My 9/11 story: CNN/DC

My story.

I had the day off from CNN that day. Since I was free, I dropped Whitney off on Capitol Hill that morning for a job she had to do for UPI. Beautiful morning. I needed a lube job and decided to head out to Jiffy Lube at Landmark Mall out off 395.9.11. pentagon.CNN

As I was driving by the Pentagon, there was heavy backup northbound. Odd since it was already about 9:20am. Then I saw the black SUVs shooting up the shoulder – their dashboard rollers alit. Even for a veteran D.C. person, that was odd. I remember that Sympathy for the Devil was playing on the radio.

Got to the lube place, walked in. People were staring at the TV at some apparent crash at the WTC. They took my car and I went back to the TV. Reality hit. I went out to the parking lot with a few others to try and use the cell phone. Didn’t work, of course. Suddenly, there was a boom and the ground shook under my feet. The guy next to me quietly said, “what the fuck was that.” Then I saw the smoke in the distance and knew it was the Pentagon.

I got in my car and turned on NPR. Started driving. Bob Edwards was reporting that officials might shut down the city. I had to get back, but 395 wouldn’t have worked. So, it was Route 1 to Alexandria and back up onto the beltway. I made it. With flow of traffic, I was doing about 95 mph to try and get up and around to the Connecticut Ave entrance before D.C. became closed.

A long time after I left the lube place, I got back to my apartment. Whitney was there. She recounted her own odyssey coming off Capitol Hill with thousands of others who had feared another plane was coming.

CNN called. I was back at work at the bureau by midday, working the Pentagon and sorting through the worst raw video and stories from D.C. and NYC I’d ever seen and will ever see in my career.

That’s an abbreviated version of my 9/11 story. I certainly won’t forget. Neither should you.

NC student winners to show science research at Beijing conference

Congratulations to four students on their way to Beijing to show their research! I spent an afternoon with these impressive folks to get a preview of their trip.

The North Carolina International Science Challenge (NCISC) is a yearly North Carolina science competition for high school students. The selected students travel to Beijing, China to present their science research projects at the Beijing Youth Science Creation Competition the third week of March. 

KidZNotes hosts Gala May 2 at Carolina Theatre in Durham

KidZNotes hosts its 2nd Annual Gala Wednesday, May 2 at the Carolina Theatre of Durham, NC. Join supporters for Salsa dancing, food, music and celebrate the work KidZNotes is doing to help turn Durham into a world-class city. Visit kidznotes.org for ticket information. 

Poole’s Diner in Raleigh a natural urban destination

I took a quick pic outside Poole’s Diner in Raleigh this week before a business meeting. Poole’s is one of Ashley Christensen‘s unique venues that takes eating to another level. Christensen competed last year against Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America (Thanks NewRaleigh.com). And oh, their beer and wine selection is extraordinary.  A true downtown hub.

Durham Mayor Bell: Same-sex marriage ban is bad for business

I tell clients Durham, North Carolina didn’t end up being one of the nation’s top 10 food destinations or become the home to the country’s 4th best-rated performing arts center by accident. It has required diverse groups to come together toward a common goal: Creating a world-class city representing equality for all. Durham Mayor William Bell says banning same-sex marriage isn’t just bad for the moral fabric of Durham, it’s bad for business. 

From the historic to the health of Wake County’s art scene

When family and friends come to visit, don’t let yourself fall into the “been there, done that” frame of mind. There’s so much to see and do, and some of the best places to see it all are Wake County’s museums. Take a look at five we picked this week that range from large to boutique.

1. The new Raleigh Museum of Contemporary Art has local and national works, and the state-of-the-art structure is work of art itself. Visit http://camraleigh.org/

2. Page-Walker Arts & History Center (PWAH) is an off-the-beaten path
destination in neighboring Cary. Built in 1868, the PWAH was originally a hotel, but it became a museum devoted to local artists and events in 1979. Visit Town of Cary to learn more.

3. The Triangle is home to the finest medical centers in the world. But you migh
t be surprised there’s art to be seen there! Check out the Wake Med Art Exhibition. It’s supported by the United Arts Council and exhibits change every six weeks. Visit United Arts/Wake Med for info.

4. It’s large and has plenty to offer: the Progress Energy Art Center. This venue features local and regional artists and has become the hub of Raleigh’s cultural movement.  Visit http://www.nprgallery.com/

5. First Fridays have been a mainstay of the Raleigh art scene for many years. If your visiting uncle’s eyes glaze over in the galleries, he can groove to the free music and sample the nearby cuisine. First Friday showcases the established and up-and-coming artists the first Friday of every month. Visit godowntownraleigh for more.

But, don’t limit your guests to the visual arts. Sundays, stop by Tir Na Nog around 2pm to check out a true Irish Gaelic “jam session.” Take a look and see part of what makes Raleigh and this area special. 

(It’s 50 seconds, actually.)

KidzNotes creates more than music for Durham kids

(Don’t often post a placement I earned for a client, but it’s a great organization. Originally published 12.18.11 in the Raleigh News & Observer)

photo: Liz Condo

BY ANNE BLYTHE

DURHAM The performance inside the Holton Resource and Career Center auditorium in east Durham late Saturday morning was billed as a “Winter Concert.”

But there was no “icy chill in the air,” as the chorus belted out in the song “Winter Fantasy.”

photo: Liz Condo

Nothing but warmth exuded from the stage as 110 young musicians in the making – from kindergarten through the fourth grade – shouted out holiday songs and sawed bows across the strings of violins and cellos that in many cases were almost as big as they were.

Parents beamed as they trained cell phone and video cameras toward the stage.

Pride swelled in grandparents, friends and teachers as the orchestra delighted them with unique renditions of such seasonal favorites as “Jingle Bells,” “Good King Wenceslas,” “Deck the Halls” and “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas.”

Occasionally, a particularly ornery string squeaked or squawked.

But the audience, teachers and volunteers cheering the children on could turn a deaf ear to a misplayed note or a few extra exuberant “ho, ho, hos” from the chorus.

KidZnotes' Katie Wyatt (photo: Liz Condo)

Katie Wyatt, the true conductor in chief of the program, stood to the side as performance conductors took their turns during the concert.Wyatt is the executive director of KidZNotes, a program for Durham school children who might otherwise be blocked from music by economic and social barriers.

The two-year-old program is modeled after the venerable El Sistema, an instructional system born in Venezuela nearly three and a half decades ago that since has unleashed hundreds of thousands of instrumentalists and choristers across the South American country.

The idea is to give the children access to instruments and hundreds of hours of instruction each year with hopes that they will become an orchestra that represents the community.

photo: Liz Condo

The community, then according to the ideal model, the utopian dream, nurtures the children in their musical endeavors and more.

“It takes all of us to raise a child together,” Wyatt said after the well-attended show.

And many financial backers.

It can cost $2,500 per child. The instruments are pricey and only sent home for good with children who demonstrate that they are ready for the responsibility of practicing and taking care of a violin, viola, cello, trumpet or flute. Each musician in the making receives 10 hours of free instruction a week — or 400 hours of after-school and weekend training.

“This is excellent,” said Arvilla Taylor, the grandmother of fourth-grader Donald Moore, an 8-year-old who rushed up for a big hug in between pieces so he could boast a bit about the top-notch score he just made on a math test, too.

“We prayed he would be the best,” Taylor said, “and look at him.”

Taylor left Philadelphia years ago when her children were young to move Donald’s mom and her siblings away from a neighborhood where drug dealers and others involved in illegal activities were the ones who commanded respect.

KidZNotes, Taylor said, has taught her grandson much more than musical notes.

photo: Liz Condo

Similar praise echoed throughout the auditorium – from adults and the young.

Erica Torres Villalba, 8, a viola player, and her sister, Esmeralda Torres Villalba, 6, a violin player, rated the performance as the audience pushed toward the exit doors.

“My favorite was ‘Jingle Bells,’ ” Erica said. “Everybody likes ‘Jingle Bells,'” Esmeralda chimed in.

“I like ‘Good King Wenceslas.’ ”

The girls agreed, though, on what instrument they wanted to play later in life.

“When I grow up I wish I could have a flute,” Erica said. “Then I could be a magician.”

Bianca Morten and Francina Everett, mother and grandmother of 8-year-old violinist Mikayla Hunt, chatted enthusiastically about the opportunities the program provided. In just a few months, Mikayla was making big plans – she hoped to move from the violin to more musical endeavors and possibly join the chorus.

Mikayla, who says “it’s pretty cool” because “you get to finger your notes,” acknowledged one downside of the program that she hopes will lead her to a “big orchestra” some day. She gets stage fright before a big show. “Nervous,” she said, her shoulders shuddering. But she has a secret for pushing beyond the edginess.

How does Mikayla settle her nerves?

“By smiling,” she said.

It must have been a contagious smile that spread well beyond the confines of one east Durham auditorium Saturday morning.

“Isn’t it amazing,” said Evan Howell, a volunteer and promoter of the program.

KidZnotes of Durham in Holiday concert, part of global program supporting in need children

KidZNotes is holding a Holiday concert this Saturday, December 17th,  on the heels of a new partnership forged with the North Carolina Symphony. The concert coincides this month with performances by in-need children from organizations inspired by the world-renown El Sistema program in seven U.S. cities and 25 countries worldwide.

When: Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011, 10:30 am
Where: Auditorium, Holton Career and Resource Center, 401 N. Driver St., Durham, N.C.
What: KidZnotes Holiday concert of 110 students, grades K-4, performing holiday favorites, sing-a-longs, and showcasing their talents.

(courtesy, MetroNC)

The Venezuelan-borne El Sistema program uses the transformational power of classical music to help build new futures for children, targeting those who would otherwise be blocked by economic and social barriers. El Sistema graduates include Gustavo Dudamel, 30-year-old virtuoso conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The El Sistema program and those inspired by it have helped nearly 1 million children to date.

Duke University donates instruments to KidZNotes, and additional sponsors include Durham Public Schools, Durham Parks and Recreation, the Durham Arts Council, and the East Durham Children’s Initiative.

Established last year in East Durham, KidZNotes targets students from four low-income schools in Durham. They receive 10 hours of free music instruction each week. On Saturdays, the students come together for large ensembles and group instruction.

Katie Wyatt (courtesy, Durham Magazine)

KidZNotes Executive Director and close friend of Dudamel, Kathryn (Katie) Wyatt, said the Holiday Concert is a great way to celebrate the season and show how people and local businesses can come together to strengthen a community and turn Durham into a world-class city.

“Kidznotes is not just music for social change for children, it’s also about the business community,” Wyatt said. “It’s about encouraging the business community to get behind its neighborhoods to foster an environment of social and economic growth.”