There's an Alan Jackson song about September 11th, perhaps you're familiar with. In it he sings "Where were you when the world stopped turning...". Of course I know where I was, who I was with and most of all, I will never forget how I felt. I had hoped that would be the only time in my life that I'd have a world event impact my heart so deeply. Unfortunately, on December 14, 2012 another tragic event rocked me to my core. But it affected me differently than 9/11 because this time I was a mother and this time it was innocent children, the same age as my son. It sparked a feeling inside me that can not be explained into words, but the best I can muster is that it was fear, it was a breathtaking heartbreak and it was also an incredible gratitude that my children were safe.
As the Alan Jackson song asks, 'where were you...', I have never felt more safe than where I was that day. I happened to have both children home sick and we were all napping in my bed snuggled together. The safest place on Earth if you ask me. When we got up from our slumber we resumed our lazy, sickly day. I checked Facebook and instantly couldn't breathe I was crying so hard. The status postings, the sharing of the news stories, it was surreal and I kept wishing it wasn't true.
Twenty six lives were lost that day. Twenty six innocent lives. There were 12 girls, 8 boys and 6 adult women. I had no words then and I still have no words today.
A few days after the tragedy a photographer decided to do something. She decided to honor the lost children because she noticed one of the girls named Olivia had recently had family photos taken. The photographer's own daughter was named Olivia, so this struck a chord as well. She thought about how much little Olivia's family must cherish those photos and being a photographer, it was a skill she could utilize to help another family have photos to cherish. She offered a 30 minute session to a deserving family and asked her Facebook fans to submit their nominations. Other photographers saw this and jumped on board, so the original photographer, wishing to remain anonymous launched The Olivia Act. You can find the Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/TheOliviaAct
You can read blog posts and find a list of participating photographers from around the world (including myself) here: http://www.theoliviaact.blogspot.com/
Anyway, after seeing a few photographers post about their participation in The Olivia Act, I was on board too. I offered a 30 minute session with $50 in print credit to a deserving family, to be nominated by my fans. I expected some great stories of struggle and perseverance, but I didn't expect to cry with almost every email I received. I ended up with 11 nominations. Not only am I blown away by the stories, but the nominators made my heart proud. They took the time to nominate these families. They took the time to type out LONG, eloquently written explanations as to why these people deserved a 30 minute photo session. They are what 'paying it forward' or 'acts of kindness' should look like. And most of all, I'm honored that these nominators trusted ME with these deserving family's memories. That makes me darn proud.
So without further adieu I am happy to announce that after reading these emails over and over again and reading a couple to my husband for his opinions, I decided to pick 2 very deserving families, for 2 very different reasons.
Family number one was submitted by their friend that wishes to remain anonymous, I will only refer to her as "M". The email from M was one of my first submissions. It was a short nomination because you could tell M wasn't exactly sure what to say because she was in shock. She said she could 'go on and on about what a great mother her friend Jill was, what a great family they were, etc.' But what made Jill most deserving in M's opinion was that Jill Wyatt and her family were on their way to Connecticut to lay their niece Allison Wyatt to rest. Allison was one of the 12 little girls lost that day. I couldn't believe someone from this little community in Michigan had ties to Connecticut?! My heart broke immediately for them. While I can not do anything to ease the pain for the Wyatt family, I can offer to preserve their memories. So, Jill Wyatt, I would be honored to photograph your family in memory of your niece, Allison.
The second nomination came from this family's dear friend Renee. Eloquently and from the heart the email told me about her friend Jessica Johnson's health issues. Jessica has Cystic Fibrosis (CF), a terminal illness. An illness that had her doctors telling her she wouldn't live past 18, yet here she is 34! Her medications and CF complications caused her to develop Diabetes, which led to her doctors telling her she'd never be a mother. Yet her son Samuel is now 2! The story of overcoming and beating the odds, proving doctors wrong and most of all becoming a mother made my heart pound with joy for Jessica and I'd love to give this photo session gift to the Johnson family...as Renee said, for Samuel.
The rest of the emails were wonderful and deserving as well. And honestly, as awesome as I think The Olivia Act is, I must tell you that I sat here after publishing the contest thinking 'what gives me the right to decide who is more deserving than another?!'. So I am going to email every submission with a VERY discounted offer. Because everyone is deserving.
The following is a list of the Sandy Hook Elementary victims. Please do not forget them.
- Charlotte Bacon, 2/22/06, female
- Daniel Barden, 9/25/05, male
- Rachel Davino, 7/17/83, female
- Olivia Engel, 7/18/06, female
- Josephine Gay, 12/11/05, female
- Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 04/04/06, female
- Dylan Hockley, 3/8/06, male
- Dawn Hochsprung, 06/28/65, female
- Madeleine F. Hsu, 7/10/06, female
- Catherine V. Hubbard, 6/08/06, female
- Chase Kowalski, 10/31/05, male
- Jesse Lewis, 6/30/06, male
- James Mattioli , 3/22/06, male
- Grace McDonnell, 12/04/05, female
- Anne Marie Murphy, 07/25/60, female
- Emilie Parker, 5/12/06, female
- Jack Pinto, 5/06/06, male
- Noah Pozner, 11/20/06, male
- Caroline Previdi, 9/07/06, female
- Jessica Rekos, 5/10/06, female
- Avielle Richman, 10/17/06, female
- Lauren Rousseau, 6/1982, female (full date of birth not specified)
- Mary Sherlach, 2/11/56, female
- Victoria Soto, 11/04/85, female
- Benjamin Wheeler, 9/12/06, male
- Allison N. Wyatt, 7/03/06, female