No matter what, no one can take the memories: Aftermath of 9/11

I owned a travel agency. It was a dream come true and my husband, Matthew, and I, loved traveling with loyal customers and friends to the outer-most parts of the earth. The horrible events of 9/11 took that dream away from me and changed my life forever.

Here is an excerpt from a journal I kept on our last trip. It was to Alaska over the first anniversary of that fateful day:

Riverside Lodge 2002

The adventure begins as we arrive in Fairbanks, Alaska, at about 10:00 a.m. We are bused to the Riverside Lodge, nestled in a secluded valley. Our room is breath-taking with a view of the river. We take a walk around the grounds where majestic birch and spruce trees line the paths. It’s a little cloudy today with sun breaks. The birch leaves are bright yellow, and when the sun sprays through them they become like shimmering gold, luminous and spectacular!

Alaska mountain rivers 2002

The river here is somewhat muddy and calm. Across the water from the lodge is a beautiful private home – a “heavenly” home, I’d say. I wonder what it’s like here in the wintertime. The pine and spruce are rather spindly indicating harsh and freezing weather. I imagine Alaska winters are not for sissies.

I lay on my log-framed bed, with an over-stuffed down comforter, trying to take a much-needed nap. But my mind just wanders to the travel agency. It has been such a difficult year. With terrorist threats continuing, the talk of war with Iraq and the Nation’s economy, we are poised for tough times… I’m afraid I am poised for very tough times. I don’t want to lose my business. I keep telling myself that there is no failure, only experiences that will lead me to a greater understanding of who I am and why I am. And that I already have what I need to know the answers and make things work out somehow. One thing is certain in this moment, I don’t know everything, and that’s okay.

Brave group of explorers 2002

I am on this trip with forty wonderfully “hell-bent” people. These folks were willing to travel, even on the first anniversary of 9/11! They are adventurers; they will not be shaken. I wish there were many more of them, and my business would be saved. But I appreciate their stamina, their undying commitment to the belief that no one will take away their right to travel.

Today we have many activities planned. The Stern Wheel Riverboat Tour and the Gold Rush Tour! We will pan for gold – I hope to get rich!

What an inspiring cruise down the Chena River! We came across a salmon smokehouse where Dixie, an Alaskan Native, showed us how she could fillet a salmon in 38 seconds! She explained how they hang the fish to dry under tents, and when ready they throw them to the sled dogs for a feast.

We stopped the boat right by the home, and training camp, of Sue, a woman who ran in the Iditarod. Her dogs raced to the shore as our boat passed – we waved to them, and they barked back. There was a connection of which no human words can express.

Alaska historical trapper cabin 2002

Next, we saw an authentic Native American village and we were able to pet the sled dogs. There were old cabins filled with stories of trappers and displaced dreams, and fabulous artifacts and works of art, including beadwork coats and dresses. Our friend, Dixie, was the creator of these exquisite garments and she had won many awards for her talent.

For a short distance on this cruise, we traveled the glacial waterway, Tanana River. When we sailed into this river, we could see the dramatic difference between the water and the glacial “milk” that filtered by. It was interesting and amazing how it didn’t mix together – the glacial milk just continued traveling its own path. I’m sure there is a powerful lesson in that!

Panning for gold 2002

This afternoon, we panned for gold. Each of us had a chance to pan and I was so afraid I would accidently empty my gold off into the water. I couldn’t get used to draining off the top layer of rocks and trusting that the gold was heavier and would sink to the bottom – desperate not to lose even a flake!

We rode on a small train around the mine, as our guide gave a talk on how it worked. Water sprayed and gushed down a long trough right in front of us. It was a lot of fun, and everyone came away with a little “yellow stuff” to take home. I bought a necklace charm and filled it with Matthew’s and my treasure, worth about $19 – but the charm cost $10. Oh, well, at least I came out ahead this time!

Scenic train to Denali 2002

Today we went to Denali Park, toward Mount McKinley and the Fairweather Mountain Range. The train was impressive and extremely comfortable. What a view along the way! We saw the Fairweather Mountains in full glory (an unusual sight we were told) and took some fabulous pictures. The wind was blowing, and it was very cold out on the platform. It was a photo op any photographer would die for, and Matthew was in “photo heaven.” This 3 ½ hour tour took me to another world.

Denali Park and Fairweather Range 2002

After the train, we went to Denali Lodge and rode school buses into the park. Becky, our guide, presented the history of the park and it was an incredible day! The photos we took said it all. From the yellow an orange tundra to the yellow and dark green forest, to the snowcapped, pink-tinged mountaintops – it was magnificent. Matthew’s camera shutter continued to click, and ten rolls later we were sure we got some awesome shots.

I must admit, where better to be, than in the heart of the Alaskan wilderness on the anniversary of 9/11.

Matthew and Jane Fitzpatrick 2002

Today we remember. It was this day, a year ago, that the world changed. It was the day that crushed my dream. This will probably be the last trip we will take as travel agency owners.

We spent the day in the rain, hiking seven miles around Byers Lake trail. WOW! We did not see an eagle, but we did watch mountain sheep and caribou traverse their terrain. And we saw a grizzly bear across the river. He had a golden coat and the sun danced on his wet back as he lumbered along. Just think, to him nothing in the world had changed…

UPDATE April 2003 –
My predictions played out. This was the last trip we were to lead. I struggled for a little longer with the agency, then closed my doors. I’ll never forget my travel experiences – no one and nothing can take away those memories. In fact, I have albums of photos and an entire cabinet filled with bells from around the globe.  And what followed was a whole new world of opportunities that I may not have experienced otherwise. Indeed, to reach for a life-long dream … to become a writer and try to make a difference through words.

Jane L. Fitzpatrick
Sacajawea, The Windcatcher – Script
Moon Drake Series – Children’s Series, Five Scripts
Embrace the World with Love Words Series – Vol. 1
The Grass Maiden, Sacajawea – Children’s Book
Crabtree – Children’s Book
Kimama’s Wings – Children’s Script

Fairweather Mountain Range 2002

Kimama’s Wings

Kimama’s Wings is a story that touched my heart while I was living in Los Angeles trying to get Sacajawea produced. Over that difficult time period of two years, away from family and friends, I finally realized I wasn’t there to actually get that epic movie made… I was there to learn some hard truths, and to experience a life-changing realization.

When I look back now, and I put together the projects I am working on at this time, I absolutely know, I was in California to clear my head and my heart. I was there to develop contacts and revise Sacajawea, The Windcatcher, to create the premise for the Moon Drake Anime Series and to write the beginning structure of Kimama’s Wings. Every one of these stories embrace human emotions and spiritual Truths that help us remember what our heart already knows.

But, these stories would not be what they are if I had not sojourned to Los Angeles all those years ago – and though I had struggles and made many mistakes, there were also successes. “I” was a work in progress and finally, I learned through it all – I could “go to the edge of the cliff” in Faith, even if I did not know everything.

By 2015, I had only written half of Kimama’s Wings, but it was enough to know it held an important message for children about racism in everyday life. The storyline evolved, as well, and it created a deep richness and meaning for Kimama’s beginning.

When I finally came home to Washington, I finished the first draft and it has continued to grow and change. Considering COVID, we may decide to use animation, but, regardless, Broken Hand Productions has added Kimama’s Wings to their Development slate for 2022! It may not be completed this year, but Development is a vital step to making sure the story and project are ready when the time comes.

Here is the premise of Kimama’s Wings:

LOG LINE – Victoria’s heart is broken after losing the first love of her life… She’s too young to understand racism and people’s intolerance for diversity. But, then, a spirit guide named Kimama helps her, and those she loves, to see something greater than themselves.

Character design of Victoria
by Shawna N. Fitzpatrick-Harris.

PROJECT SUMMARYKimama’s Wings is a timeless story that shines a light on the hurtful effects of judgment and racism, and also on the power of faith. An adopted African American girl, Victoria, is devastated at the loss of her father. The tragedy forces her and her Japanese mother and sister, to move to an unfamiliar place. A place where those who are supposed to love her do not accept her diverse family. But a Native American spirit guide, Kimama, helps them all see something else. Kimama’s Wings is about learning to live life in a spiritual way, by becoming aware of one’s greater purpose and the infinite Oneness of all Creation.

Watch for the Wonders

A couple of years ago, the Sacajawea production team had the most amazing experience along the Oregon coast. We went to film a teaser reel for Sacajawea, but it happened to be a complete snowstorm all up and down the coast – from California to Canada!

There was a moment of wondering what we should do… And then we got an answer from a cloud formation in the sky… Hands reaching with an angelic image reaching back. We knew we just had to have faith.

As happened, we proceeded onward and our faith was truly honored. The day was amazing with enormous waves, a bank of storm clouds all around us, and sunshine right above. There was a hole in the clouds assuring us that the blue sky was still there. It was an incredible lesson in perseverance.

Here is our original teaser reel, though we will be expanding it and making it even better. And, here are pictures of the clouds that called us to stay. See the photos from the books, “The Path” (Sacajawea collectible book series) and “Awakening,” the first book in a series of writings from this journey.

Always walk with confidence toward your dream, because you have the power of the Universe at your back when you believe it!