My name is Jennifer Nalbone and I’m from Buffalo, NY and I grew up in Chautauqua County on the shores of Lake Erie.
Chautauqua County is cows and corn and grapes and a rural area. It’s right on the southernmost border of New York as you go from New York to Pennsylvania along the Lake Erie shoreline. I grew up close to the shores of Lake Erie. My whole family has been there for three generations. The story of my grandfather: My grandfather was a WWII flight instructor. After he was done teaching during WWII he came back to western NY and he started a small flight school out of a small airport about 2 miles from the shores of Lake Erie. S
o I grew up on the airport and my grandfather took me flying a lot and taught me to fly. As a young kid, I learned how to fly before I learned how to drive. As you can imagine, learning from a WWII flight instructor you get a lot of old school common sense, seat of your pants flying techniques. The one I remember most as it relates to the Great Lakes is what to do if you get lost. So if all your instruments go out and you get lost, he taught me that farmers usually plow their fields north and south and east to west, so go north and go west until you hit the lake and come home. So Lake Erie has always been a point of orientation for me and a way to find my way home.
I see the Great Lakes and Lake Erie as you’d see it in a photograph. I see the cracks in the shale, through the water, and you can fly really low over Lake Erie. You don’t have the minimum elevation requirements over the lands, you can really explore the lake in an airplane and see it in a way that you normally wouldn’t see it on the ground. It was a gift growing up on Lake Erie and growing up with my family who would show me the lakes from above.