff couple (named Aidan and Chelsea Rinehart) around this time last year — and they’re currently working to reach university students at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm’s city center.


They’re also thinking and praying through the possibility of a new missional initiative in an area of the city called Södermalm. So while we were taking time to talk about the past, present, and future of the Rineharts’ ministry in Stockholm, we made it a point to spend some time in Södermalm… And I loved the opportunity to be a part of their world, even if it was only for a day (or two-and-a-half).


As I look through these screenshots from the Instagram story and write out some of the background information, I realize that I didn’t do a very good job of showing the strategic ministry side of my day in Stockholm — even though that was really the whole idea. Something about the culture of Instagram lends itself to easy, breezy, beautiful images that look more like a tourist magazine than a full-fledged glimpse into the place and people I was visiting.

I blame myself, more than the medium, for this. Still, I’m also glad that I can back things up here, in a more expansive setting.

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To Olivia, on the Occasion of Her 14th Birthday

Dear Olivia,

The story of your birth is by far the craziest and coolest in our family. Jeetje! I remember riding my bicycle home from an early-morning meeting, heart leaping into my throat as I pedaled over the Amstel River, knowing that I was on my way to meet my daughter. I remember hearing the midwife tell us we weren’t going to be able to make it to the hospital in time. I remember frenzied preparations to turn the back bedroom of our little apartment into a delivery room. And then, hieperdepiep! I remember you: a perfect little girl resting in our arms, an olive branch of new life and peace after an awful lot of chaos and calamity.

Fourteen years have passed since that fateful day in Amsterdam. A lot of the circumstances in our lives have changed. We’re living on a different continent. You don’t fit very well into our arms anymore. And we all have to work through our fair share of chaos and calamity, together, as we continue to go through life. Still, I find you so beautiful — so “practically perfect in every way” — and I experience you as such a bringer of peace and joy.

Your birthday reminds me that we have an awful lot to celebrate.

I’m very proud of the way you’re growing up, Olivia. Your recent transition to high school has been a big one, and it comes with all kinds of social challenges and academic challenges — but I’m confident that you’ve got what it takes to rise and meet these challenges (this year and in the years to come). I’ve sometimes joked with others that you’re the most “grown-up” person in our family — always ready for responsibility, considerate of others, and naturally-wired to prioritize compliance and communication — still, I want to make sure you feel free to keep adapting as you grow. We’re all still “works in progress,” and that’s a good thing. I just want you to know that I think you’re generally on the right track. 😉

One thing I’ve noticed this year is that you’re doing a great job of putting yourself “out there,” while simultaneously staying true to yourself (not an easy feat for most adolescents!). I see this in the way you’ve deliberately chosen to make new friends — and maintain a multitude of relationships — at the high school and the Riverwood youth group and other environments, too. I know it can be challenging when you’re not naturally the “social butterfly” that Elliot is or the “cute kid” that Cor is, but you are seriously amazing in your own way, and I expect others — both girls and (gulp!) boys — will be drawn to that as you continue to push past your comfort zone and keep yourself “out there.” Proverbs 3:3-4 says, “Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart. Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will earn a good reputation.”

Keep asking good questions, as if others are “the most interesting person(s) in the world.” Keep assuming the best about others, even when they seem to be acting out of insecurity. Keep loving others as a faithful friend (you’re so good at this!), even as you bring others into your ever-widening web of relationships. And even though it won’t always be a smooth ride (people are notoriously messy), it will be a rewarding experience.

Don’t be afraid to assert yourself in other areas of life, in addition to the social dynamics. As a middle child and classic “rule-follower” (it takes one to know one!), your natural inclination might often be to make yourself small and invisible. You will hesitate to put yourself forward for a job, even when you are eminently-qualified for it. You won’t pursue interaction with your teacher, even though they would love to help bring along a bright young student like you. You might be inclined to let others take the lead, even though you’re the person with the best character and qualifications to get a group where they need to go. Don’t be afraid to remind yourself: You’ve got this, Olivia. Get it, girl! “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

I love you so much more than words could ever convey, Olivia. I think back on the neighborhood production of Peter Pan that you helped to write, direct, and enact this summer. It showed a lot of different aspects of your brilliance. You are strong. You are smart. You are kind. You are creative. You are a beautiful young woman who has a lot to offer the world — and I’m unspeakably honored to sit in the front row, cheering you on as you continue to go through life. I’m very proud to be your Dad, Olivia, and I’m delighted to wish you a very Happy Birthday!

Ik hou van je, lieverd.


Posted in Children, Family, Introspection, Nostalgia, Prayer, The Bible, Traditions | Comments Off on To Olivia, on the Occasion of Her 14th Birthday

Reflections from Airportlandia

What did I expect: booking with an agency called Kiwi to fly on discount airlines called Easy, Wizz, and Wow?!?

Of course there were bound to be hiccups. They happen quite regularly when international travel is involved, even on the most highly-regarded airlines… But I’m not sure what to think, currently waiting in New York, 24 hours after I first set out (only to be turned back before boarding my first flight out of Cleveland). If it’s taken this long to get through just the first leg of my itinerary (out of seven), I worry that this could be a very long journey indeed.

I’m choosing to embrace the adventure of it all. I’m traveling solo. I don’t have a lot of responsibility for any of the stuff I’m going to do in Europe — mostly just watching, making connections, trying to fill my heart up again with vision for Kingdom work in Europe — and I’m packing very light (everything in my Osprey day pack)… So I can afford to be adventurous. Still, I recognize that this runs counter to my typical mindset: hyper time-conscious, organized, conscientious. I wouldn’t be surprised if this leads to some cognitive dissonance down the line, especially as fatigue sets in. And I know that it’s going to set in. My two longest flights are yet to come (in fact, the leg I’ve already completed was supposed to be the shortest of all seven!). I have a six-hour layover in Stockholm before I even complete the last leg of my eastward journey and get the chance to sleep in a real bed.

Crazy stuff… And it’s making me start to think crazy thoughts.

Why am I even taking this trip? Why am I still trying to maintain a connection with Great Commission Europe, when it’s been three years since I last set foot on the Continent (unless you count Iceland last summer, I guess) and six years since we sold our house in Amsterdam?!? Why do I try to stay connected with ministry in Amsterdam and Stockholm, when there are clearly dynamics working against meaningful relationships there? Why am I spending down such a significant chunk of my dwindling ministry account balance to be an accessory to end up in environments where people will ask, “And what, exactly, are you doing here?” What is really realistic to expect from a one-week visit — and is it worth it, to be apart from Olivia on her birthday, to be apart from H2O during the most strategic month of the year, to be apart from Ohio during my favorite month of the year?!?

At the very least, I’ve got a lot of time on my hands for wondering, praying, and (perhaps eventually) talking through these things, while I’m traveling this week.

I’m also getting the chance to catch up on a lot of reading, watching, listening, and corresponding. On this trip, I’ve already done three days’ worth of Bible reading. I finished the last 25% of Hillbilly Elegy. I’ve read another 10% of Ron Chernow’s biography of Ulysses Grant. I listened to three of my favorite podcasts. I followed up on all of the people from The Well who indicated an interest in H2O’s Outward Teams and kept my inboxes zeroed out. I’ve done five pages’ (and counting) worth of journaling. I’ve watched three full-length feature films (though none of them were particularly worthwhile), and I’ve watched Games 5, 6, and 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals (which were very worthwhile).

It may be somewhat symbolic — a stand-in for all of my questions about European ministry (enumerated above) — but I’ve found myself marveling at those 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers. They were really something special. LeBron James was amazing, of course, but the rest of the team was outstanding, as well. Kyrie Irving was magnificent (especially in Game 5). Tristan Thompson was a monster on defense, rebounding, and hustle plays (especially in Game 6). JR Smith played his guts out, hitting key shots, throwing up some beautiful alley-oops, and hustling on defense. Richard Jefferson logged some quality minutes. Kevin Love was, surprisingly, a non-factor in Games 5 and 6, but he made solid contributions in the decisive Game 7. That team was no fluke. They legitimately beat one of the greatest teams in NBA history (those Warriors could flat-out play) and thus proved themselves to be an all-time great team. It’s been a little sad to think about how much the team has broken up in the last couple of years — but I saw it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

Posted in Culture, Europe, Introspection, Nostalgia, Travel | Comments Off on Reflections from Airportlandia

Hillbilly Elegy

Hillbilly Elegy is a memoir by J.D. Vance. I first heard of it, on the news and in social circles, as a sort of peephole into “Trump’s America,” explaining why so many working class, rural whites resonated with the themes from Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. The book explores issues of social class, family dysfunction, public policy, and education — but Vance’s perspective is particularly interesting because of the way he came from a tribe of “hillbillies” but also found himself at home among Ivy League “elites” (his terminology), thus able to see multiple angles on the issues that seem to be at the forefront of America’s ideological conflicts these days.

I enjoyed this book even more than I expected I would. I figured the material would be informative, but not so engaging. What I may have appreciated most was Vance’s tone: neither indignant nor irreverent, simultaneously empathetic and critical, plain-spoken yet still articulate.

The author’s world has a lot of similarities to mine, in that he grew up in post-industrial, small-town Ohio, went away to very far-flung environments (the U.S. Marine Corps, war in Iraq, the Ohio State University, and Yale Law School) to have his perspective widened and “come of age,” before eventually deciding to return to Ohio to raise a family and engage in long-term efforts to improve the world. There also seems to be some level of Christian faith, albeit a different version of the fundamentalist faith of his youth. The Christian thing is not very explicit, and it only comes in at the very end of the book, with statements like, “I was exploring, however uneasily, the Christian faith that I’d discarded years earlier” and an assessment of the opportunities for another young man from Appalachia, wondering “whether he can access a church that teaches him lessons of Christian love, family, and purpose.” I cannot definitively assess his theology — though I actually like it that he’s not heavy-handed on this point — still, I do appreciate some of the ways that Vance’s point of view resonates with mine.

It’s especially helpful to have a guide like Vance, as he digs into deep-seeded, big-picture, societal issues like culture, social class, and generational patterns of family dysfunction.

I’m still not exactly sure what to do about the issues raised in this book (I’m not sure Vance knows either). It seems that it’s simply a matter of fact that the issues of poverty, addiction, and abuse are highly complex. It’s arrogant (and ignorant) to think that the issues can be “solved” in any easy way. Education may be a part of it. Learning to better “play” in the system to emphasize networking and cultural acclimation can help people coming from poverty. But all we can ever really hope to do is chip away at things on the micro-level: one person, one family, one community at a time. And I do feel motivated — even affirmed in my life calling — to be a part of this.

When I tend to think about social class complexities, I tend to feel embittered. I feel like I carry an outsized chip on my shoulder that doesn’t necessarily correspond to my reality, and Hillbilly Elegy has helped to challenge that perspective. I don’t know if I want my kids to go to Big Ten or Ivy League schools, but I can appreciate some of the advantages these places could provide (if my kids chose to pursue these avenues for education), and in any event I feel equipped and envisioned to teach my kids — biological and spiritual — how to put people first, lead with hope, and live with a spirit of gratitude and authenticity.

Posted in American Politics, Culture, Introspection, Ohio, Politics, Recommended Reading, Social Issues, The United States of America | Comments Off on Hillbilly Elegy

Special Thing in a Special Place

It was hard to find a decent parking spot, where the rain wouldn’t drench us too heavily on our way into the restaurant. I piloted our minivan in a serpentine pattern through the parking lot, but every time we came to the end of the row — where it looked like we might finally be in luck, with a gap in the spacing of vehicles — it turned out to be another handicapped parking space. As a matter of fact, there were thirty spots reserved for handicapped parking.

Clearly, this was no ordinary restaurant.

We entered through a large, automatic, rotating door and walked through the cavernous front lobby, past the sprawling gift shop that included entire, grocery-store-sized aisles for puzzles, wind chimes, Crocs, and reading glasses. Once we reached the dining room, the host showed us to our booth. We settled into our seats and looked at our menus. Cor quickly decided on a brownie sundae. Olivia went for the chocolate cake. And I picked the berry cobbler.

The dining room was roughly the size of a gymnasium and surprisingly full for being 3:30 in the afternoon. We looked around and noticed that I happened to be the third-youngest person in the dining room. The only two guests younger than me were my children: Olivia and Cor. Just as the age dynamics of the room fully dawned on us, another guest struggled to get out of the booth behind us, saying, “I should have brought my cane.”

To say that the Hartville Kitchen is “popular with retirees” is an understatement. It’s outfitted so that entire tour-bus groups of senior citizens can be accommodated. The aesthetic is a combination of Old-Fashioned Amish, Contemporary Christian, and Big American — but somehow it all works.


The Hartville Kitchen makes me smile and gag at the same time. My kids and I came for their pie selection (though none of us actually ended up ordering pie), and we stayed for all the things to see and do on a rainy day: toy store… gift shop… bakery… candy shop… hardware store… model houses… and much, much more. I wouldn’t want to spend every Monday afternoon at the Hartville Kitchen, but I’m glad that I get to spend some time there every once in awhile.

Posted in Culture, Culture Shock, Food, Ohio, The United States of America, Travel | Comments Off on Special Thing in a Special Place

Kent State Enrollment for 2018-19 School Year

Kent State University announces its enrollment figures every year, around this time. And since our ministry is so closely tied in with the University, I always hope to catch the news to learn more about the demographics of our mission field. Fortunately, I checked the Akron Beacon Journal this morning and saw their article on Kent State enrollment.

Here’s some of the information that was most interesting to me:

  • Total enrollment at the Kent campus is 27,143 (There are a total of 38,323 students in the entire Kent State system, factoring in branch campuses).
  • International student enrollment has dropped pretty significantly, down to 1,659. Speculations on the reasons for this include increasing competition for the students from universities in other countries, the U.S. political climate, and cuts in government spending from other countries sending their students to study abroad.
  • The incoming freshmen class set a new record with 4,363 students.
  • Some statistics seem to suggest that Kent State University is drawing a more academically-rigorous crowd, with higher high school grade point averages (3.4), higher ACT test score averages (23.5), more credits earned prior to college enrollment (half of the incoming freshmen class has already banked 16 credit hours before setting foot on campus), and higher college graduation rates (double the figures that the University had in the year 2000, and particularly improving in the area of “underrepresented” students from low-income backgrounds or first-generation students).

I’m not really surprised by any of these figures. I’ve been feeling (and getting discouraged by) the dip in international enrollment for a couple of years now. I’ve noticed (and been encouraged by) students coming in with varying levels of academic standing, such as first-semester sophomores, and generally studying harder.

Regardless of the numbers, I love Kent State University — and I’m proud to be a part of the campus community.

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Seventeen Years Ago, and Since

The years blown by like a hurricane, but my memories of September 11, 2001 remain steady. Anxiety and adrenaline cemented the experiences of that day pretty hard and fast. Regular remembrances have kept things in place.

On the fifth anniversary of the 2001 Terrorist Attacks in New York, I paused to remember “Where I was” when I first heard the news, and I found myself comforted to hear from friends on both sides of the Atlantic (Ohio, Virginia, Texas, Canada, and the Netherlands) sharing their experiences as well.

On the seventh anniversary of the 2001 Terrorist Attacks in New York, I covered a particular public remembrance as a news story for a Dutch website, attending a memorial service hosted by the U.S. Consulate General in a 400-year-old church in central Amsterdam and writing up my experiences afterwards.

On the tenth anniversary of the 2001 Terrorist Attacks in New York, I reflected on European responses to the tragedy. And I wondered how the global perception of American ideals had shifted over the following decade.

Now, on the seventeenth anniversary of the 2001 Terrorist Attacks in New York, I wonder about the nature of remembrances, themselves. How long will these memories remain? In my heart? In our culture? We know that Franklin D. Roosevelt declared December 7, 1941 as “a day which will live in infamy” because of the attack on Pearl Harbor that launched American involvement in the Second World War — but do we really feel that any more? I see historical evidence of the ways Americans mourned Abraham Lincoln after his assassination in 1865, and their actions seem genuinely macabre and misguided.

Grief and indignation simply cannot last forever. My children and the college students with whom I work have no personal memory of September 11, 2001. So what will this date look like in another seventeen years? I don’t know, nor do I believe we should make grand pronouncements about our culture’s remembrances. Still, I know that I remember.

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