Tag Archives: College

Basil Port of Call:Buffalo

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The Denis Sullivan where we got a cool Great Lakes Log Book showing lots of amazing history. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

By Jasmine Willis

BUFFALO — For a long time these vessels of the sea have been used to transport merchandise, conquer the wars, and provide safe travels abroad.

The Tall Ships of America Challenge came to the shores of Buffalo Waterfront on July Fourth Weekend. The Holiday weekend was packed with thousands of people wanting to get a glimpse of history and know what it was like to be on one of these magnificent ships.

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Historical photos inside the Denis Sullivan showed a real sense of what it was like below deck. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

My mother, Lisa Willis, and myself were lucky enough to become part of history. For the first time Buffalo held Basil Port of Call at its Canalside. There were 12 Tall Ships of America available (technically one was from Spain) and thousands of happy tourists.

An official passport was handed out to each ticket holder with a little information about each ship at port. My mother and I were there for opening day on July 5, and it was an intense adventure to say the least.

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The Pride of Baltimore II is an exact replica of the first Pride of Baltimore from War of 1812. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

We only saw half of the ships that day as it was beastly hot, but it is something we will never forget. The true meaning of all our family adventures is to take a lot of photos, explore a lot of hidden gems, and get to the point of total exhaustion. It is safe to say this adventure was a complete success.

The Tall Ships of America we saw are; Denis Sullivan, HMCS Oriole, NAO Santa Maria, Niagara, Pride of Baltimore II, and St. Lawrence II. The others at port were; Bluenose II, Empire Sandy, Picton Castle, Appledore IV, Appledore V, and Spirit of Buffalo.

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Many of the ships in port had cool old wooden steering like this. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

The Denis Sullivan is based out of Milwaukee, WI. It is one of the newer vessels on the list. It is a traditional Great Lakes topsail schooner, which was most common at one time. It is used for the general public and educational purposes as well as private charters. It offers programs on history, sailing, ecology, marine science, and professional development for educators.

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It was fascinating to be on the oldest Royal Canadian Navy ship. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

HMCS Oriole is the oldest commissioned ship in the Royal Canadian Navy, and the longest serving commissioned ship. It is based out of CFB, Halifax, Nova Scotia. She was built in 1921, but now serves as a training vessel for the Royal Canadian Navy.

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NAO Santa Maria had the longest wait line of the day. It was so beautiful. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

NAO Santa Maria is an exact replica of the flagship Christopher Columbus sailed in 1492. It is based out of Seville, Spain. This gorgeous masterpiece was built in only 14 months and takes you right back in time over 500 years ago. This deep-water tall ship was built on the 525thAnniversary of the original Santa Maria 1492 Voyage. She launched on March, 15, 2018 as part of the historic replica fleet of NAO Victoria Foundation in Seville.

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The Niagara had the most flags on the ship. It also had a lot of neat historic cannons and other war memorabilia to symbolize War of 1812. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

US Brig Niagara is based out of Erie, Pa. It is a reconstruction of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s historic wooden flagship that fought in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. This glorious reminder of our victory on the lake offers education and learning on the waters for the 22 trainees and 18 crew on board.

Pride of Baltimore II is a topsail schooner that serves as a sailing ambassador for the State of Maryland. It is based out of Baltimore, MD and supported by a non-for-profit organization. The Maryland Transportation Authority owns and supports the historic value of this vessel. This part of our seafaring history is a replica of the one that served in War of 1812. It launched in 1988 to replace the first Pride of Baltimore.

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Cannons were on both War of 1812 replicas to showcase what it would be like in those days. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

St. Lawrence II is a steel two-masted brigantine operated by teenagers for youth sailing programs. It is based out of Kingston, Ontario. She was one of three brigantines from the Canadian ports brought to Buffalo by the Buffalo Lighthouse Association in the 1980s.

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I imagine this is what it looked like on the original Santa Maria in 1492. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

Perhaps, my favorite ship I was able to see that day was the NAO Santa Maria. I am completely fascinated by history, as anyone who knows me will find out. I feel like this one embraces the true meaning of Tall Ship. It is wooden, huge, and looks ancient. It makes me feel like I am entering a period film where a bunch of pirates are going to make someone walk a plank or keep them up in the crow’s nest. I was determined to see this ship even if it was the only one, I saw that day.

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Another glimpse into over 500 years of history on Santa Maria replica. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

It was my general feel of the public that they all felt the same way. I mean the other ships are beautiful, and I love them as well. However, the replica of Santa Maria is something that reminds us that there is still a little magic left in the world. I could feel the soul of the Christopher Columbus 1492 Voyage on that vessel as I wandered throughout its corridors.

Besides seeing the beautiful Tall Ships, which was the main focus of our adventure that day. We also were able to ride a double decker bus. I had 15 wonderful minutes to feel British. I even had The Beatles blasting through the radio as we drove through the harbor, and I sitting on the top could see the soul of the dark waters of Lake Erie.

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The Buffalo Double Decker gave me my dream of riding a real London bus for a few minutes. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

Yes, despite major sunburn, possible dehydration, and extreme sun poisoning we both had a wonderful time at Basil Port of Call: Buffalo. It was the first time anything like this had been done in the shores near our humble homes. It is something we had dreamed of and thought never be possible in a million years. Just hope that next time they come to port we can see the other ships we missed that day on the rocky shores of Lake Erie.

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My mom Lisa Willis. It has been a huge dream of hers to see and aboard Tall Ships. I am glad the Basil Port of Call:Buffalo fulfilled that goal for her and myself. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

 

Old Fort Niagara: History of America

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You are now entering Old Fort Niagara. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

By Jasmine Willis

YOUNGSTOWN — Along the banks of the Niagara River rests an important part of our American history that has withstood more than three centuries.

After two previous posts had failed to make it through the harsh brutality of war the French established Fort Niagara in 1726. It has forever been known as “The French Castle” for its impressive architecture.

The British gained control over the famous fort after a 19-day siege during the French and Indian War in 1759.

Afterwards, during the American Revolutionary War, the British were forced to give the fort to the United States in a treaty signed in 1796.

However, the British managed to capture the fort once again in 1813 during the War of 1812. Once again, the United States were able to get control of the fort in 1815 at the end of the war.

After this last conflict it became a place to train soldiers from the Civil War to Korean War. Today, the U.S. Coast Guard represents the only military still present on the site.

Old Fort Niagara was restored between 1926 and 1934. It is operated today by the Old Fort Niagara Association, Inc., a not-for-profit organization, in cooperation with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Admission fees, Museum Shop sales, grants, and donations provide support for the operation of the site. Membership in the Old Fort Niagara Association is open to all.

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Our tour guide Toby is explaining to us about the importance of the different cannons used in battle. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

When you think of all the battles and conflicts that took place on the grounds of this fort it makes you appreciate military history even more.

 

The last time I was at Old Fort Niagara it was back in the late 1980s, and there was not much to be seen. It was not nearly as advanced as it is nowadays. It was a breathtaking sight to be there more than 30 years later to see what the association has done with this historic gem now.

 

My mother, Lisa Yvette and I went back and saw a museum and gift shop had been established in a magnificent building across the parking lot from the Old Fort Niagara Lighthouse.

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The Historic Old Fort Niagara Lighthouse. It is a beacon in the storm. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

Within the museum we were able to see the story of the fort unfold with photos, uniforms, documents, and items dug up from the ground by archeologists. Also, there was the original Old Fort Niagara Flag that had been taken by the British long ago. It had been hidden away in Scotland since the early 1990s. Now it is finally back where it belongs at Old Fort Niagara.

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The Original Old Fort Niagara Flag had been captured by the British. It was later taken to Scotland. We got it back in the early 1990s. It was restored and now sits behind glass in the museum. It is 25 feet tall, and has 15 stripes and 15 stars. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

They also show you a 15-minute video talking about the rich history of the fort, and the importance of what you are about to witness as you walk around the grounds.

Once we were out and about to take in the sights of the gorgeous fort and all the history that she had to offer our guide (Toby) gave us a quick story about her.

It was at that moment we realized that a lot had changed in 30 years. This was not going to be the same experience we had three decades ago. We saw that the towers, powder room, and the castle itself had been furnished with items that took us back in time.

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The French Castle is the oldest building still standing at the fort. It has withstood every battle for 300 years. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

As I walked through the castle, I saw a chapel, officers’ headquarters, military kitchen, trading post, and so much more. We were able to see the castle come to life. We could hear the echoes of times long ago. We could feel the souls of those who had come and gone from within those walls.

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The Jesuit Chapel is across the hall from the trade post. It was a lovely sight. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

On a decent day you can clearly see Fort George across the river and the shores of Canada in the distance. This beautiful view can best be seen on the third floor of the towers and where the cannons rest.

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Across the way is Fort George. This a view from the cannons. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

We noticed a couple reenactors were giving demonstrations outside on the grounds. One had the British uniform and the other was wearing the French uniform.

This is our renactor who spent most of his life doing this kind of work. Photos by Jasmine Willis.

The French reenactor said he had been doing this his whole life, and for the last eight years he had taken it on as a profession. His sister mended the uniforms and his parents got the family tradition started long ago.

He was very passionate about what it means to bring history alive, and about what it means to wear the uniforms and be the part of a soldier. He talked about the epic battles they would get to reenact with hundreds of them out on the grounds right after Fourth of July.

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A view from the third floor of the towers. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

The last thing we did before we ended our adventure at Old Fort Niagara was pay our respects at the cemetery. This is the final resting place for those who fought and died for our freedom from the American Revolutionary War to WWII. The thing that touched my heart the most was the decorated tomb of the unknown soldiers who rest there.

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Here is a decorated tomb for the unknown officers and enlisted men who lost their lives in battle here. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

There is passion and heart that still rests on the shores of the Niagara River. If you wish to take part in the rich history take time to visit Old Fort Niagara. For more information including hours, ticket prices, and events go to https://www.oldfortniagara.org

 

From the ashes … we rose again

Image from the film "We Are Marshall"
Image from the film “We Are Marshall”

True stories about sports

By Jasmine Willis

If you notice mostly all sports films are about a true story … they tell us not only the story about how the team won, but also what the team lost.

I often cover stories which involve sports in some way. Every time I hear a student talk about their love for the game, a coach fight to have his team keep their identity, and a school that believes sports are the lifeblood of their community I think of these beautiful films about football, baseball, soccer, basketball, hockey and so forth.

The best sports film ever made is “We Are Marshall.” This film is about so much more than football. It is a heartbreaking story about a town in West Virginia that lost so much on a day none of them have forgotten in the 1970s.

When I think of “We Are Marshall” I think of growing up in various small towns where if this happened to them we would have been just as destroyed.

“In the middle of Hunington, West Virginia there is a river, next to this river there is a steel mill, And next to this steel mill, there is a school… In the middle of this school, there is a fountain. Each year on the exact same day, at the exact same hour … the water to this fountain is turned off. In this moment once every year …throughout the town, throughout the school … time stands still,” Annie~ opening quote.

“Those were not welcome days, we buried sons, brothers, mothers, fathers, fiances… clocks ticked but time did not pass. The sun rose and the sun set, but the shadows remained. When once there was sound … now there was silence. What once was whole… now is shattered,” Annie.

Some of the most beautiful quotes from a sports related film are in this movie. I am not what you call a major sports fan, but that is what makes these films so powerful. You don’t have to love football to love “We Are Marshall.” You don’t have to understand football to understand “We Are Marshall.”

I think about a town, next to a river, in West Virginia, and how once every year they still honor a group of college students, families, friends, pillars of the community, and how they still shout out “We Are Marshall” over 40 years later.

It is stories like this one that make us believe sports are more than just a game. They are about honoring the fallen. They are about rising up from the ashes of a shattered town and grabbing glory. They are about heart.

The town is hurting and a coach from another town picks up the phone and offers to help it heal. Rivals of the team honor them by putting their name on their helmets. This film is a symbol of coming together for those who are in pain, and offering them a helping hand.

The President of Marshall University asks the coach why he called; when it is clear he is not from Marshall.

“When I heard about what happened and your situation, the only thing I could think about was the four of them. I thought about how much they meant to me, about how bad it would hurt if I was to loose them. Then I thought about a team …and a school… and a town … that’s gotta be hurting real bad … and I thought hell… maybe I can help,” Coach Jack.

There are moments in this country when we all come together. We rise up and become heroes. We lend a helping hand. We offer a shoulder to cry on. We feel the pain, love, suffering, defeat, and strength of a community … the community becomes our community. The brothers, fathers, mothers, sisters, sons, and daughters become ours.

I think that is the true power of a film like “We Are Marshall.”

Friends who show us our own true greatness

Friends who motivate us to be ourselves
By Jasmine Willis

~Time is Like a Wheel. Turning and turning never stopping. For some, time passes slowly. An hour can seem like an eternity. For others, there is never enough ~ Tuck Everlasting

~Time takes it all, whether you want it to or not. Time bears it away. And in the end, there is only darkness. Sometimes we find others in that darkness, and sometimes we lose them there again~ The Green Mile

You may ask what started my obsession with time? Why quote two different stories about time?
Time is always lurking about as a constant reminder that at any moment it really could all be taken away. This story focuses on both points…time takes everything away, and there really isn’t enough.
All my life it has been said I never meet a stranger. This is very true. I have always been able to turn a stranger into an instant friend, whether I know them for five minutes or five years it doesn’t matter. I have invited another human being into my life story.
People come and go out of our lives all the time; some of them have made a huge impact on my life. I may only know someone for a brief moment and never see them again, but for a moment they inspired me to see who I am and not be afraid to be the person they know I can be. Pieces of you become pieces of them; your story becomes their story, and in that way I believe none of us are forgotten.
This story is about Alexandra P.  A brave girl who taught me to see the true greatness I have inside me. Alexandra P known to her friends as Alex was in the same Public Speaking class as me. She would only have short part to play in my life, but it would become one of the most important.
She came into class with such life and passion. She had a way about her that would make you feel like you were life long friends who had seen each other again after a very long journey. She was a dark Italian beauty who traveled the world with her mother.
Her passion for life was addicting and I found myself falling into the same passion filled absorption of it myself.
The day came we all had to give a presentation. Her presentation broke my heart … it was about breast cancer. The beautiful Alex P had breast cancer. By the end of the presentation she and all who loved her in the class were in tears.
Immediately after class I offered my help, if there was anything at all I could do for her. I gave her a big hug and didn’t understand she was saying goodbye. Alex P was an inspiring beautiful young 19 year old girl who taught me life was filled with possibilities.
I finished out my college life without my friend. I could never reach her, all lines were down. Time slipped by and there was never enough … never enough time with this amazing friend.
I can live a hundred years and never find another Alex P. Her view of life is rare.
I got to thinking of her one day in class and couldn’t finish the rest of the day. I drove all the way back home in tear soaked sobs. There is not a day that goes by were I don’t miss my friend.
I never got to say goodbye, and I don’t know if she is still out there or not. I hope she is living a beautiful cancer free life, but if she is gone I hope she knew how much she met to so many of us.
Time really does take it all, and if we aren’t careful we might miss our chance to tell someone how much their time on this earth has met to us.
Maybe just maybe I can be an Alex P for someone, because sometimes we meet others in that darkness, and sometimes we lose them there again.