Want strong workers? You’ve got them in Erie, Pennsylvania.
When General Electric’s business boomed, they hired some of the best, hard-working, skilled labor from all over the city. Other manufacturers were angry. GE enticed some great workers to leave their jobs and come work for them. They added some of the city’s best skilled labor to their own great workforce, and the result is these strong men and women now stand arm in arm in sub-zero wind chills fighting to keep middle-class jobs in the city they love.
You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have strong workers who are weak people. These individuals will help your company thrive. Be glad for their strength. They want your company to succeed. They want sustainable work for future generations.
They want to work.
Negotiate. Get them back to their jobs. Let them prove themselves.
To economic leaders
Do you want more jobs in Erie? Tell manufacturers and corporate America about the strength of our region. For once, the country is watching Erie, Pennsylvania. Don’t waste this opportunity.
Get economic leaders who feel Erie’s skilled labor are paid too much away from the table. We don’t need their negativism. The truth is, corporate America would like nothing more than to push skilled labor like ours out of the middle class and into the working poor.
Yes, unions are not perfect. But they are absolutely necessary to sustain the middle class. Without them? Our country will erode into two classes: the rich and the working poor.
Please, sit down with our unions today and use this brief yet vital opportunity of being in the lime light to show a unified effort to attract businesses. Showcase Erie as strong, skilled and resilient. Sell our work ethic. Our love of our region. And if you don’t believe Erie is strong, skilled, and resilient, at least get out of the room and let the rest of us fight for our lives.
To the union workers
Stay strong. The strength of a man doesn’t show in his economic status. It shows in his soul. This fight is bigger than all of us. Whether you know it or not, you are in the fight of your lives to help keep the middle class, not only in Erie, but in our entire country.
When you get back to work, and hopefully you will soon, work your tails off. Show them just how strong Erie is.
Cyndie Zahner has lived in the Erie community her entire life. She is a retired grant writer/administrator, and now writes fiction novels. Her husband, brother-in-law, and nephew-in-law work at Wabtec. Her brother, Mike Filutze, is a GE retiree. Her father-in-law, Edwin Zahner, was a proud GE employee for thirty-seven years. Follow Cyndie on Instagram,Twitter,Facebook,Goodreads,BookBub,LinkedIn and purchase her books on Amazon. See her BookCircle Online interview at here.
For a moment in the morning he wakes up, and everything is fine. Then he opens his eyes and remembers the nightmare.
He’s on strike.
More thoughts run through him. How long will this last? What about the mortgage? Should he pull his son out of hockey? His daughter from dance? Where is gas cheapest? Will his first-grader come home from school upset, again?
Because they do, the little ones overhear people talking about the strike. They come home and ask, “Will we run out of money?” “Can I still go to my school?” And their parents pick them up, smile, and assure them everything will be all right. They hope they aren’t lying.
An Impression on Wabtec and other business Interests
The Wabtec employees, old and young alike, want jobs. They want living-wage jobs. They want to make a great impression on business interests so their children have jobs. Their hopes for this city are the same as economic leaders’ hopes.
But they are not willing to step back in time and relinquish total control of their lives to an employer.
In order to assure they do not do that, UE506 refused to ratify a contract with flexible schedules and mandatory overtime stipulations.
A historic point of view
Dr. John Olszowka, Ph.D., a professor at Mercyhurst’s Thomas B. Hagen Department of History teaches the history of labor.
“From a historic standpoint, the issue of an eight-hour work day was one that was a central goal and objective that drove American workers since the advent of the industrial revolution in the 19th century. There’s an interesting historic (autobiographical) novel that speaks to the mental fatigue, physical exhaustion, and coercive force of the excessive work hours that once existed in the United States.”
The book Dr. Olszowka uses in his class, Out of the Furnace by Thomas Bell, discusses the old steel industry when employees were forced to juggle shifts while working twelve-hour days seven days a week. On the last day of the week, which they called “The Turn,” their shift changed and employees were forced to work twenty-four hours.
Back then, unions didn’t exist. Steel workers received no overtime pay.
“Conditions were dangerous, and unsafe to say the least—injuries and death were not uncommon.” Dr. Olszowka said. “These conditions were permissible because employers looked at workers as little more than interchangeable parts.”
The bad conditions inspired workers to ask for standard eight-hour days.
“It was about recapturing their dignity, fighting for their lives and safety,” Dr. Olszowka said.
Like strikers and unions today, the steel workers met with criticism.
“At the time, to outsiders, these efforts to change the work condition were seen as a threat. Critics complained it would hurt the companies, financially. They would want to leave the region,” Dr. Olszowka said. “One of the constant comments I still hear is how the labor unions destroyed the American Steel industry with their “excessive demands”—which is completely false. It was about having a degree of control over their lives; and raising their lives to a quality worth living.”
UE506 and Wabtec employees feel accepting flexible schedules and mandatory overtime is relinquishing too much control back into the hands of an employer.
The Mandatory Overtime Stipulation
Embedded in the proposed Wabtec contract is the following reference to mandatory overtime:
B.3. Overtime Assignments. Employees will be required to work overtime including, but not limited to, work performed before and after shifts, on weekends, and on holidays, as necessary depending on the needs of the business.
In this country, if you refuse overtime, you can be fired. As long as your employer pays you in accordance with the law, there is no limit on the amount of overtime they can require.
Sign on that dotted line, and UE506 ratifies a contract where an employer has absolute power over the amount of time an employee must spend at work. Family wedding? Child’s recital? Soccer game? Vacation? Family reunion? Unless those events land during shutdown, there is no assurance they’ll be able to go.
Let me restate Dr. Olszowka’s words. “It was about having a degree of control over their lives; and raising their lives to a quality worth living.”
What can we do?
Right now, seventeen hundred families are in the fight of their lives. They will do anything to keep these jobs in Erie—anything except go back in time.
If you do not understand their plight, then at least be kind.
Political leaders, your words are powerful. Walking that cold Wabtec picket line are first, second, and third generation GE workers. Please don’t accuse their fight for personal dignity as making a bad impression on business interests. They have a vested interest in this city. Unlike you, Mr. Grunke, most of them grew up here. They love Erie. They want their kids to stay here, and they are desperate to make a good impression on business interests.
They are hard-working people who will work overtime when they can to make Wabtec successful, but they are not going to sign their lives away.
They are not interchangeable parts.
Cyndie Zahner has lived in the Erie community her entire life. She is a retired grant writer/administrator, and now writes fiction novels. Her husband, brother-in-law, and nephew-in-law work at Wabtec. Her brother is a GE retiree. Her father-in-law, Edwin Zahner, was a proud GE employee for thirty-seven years. Follow Cyndie on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads,BookBub,LinkedIn and purchase her books on Amazon. See her BookCircle Online interview at here.
The first in a series of blogs about the Erie, Pennsylvania wage dispute.
If you are a blue-collar manufacturing worker in Erie, you should be concerned about the Wabtec/GE strike. The outcome of this labor dispute may eventually affect you.
Here’s how GE labor relations affected Erie in the past:
My Husband as an Example
Jeff worked as a journeyman toolmaker in Erie at a livable wage for years. When the owners of manufacturing companies in town banded together to control wages and, in some cases, alleviate overtime costs, Jeff’s pay raises and overtime stopped. We had three children in college at the time, so Jeff applied to and accepted a job at GE as a second-shift, press-brake operator in the hope overtime would be available to help pay our mounting college costs.
That year, GE hired hundreds of Erie workers. Smaller Erie manufacturers lost much of their skilled labor to them. In an attempt to keep some employees, those Erie manufacturing companies had to step up their pay increases and benefits. In doing so, they kept some employees from going to GE.
Fast forward a few years. GE is no longer hiring. In fact, they have laid some of those workers off.
Now those same manufacturers have the ability to fall back to their nickel-and-diming ways. So, some did. No need to take the scaling back to prior ways personal. This is Basic Supply and Demand 101.
Webster defines supply and demand as: the amount of goods and services that are available for people to buy compared to the amount of goods and services that people want to buy. If less of a product (workers) than the public (manufacturers) wants is produced, the law of supply and demand says that more can be charged (paid to) for the product (workers).
Hence, if GE attracts more Erie workers by paying them more, there are less workers available to other Erie manufactures and, in essence, they must pay those of you out there not working for GE more.
If the new Wabtec lowers labor rates, employers in our area will follow. Period.
You can debate this issue at length, but if your employer no longer worries about losing you to Wabtec, fight all you want for that cost-of-living wage hike, their backs are no longer against the wall.
Yes, you may have a few great employers who do right by their employees, but manufacturing businesses are currently in the struggle of their lives. If their employees don’t have better employment opportunities in our area, Erie manufacturers no longer have to work as hard to keep them.
Here’s a complaint I have about the Erie area.
I worked in Economic and Community Development for years before I retired. An Economic Development leader once complained that GE blue-collar workers were earning six figures. It was a nice spring morning in May, and I asked him how many days he had taken off that year. He said he had only used a few vacation days.
“No, how many days away from the office have you had? Saturdays and Sundays included?”
Well, of course, he may have worked some overtime, but he generally had weekends off.
“My husband has only had three days off in over four months—weekends included. That is the reason he will make six figures this year.”
Economic Development Leaders want a community college? Of course, they do. (Remember the properties of supply and demand?) They want to attract jobs to the Erie area? Of course. And in order to do so Erie needs more skilled labor?
Here’s a tip: stop bashing the skilled workers you do have.
Tomorrow: Mandatory Overtime
Email your comments to Cyndie.firstname.lastname@example.org
_____________________________________________ Cyndie Zahner has lived in the Erie community her entire life. She is a retired grant writer/administrator, and now writes fiction novels. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub, LinkedIn and purchase her books on Amazon. See her BookCircle Online interview at here.
What character in this book would you most like to meet and why?
Which Callahan sister could you identify with more?
Did Rachel Callahan surprise you?
Of all the characters, whose likeability factor changed the most? (Whether you thought they were good-hearted in the beginning but disliked them in the end, or feared them at the start but grew to like them.)
Who, at one time or another during your read, did you feel could be the kidnapper?
Do you believe some people are clairvoyant?
Have you yourself ever experienced a premonition or seen a ghost?
If you had to send one person, from your book club, to participate in an Area 51 secret government program, who do you feel would handle the situation best?
If you have not read the prequel, Project Dream, what do you believe the children experienced in that Nevada desert?
If Lisa Callahan had gone to the desert instead of Rachel, how much would the story have changed? Would she have used drugs?
Do you feel Jack’s decision to protect Mikala on his own was warranted? Wise?
If your child was clairvoyant, would you tell anyone?
What do you think Mikala Daly is going to be like when she grows up?
Do you believe the United States government would ever design a child prodigy program for the good of the country?
If you had the chance to ask the author one question, what would you ask?
_________________________________________ Cyndie Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene and Dream Wide Awake.Listen to her BookCircle Online interview about how her 9/11 premonition influenced her writing of the novel Dream Wide Awakehere, follow her on Instagram,Twitter,Facebook,Goodreads,BookBub,LinkedIn, purchase her books on Amazon, or sign up for here semi-annual newsletter here.
What do authors want? Reviews, reviews and more reviews. So, a note like this? Much appreciated and a great confidence builder but please, consider posting those kind words.
Readers have no idea how much posting a review online matters. We authors are a mere molecule in a bucket of a million. There are lots of readers out there but many won’t consider reading a book until fifty reviews pop up under the title. Worse, Amazon, Goodreads, and the like won’t give your book a second look.
So, have a favorite author? Write a review for him or her on Amazon, Goodreads, BookBub or other popular review sites and help them connect with other readers. If that doesn’t encourage you to post a review, here’s another reason: Authors appreciate every word, and most take your views into consideration as they write more stories.
Oh, and another thing, I’m an author and NONE of us expect all five-star reviews. (Well, there may be a narcissist or two out there but most of us realize we aren’t the next Stephen King.) I’m almost afraid to say this, but truth be told, I’ve learned as much about my writing from three-star reviews as five-stars. Authors are thick skinned. Tell us the truth. Couple a compliment with your critique, and we will love your review.
Compliments are important because a novel is a big part of an author’s life (months, years sometimes). Characters are their children. Authors like to hear what you enjoyed about their lives and kids.
Equally, we want to know what you didn’t like. I learned so much from my first readers. Bill Callahan, a friend of mine, suggested in both my novels, The Suicide Gene and Dream Wide Awake, that I create character/family charts. So, I did, for both. Because I like to challenge my readers to think, my novels can be confusing in the early pages. Readers are loving the character keys. Thanks, Bill!
So, please, if you find an author you particularly like, write a review and make them happy. I promise we will read every review, multiple times. We listen. We appreciate. We learn.
How to review on Major Sites
Amazon: if you have purchased the book make sure you post a VERIFIED review. This is important because Amazon sometimes removes reviews but almost never removes reviews posted by verified users.
go to your Amazon account
select “orders” in the black ribbon toward the top (next to account), if you purchased through Amazon, otherwise enter the book title in the search box,
scroll down to the book and on the right side click the “write a product review” box,
click a star (1-5 stars)
add a headline (page-turner, couldn’t put down, must read, etc.)
write a review!
(Give a description. See suggestions below. Amazon is less likely to remove more detailed reviews. If you received the novel free for a review, write: Thank you to the author/publisher for providing a free copy for an honest review. This review is posted voluntarily.)
Goodreads: create an account and review as follows:
Click dropdown box (arrow) under cover picture on left side
Click number of stars for My Rating:
Copy and paste your Amazon review into the ‘What did you think?” box or write a review from scratch.
(If you do not see a review box, hover over “read” and “write a review” will appear.)
BookBub: is the simplest. Create an account, then:
Enter book title in search box,
Click on book when it appears below box
Check I recommend if you’d like to recommend this book to others
Write a review
(For Barnes & Noble, Rifflebooks, or Kobo see my book club article here.)
Samples of What to Write in Your Review
What was the story about? Ex.: Dream Wide Awake is a thriller based in Erie PA….This thriller, based in a small city,…the storyline is about seers…Mikala Daly was born into a family of seers…Detective Jack Daly attempts to keep his daughter’s dreams secret in this psychic thriller.
Who was your favorite/least favorite character and why?: I liked Mikala Daly…I wasn ‘t fond of Billy’s sarcasm…minor character Andy Mesmer was one of my favorites…I hope to learn more about the chief in a sequel…I wasn’t fond of Lenny…
Did you like/dislike the plot? I enjoy a book with a lot of twists and turns…the plot kept me thinking…I hope a sequel resolves a question I had…
You get the idea, here are some other questions:
Were characters credible?
Could you relate to a character?
Was the story believable? Possible?
Have you experienced anything similar?
Did you like the book?
What was your favorite and/or least favorite part?
If you could change something, what would it be?
Would you recommend this book?
What type of person would like this book?
Would you like to read a prequel, sequel, or other books by this author?
How to Review CJ Zahner’s Novels
If you’ve read mine, I’d love to see your review on any of the following sites. Click on the name of the site under the book you’ve read and you’l be redirected to my page on that site!
_________________________________________ Cyndie Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene and Dream Wide Awake., Listen to her BookCircle Online interview how her 9/11 premonition influenced her writing here, follow her on Instagram,Twitter,Facebook,Goodreads,BookBub,LinkedIn, purchase her books on Amazon,or sign up for here semi-annual newsletter here.
Mine says I love family, girlfriends, writing, and running. My hubby is a huge sports fanatic. My kids are, too. I’m a writer. My husband works at GE. We’ve both run marathons. We have three children who are also sports nuts. My oldest daughter worked for the Orioles at one time. And the Rams. We hike a lot with friends. Especially enjoy adventures out west where the Kokopelli roam. I love chocolate. And wine. Jeff’s hero is Ted Williams. We’ve had some health issues. May need anger management. I forget more these days. But I remember I want to go to Paris. And the height of our being, the apex of our existence, lies in our sweet, beautiful granddaughter, Layla Grace.
Post yours! See what you learn about yourself.
Or send me a pic and I’ll take a gander.
Some people did and here they are:
LeAnne…This is a GOLD MINE! You’re totally a people person with all those pics. You have too much to do because your calendar is HUGE. You try to appear organized (envelope at the bottom) but you’re not (stuffed with papers). You are a kid at heart (seahorse), competititve (flags, triathlon sticker), you like Penn State and the Steelers, either visited or want to visit Paris (I didn’t want to cheat, I know you’ve been there.) And you shop on the internet alot (shoe, purse, book icons on envelope). Oh and you can be sneaky and tend to ignore things you don’t want to think about (bottom—what the heck are those items you hid there. A lock?)
Heather…this girl is no bullshit. She’s organized, definitely not materialistic (there is nothing there!). She is organized to a fault (who has two calendars on their fridge?) and she has contrasting qualities–she can be hard and business like (square, formal, typed calendar) and soft and kind (handwritten, personal calendar). Everyone wants this girl for friend.
_________________________________________ Cyndie Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, and Dream Wide Awake, a paranormal novel that is totally fiction, but has been inspired by her own experiences. Listen to her premonitions of 9/11 here, and follow her on Instagram, Twitter,Facebook,Goodreads,BookBub,LinkedIn and purchase her books on Amazon.
This is my least favorite Jodi Picoult novel. Usually, I love her entire book, but House Rules is a slow start. I did not like the beginning, yet once I was into the middle there were times I could not put it down. I found myself laughing at Jacob’s take on life or words at times. (I would have enjoyed more of that.) I estimate a little over 50% of this book is page turning. I did not like the end at all. Hence my lower score.
Despite this being my least favorite Picoult novel, skipping was minimal. I only skipped long speeches by attorneys toward the end and a few of Jacob’s involved descriptions.
Who should read?
Voracious readers will find this an easy read once they reach page fifty or there about. Readers who like action may not make it that far. Picky readers may not like. I believe people interested in Aspergers or Autism will enjoy. People with children who have those challenges? I’m not sure they will like. I have a friend, Rochelle, with two son’s. One has autism. Although she is a voracious reader, I advised her to skip this Picoult novel.
Summary: This is the story of Jacob Hunt, a child with Asperger’s syndrome and the accompanying challenges for Jacob, his mother, Emma, and brother, Theo. The story is told from several character’s perspectives. Voices change with chapters. (Fonts change, too, which helps remind you a new character is speaking.) The people include:
Emma, the mother of an autistic son, also writes a parental column for a newspaper from home. Her entire life revolves around her autistic son. Jacob. She is divorced.
Jacob, relays his thoughts in an interesting way. At times he is comical, very smart, and other times you get lost in his logic. The author has done a great job helping readers see life from behind this challenging disability.
Theo is Jacob’s younger brother and is often caught between loving his brother and hating his brother’s Aspergers, and how his own life has been affected.
Oliver is the attorney thrust into the family situation.
Police Officers but to be completely honest, I wasn’t sure these were needed. I never really understood why they were included.
Characters: Picoult did okay with character development. Each character carries his or her own distinct voice. However, I did have a hard time connecting or loving any one individual person, and I never quite understood the purpose of the supporting characters (police officers/detectives.) Yet, dialogue between characters was good and they definitely had emotional depth.
Storyline: The start fell short. The story had a good hook and was believable. The main conflict kept me turning pages, but at the risk of revealing too much, I’ll refrain from talking about resolving conflicts. Each of the main characters had purpose and goals, however here again, the minor characters fell short.
Writing style: Simply, I love Picoult’s writing style. Narrative and dialogue was well balanced. Style exquisite. Voice great. Her writing flows well.
_________________________________________ Cyndie Zahner is the author of Dream Wide Awake, a paranormal novel that is totally fiction, but has been inspired by her own experiences. This is the first in a series of blogs about her inspiration behind the novel. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub, LinkedIn and purchase her books on Amazon.
Need a last minute gift under $20? $15? How about under $4. Support your Erie Community. Stop at a local book store! Like Pressed Books.
Of course, I’d love you to buy my novels, but if you aren’t into thrillers, check out other Erie authors that Pressed flaunts. And bring your kids. They have a lovely reading area for children.
The last time I stepped into Pressed’s checkout line, three little girls and their mother were queued up in front of me. Each of the girls had their own money and paid for the books they purchased individually. The checkout was a slow process. Stepping up to a counter that towers over you alone took some time, not to mention counting dollar bills out, and change, too!
Annoyed? No way. I loved watching.
There is something about a book in hand in a child that sends a chill through me. The girls were excited for their purchase and so was I. So much so, that if any grandparents have grandchildren they need a last minute item for, I suggest they buy a big box and put a gift card to a local bookstore inside. Then take them after Christmas. Trust me–this gift is more for you than them.
And while you’re picking up those gift cards, can I interest you in The Suicide Gene under $20, Dream Wide Awake, under $15? (If you are more a kindle reader, they are available on Amazon at here for under $3 & $6). Another author’s book?Or you may take a few moments to relax during the busy season for a great cup of coffee at Pressed, stop in at Pop Luck for some popcorn, or run over to Romolo’s for a shot of caffeine to keep you going.
Have yourself a Merry Read this Christmas!
_________________________________________ Cyndie Zahner is the author of Dream Wide Awake, a paranormal novel that is totally fiction, but has been inspired by her own experiences. This is the first in a series of blogs about her inspiration behind the novel. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub, LinkedIn and purchase her books on Amazon.
Do my premonitions scare you? How would you like to be me? You can get away from me. I can’t.
When I was three years old, I had a paranormal experience with a black devil. (This is the basis for Chapter Three in my novel, Dream Wide Awake.) When I was thirteen, I thought bad spirits were going to infuse their ectoplasm into me and take over my body. For years I couldn’t walk into a funeral home without shaking because I felt like the person in the casket was, somehow, still in the room.
And when I turned thirty? I said, “Well, if mental illness hasn’t surfaced in me by now, it never will.”
These are some of the events in my life that led to my belief in the paranormal, which inadvertently led to my Novel, Dream Wide Awake. (Read an excerptand/or purchase on Amazon.) But truthfully, I’m an extremely logical person. So, from a young age, I thought something was terribly wrong with my brain. I could feel spirits, ghosts, energy, whatever you’d like to call the phenomenon, but because I could not see anything with my eyes, logically, I concluded I had a wild imagination.
Learning the secret
I learned the secret early on: don’t talk about the wild imagination.
When I was thirteen years old, I scared the daylight out of my cousin, Jane, while we babysat. I walked into a house and felt like something or some spirit would overtake my soul. I told my cousin I was afraid I was going to turn into someone else. (I know you remember this, Jane. Believe me, I was frightened, too.)
Shortly thereafter, my mother told me I had to stop talking about “this thing,” or I was going to end up in a mental ward. So, I did. I stopped talking about it for thirty years.
Ignoring the movies
There is no way to make this sound sane. I had to force myself to ignore the movies in my head: A bank teller’s grandmother standing behind her waving her arms. Ignore. My friend’s mother hovering over her at the hospital church mass. Look away. The spirit floating above the gravestone. Leave. The military guy lingering behind a mother who innocently came to my front door to sign her child up for soccer. Don’t tell her.
I remember when that soccer mom left, I leaned my back against the door, slid to the floor, and cried, saying, “I’m crazy.”
But I wasn’t crazy.
The premonition that changed my thinking
I’m not sure why I had the 9/11 premonition. I was never able to see the vision clearly enough to gather what exactly would happen. And even if I had, what would I have done? The only thing I know is if I hadn’t had the vision of being inside one of those World Trade Center buildings when they began to fall, I might still to this day think I was crazy.
The vision began two months before the tragedy. The first time I recorded anything, I wrote notes in the July 11th box of my desk calendar.
In the first half of this “movie in my head,” I floated toward a city. I realized, months later, I was seeing this from a plane’s view. I was in Northeastern America floating above pine trees and approaching water. I thought I was near a Great Lake in upper-state New York. I mistakenly wrote Huron for Lake Ontario, because I am geographically challenged.
I also wrote tall building and sm city for small city. Later I crossed out small and wrote med for medium. Later still, I put a question mark after med, because with each vision, I came closer to the city and saw its size. I wrote 27 F for the 27th floor, but I remember thinking, no, 72nd floor. (I never wrote that down.)
In the second half of this vision, I was at my desk, working, and the building began to move. The first time I had the vision, I thought an earthquake rocked City Hall. The room swayed. I glanced down and saw huge gray floor boulders buckling beneath me. The entire building was collapsing.
That was it. I had this vision three days in a row, and then weekly once or twice for the next two months. I was always at my desk at work, and it was always morning. I wrote before noon, 10:14, and 10:16, but never wrote any more times because I always experienced this vision between 10 and 10:30.
Keeping the calendar
At the end of July, I told myself I would keep the calendar one more month. I was sure a building would collapse.
At the end of August, I attended a training in Washington DC in a building about one mile from the pentagon. The class was in the basement and the entire time I thought, “I hope this isn’t the building that’s going to collapse, because if it is, I’m dead.”
On September 1, I couldn’t throw the calendar away. I said if a building didn’t collapse by September, 30th, I’d toss it then. (That calendar is pictured in the cover of this article.)
On the morning of 9/11, a co-worker mentioned two planes had hit the World Trade Center. Our director moved his television into our office reception area, so people could watch throughout the morning.
Around 10 am, a coworker walked by my cubicle, announcing one of the buildings had collapsed. I asked if people had still been inside and he said yes. I was mortified. I returned to my desk, thinking about those people. Then I realized—I was sitting in the exact place where I’d had those premonitions.
I went out to the reception area where people had gathered to watch, and said, “I know you guys are going to think I’m crazy, but I’ve had this premonition of a building collapsing for two months. What time did this happen?” Someone said it began at 8:30 and I said that made me feel a bit better, because I always had the vision of the building falling between 10 and 10:30. That’s when our secretary, Sharon, said the building collapsed at 10.
I was so upset, I rushed to the ladies’ room and splashed water on my face. By the time I returned, the second building had collapsed.
Sharon asked if I was all right, and I said she must think I was crazy. Then I remembered my notes. Frantically, I pushed my work aside and exposed the desk calendar, still flaunting July. I showed her and she said nothing.
“I know. My notes don’t really do justice to what I saw,” I said.
“Oh, I believe you,” she replied. “Look where you kept your notes.”
All of the notes I took were inside the box marked 11.
I’ve had other movies in my head—crazy movies. But I’ll leave those for another day.
For now, I’ll just say that since 9/11, I pay attention to the things I see. I don’t believe in coincidences and so I’m sure that 2001 vision served some purpose. I’m not completely sure what that was. The vision didn’t seem to help anyone—except maybe me.
I no longer believe I’m crazy
Cyndie Zahner is the author of Dream Wide Awake, a paranormal novel that is totally fiction, but has been inspired by her own experiences. This is the first in a series of blogs about her inspiration behind the novel. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub, LinkedIn and purchase her books on Amazon.
Dream Wide Awake was inspired many years ago on a night I met fright. I was sleeping in the attic of my grandparent’s home—just like LeeLee in chapter three.
In a pitch-black hour, I awoke when someone grabbed my hand. My arm was wedged between the head board and mattress of my bed. I felt someone’s fingers slip into mine and when I opened my eyes, he didn’t let go.
I say “he” because I was sure I clasped hands with a devil. I didn’t see him, but could feel him with every inch of my three-year-old being. I screamed and my mother came and lifted me into her arms, pulling me from his grip. She said I was dreaming, but I knew better.
Fast forward fifty years. This single incident, still so alive in my memory, inspired Dream Wide Awake. The story is fiction, but the setting in chapter three is my grandparent’s attic. My own grandmother was bedridden as in the novel, my mother did have to help nurse her, and my parents, brother, and I moved into a makeshift apartment in her attic.
How impacting was that single incident of feeling someone’s grip in the night? Well, one, I have never once slept with a hand dangling over the side of the bed since, and two, it inspired a novel.
Dream Wide Awake is a paranormal thriller about a family of seers. And at the risk of having some people think I’m crazy and others ask what their future holds, I’ll admit I have had an occasional premonition. My most substantial one being a vague forewarning of 9/11.
For two months before the twin towers fell, I had visions that I was approaching a northeastern American city, near water, from a plane’s eye view. The image came (and there is no sane way to describe this) as a movie in my head. First, I was in the sky moving, and next, I was in a building and the gray floor boulders were buckling beneath me. The building was collapsing.
I kept notes of this vision on my big July desk calendar. Wouldn’t throw it out at the end of July or August because I was sure a building was going to fall. On September 11th when the first building collapsed, I dug my calendar out from under a myriad of paperwork, and there were my notes. All contained in the big box of the 11th of the month. I nearly passed out.
Hence my belief: premonitions can be real. Do I believe in psychics and mediums, too? Yes, to varying degrees.
As a freelance writer I once interviewed a true medium, Anne Gehman. Gehman participated alongside four other mediums in a University of Arizona professor’s afterlife experiments. (The Afterlife Experiments, Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of life After Death, by Gary E. Schwartz, Ph.D. with William. L. Simon.) She said clairvoyance was like playing the piano. Some people sat down and played naturally. Others, no matter how long they trained on the keys, would never make great pianists. But some who practiced long and hard? Did became proficient.
This made me wonder. Could children be trained to be psychic?
In Dream Wide Awake, three boys have been abducted in a small town. Mikala Daly, a six-year-old girl from a normal American family, is having visions of those boys, but her parents must hide her sixth-sense abilities because of a governmental program called Project Dream.
The backstory is that after 9/11, the CIA initiated an innovative national security test program. Twenty-five children were removed from reformatory facilities across the country and placed in Project Dream. The program’s purpose was to augment the adult remote-viewing program. Scientists believed children might be more easily trained and more successful in identifying threats to the American people and government through remote viewing.
When the project produces stunning results, they “recruit” seventy-five more children. Good kids without juvenile records. Children selected had two main characteristics: a sixth sense and physical superiority.
Mikala Daly’s aunt Rachel was one of the original Project Dream kids, and now no one in Mikala’s family will divulge Mikala’s gifts for fear the government will take her away to Project Dream, too. Unbelievable? (Let me remind you of the immigration debacle.)
She was quiet, still, her expression soft. Lip relaxed against lip. Then her eyes opened.
“He can see me.”
At first, because of her casualness, he thought he’d surely heard her wrong. “Who can see you?”
“The bad man.”
His calmness faded to confusion. He tightened his eyebrows. Premonitions, they called these episodes. His wife experienced them, now his daughter. But they were never interactive.
“What do you mean he can see you?”
“He said my name. He has a guide.”
“You know, Daddy, someone who shows him movies. He knows who I am.”
“No, Mikala, the bad man does not know who you are.”
“Yes, he does, Daddy.” For the first time, he heard panic in her voice. “That’s the reason he is at Danny’s house.”
A creak in the floor behind him grabbed his attention, and he turned his head. Lisa darted from the bedroom, ripped Mikala from his arms, and handed him something in her place.
“I told you not to allow this. I said you were playing with fire.”
“Lisa, she’s wrong. He can’t see her.”
“Yes, he can, Daddy.”
“No, he can’t, Mikala.” He lowered his voice to sound stern.
“Yes—yes he can. He’s with Danny right now. Run Daddy. Get Danny!”
“Go.” Lisa screamed so loud one of the boys in the next room woke crying.
Jack looked down at his lap—at the ratty sneakers Lisa had placed there. For the moment it took him to put them on, he wondered if he should run or drive the block and a half to his sister’s house. He decided, descended the stairs, and bounded out the front door bare-chested, leaving Lisa behind switching on lights and talking into the scanner. She would call for a cruiser to go to Janice’s house, to her own house. But Mikala was wrong about Danny. She had to be. He was going to be in a heap of trouble with the chief later.
He ran down the driveway and disappeared into the black night within seconds. His legs turned over like an Olympic sprinter’s, his breath labored, and sweat beaded on his upper lip. He rounded Third Street and nearly slipped in the wet grass on Nevada Drive but caught himself. He saw her house in the distance. Janice, four months separated from her husband, was alone there with her son. Alone like the others. Three single mothers of three abducted little boys.
His mind raced. The police would be at his house in two minutes. At Janice’s in three. They protected each other’s families.
When he was four houses away, he began screaming his sister’s name. Trying to scare anyone off. Make the bad man drop the child? Leave without the child? He didn’t know why he screamed. By the time his feet hit her driveway her light had turned on. The front bedroom window opened.
“Jack?” Janice’s voice slithered through the screen.
He passed her window and ran toward the back of the house, toward Danny’s room. He could see broken glass on the ground shimmering with the reflection of a street light. Dear God, no, he thought. It couldn’t be. These abductions could not have hit his family.
“Danny,” he yelled.
When he reached his nephew’s window, the whites of Danny’s two little eyes glowed in the dark room. He was there. Standing. Looking out the bare, open window back at him. Waiting.
“Hi, Uncle Jack,” Danny said, his little face peeking over the window ledge, his stuffed bear, Tony, nudged under his chin.
Jack leaned hands on house and huffed, trying to catch his breath. Trying to decipher Danny was okay. Alive. Mikala was wrong.
“Thank God, thank God,” he uttered out loud. When he caught his breath, he gazed up at his nephew.
That’s when horror seized him. Above Danny’s little face, secured on the broken glass, a scribbling on Christian stationary paralyzed him. It was the abductor’s fourth message, but the first to make Jack’s blood circulate like an electrical current. The words he read flowed over his lips in a whisper, expelled with terrifying breath.
“One mulligan for Mikala.”