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.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 65: Hot Pavement Holds, Beirut Explosions and Neo-Nazi Arsonist

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August 4, 2020-

The weather here is the same, day in and day out. There is NO rain forecast for the entirety of Arizona until after Labor Day. So, we go on with our lives, ration water (individually, not by statute) and thank God for the breezes that bring some relief. The smoke from the fire in southern California is also blotting out the sun, just a bit-but we could do without that sort of overcast.

I opened my screen today, to three things-all disconcerting. First, a Black family was detained, because a dispatcher in Aurora, CO told the police that the license plate on their vehicle matched a stolen plate. Left out of that call were: The plate was from another state and that the stolen vehicle was a motorcycle. The family was in an SUV and were sitting in a shopping center parking lot, minding their own business. They had stolen nothing. Within minutes, though, two children, a teenager and an adult were on the ground-or rather, on the hot pavement. There were four officers, at least in the photo. This was yesterday; so far, the accountability is forthcoming.

It was another hot day in the Middle East-and with the added horror of an explosion, in Beirut’s Port District, that looked, for all the world, like a cross between Hiroshima and the second World Trade Center attacks. Fifty people are known dead and over 3,000 injured. Initial reports say the first detonated building had been used to store explosives. I have prayed for the dead and wounded, and am staying tuned.

Lastly, a suspect in the torching of the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct has been arrested. He is from St. Paul, and is-are you ready- a neo-Nazi. While no one is saying ALL the protestors are angels, they are apparently not arsonists, either. There is a football field-sized space for miscreants from all points on the political spectrum to make hay while the sun shines, and are they ever taking full advantage!

August is shaping up to be another year, masquerading as a month.

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.