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    Thursday, December 13, 2007

    Evening Out Shopping - Snowflakes at Westroads

    So I wanted to do some Christmas shopping last night, sans hubby and kids. No sweat, right?

    Here is my retrospective checklist of said shopping trip:

    Work on gift list of things to buy, including new tools Greg may get for Christmas.
    Feed kids/hubby.
    Iterate to children the need to be good for Daddy.
    Share with Daddy my thoughts on flying solo with kids.
    Look for phone/wallet/purse.
    Pick up and put down the diaper bag...twice.
    Kiss all three repeatedly and add...I love good for Daddy...yes, I'll be back later...yes, I'm going Christmas shopping...NO, you can't come even if you promise not to look...
    Walk out door, reveling in the aloneness to come.
    Turn and say goodbye again; reiterate the need to be good for Daddy.
    Get to the van in the driveway. Start the van.
    Spend THIRTY MINUTES chipping ice off the windows/windshield.
    Get back in van, attempt to dry off coat with napkins from console.
    Curse about wet gloves and scarf.
    Cross "tools" off of Greg's Christmas list. (He obviously does not need more tools. If he was lacking tools, maybe my van would be IN THE GARAGE instead of in the driveway covered with ice.)
    Leave for shopping adventure a mere four hours after deciding to go.
    Almost get stuck in the end of the driveway, where city plows have made a lovely snow pile.
    Curse about city snow plow drivers.
    Fight traffic to mall #1, find almost nothing I need.
    Get back in van, pondering where to go; listen to Godspell soundtrack whilst fighting more traffic. Think of Erinn, Stephanie Burns, Doug Harmon and other fellow cast members from our version of the show a hundred years ago.
    Pull up to Westroads Mall. Notice Stanley Steemer vans at both side entrances to Von Maur. Shudder.
    Get out of my van. Walk to the front of Von Maur, look at the thousands of flowers/signs/bears placed at the doors; watch loved ones of Janet Jorgenson place a memorial and grieve.
    Stand with others and choke on my tears, and hang my head in shame at every whiny negative thought about my petty, small problems.

    There is no more checklist. At this point, I go into the mall. The food court has a huge Christmas tree in the center, full of snowflakes made by Omahans.

    I walk down to the area in front of Von Maur (where less than two weeks ago I stood with my mom and kids getting pictures taken with Santa) and what I see takes my breath away. Tens of thousands of more of the same kind of snowflakes, hung on the walls, on ledges, doorways and spilling out onto the floors.

    Why snowflakes?

    Here's why (taken from local radio station Q98.5's website ):

    Pat and JT, ...Listening to you this morning, I was moved to tell you about a dream I had on Wednesday night. Of course I spent most of the afternoon and evening watching the newreports about the incident. Those reports and the weather predictions of the snow were really the only two stories all night. So, I guess it is logical that they would have combined in my dreams that night but I was moved by what I dreamt and would love to see it become a reality.

    I dreamt that everyone did go to Westroads to show their support. I saw thousands of people there. They were taping handmade paper snowflakes (remember, like you made in grade school?) up on the glass walls and the railings around the escalator atrium in Von Maur. I heard a voice say "These victims are like the snowflakes falling outside. They are unique and special individuals. Like us, and like all the other snowflakes, their lives were fragile. But, we WILL NOT let their memory melt away! Like the snow that blankets our town, let our love and support blanket their families, friends, Von Maur, Westroads, and our entire city."

    Everywhere I looked there were paper snowflakes and I had tears in my eyes. The last thing I remember before waking up was dreaming that we (the city) presented the loved ones of the victims with beautiful snowflake ornaments to represent the support and love of the city and the memory of those they lost.I don't know why I feel compelled to share this with you but I believe that everything happens for a reason. Maybe you are the reason.......Tammy P.

    And so "Operation Snowflake" was born.

    There are many people coming and going to this spot as I stand there, using the tables and supplies provided to create a snowflake to add to the countlesss ones already there, or to sign the books for the victims' loved ones. Inside Von Maur, behind a black curtain and the snowflakes hung on the gates, floor cleaners hum and workers speak in low (and often not-so-low) voices. For some reason, the curtain is drawn back partly as we are standing there, and we can see those floor cleaners, going over the same spots over and over and over. The sight is burned into my memory and even now I tear up thinking about it.

    Like many others, I was moved to take pictures to share what I experienced, but pictures fail to truly capture the moment of standing where people died, honoring them with the simplest but most beautiful of things. But these I took to share with you:

    Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

    Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

    Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

    Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

    You can find more pictures of Operation Snowflake HERE.

    It was a moving experience to go there, one week later, and stand with other people who were grieving in the same way, for the same reasons. It was surreal, and scary, and peaceful, and sad. I made a snowflake, placed it among the others, and moved on to make way for other people.

    I will never forget last night.


    Anonymous said...

    Wow! Thanks for sharing Cathy. I need to get to Westroads to make a snowflake and just "make the whole thing real" for myself. Oddly enough, I have a feeling that the mall is one place in Omaha that is truely filled with what Christmas is all about... not shopping, not Santa, not holiday music and decorations... BUT givng and peace and love and community and coming together for support...


    Cristina said...

    Tears in my eyes. Beautifully put, Cathy.

    Deb said...

    Mmm... perspective.

    Beautiful. Thanks for sharing, Cat. I'll have that on my mind today while I do my last-minute Christmas errands.