I Asked Asa

Posted by mwallach on September 15, 2011 in Crazy Follows Me Everywhere, New Yorkers |

Dear That’s Life,
During a series of texts back and forth with my husband last Friday, I asked him to display our American flag in front of our home. Usually reserved for July 4th or Memorial Day, we also put it out after Bin Laden was killed. I decided I wanted it out for the tenth anniversary of 9/11 as well. “But it is only Friday,” he wrote, questioning why I wanted the flag out two days early. “True,” I wrote back, “but we’re taking the whole weekend.” Upon arriving home, I noticed the flag was out, flowing in the wind, enjoying the weather on a beautiful day.

We knew we wanted to commemorate this American milestone by doing something. What, exactly, that something would be was the question. Determined not to trivialize the day, it was also important that the day not be maudlin either. After all, none of our children had memories of September 11th nor did I need to relive the day myself. Ten years or ten minutes, it does not seemed to have mattered that much. I remember where I was when I heard the news, the shock when I saw the footage and the aftermath of it all, which seemed to last forever. When I received a Facebook invite from Masbia, the kosher soup kitchens in Queens and Brooklyn, to attend their 9/11 memorial event and food drive in Brooklyn, complete with activities for the kids, I knew this was exactly what we needed to do.

While driving to Borough Park, my children wondered aloud why we needed to drive to all the way to Brooklyn to bring cans of food to those who could not afford food on their own. “Aren’t there any poor people NEAR us?” said a young voice in the back seat. I assured them that there were plenty of people who needed our help, but Masbia was hosting an event and I wanted to attend. Anyone who brought a can was entitled to balloon animals, pony rides and cotton candy. In addition, we were going to be at a playground, with plenty of things to do. Little did I know there would also be an opportunity for children to paint one of the jungle gyms that was in desperate need of some TLC. Doing something positive on what was otherwise a very somber day seemed befitting, and that is how we explained it to our kids. It was the perfect September 11th event.

Upon arriving at the playground, tables were set up and the event was already underway. I made sure to find Alexander Rappaport, co-founder of Masbia and all around wonderful person. He had already been a guest on the radio show a number of times and we have a good relationship. Because Alex has a keen appreciation for both the press and social media, I knew there would be coverage of the event, but I did not expect it would be covered twice. Local as local news gets, both News 12 and NY1 were there interviewing attendees and getting footage of the numerous activities. What became readily apparent was the diversity of the group, a cross-section of Brooklyn. Covered in plastic garbage bags to protect them from the paint, children of all backgrounds and faiths – from Chassidic girls in pleated skirts to African-American boys in basketball shorts – grabbed brushes and painted monkey bars, cross beams and handles. Truly a melting pot, it was the quintessential New York moment. At that moment, nothing else mattered but caring for this municipal playground, accepting everyone and open to all.

While I did not recognize the News 12 reporter, the gentleman from NY1 could be classified as “classic New York news,” a staple in homes across the boroughs. Asa Aarons, formerly of WNBC4, now a member of the NY1 team and co-founder of the famous consumer reporting piece “Asa Asa”, was covering the event. A lovely gentleman, Alex introduced us and we began to talk. As this was not the only such event planned for that day, he was doing a piece centered on volunteerism on 9/11. After he interviewed three of my children, we began talking about our own experiences that day – where we were, what we remember, what we wished we could forget. Knowing he and I could probably talk for a while, I had an idea.

“What are you doing later in the week?” I asked him. Looking at me askance, I explained that I hosted a radio show and invited him to join me on the air. “I’d love to,” he said. After exchanging cards and pulling out our schedules, I booked Asa for this week’s program, both agreeing that this sounded like fun. Besides being a multiple Emmy award winning reporter, a columnist and a consumer advocate, he was also a genuinely nice person. Having covered New York City for close to twenty years, I was convinced he had stories to tell, making him an exciting interview, one that would grab listeners right from the beginning. This, I decided, was going to be good.

Immediately after conferring with Asa, I excitedly texted a friend. Anyone who has watched local news in New York over the last decade and a half is familiar with Asa Aarons – so as they say, this was a “good get.” Happy for me but surprised at the same time, my friend texted back, “How did you make that connection?” I explained that we were both at this event, how we had been introduced and that we started talking. “Wow,” he said. “But how did you get him to come on the show?” Appreciating the irony of my answer, I simply replied, “I asked Asa.”

MLW
P.S. Make sure to listen today @2pm ET on www.nachumsegal.com as Asa joins me on “That’s Life”

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