11 September 2019 … Memories – Redux

Until last year, I have published a post each year on September 11th, sharing memories of that day in 2001 when life changed, my thoughts and reflections.  This is the post that I first published in 2016, repeated it in 2017, and I am repeating it, with some updates and additions, this year, because as I read over it, I realized that I cannot say it any better today than I said it three years ago.  I skipped my 9/11 post last year, for I felt that amidst the chaos and divisiveness of this nation, it had lost its relevance.  I was wrong … we need to remember … we must not forget, we must look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we have learned anything in the 18 years since our world turned upside down in a matter of minutes.

*Good People Doing Good Things will be posted this afternoon at 3:00 p.m. EDT


Humanity

911-cover-4Eighteen years ago.  It seems so much longer … another lifetime.  And yet … and yet, it seems like such a short time ago. I remember the morning well.  A key staff member was on vacation and I had to cover, so I arrived at work well before dawn, but I stepped outside sometime between 8:30 and 9:00 for a smoke break.  The sky was the bluest I could recall ever seeing it and I thought it must be the most perfect day ever.  Within a half-hour, I would be left in tears, cursing the day, hoping to awaken from this nightmare.

911-cover-9I went back inside from my smoke-break, and an employee, Susie, came up to me and asked if I had heard about the plane that crashed into the World Trade Center.  If the building I worked in then had not since been demolished, I could show you the exact tile I was standing on at that moment, just as I could tell you that when we received news of the assassination of JFK, I was at home plate with bat in hand, waiting for the pitch that would never come.  Just as my grandfather often told exactly where he was and what he was doing when the news of the attack on Pearl Harbour came over ‘the wireless’. You think it is a literary trick when an author says “time stood still”?  Well, I can tell you … for me, time did stand still, as I must have also.  I seemed to have lost all feeling, all senses shut down … I could not hear nor see.  After that, it all blurs into a series of news updates … a 2nd plane, then the Pentagon, then a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the name Usama bin Laden.  A gathering in the cafeteria, a television rolled into another room where we all gathered.  Financial statements, payroll, printing presses and the like forgotten for the moment.  Tearful phone calls home to the girls.  Then day after day, glued to the television every waking moment.  In my household, we had a then-6-year-old and finally had to turn to Nickelodeon, but the images remained in our eyelids, in our hearts, in our souls. And the tears never stopped.

911-cover-2Today we mark the 18th memorial of that awful day.  We do so in many ways, but the saddest thing for me is that we did not learn the lessons we needed to learn from that tragedy.  Today, our nation is more divided than ever.  In the days and weeks that followed what would become known simply as 9/11, it seemed we were on the right path.  People from all over the nation and Canada traveled to Ground Zero to help with search and rescue, and eventually cleanup operations.  Shopkeepers gave out free food and water.  People helped neighbors, friends and strangers.  We all empathized with each other, treated each other a little kinder, gave a bit more freely of our hugs and kind words.

Compare and contrast to today, when we are a nation divided by hatred, divided by a lack of understanding for those who do not look, act or think like us.  And there are many who blame today’s vitriolic environment on 9/11, those who decided to hate all who share a religion with the plotters and perpetrators of the horrific acts of 9/11.  But it doesn’t stop there … our nation has renewed its call for racial discrimination, religious intolerance, and hatred of those who are perceived as ‘different’ in one way or another.  We have lost our way.


Commercialism

That which “we will never forget” has already been forgotten by some, it would seem.  A mattress company releases the following ad:

“Right now, you can get any sized mattress for a twin price!” says a grinning woman flanked by two employees in the 20-second spot. She flings her arms out and the men tumble backwards, knocking over two tall piles of mattresses. The woman screams “Oh my God!” in mock panic, then immediately recovers her composure and adds, with a half-smile: “We’ll never forget.”  It quickly attracted local, then national outrage. The ad was taken down, and Mike Bonanno, the owner of Miracle Mattress, issued the following statement:  “I say this unequivocally, with sincere regret: the video is tasteless and an affront to the men and women who lost their lives on 9/11.” 

How did he not realize how “tasteless” it was before it aired?

9-11One Wal-Mart, in conjunction with Coca-Cola, erected a display to “commemorate” the 9/11 anniversary.  It was taken down after much criticism.  And other companies have also tried to use 9/11 for sales and profit.  It is not a commercial holiday. We do not celebrate with hot dogs and beer. It is a day of national mourning.  It is a day of solemnity.  Commercialism has no place on this day, no right to use it as a gimmick.  Can you imagine Pearl Harbor, or the assassination of President John F. Kennedy being commercialized?  There was one commercial ad that truly was a tribute to the day.  It aired only once, in 2002.  I still find it to be a beautiful tribute and it still brings tears.  Please take just one minute to watch it.

Before airing the commercial, Anheuser-Busch sought and received approval from Congress, as well as then-mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani. There is no company logo until the end, and since it aired only once, given the cost of producing the ad, the company made no profit from it, nor did they intend to. It truly feels like a tribute rather than a cheap shot. It was tasteful … respectful.


Positive, Encouraging, Hopeful Messages

In 2016, in a rare display of partisanship, 200 members of Congress stood on the steps beneath the recently restored Capitol dome and prayed, observed a moment’s silence and, accompanied by a marine band, sang God Bless America to mark the imminent anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The remembrance ceremony, with Democrats and Republicans standing side by side, was heartening, though it would have been much more so had all 535 members of Congress participated.  Will we see that repeated this year?  I doubt it.

I understand that Donald Trump plans to attend a 9/11 memorial today.  I will not watch, for he only desecrates the day with falsehoods and I can never forget that, after the towers fell, he bragged that now his was the tallest building in the city.


I end where I began, by saying that we have lost our way, we have failed to learn from this, and to some extent we have failed to keep our promise to “never forget”.  The nation is more bitterly divided, more everything-phobic today than it was prior to 11 September 2001.  Rather than embracing our differences, we are using them as an excuse for hatred.  Rather than loving our fellow man, we are killing him.  Unless we learn to unite and work together for the sake of not only our nation, but of humanity, we are doomed to repeat the past. I would ask the readers of this blog to do this one thing:  be kind today, do not put anyone down, offer a smile to any you see, and hug your family just a little tighter today … just for today. Below are just a few pictures I would like to share, to remind us all of that day.

911-1

911-4

911-dust-lady

Marcy Borders, the ‘dust lady’, sadly died 25 August 2015 of cancer related to 9/11

ground zero

twin-towers

 

Need more to meet in the middle

How do we resolve the divisiveness in our political climate today? One person at a time, I think. We will not solve the problems facing our nation, indeed, our planet, with vitriol and loud voices. Friend and fellow-blogger Keith, as always, makes some excellent points on this topic. Please take a minute to read … this is too important for us to continue as we have been. Thanks, Keith!!!

musingsofanoldfart

The overarching theme of the book “Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman” by Miriam Horn is to accomplish lasting, impactful solutions (in this case with climate change and environmental concerns) we need to work with folks in the middle. In essence, the folks in the extremes are too strident and reluctant to compromise.

A good example comes from the Montana rancher as he combats climate change and environmental degradation caused by fracking for natural gas. He works with folks who will address the environmental issues, but permit him and his family to make a living ranching. He notes the fracking companies paint a picture that is far rosier than it is, while some extreme environmentalists want everything to stop and do nothing with the land. At personal risk, he built a coalition of ranchers, environmentalists and government officials who were willing to follow his lead to preserve the environment while permitting the ranchers…

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11 September 2016 … Memories (a repost)

Those who have followed this blog for more than a year know that each year on this date I write a post pertaining to 9/11.  This year, for some reason, though I tried, I have been unable to write anything worthy of being read.  I looked back at my past posts and decided that the one I wrote last year was, perhaps, the best of I have done and … it is every bit as relevant today as it was one year ago.  So, this is a repeat … some of you have already read it, but many have only joined our community in the last year.  Thank you for reading, as this is near and dear to my heart.

Humanity

911-cover-4Fifteen years ago.  It seems so much longer … another lifetime.  And yet … and yet, it seems like such a short time ago. I remember the morning well.  A key staff member was on vacation and I had to cover, so I arrived at work well before daylight, but I stepped outside sometime between 8:30 and 9:00 for a smoke break.  The sky was the bluest I could recall ever seeing it and I thought it must be the most perfect day.  Within a half-hour, I would be left in tears, cursing the day, hoping to awaken from this nightmare.

I went back inside from my smoke-break, and an employee, Susie, came up to me and asked if I had heard about the plane that crashed into the World Trade Center.  If the building I worked in had not since been demolished, I could show you the exact tile I was standing on at that moment, just as I could tell you that when we received news of the assassination of JFK, I was at home plate with bat in hand, waiting for the pitch.  Just as my grandfather often told exactly where he was and what he was doing when the news of the attack on Pearl Harbour came over ‘the wireless’. You think it is a literary trick when an author says “time stood still”?  Well, I can tell you … for me, time did stand still, as I must have also.  I seemed to have lost all feeling, all senses shut down … I could not hear nor see.  After that, it all blurs into a series of news updates … a 2nd plane, then the Pentagon, then a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the name Usama bin Laden.  Prayers in the cafeteria, a television rolled into another room where we all gathered.  Financial statements, payroll, printing presses and the like forgotten for the moment.  Tearful phone calls home to family members.  Then day after day, glued to the television every waking moment.  In my household, we had a then-6-year-old and finally had to turn to Nickelodeon, but the images remained in our eyelids, in our hearts, in our souls. And the tears never stopped.

Today we mark the 15th memorial of that awful day.  We do so in many ways, but the saddest thing for me is that we did not learn the lessons we needed to learn from that tragedy.  Today, our nation is more divided than ever.  In the days and weeks that followed what would become known simply as 9/11, it seemed we were on the right path.  People from all over the nation traveled to Ground Zero to help with search and rescue, and eventually cleanup operations.  Shopkeepers gave out free food and water.  People helped neighbors, friends and strangers.  We all empathized with each other, treated each other a little kinder, gave a bit more freely of our hugs and kind words.

Compare and contrast to today, when we are a nation divided by hatred, divided by a lack of understanding for those who do not look, act or think like us.  And there are many who blame today’s vitriolic environment on 9/11, those who decided to hate all who share a religion with the plotters and perpetrators of the horrific acts of 9/11.  But it doesn’t stop there … our nation has renewed its call for racial discrimination, religious intolerance, and hatred of those who are perceived as ‘different’ in one way or another.  We have lost our way.


Commercialism

That which “we will never forget” has already been forgotten by some, it would seem.  A mattress company releases the following ad:

“Right now, you can get any sized mattress for a twin price!” says a grinning woman flanked by two employees in the 20-second spot. She flings her arms out and the men tumble backwards, knocking over two tall piles of mattresses. The woman screams “Oh my God!” in mock panic, then immediately recovers her composure and adds, with a half-smile: “We’ll never forget.”  It quickly attracted local, then national outrage. The ad was taken down, and Mike Bonanno, the owner of Miracle Mattress, issued the following statement:  “I say this unequivocally, with sincere regret: the video is tasteless and an affront to the men and women who lost their lives on 9/11.”  How did he not realize how “tasteless” it was before it aired?

One Wal-Mart, in conjunction with Coca-Cola, erected a display to “commemorate” the 9/11 anniversary.  It was taken down after much criticism.  And other companies have also tried to use 9/11 for sales and profit.  It is not a commercial holiday. We do not celebrate with hot dogs and beer. It is a day of national mourning.  It is a day of solemnity.  Commercialism has no place on this day, no right to use it as a gimmick.  Can you imagine Pearl Harbor, or the assassination of President John F. Kennedy being commercialized?  There was one commercial ad that truly was a tribute to the day.  It aired only once, in 2002, but is available on YouTube and I still watch it from time to time … I still find it to be a beautiful tribute and it still brings tears.  Before airing the commercial, Anheuser-Busch sought and received approval from Congress, as well as then-mayor Rudy Giuliani. It features the iconic Clydesdales passing the Statue of Liberty, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, and finally pausing and bowing in a park overlooking the New York City skyline, without the twin World Trade Center Towers. There is no company logo until the end, and since it aired only once, given the cost of producing the ad, the company made no profit from it, nor did they intend to. It truly feels like a tribute rather than a cheap shot. It was tasteful … respectful.


Positive, Encouraging, Hopeful Messages

In a rare display of partisanship, 200 members of Congress stood on the steps beneath the recently restored Capitol dome and prayed, observed a moment’s silence and, accompanied by a marine band, sang God Bless America to mark the imminent anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The remembrance ceremony, with Democrats and Republicans standing side by side, was heartening, though it would have been much more so had all 535 members of Congress participated.


I end where I began, by saying that we have lost our way, we have failed to learn from this, and to some extent we have failed to keep our promise to “never forget”.  The nation is more bitterly divided, more everything-phobic today than it was prior to 11 September 2001.  Rather than embracing our differences, we are using them as an excuse for hatred.  Rather than loving our fellow man, we are killing him.  Unless we learn to unite and work together for the sake of not only our nation, but of humanity, we are doomed to repeat the past. I would ask the readers of this blog to do this one thing:  be kind today, do not put anyone down, offer a smile to any you see, and hug your family just a little tighter today … just for today. Below are just a few pictures I would like to share, to remind us all of that day.

 

911-dust-lady

Marcy Borders, the ‘dust lady’, sadly died 25 August 2015 of cancer related to 9/11

911-cover-69-11

No Blame, Just Solutions

They were unified for centuries under the Joseon Dynasty (1392 – 1910), and share the same language and essential culture. Yet for the last six decades and more, North Korea and South Korea have been divided. Why do North and South Korea exist where once there stood a unified kingdom?

In the middle of the 19th century, the United States divided along what is known today as the Mason-Dixon line. The divisive issue was slavery, and it led to a war being fought, 620,000 lives lost and indeterminate property damage/loss.

Today we stand at a fissure that seems all but destined to become a chasm, an abyss, in the foreseeable future. As the right moves farther right, the left moves farther left, what is left at center but a hole? Think, if you will, of a rubber band. Use your imagination to pull one end right and the other left. Good. Now pull harder with both hands … pull harder until … SNAP!

The United States Constitution established a government that is durable, flexible and able to rise to most challenges, but it is not infallible. Our government can be broken and is rapidly approaching that point.

It does not much matter which side gave the final tug that broke the rubber band. Both hands got snapped, both were pulling too hard, and both are responsible. That said, one hand or the other by itself cannot fix the rubber band. It will take both hands, working together, to repair the rubber band.

As a nation, we cannot continue to argue over every single issue that confronts us. The immigrant issue, to cite just one example. There is no simple solution. Europe is struggling with the same problems, and the solution is not going to be found in extreme measures such as deporting and barring all immigrants or, on the other hand, accepting unlimited numbers of refugees. The solution, as with almost everything in life, lies in the art of compromise. And make no mistake, compromise is an art, it requires educated, moderate thinkers who are willing to work as a team to make things happen, not the politicians spewing rhetoric from either side of the fence.

Another example is the divisive issue of healthcare. One side would have us deny even basic medical services to anyone who cannot pay the exorbitant fees charged by doctors, laboratories, and pharmaceutical companies while the other lobbies for unlimited healthcare for all, paid for by the wealthiest 1%. Neither is a solution, both are rhetoric, and yes, there is a solution, a happy medium.

On the issue of raising the minimum wage: The current level of $7.25 per hour is below the poverty level for a single person, let alone a family of 4 or more. One side thinks it should not be raised at all, the other calls for a 100% increase to $15 per hour. What if we settle somewhere around $12 per hour? The poverty level for a family of four is currently $28,410 per annum in the U.S., which works out to approximately $11.66 per hour. Some would argue that this is too much to pay a high school student working evenings at McDonalds. Maybe so. Maybe there could be an exclusionary clause to the effect that for people under 18 years of age there is a cap of $9 per hour. Note that I am not proposing this, I am merely throwing out reasonable compromise ideas, which is what members of Congress, republican and democrat alike, should be doing. Instead, they are trying to bring the federal government to a screeching halt by sidling further away from compromise and far more to the extreme outer reaches from which there may be no clear path back toward the center line.

I accept and respect that conservatives will vote for a republican and liberals will vote for a democrat. I accept and respect that we each have different ideologies, values, and beliefs. It is what makes us unique, it is what sets us apart as a nation, and it is not a bad thing. It becomes a bad thing, however, when our divisiveness leads us to hatred, causes us to forget that we are “One Nation, Indivisible … “