9/11 memorial run
History, athletics are professorís twin pursuits
Park with Mickey, one of her two dogs. (Photo by Kathy Aney,
East Oregonian newspaper)
ďEnd of the Cold WarĒ lecture Nov. 9
RICHLAND - The fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989, opened a new chapter in world history.
Brigit Farley, associate professor of history at WSU Tri-Cities, will commemorate the event with a lecture at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 9, in the East Building Auditorium.
Her lecture, ďIt was 20 years ago today: Reflections on the end of the Cold War, 1989-2009,Ē will discuss how the world has changed since East Germans and West Germans united to literally rip apart the 12-foot-high concrete wall that had divided them since 1961.
The lecture is part of the Liberal Arts Season of Events, sponsored by the Richland Arts Commission. Admission is free to the public.
A faculty member in the College of Liberal Arts since 1995, Farley teaches 20th century Russian and eastern European history, including World War I, World War II and the Cold War. In addition to terrorism, peacemaking and conflict resolution, her research interests focus on the return of history in former Soviet bloc nations - especially Russia and Hungary.
Farley is working on projects involving the rebuilding of a Moscow church and its meaning for a new generation of Russians, and the reappearance of memorials and commemorations of the 1920 Treaty of Trianon in Hungary.
She also translates historical documents and memoirs.
"He threw on his gear and ran from Brooklyn ... to the World Trade Center, where he was last seen going into the North Tower," Farley said. "He wasn't even on duty that day - he was on his way to go golfing with his brothers."
Siller, the father of five, died that day along with the rest of his squad.
The firefighter was on Farley's mind as she and 10,000 other runners retraced his steps.
"We ran as fast as we could, as he did that day," Farley said. "His widow led off the runners, wearing his fire gear."
Though Farley won her age group in the 5-kilometer race, the best part was putting herself in the virtual running shoes of Siller and soaking up the ambience of the event.
As she ran through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, which extends more than 9,000 feet under the East River, echoes of Marines yelling cadence bounced off the walls. Along the route, she saw West Point cadets bearing flags and Siller's comrades holding portraits of firefighters who died with him. Siller's children passed refreshments out to runners.
"Even though I was breathing hard, I got a little choked up," Farley said. "It was incredibly moving."
At the Seattle airport, on her way home, she checked race results. Shocked, she learned she'd won her age group (50-54) and come in 725th overall.
Farley, a history professor at WSU's Tri-Cities campus, needs athletic challenge like she needs air. This summer, she competed in her first two triathlons. She won her age group in Pendleton and came in 12th in Seattle's Danskin Triathlon.
Farley insists she has no natural athletic talent. Besides biking, running and swimming, she said, she must put in extra time doing core and strength work. On the course, she isn't afraid to feel a little pain and often passes other runners or cyclists on the hills.
"Usually people really dread hills," she said, "but I really attack them."
When Farley isn't doing crunches, squats and lunges, she is immersed in academia. Farley's specialty is Russian history, but her courses cover the globe.
So, depending on the day, Farley is either teaching or sitting on the love seat in her family room, crafting multi-media lessons on her laptop while drinking Italian coffee. Her two German shorthairs, Mickey and Annie, are never far.
History, to Farley, isn't dry reading and memorization of dates. She brings history alive with voices and actual footage of the event, if possible.
One example is video of a woman who had secured a job as maid to a Nazi general. The woman tells the story of how she smuggled a bomb into his home inside her bra and left it in the man's bed, where it exploded, killing the general.
"The students - they're captivated, you can tell," Farley said. "History doesn't have to be boring - it's a living, breathing entity."
Farley, who speaks fluent Russian and "adequate" French, said she came by her love of history naturally. Her father, Phil, taught history at Pendleton High School.
"My father is the best historian I know," she said. "He's forgotten more history than I'll ever know."
Farley spent time in Moscow during perestroika in the late 1980s, working for the U.S. Information Agency - the cultural arm of the Foreign Service. There, she led tours of exhibits focusing on American life and worked on perfecting her Russian.
While in Moscow, Farley claims she made the "linguistic gaffe of the century" while asking a cafeteria worker for a tray and accidentally using the word for diarrhea. Farley's Russian improved in time and her grasp of the language helps with two books in progress.
One describes the rebuilding of a church in Red Square that was built in 1613, torn down by Stalin in 1936 and rebuilt in the early '90s by a citizen's group.
"You never hear, in Russia, of independent action like this," Farley said. "It was a huge morale booster and stands as a testimony to what people can achieve if they band together."
Her other project involves translating a volume written by a Russian author into English. The text, which includes information about Catherine the Great and flowery poetry from the 18th century, is a challenge, she said, but is a book she'd like her students to be able to read.
Her professional pursuits linger inside Farley's brain as she trains for her next triathlon. She insists she is nothing special in either realm, just someone who knows her strengths and isn't afraid to work up a sweat.