|Alice and John Sheldon on the San Antonio Riverwalk, September, 2012.|
In short, TSA breeds and raises puppies to become bomb-sniffing airport working animals. In the first year, the puppies are sent to foster families with intermittent visits back to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio for more specialized training. The puppies are all named for 9/11 victims. Trinity University students and staff put in a request to foster a puppy and were rewarded with a year-long experience with The Dog Jurgens. She will be returned to TSA on October 5, 2012.
The TSA doesn't contact families about the namesake puppies, but they don't prohibit foster families from doing so. We received The Dog Jurgens last December and reached out to the family of Paul Jurgens in mid-winter. John Sheldon was the initial point of contact. As Paul's brother-in-law he has remained active in maintaining a We and foundation presence and he still closely follows the fate of terrorists awaiting justice.
Over the course of the last several months, John, Paul's widow Maria, and a number of other relatives have followed the adventures of The Dog Jurgens from afar. In our budding relationship with John, the University asked to host him and Alice for a visit to meet Jurgens in person. They gave up their usual family-oriented ceremonies with the family in New York City to be with the Trinity community.
Over the course of their two day visit they visited the campus 9/11 memorial garden, toured the TSA training facilities at Lackland, were interviewed by students in a 9/11 program, and met and spent play time with The Dog Jurgens, with whom they forged an instant and lasting bond. Most chilling was learning that the family didn't know that Paul would be near ground zero. He called in to his department to say he was headed there after the first plane hit. Only later in the day did suspicions arise and worst fears were realized. he was missing.
Their visit was extremely meaningful for the Trinity students and staff. Learning more about Paul Jurgens helps personalize - for the rest of us - the national tragedy of 9/11. In fact, Alice wasn't sure that there was still much interest from those outside of the hardest hit communities. I recently heard a woman named Jo Lucker give a talk about how you can't take away grief but you can show you care. This foster program and the Sheldon visit helps us show one family that this little campus in San Antonio cares about what happened. We hope John, Alice, and their relatives feel that they are part of the Trinity family now. They were a huge hit here and everyone loved them!
John did something I wish more guest speakers and lecturers would do. He did his homework on us: He looked at our Website and spoke to people in education about us. Having spent time with him this is not surprising. He and Alice are warm, personable, humble, caring, fun, and interested in others. That shouldn't be surprising either. That's how people describe Paul Jurgens.