Below are the Des Moines Alumnae Chapter's newsletters. (Editor: Stacie Bendixen)
Tori Gedler was a guest at the Des Moines Alumnae SAI meeting in November 2010. The Des Moines Register had a wonderful story on her recently.
The Lost Are Remembered
VALLEY STUDENT COMPOSES AND PERFORMS MUSIC TO MARK THE TRAGEDY, BUT TO ALSO LOOK AHEAD
Rebecca Ihnen and Tori Gedler perform the song "This Land" (written by Gedler) during the 9/11 memorial concert. Gedler had to overcome a brain clot she suffered in 2008. / JOSHUA BOYER/PHOTOS FOR THE REGISTER
When asked to compose a song for Valley High School’s 9/11 memorial concert, Tori Gedler penned a piece celebrating the nation’s natural beauty and commitment to freedom.
Instead of looking back on the terrorist attacks that forever altered America, the 17-year-old chose to focus her attention forward.
Seeing the light — in spite of darkness — has become something of a habit for the West Des Moines teenager. Gedler survived a brain clot in 2008, and had to relearn how to walk and talk following surgery. Her left side remains partially paralyzed, preventing her from participating in many of the activities she used to enjoy, including painting, sculpting and playing musical instruments. Yet the injury has also opened new doors.
“I was very expressive, and it really hurt to have everything I loved taken away,” Gedler said. “But by composing music, I’ve been able to take some of that back. It’s really my voice, now.”
Gedler’s song — titled “This Land” — features the school’s string orchestra. The five-minute piece premiered to a full house Thursday inValley’s auditorium, with Gedler singing one of the accompanying vocal parts.
The song is one of eight tunes the teen has composed since her brain injury.
“Tori is a very, very special person, and she’s incredibly talented,” said Valley music teacher Phil Peters, who asked Gedler to craft the piece for the 9/11 concert. “She’s the type of person that is just not going to be suppressed, no matter what medical issues she’s had to face.”
Talking about the day the brain clot was discovered is still difficult for her family members, but Gedler has no problem recounting the details. The girl plans to study music composition in college, but also hopes to continue on to medical school and become a neurosurgeon.
She remembers feeling a crushing headache while getting ready for church on Nov. 9, 2008. Gedler, 14 at the time, then experienced double vision before becoming completely paralyzed. Scans at University Hospitals in Iowa City revealed the presence of a clot in her brain stem.
She stayed in the hospital for a month following her surgery. It took another 3½ months before Gedler returned to classes at Valley Southwoods Freshman High School.
“She’s come a long way,” said Gedler’s mom, Kathy. “She had to learn how to do everything over — even breathe — but she’s also maintained an incredibly positive attitude.”
The desire to make music helped keep her focused during her recovery, Gedler said. Although she knew she wouldn’t be able to play the trombone, piano or guitar like she used to, the teen turned her focus to writing down the melodies she pieced together in her head.
“Being able to hear something so beautiful, no matter what else was going on — that was my backbone,” she said.
The girl continues to compose today to share that strength with others. It’s a task she takes seriously, especially during trying times, like the 9/11 anniversary.
“I just want them to hear the beauty — the beauty that I hear in my head and that I put on paper,” Gedler said. “Life can be hard, but music is fellowship. It brings people together in ways that words can’t.