It Was A Beautiful, Calm Tuesday Morning….

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September 11, 2021- I went to a Fry’s Supermarket, five blocks from my home, on the morning of September 11, 2001. I had no firm plans for the day and so, just picked up some bread and milk, before Penny had to go to work and Aram, to middle school. It was 6:10 a.m. MST, and the morning disc jockey on the rock station, whose call letters I don’t even remember, announced in a voice dripping with equal parts shock and incredulity that someone had flown an airplane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, in New York.

An inner voice immediately told me that this was an act of terrorism. Getting home, I felt and looked shaken, and when Penny asked what was wrong, I told her, the TV was switched on, CNN fumbled a bit before acknowledging that there was an incident-and shortly after my loved ones dutifully left for their daily routines, footage of the second plane hitting the South Tower and the implosions that, as intended, prevented even further devastation and loss of life began to be shown, continuously throughout the week and month ahead. Then, there was the crash into the west side of the Pentagon (real), the crash into the back 40 of the Lambert family’s property in Shanksville, PA (also real) and the reports of fires on the National Mall and attacks on Sears (now Willis) Tower (imaginary).

In the days that followed, I paid a visit to the gas station that was operated by the Singh Sodhi family and paid respects to their slain husband, brother and father, Bubrik-killed by an angry Nativist, who thought Bubrik was Muslim. I then bought lunch at a cafe operated by Palestinian Christians. There was a job interview, at which I praised Rudy Giuliani’s leadership, drawing an eye roll from the interviewer-and no job offer. There were my own eye rolls, when a French conspiracy buff publicly stated that the whole series of incidents, especially at the Pentagon, were actually a series of holograms and that we would “know soon” the whereabouts of those reported dead-and when Ward Churchill described the dead as “little Eichmanns”.

There would be other attempts at terror, later in 2001 and over the next ten years. 10 weeks after the horrific events, a plane went down just east of the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and into a neighbourhood near an apartment block in Queens. It was reported then as a crash, due to pilot error, but the apartment complex was home to many of the First Responders who had been called to duty on 9/11. This did not help any, in our national recovery, regardless of the actual behaviour of the Japan Airlines crew, in the plane that had taken off in front of American Airlines Flight 587, or of the AA 587 crew themselves. Subsequently, Richard Reed tried to bring down a plane, mid-ocean, by lighting his shoe on fire and Charles Bishara (aka Bishop) attempted to crash a stolen small plane into the Bank of America Building in Tampa. Both of these became tragicomic footnotes to the horrors of this day, ten years ago.

Today, I spent 12 hours helping with various aspects of Hope Fest, a Faith-based community service event on Courthouse Square. I go there as a jack-of-all-trades, serving in whatever capacity the various coordinators need done-from hauling pushcarts of equipment and materials for the various vendors to manning a Raffle Ticket booth. Then, there was helping with the breakdown, at day’s end-folding chairs and loading the sandbags that held canopies down, onto other pushcarts. I am grateful for the good health that allows me to still do such tasks, knowing full well that such strength won’t last forever.

Managing to fit in a grocery run for my temporarily disabled hiking buddy and leaving Hope Fest a little early (to the mild annoyance of the director) so as to greet a friend from Phoenix who was staying with me overnight, did not take away from the feeling that this event was another successful one-and that my own small role in it helped maintain the group spirit that has sustained our nation, throughout all manner of attacks from without and from within.

Adversity, of any kind, will only strengthen human resolve-if that resolve is genuine.

Sixty Six, for Sixty-Six, Part XL: Breathe, and Be

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June 4, 2017, Prescott-

I made it a point to watch several of the You Tube videos coming out of today’s One Love Manchester concert, organized as a response to last month’s bombing, and, by extension, to yesterday’s attacks in London.

The performances, in my view, were heartfelt, as was the outpouring of support from responsible adults, worldwide.  Any one critiquing the “quality” of the singing, or the motives of the people involved, is missing the point.  Many young people, both male and female, were injured-and 22 lost their lives, needlessly.  Entertainment is part of a full and healthy life.  The kids had every right to go to an entertainment venue of their choice, so long as no one else was harmed by that choice.  No one should have to answer to conservative religious zealots, macho men who hate girl singers, or anyone else, for that matter.

Enough of that, though.  The focus was, and will remain, on the healing of those communities which have experienced deadly attacks.  It takes most people a long time, and some never fully recover.  Survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack and of the World War II concentration camps, have been forever scarred by their experiences.  People who were in New York and Arlington, VA, during the September 11, 2001 horrors, are hard put to set those events aside.  They ought not have to answer to conspiracy theorists, or naysayers of any stripe.

The same is true of those recovering from these latest terror episodes.  The focus needs to be on just breathing, on being.  I have a lot of love for kids, and for people in general.  Victims have a special place in my heart, as they do in the hearts of a good many.  Terrorists and haters, so long as they persist, will never count for much in my book.

Souls Passed Through Him

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September 11, 2016, Yarnell- I read, in this morning’s paper, about a Port Authority policeman, his experiences on September 11, 2001 and his wrenching aftermath- a life no one should have to live.  He spoke of being knocked to the ground, after the second plane hit, the tower fell, and “souls passed through me.”

I believe the last part, having experienced my wife’s soul filling our bedroom, as she prepared to leave for the next life, 5 1/2 years ago.  I know much of the rest: The buildings were physically hit by two airplanes; implosion devices, already in place since the towers were repaired after 1993, were triggered and  brought the towers straight down; dozens of people jumped to their deaths, to avoid being immolated; there are over a thousand for whom there has never been any identification or accounting, as to their fates.

Fifteen years does not erase the horror anyone felt that day.  Most, like me, watched incredulously, on television, as the engineers’ devices went off, automatically, saving tens of thousands more people from dying- as would have happened, had the buildings EXPLODED outward.  Just as those who were alive during the attack on Pearl Harbor still have nightmares, on occasion; just as walking through Gettysburg, Auschwitz, Valley Forge in winter, can still give the average soul and eerie feeling, so I was off to a shaky start, just from reading a post by a friend who was in the first (1993) World Trade Center bombing.

My resolution was to go to this serene town, 25 miles southwest of Prescott, and itself the scene of one of our state’s worst nightmares, on June 30, 2013, when 19 wildland firefighters died in the Yarnell Hill Fire.  I went to St. Joseph’s Mission and Retreat, and walked up the Stations of the Cross trail, revisiting another of history’s greatest horrors- the Martyrdom of Jesus the Christ.  This place brings peace, because the love I feel for Christ, and for His Father, is  primally soothing.  As always, the walk brought me to a centered place, as I recited some Baha’i prayers, words which Jesus Himself would have given His followers, had they been ready to receive.

Terrible things will ever plague humanity, in a harsh world.  Nonetheless, the Sacred Teachers are with us, and having felt Their presence, along this replica of Via Dolorosa, I am able to return to Prescott, and later, to Chino Valley- observing the birthday of a good friend.

 

An Eastward Homage, Appendix: Two Washington Area Gardens

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August 2-3, 2014, Arlington, VA- So as not to belabour the point, this post will be concerned with my visit to two beautiful gardens, while in Washington, last month, for the interment of my father-in-law.  The first is solemn, and relatively new:  The Pentagon 9/11 Memorial, which is a five-minute walk from my hotel in Arlington.  The second is a golden oldie:  The United States Botanic Garden, an arm of the Smithsonian Institution, with plants from around the globe.

First, the Pentagon Memorial.  It is, somehow, the most controversial of the three memorials to the fallen of that horrific day. I think that those who disbelieve it ever happened are just not capable of processing a real-time tragedy, on such a grand scale.  The same is certainly true of the Holocaust.  Yet, these events did take place, and innocent lives were lost.  The plane disintegrated into tiny fragments, the wall was decimated on the west side of the Pentagon, and the area is now a suitable memorial for those who took off, and never landed, on September 11, 2001.

Here are some of the scenes, starkly beautiful.

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The scene below shows a small memorial in the far background, a three-pronged steel sculpture set up by the Marriott Corporation, near its Pentagon-area hotel.

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No matter who one thinks is responsible for these heinous acts, the important things to me are the loss of innocent life, and the need to say, and mean, “Never again!”.

On Sunday, August 3, I spent a more joyful hour at the United States Botanic Garden, along the Smithsonian Row, south of the US Capitol.  Here are several scenes of that exquisite place.  As you can see, there are plants from rain forests, English and Japanese gardens and deserts alike.  I was drawn to the Mistletoe Cactus, though I can’t envision two lovers embracing in its midst.

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This was the perfect counterpart to my secular pilgrimage along the National Mall. I think the saner members of Congress must find there way here, on a regular basis.  My Eastward Homage would end the next day, as I said farewell and see you again, to one of the most powerful men I’ve ever known.