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

 

Ubuntu

A week or so ago, our friend David mentioned that he had discovered a new word, ‘Ubuntu’, and that it was a beautiful philosophy from Africa. Today, David writes about Ubuntu, a philosophy of humanity, and he does so far more eloquently than I could have done, so I am sharing his words with you. I have a few thoughts of my own on Ubuntu, and will put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard in a few days. Thank you, David, for sharing with us your gracious words, as well as your own philosophy of Hugs!

The BUTHIDARS

President Barack Obama said at the funeral of Nelson Mandela :-

There is a word in South Africa – Ubuntu – a word that captures Mandela’s greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.

We can never know how much of this sense was innate in him, or how much was shaped in a dark and solitary cell. But we remember the gestures, large and small – introducing his jailers as honored guests at his inauguration; taking a pitch in a Springbok uniform; turning his family’s heartbreak into a call to confront HIV/AIDS – that revealed the depth of his empathy and his understanding. He not only embodied Ubuntu, he taught millions to find that truth within themselves.

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Then … And Now

Two days ago, June 17th, marked the 134th anniversary of the arrival of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour.  The statue arrived dismantled, in 350 individual pieces packed in more than 200 cases, and it would be October of the following year before it was fully re-assembled and dedicated by President Grover Cleveland.  The statue was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States and came to symbolize freedom and democracy.

In 1892, Ellis Island opened as America’s chief immigration station, and for the next 62 years Lady Liberty, as the statue is nicknamed, stood watch over the more than 12 million immigrants who sailed into New York Harbor.

In 1903, a plaque inscribed with a sonnet titled “The New Colossus” by American poet Emma Lazarus, was placed on an interior wall of the pedestal.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Lazarus’ now-famous words, which include “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” became symbolic of America’s vision of itself as a land of opportunity for immigrants.

This is that vision today …

immigrant-children-3immigrant-children-2immigrant-children-4immigrant child-2

immigrants-2immigrants-3immigrants-4immigrants-6

It’s funny that the longer humans are on this earth, the more ‘developed’ our society becomes, the better educated we become, the less tolerant and compassionate we are.

By the way, in case anyone is interested … today is World Refugee Day.  Ironic, isn’t it?

liberty cries

Good People Doing Good Things — Acts of Kindness

A friend and reader, Ellen, pointed me in the direction of a new source of ‘good news’ stories, and one of the first things I saw last evening when I visited the site in search of ‘good people’, was this headline:

The Most Inspiring Everyday People of 2018 Showered the World With Kindness: Our Top 10 Favorites

I visited and found some awesome stories of everyday people doing small kindnesses for others.  Two of the ten turned out to be stories I had previously included in my ‘good people’ posts, but I want to share a few of the others with you today.


The first one is just a small thing, really, but I found it touching.  It happened at LAX airport last February.  A young mom, pregnant and with a toddler in tow, was trying to board her flight, but the toddler apparently had other ideas and was having a meltdown, running from the mother, crying uncontrollably.  Been there, done that, and I could feel that mother’s frustration as I read this story.

Finally, the young mother simply sat down on the floor of the airport, placed her hands over her face and joined her son in having a good cry.  As if by some unseen, unheard signal, suddenly 6 or 7 women came to the pair and worked their magic.  One sang The Itsy Bitsy Spider to the young boy, another peeled an orange for mother and son, another pulled a toy from her bag, while yet another offered the mom a bottle of water and words of comfort.  Within a few short minutes, both mother and son were calm and able to board their flight.  It is said that the women did not speak of what was being done or what needed to be done, and yet acted as a team, as if it were a well-coordinated effort.  According to one of the women …

“After they went through the door we all went back to our separate seats and didn’t talk about it… we were strangers, gathering to solve something. It occurred to me that a circle of women, with a mission, can save the world. I will never forget that moment.” 

Solidarity.  Empathy.  Compassion.  Kindness.


Adarsh Shrivastava was on a train that was traveling through Uttar Pradesh in northern India in July when he noticed something strange about his fellow passengers. His train cabin was filled with girls between the ages of 10 and 14 – and almost all of them were visibly distressed. Some of the youngsters were even crying.

Sensing that something was afoot, Shrivastava pulled out his phone, created a new Twitter account, and sent several messages detailing the situation to railway and law enforcement authorities, saying that he suspected the girls to be victims of human trafficking.trafficking.jpgUpon writing out his cabin and train number, the Good Samaritan only had to wait thirty minutes before the Ministry of Railways Twitter account responded to the message. A few stops later, several police officers boarded the train and arrested two men who had been transporting the girls for a human trafficking scheme.

“Their parents have been informed and the men have been taken into custody,” a statement from the Railway Protection Force said.

Many social media users are calling Shrivastava a hero and asking the Prime Minister of India to honor him for his actions – however, Shrivastava has simply responded by saying: “Thanks, but as a citizen of India, it’s our responsibility to help people.”

Humility.  Courage.  Responsibility.  Empathy.


It was on a routine flight to Jamaica that an elderly woman suddenly went into cardiac arrest.  Luckily there was a nurse onboard, but she was unable to relieve the woman’s breathing distress.  However, there were two very inventive anesthesiologists aboard the flight, Matthew Stevenson and John Flanagan.  After determining that the plane was not equipped with a hand-operated, manual resuscitator, the two men leapt into action.  Dr. Stevenson performed CPR on the woman while Dr. Flanagan concocted a makeshift ventilator using tubing and an airbag from one of the plane’s emergency masks and connecting the device to the onboard oxygen tank.oxygen deviceThe two doctors worked to keep oxygen flowing to the woman’s lungs with the makeshift device for 45 minutes, until the plane was able to make an emergency landing in Fort Lauderdale.  Passengers pitched in, too, holding the doctors steady during the bumpy landing.  When medics rushed onto the plane to take over, the passengers gave a cheering round of applause to the two doctors.docsIn this, the day of frivolous lawsuits, many doctors will not step into such a situation, for their malpractice carriers caution them against touching a person in distress without a liability waiver.  These two men put a human being first.

Caring.  Humanity.  Courage.  Responsibility.


Randy HeissRandy Heiss had been out on a walk with his dog in Patagonia, Arizona when he saw a deflated red balloon trapped in some shrubs. More peculiarly, there was a little note attached to the string. The note, which was written in Spanish, was a Christmas list that was addressed to Santa from a little girl named Dayami. The sweet youngster simply said that she wanted some paints and new clothes for Christmas.balloon-noteHeiss was moved by the letter, not just because of its innocence, but also because he used to send letters to Santa the very same way – so he became dedicated to fulfilling the child’s Christmas wish.  But … how to find the child?

“It really touched my heart to find it and I said well how in the heck am I going to be able to figure out how to make contact with this little girl and make her wishes come true.”

He took to social media, hoping to find someone who could put him in contact with the family. With Christmas looming ever closer, Heiss eventually approached a Mexican radio station for help, and within one hour of them broadcasting his story, he was connected with Dayami’s family in Nogales, Sonora.

Delighted for an opportunity to bring some holiday magic to the family, Heiss ditched work to go shopping for Dayami’s gifts at Walmart and bring them down to Nogales.Dayami.pngDayami’s family was extremely grateful for the gesture, and Heiss and his wife were careful about telling the kids that the gifts were from Santa.  Heiss gained even more joy from his gesture, though …

“We lost our son nine years ago. So, we don’t have grandchildren in our future and so really getting to share Christmas with kids was something that’s been missing in our lives.”

Heiss has stayed in touch with Dayami’s parents through social media, and they are quickly becoming extensions of each other’s families – all thanks to his act of Christmas compassion.

Generosity.  Sharing.  Kindness. Love.


I end this post with a quote from English writer John Bunyan:

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

Let’s all try to be ‘good people’ this year, shall we?  Remember, it isn’t the size of what you do, but the spirit with which you do it.

That white privilege thing

Our good friend Keith wrote this post nearly three weeks ago. I intended to re-blog it at the time, and as seems to happen more and more with me these days, I got side-tracked and it fell by the wayside. No matter, for his words are timeless … they were as true 100 years ago as they are today, and I suspect will still need to be heard in another century. Thank you, Keith, for this post, for reminding me of it, and for your generous permission to share.

musingsofanoldfart

Usually when Dr. Phil comes on, I leave the room. Seeing people yell at each other is not therapeutic for me. Yesterday, my wife said you need to see this one as it was an interesting group discussion on race relations and white privilege.

In one powerful, illustrating exercise, young adults of both genders and several races, religions, sexual preferences, and countries of origin stepped forward or backward based on answers to a series of questions. At the end of about thirty or so questions, white people tended to be at the front of the room, while other races tended to be at the back.

As a now 60 year-old white man, I can pretty much go anywhere I want without repercussions. And, I need not have to worry for my life when I am stopped by the police or state patrol. A black man in his Sunday best has…

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‘We Are The World’ …. “🌎 We Always have Been, We Always will Be 🌎 …. “!!

It has been yet one more week that has bombarded our sensibilities with hate, with ugliness, with things that we didn’t think could happen, couldn’t possibly even imagine two years ago. The ‘man’ in the Oval Office was allowed out of the Oval Office to travel abroad, where he left a trail of offal, for lack of a better word. Today, I think we all need a break from it, and our very dear friend Dr. Horty Rex has provided a most wonderful and apt respite that I would like to share with you all this afternoon. Thank you, Horty, for this beautiful song to remind us, to give us hope for the future, and for implied permission to share.

It Is What It Is

~~July 13, 2018~~ 

TURBULENT TIMES

~We Always have Been, We Always will Be~

I find myself so pulled by the negativity and awful events taking place in our world nowadays. Sometimes it’s so overwhelming that I can’t really breathe.

I can’t fathom or wrap my head around the level of inhumanity, greed, vileness, evil, violence, crime, injustice and so much more that inhabits this world.

Music helps me.

Here’s an example.

HortyRex©

RedLineBYael Silver (Tony-winning producer Once On This Island), Robin Carus and Van Dean (Broadway Records, President) today released “We Are The World,” a music video featuring an all-star roster of theater artists and calling for healing and unity in the world today.

“More than ever, people need to know that their voices make a difference and their voices together are incredibly powerful,” said producer Yael Silver.

“We Are The World spoke to…

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Imagine …

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace, you
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world, you
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Songwriters: John Winston Lennon
Imagine lyrics © Downtown Music Publishing

A Guardian Holiday To Greece

My blogging friend Scottish Girl, is in the truest sense, a humanitarian. For three years she has been giving of herself, dedicating her life to helping refugees in Greece. She doesn’t post often, but when she does, I always try to share her writing, for it shows us a side of life that most of us are only vaguely aware of. Today she writes of a truly appalling situation, one that I think will cause your jaw to drop. Please take a minute to read her touching post, and send her well-wishes on her upcoming wedding! Thank you, Scottish Girl, for your hard work, dedication to a most worthy humanitarian cause, and your poignant words.

From Greece With Love

I was just sent a link to The Guardian newspapers’ latest holiday offer, 7 nights, £2500pp, on a special safari tour of poverty porn on the islands and mainland of modern Greece. Sun, sea, a spot of refugee spotting and searching out local families whose lives were destroyed by the financial crisis. How quaint.

 https://holidays.theguardian.com/holidays/greece-and-the-euro-39a156d19967f52863d763098db88d16

The tour begins in the Aegean isle of Samos, famous for it’s wine, it’s breathtaking landscape, and shipwrecks. The lucky holiday maker can start their tour enjoying the vineyards of this sunny isle before heading down to the town to take a few holiday snaps of the horrific conditions the asylum seekers on the island find themselves trapped in. Don’t worry though I don’t imagine you would have to hang around in the dirt with them for too long, not like those who have been held in hotspots or in tents outside of hotspots, for…

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Thoughts on Integrity

Integrity: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.

Somewhere along the way, between the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787 and the era of Trump that began 230 years later in 2017, we, as a nation, lost our integrity.  There is no integrity in our federal government, nor, I suspect, in the states’ governments.  There is little, if any, integrity within the medical profession.  There is no integrity in the religious community, and less than there should be in our schools.  And We The People are complicit in the destruction of integrity in this nation.

We The People are willing to accept a president who lies so much that he would not recognize the truth if it smacked him in the face.  We The People are willing to vote into office, members of Congress who take bribes from corporations and lobbyist groups.  We The People have supported candidates who beat up reporters, who have broken or failed to uphold the law, who have sexually abused women and children.  We The People have failed to hold our elected officials to the highest standards.

Even in the entertainment industry, integrity is obsolete, though perhaps it never applied in that venue, but consider Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman and others.  Sports?  Consider the recent headlines of the Olympic doctor, Larry Nassar, accused of decades of sexual harassment of young athletes.

Surely you don’t think there is integrity in industry?  Consider the concept of planned obsolescence, or the way corporations put money into the pockets of lawmakers so that they will vote against regulatory bills to protect the environment and the well being of humans and wild life.

preamblePolice departments have largely lost their integrity when for the past several years, African-Americans and Latinos have been profiled, targeted, and often murdered by police for no reason other than the colour of their skin. The officers involved pay little or no penalty.  At one point, police departments were under scrutiny by the Department of Justice, but as of last year, the Department of Justice is overseen by a bigot with no integrity.

Integrity.  Such a simple concept, really, yet humans seem to find it inceasingly hard to do.  Honesty.  Values.  When the leader of our nation stands in front of television cameras and lies, threatens and incites violence, he is telling us that he has no integrity.  When we vote for him, when we support him by any means, we are saying that the nation has lost its integrity.

Perhaps it is time to send the words ‘integrity’ and ‘honesty’ to the archives of obsolete words, such as apricity, elflock, and brabble.

I do not contend that there are not honest people in this nation, for there are and I know some of them.  But I do contend that even those honest people, people of integrity, are contributing to the downfall of values in the institutions we once trusted, such as government, churches, schools and hospitals.  We are not powerless to stop the corruption in those institutions.  We have two things:  a voice and a vote.  If we choose not to use those tools, we are complicit in enabling the corruption.  When we cast a vote for a Roy Moore, a Donald Trump or a Devin Nunes, we are sending a message that we no longer care about integrity.  When we support companies that are not environmentally conscientious, we are sending a message that our whims take precedence over protecting the earth.  When you support a religion that discriminates against anybody … other races, religions, or the LGBT community, you are sending the message that you are okay with bigotry.  Those who say Donald Trump is ‘doing a great job’ are saying, in essence, that they have sold their souls downriver, that they no longer believe in or care about truth, honesty, or humanitarian values.

The sad truth is that in one way or another, we are all complicit in the devaluation of this nation.  What started out as a grand idea has fallen prey to greed and human foibles.  We can choose to turn it around or not, but if we don’t make some major changes very soon, we will wake up one morning and find we are not who we thought we were.