Voice of a Guest: Debbie
Back in the late nineties, Debbie came to Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen to help her through a temporary cash shortage. While starting a job as a substitute teacher at PS 33, the school across the street from Holy Apostles, she had to wait several weeks before her first paycheck could be processed. She saw the line outside the soup kitchen during her lunch break. “I didn’t have a penny. I was really hungry and dizzy so I said ‘I’m going to go over there and eat!”
That was before her life took several tragic turns, and before the soup kitchen became a regular necessity in her daily life. In late August of 2001, Debbie was struck by an oncoming taxi, breaking her legs at the knees.
She had been living in lower Manhattan for many years, having run the NYU etching studio after completing her Masters in Environmental Arts. Debbie recalls the days when she could still afford “those expensive “Modi” glasses” and get her hair professionally highlighted. Her art career had also taken off with one person shows and “really good reviews in the Philadelphia Enquirer”. As a single mother of two gifted children attending local private day schools on scholarship, and a substitute teacher at P.S. 33, life had its share of challenges, but for the most part she was able to stay above water.
Those late days of summer in 2001 changed all that. The taxi accident would cause permanent physical disabilities, and just as she was beginning to cope with the emotional trauma of the accident on top of the acute physical pain of the injury, the twin towers were attacked on September 11th. Living in lower Manhattan, she and her son witnessed and were embedded in the horrific events of that day and the months of recovery at ground zero.
Already vulnerable because of the accident, Debbie developed severe post traumatic stress disorder while her son also dealt with the anxieties of post 9/11. At this point her daughter was attending Bard College, and Debbie was now living with medical expenses, on top of her emotional and physical disabilities, while trying to be the best mother she could be despite everything. In a heartbreaking decision, it was determined that her son, and the chocolate Laborador Retriever she had given him for Christmas, would be better off going back to her home town in Minnesota to be fostered by her parents. “He ended up going to the same school I did: Sunrise Junior High. I grew up in the suburbs and my Dad was an engineer. He worked for the National Cash Register Company for forty years.” Although assured that her son and their dog were in caring and stable environment, she now faced her own recovery under the additional weight of grief and loneliness.
Due to her disabilities, Debbie has been unable to work but she does have an affordable living situation in an artist’s community where she can still focus on her art. “One person shows are too expensive. They’re quite an investment!” says Debbie, but her work has made its way into various collective shows.
To stay strong and healthy in both mind and body, Debbie relies on the meals and the community at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen everyday. She has also attended the writers workshop, the art workshops and the meditation class offered through the soup kitchen’s support services. Today, she has a strong relationship with both of her grown children. She speaks with great pride about her daughter who has a successful writing career, and her son who is now back in New York and a graduate of Hunter College with a Masters in both Math and Economics.
And finally, she speaks with great reverence about Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. “It’s a 10 out of a 10,” she says. “Everyday, in all aspects.”