• Operation Soccer Balls: Afghan Girls Soccer Team Rescued Successfully, Given Asylum in Portugal
  • After weeks of anxiously waiting, the Afghan girls soccer team got the call on Sunday that a charter flight would transport the girls and their families from Afghanistan, but the destination was unknown. “They left their homes and left everything behind,” said Farkhunda Muhtaj, captain of the Afghanistan women’s national team who left her home in Canada to spend the past few weeks helping arrange the girls’ rescue. “They can’t fathom that they’re out of Afghanistan.” The girls, ages 14-16, have been fearing what their lives might become since the Taliban took control of their home country. Late Sunday, they landed in Portugal. The rescue mission, called Operation Soccer Balls, was in coordination with the Taliban through an international coalition of former U.S. officials. “This all had to happen very, very quickly,’ said Nic McKinley, a CIA and Air Force veteran. “Our contact on the ground told us that we had a window of about three hours. Time was very much of the essence.” Operation Soccer Balls had several setbacks, including many failed rescue attempts. Another issue was the large size of the group — 80 people that consist of 26 youth team members and their families.  “The world came together to help these girls and their families,” said Robert McCreary, former congressional chief of staff and White House official under President George W. Bush. “These girls are truly a symbol of light for the world and humanity.” Wida Zemarai, a goalkeeper and coach for the Afghanistan women’s national soccer team, said the girls were emotional after their rescue. “They can dream now,” she said. “They can continue to play.” Image source: Associated Press
  • Sequoia National Park’s Giant Forest Unharmed by Wildfire
  •  Although a wildfire has been burning nearby for two weeks, the ancient, huge trees of Sequoia National Park’s Giant Forest are unharmed. “As of right now we don’t have any damage to any of our trees,” said Mark Garrett, a fire information officer. Two lightning-sparked fires have merged into one massive wildfire, the KNP Complex, that has spread over 39 miles and feeds on trees that live in the high-elevation slope of the mountain range. Giant Forest contains about 2,000 sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree, which is considered the world’s largest tree by volume and is a popular destination for visitors to the park. Recently, the fire reached the edge of the Giant Forest near a group of huge trees called the Four Guardsmen, but the trees were protected by crews that wrapped their bases with fire-resistant material and cleared vegetation that would spread the fire. Firefighters monitored as the “low-intensity fire” passed by and ensured it did not affect the sequoias.  For decades, officials have set and controlled fires to burn away vegetation that could be harmful to the trees or become fuel for a fire like the KNP Complex. “The fire behavior is not as extreme as it was a couple of days ago,” said Thanh Nguyen, a fire information officer. “Those trees are beloved.” Image source: Associated Press
  • Woman Rescued From Washington D.C. Floodwaters by Bus Full of Marines
  • Virginia Waller-Torres was stranded in her car outside of Arlington National Cemetery during a flash flood on Sept. 16 in Washington D.C. A bus filled with Marines pulled over and six men waded through the knee-high floodwaters to help the woman. She recorded the rescue and posted it on TikTok. “Marine power!” Waller-Torres can be heard saying in the video as the Marines approach her vehicle. “This is the most American thing ever.” "If there’s anyone who’s going to help these people, it’d be us," Cpl. Mitchell Wojtowicz, one of the Marines, told FOX5 DC. "We were the right ones for the job and hopped out without hesitation." “We figured it would be a good ideato just lend a helping hand and help out our fellow American,” Cpl. Jared Tosner told the station. Waller-Torres said that the rescue impacted her emotionally because her grandfather, who was buried at Arlington, was a World War II veteran, and her father served with the Navy during the Persian Gulf War. “It was something so different. It was something that I can’t explain in words,” she said, as she thanked the Marines. “I am so grateful.” "And if people just reciprocate that, and do good unto others, I think our country is headed in a good direction," Tosner said. Image source: USA Today
  • Japanese School Students Sent Messages in a Bottle. 37 Years Later, It Washed Up In Hawaii
  • In 1984, Japanese school students put messages in glass bottles and dropped them into the ocean as part of an experiment. 37 years later, a bottle washed up on a Hawaiian coast and a 9-year-old girl found it. The message, titled “Ocean current investigation,” was written by students and placed in the Kuroshio Current close to Miyajima Island in Western Japan, as part of a school project about ocean currents.  The message inside is dated July 1984, and the author asked whoever found the bottle to return it to Choshi High School. 9-year-old Abbie Graham found the bottle on a family trip to a beach near Hilo, Hawaii — meaning the bottle traveled nearly 4,350 miles.  In a press statement, the school said it released 450 bottles in 1984 and 300 more in 1985 as part of the ocean current research. So far, 51 bottles have been returned, but this is the first one to be found since 2002. Other bottles washed up in Washington state, Canada, the Philippines and the Marshall Islands inthe central Pacific. Image source: KCRA
  • Amna Al Qubaisi is the First Emirati Female Racing Driver
  • Amna Al Qubaisi has been setting records since she was just 17. Now 21, Amna just became the first-ever Arab woman to compete in Formula 4 — getting to this point was no easy feat, though. Amna’s passion for racing began when she was just 14 years old, and she cites her father as her inspiration. Her father, Khaled Al Qubaisi was the first Emirati driver to compete in the 24 hours of Le Mans, and her younger sister, Hamda, is also a racer at just 15. When Amna began, her family was very supportive of her racing career. “My family was very supportive they even came during my practice sessions especially my father he was giving me tips and advice,” she said. “I never went through it I’ve received a lot of support from everyone that pushed me to persist in what was perceived as a male dominated sport.” Throughout the years, Amna has fought hard to prove herself in a male-dominated sport. She has even been left out of races because of men not wanting to be beaten by a girl. However, she has always pushed to prove she deserved to be on the track. On Dec. 16, 2018, Amna became the first Middle Eastern woman to take part in a motorsport test program from Formula-E, the world’ premier electric car racing series. She drove for the Envision Racing team in Riyadh — the race was being held for the first time in Saudi Arabia. “It was an absolute honor and for sure something I was happy about after the lift of driving ban for women in Saudi Arabia. I was hugely welcomed especially the team they were extremely nice to me and gave me the huge opportunity to drive,” she said. Formula 1 is Amna’s ultimate dream, and she hopes to encourage more Arab drivers to participate in the sport. She also hopes young women will learn to not let others’ perceptions get the best of them. “You’re in it for you; just enjoy every moment of it,” said Amna. Image source: About Her
  • 107-Year-Old French Pianist Has Been Playing For 102 Years, Just Released New Album
  • Colette Maze began playing the piano at the age of five. Her grandmother also played the piano, and her mother played the violin — she recalls concerts at their large Paris apartment when she was a child.  Maze and her mother had a tough relationship, so she turned to music for the affection she was missing at home. “I always preferred composers who gave me tenderness,” Maze told NPR. “Music is an affective language, a poetic language. In music there is everything — nature, emotion, love, revolt, dreams; it's like a spiritual food." Born on June 16, 1914, Maze is now 107 years old. As a child, she knew she wanted to pursue music as a career — however, this was a challenge for girls in the early 20th century. Thanks to her special talents, she went on to take exams and became a teacher for nearly 20 years.  "I always knew the piano — from morning to night — she was always at the piano. She sort of breathed through the piano," said her 72-year-old son, Fabrice. "And for me, it was important that she could record, to leave a trace — to leave a message." Thanks to her son’s persuasion, Maze just released her sixth recorded album. She records her albums at home with the help of a sound engineer. She tends to record on Sundays, when the neighbors are out and the building is more quiet. She says that you have to look at life from all sides; there is always an angle of joy. “Youth is inside us,” said Maze. “If you appreciate what’s beautiful around you, you will find a sense of wonder in it.” Image source: The Tribune India
  • Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Honors Childbirth Center Nurses at Knoxville Hospital
  • Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a book gifting program that mails books to children free of charge from birth until they begin school at age five. If registered at birth, children will receive 60 books before graduating the program.  Nurses at the Childbirth Center at Parkwest Medical Center, located in Knoxville, Tennessee, will be honored with the Imagination Library’s Seeds of Imagination Literacy Award thanks to their dedication to getting children signed up for the program. Aside from online registrations, the nurses at Parkwest are credited with being Imagination Library’s top registration partners. "COVID-19 has made nursing jobs more demanding and dangerous, and yet these nurses continue to provide their patients with the upmost care and resources amid these uncertain times," officials said. By helping parents register their babies for the program before being discharged, these nurses are ensuring that infants born in their hospitals have access to books from the very beginning.  “Our nurses have really held on through this trial that we’ve been through, and you know, recently somebody said that this is going to be the greatest generation of health care workers to have ever been and that’s an honor,” said Holly Woodlee, the Nurse Manager at the Childbirth Center at Parkwest.  In Knoxville alone, there are 20,000 children registered for the book gifting program. “You register the children at birth which is what they’ve done such a great job doing here at Parkwest birthing center, and the goal is to receive all 60 books before they start kindergarten,” explained Bonny Naugher with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of Knox County. “We really really appreciate these nurses making sure that these children are registered for the Imagination Library because there’s a million other things they have to do as well before a new baby’s discharged,” added Naughter. Image source: WATE
  • Babies Mixed Up in Hospital, Families Decide to Raise Them Together
  • Caterina Alagna and Melissa Fodera, both 23 now, were raised by the wrong families for three years after a hospital mix-up in Mazara del Vallo, a fishing port in Sicily. The mothers realized the mistake when the girls were three years old, and swapped the toddlers back to the right families. Then, the biological families decided to raise the girls together. “The girls effectively grew up with four parents and eight grandparents, and the experiment worked,” said Maura Caporiccio, author of Sisters Forever, a book about the girls’ story. The two women were born 15 minutes apart on New Year's Eve in 1998. Three years later, Marinella Alagna was picking up her daughter, Melissa, from nursery school and noticed a striking resemblance between another girl, Caterina, and her other two daughters.  "I recognised Caterina’s mother, Gisella Fodera, from the maternity ward and got suspicious — 15 days later we did DNA tests and my mind went blank. It was too surreal, too impossible," she said. Initially, the situation was challenging and the families were not keen on the idea of swapping children. “I challenge anyone to raise a daughter for three years then give her up over a simple mistake,” said Fodera.  The families then made the decision to gradually swap the girls and raise them together. The families grew increasingly close and the girls were inseparable. “We are a phenomenon. We have eight grandparents, two fathers, and two mothers,” said Caterina.  Melissa said she and Caterina were told the truth when they were eight. “Today, neither of us have any memory of life before we were three,” she said. “Today they are more like twins than sisters and there is a kind of love which binds the two families,” said Caporiccio. Image source: The Times
  • Boston Marathon Bombing Survivor Gives Birth, Reunites With Nurse Who Saved Her Life
  • Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jacqui Webb was welcomed by a familiar face to the hospital to give birth to her daughter, Ella, last month. It was Nichole Casper, one of the nurses who cared for Webb after the 2013 attack. After the bombing, Webb spent three weeks at Tufts Medical Center in Boston after suffering life-threatening wounds. She has only good things to say about the hospital, and has said she would always return to Tufts if necessary. “I thank my lucky stars every day that I was brought to that hospital,” she told CNN. “And I think when I walked out of there, eight years ago, I said, if I ever had a baby, I’ll be back at that hospital.” Ella Webb Norden was born via cesarean section late on Aug. 21, weighing eight pounds and five ounces.  Casper, who has now worked in the hospital’s Mother-Infant Unit for about four years, was one of the nurses that happened to be on duty the night of the bombing. She got to know Webb and her family during Webb’s three-week stay, but had not seen her since. Casper recognized Webb’s name on the list of incoming patients, so she made sure to be in the hallway to get Webb to her room post-delivery. "I think I just looked at her and said, 'Long time no see' and she kind of looked at me and she was a little dazed," Casper said. "She was like, 'Oh hi! They told me you were up here waiting for me.' So it was cute because they were trying to keep her calm downstairs, so they had told her that I was working." The first encounter was a little blurry for Webb, but she said, “I do remember that I was just elated to see her.” Webb, her husband Paul Norden, and their new baby were in the hospital for three days, and Casper even picked up an extra night shift so she could be there for their entire stay. Webb said it was very comforting to be treated by the same nurses and doctors who helped her through a traumatic event and that already know her complex medical history.  "To be able to see her have a brand-new baby and see her with Paul, it made me extremely happy,” Casper said. “You know, it was just something that I'll probably never experience again in my career." Image source: TODAY
  • Maia Chaka Makes History as First Black Woman to Officiate an NFL Game
  • Maia Chaka made history as the first Black woman to officiate an NFL game when she took the field on Sept. 12 in the New York Jets-Carolina Panthers game. "This historic moment to me is an honor and it's a privilege that I've been chosen to represent women and women of color in the most popular sport in America, proving that I can defy the odds and overcome," Chaka said in a video released by the NFL.   Chaka hopes to inspire and empower others “to step outside the box and to do something different.” She is the second woman hired as a full-time NFL official — the first full-time hire being Sarah Thomas, who officiated the Super Bowl earlier this year. Shannon Eastin was the first woman to officiate an NFL game, however, she was not a full-time hire. The first-ever Black official was Burl Toler, who was hired in 1965. Chaka’s announcement came in March and she said she was personally honored. “But this moment is bigger than a personal accomplishment,” she said. “It is an accomplishment for all women, my community, and my culture.” Chaka entered the NFL’s Officiating Development Program in 2014, a program that is designed to offer top officiating prospects in the collegiate ranks “exposure to in-game experiences that NFL officials face, to determine if they have the ability to succeed,” according to the NFL. Image source: Sporting News