Archive for September, 2011

On the eve of 9-11

September 10, 2011

On the eve of 9-11

I can’t not think about it – September 11, 2001.

“I remember exactly where I was” that Tuesday morning. This seems to be the way most of us begin our recollection. I was at Hyperion Espresso on William Street in Fredericksburg, VA, “America’s Most Historic City.” Hyperion is the hub of downtown FXBG, and the “best place to meet and be seen”.

I was meeting a pair of ad clients, two women who ran an event planning company. One was Michelle, the other I can’t recall. I arrived on time at 830AM and waited; Michelle, or maybe it was the other woman, arrived next. It’s cloudy, unlike certain images of that day, which are vividly burned into my psyche.

Michelle, I think, had a disturbed look on her face when we first saw each other inside Hyperion, where things seemed to be as usual. I asked where her partner was. Michelle said she was delayed by what happened and she was trying to reach her husband at the Pentagon.

Wait, what happened? She told me. Just then her partner walked in with her cell phone glued to her ear. “Can’t get through.” I suggested we cancel our meeting. Swiftly, all three of us were out the door. I headed home to my wife. Our daughter was at school, third grade.

On the six-minute drive home, I turned on radio AM1230/WFVA. My friends and co-workers (part time for me) were on the air reporting about the attacks. I remember being glad I could go home and not be there. Once safely at home, my wife, Virginia and I began our vigil, watching television break the ongoing news. We picked up our daughter from school; early dismissal, I think.

Since that time and space, I sometimes have felt cheated by history, by not witnessing the first plane in real time. It was like arriving late to a movie theater or ballpark, but much more significant.

I also felt deprived by not being able to do a damn thing to help out.

In the months to follow, events were fluid, some good, others not. President George W. Bush was so inspiring, bullhorn in hand, atop a rubble pile, addressing the first responders at Ground Zero – the World Trade Center — and assuring us all that the people who had knocked down those buildings would soon hear from all of us. It was his finest moment of his presidency; that, and throwing the perfect strike from the pitcher’s mound at Yankee Stadium to open up Game 3 of the delayed World Series. Games 3, 4, and 5 were played in New York. The Yankees won all three in truly dramatic fashion, prompting a New York rabbi to ask, “With all that is going on in the world, why is God spending so much time with the New York Yankees?” (The series was won in seven games by Arizona, at home, on a rare blip by the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera. Rivera’s fellow Dominican friend was on the opposing Diamondbacks team that won. He then had to stay for his team’s victory parade and delay his flight home to the DR; the plane he would have been on had the Yankees won, crashed, killing most or all of its passengers. Mariano told the press he was glad the Yankees had not won Game 7. Rivera will be a first ballot Hall of Famer after he retires. He already is in my book.)

The President, alas, blundered considerably since then, though not entirely. His successor has quietly retained many of his most critiqued homeland security measures. But today, we as a nation swim in red ink and cry over the red blood of our servicemen and women who are still conducting two wars ten years later. Our nation is fulfilling Osama bin Laden’s prophecy that he would bankrupt America.

There was a peak of civility at some point in late 2001 and into 2002 as all of us re-evaluated our lives and relationships. That has since faded thanks to policies and politics, yet I still feel very changed.

I feel conflict between the use of force and the power of peace. My readings of J. Robert DuBois’ writings help me deal with this. He’s a former Navy SEAL and author of Powerful Peace, which will be published this year.

I feel more compassionate than ever, less judgmental, less hateful, more civil than I did 10 years ago tomorrow. Every relationship I have means more to me. And those people who remain hopelessly negative and radiate bad karma, I avoid them as best I can, and show patience with them when I must.

Politicians are at an all-time low with me; so are corporate-driven broadcast journalists. My worldview comes from the microcosm of my life – how and what are my friends and family doing? What is on their minds? What pumps their hearts and soothes their souls? That is what matters to me.

I’m just a simple guy, age 59, of modest means, living life in America 10 years after. The world has shrunk for me. A tsunami in Asia bothers me as much as an earthquake in Mineral, VA. The death of an Iraqi saddens me as much as the death of an American.

Our soldiers are still my heroes. Our leaders are not. Baseball players are just big kids at play, except for the Mariano Rivera’s of the game. Firefighters and police and Homeland Security people, some of my friends among them, are always in my thoughts, as are my parents, who are now gone.

I have hope for the generation younger than my Boomers. The ones I know are intelligent and passionate, as well as fair and forward-thinking. People like Kevin Mincio and his Team Jesse for the Families of the Fallen, are worldclass. They will do better for the planet and humanity than we have.

My family is, of course, everything to me. Some in my family are not blood relatives or in-laws. Some are not white, or straight, or religious. Some are rich, some struggle to make ends meet. Some are well-educated, others are not. Some have achieved great success; others have felt failure, or walk a treadmill of disappointment, their legs steadied by their hope in life and their faith in themselves. Most are happy, and all are human. Everyone of them, and all of us, need each other.

That is the lesson of 9-11; take no one and no life for granted; embrace them all; be kind, be loving; be civil; live far above any man who would knock down a building full of people. Seek justice at every turn. Live it, spread it, swear by it.

In doing so, we do help out.