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.

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911-4

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

ground zero

twin-towers

 

In Honour Of Admiral McRaven …

McRaven

Adm. William McRaven

Admiral William Harry McRaven is a distinguished former U.S. Naval Officer.  McRaven retired from the U.S. Navy on August 28, 2014, after more than 37 years of service, and went on to become the Chancellor of the University of Texas System.  During his naval career, he has been the commander of Joint Special Operations Command, as well as of Special Operations Command Europe.  In addition, he was designated as the first director of the NATO Special Operations Forces Coordination Centre.  His awards and decorations are far too numerous to list here but include a bronze star and a meritorious service medal.

In 2011, McRaven spent months obtaining data, then organizing and overseeing the special ops raid, Operation Neptune Spear, that ended in the killing of 9/11 mastermind Usama bin Laden.  I have not found a single black mark on his record, and from all indications he served his country admirably for 37 years.

Now, however, Admiral McRaven has become the latest target of the Fool on the Hill, Donald Trump.  Why?  Well, back in August, Admiral McRaven had the temerity to express support for former CIA Director John O. Brennan, whose security clearance had recently been revoked by the Trump Administration.  On August 16th, he penned the following Open Letter to Donald Trump that was published in The Washington Post:

Dear Mr. President:

Former CIA director John Brennan, whose security clearance you revoked on Wednesday, is one of the finest public servants I have ever known. Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him.

Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.

Like most Americans, I had hoped that when you became president, you would rise to the occasion and become the leader this great nation needs.

A good leader tries to embody the best qualities of his or her organization. A good leader sets the example for others to follow. A good leader always puts the welfare of others before himself or herself.

Your leadership, however, has shown little of these qualities. Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.

If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken. The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be.

I’m not sure why Trump waited three full months before firing back … perhaps he had forgotten, or perhaps his advisors quashed prior attempts to throw mud at McRaven, but in a November 18th interview with Chris Wallace of Fox ‘News’, he was reminded.  Here’s what Trump had to say about an honourable, much decorated hero …

Chris Wallace: Bill McRaven, Retired Admiral, Navy Seal, 37 years, former head of U.S. Special Operations —

Trump: Hillary Clinton fan.

Chris Wallace: Special Operations —

Trump: Excuse me, Hillary Clinton fan.

Chris Wallace: Who led the operations, commanded the operations that took down Saddam Hussein and that killed Osama bin Laden says that your sentiment is the greatest threat to democracy in his lifetime.

Trump: OK, he’s a Hilary Clinton, uh, backer and an Obama-backer and frankly —

Chris Wallace: He was a Navy Seal 37 years —

Trump: Wouldn’t it have been nice if we got Osama Bin Laden a lot sooner than that, wouldn’t it have been nice? You know, living – think of this – living in Pakistan, beautifully in Pakistan in what I guess they considered a nice mansion, I don’t know, I’ve seen nicer. But living in Pakistan right next to the military academy, everybody in Pakistan knew he was there. And we give Pakistan $1.3 billion a year and they don’t tell him, they don’t tell him —

Chris Wallace: You’re not even going to give them credit —

Trump: For years —

Chris Wallace: for taking down Bin Laden?

Trump: They took him down but – look, look, there’s news right there, he lived in Pakistan, we’re supporting Pakistan, we’re giving them $1.3 billion a year, which we don’t give them anymore, by the way, I ended it because they don’t do anything for us, they don’t do a damn thing for us.

Trump claims to love the military, but … must we assume that he only loves those members of our military who are staunchly “pro-Trump”?  That’s how it seems.  I don’t imagine the military has much great love for Trump, either, as he is a draft-dodger and has promised much in the way of donations to veterans’ organizations that never materialized.

Most people, whether republican or democrat, veteran or not, were appalled by Trump’s remarks.

  • “This is disgusting!” tweeted Frances Townsend, who worked as a counterterrorism adviser for President George W. Bush. She said McRaven is “among the finest officers I have had the privilege to work with.”
  • Leon Panetta, who was CIA director when bin Laden was killed in the 2011 operation and later served as secretary of defense under President Barack Obama, said Trump owed an apology to McRaven “and all of the special operation forces and intelligence professionals who planned and executed one of the most important counter-terrorism missions in our nation’s history.”
  • Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Trump’s comment is “really a slam at the intelligence community” and “reflects, I think, his complete ignorance” about what was involved in hunting down bin Laden.
  • “I don’t know if Adm. William McRaven shares my political views or not,” Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said on Twitter. “But I do know that few Americans have sacrificed or risked more than he has to protect America & the freedoms we enjoy.”

Predictably, however, the Republican National Committee backed Trump’s unconscionable remarks:

“Worth noting after recent comments: Retired Adm. William McRaven was reportedly on Hillary Clinton’s short list for Vice President in 2016. He’s been critical of President @realDonaldTrump— even dating back to the 2016 campaign. He’s hardly a non-political figure.”

Being critical of Donald Trump is hardly grounds for condemnation, given that more than half of this nation are critical of Trump on a quite consistent basis, and at least 60% would just as soon see him floating on an ice floe somewhere in the Arctic Sea.  And while McRaven’s name reportedly was on a list of 39 potential candidates for Hillary’s running mate, the Admiral did not endorse any candidate in the 2016 election.  Even if he had, it doesn’t give Trump or the GOP any right to criticize a man who has had a far more noble career, more worthy life than Trump, or likely anybody else in the GOP.

Once again, Donald Trump shows the world his lack of compassion, his ignorance, and his arrogance.

Jamal Khashoggi — The Better Man

Jamal-KhashoggiJamal Khashoggi was a resident of the United States and a journalist for The Washington Post.  I am sure you all know at least some of the story of Mr. Khashoggi and his recent disappearance and likely murder, and some may have wondered why Filosofa had not yet written about Mr. Khashoggi.  I have not, to date, even touched upon this story, for there were too many unknowns and too many conflicting bits of information.  I try to ensure that what I write is fact-based, and frankly I could not discern what was fact in this story, for the story changed almost hourly it seemed.  Tonight, I am breaking my silence, for I think I know at least enough to make a start.  I am appalled and horrified at some of the responses from members of our government, including Donald Trump, and I will not remain silent.

Jamal Khashoggi was a citizen of Saudi Arabia and a journalist and author who had for years written for both Arabic and English-language newspapers.  He was among the first to cover the war in Afghanistan and had also covered the first Gulf war.  During the 1980s he had contact with Usama bin Ladin (aka Osama bin Laden) as he covered the battle of Jaji.

Always a defender of human dignity, freedom and reform in Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi came under fire in 2016 for remarks he made about his own government, as well as Donald Trump after his election.  The government of Saudi Arabia shut him down … he was no longer allowed to write or even tweet, and he knew the time had come for him to leave.  In early 2017, he self-exiled to the U.S. where he was provided temporary asylum, and later permanent resident status.

On September 28th, Khashoggi visited the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, Turkey, to obtain the necessary paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, but he was told he would need to return four days later on the afternoon of October 2nd.  Long story short, he did return while his fiancée waited outside for him, but he never left the embassy.  He must have sensed something was off, for he told Ms. Cengiz to get help if he did not return.  After a few hours, she called the police and the search began.

A few pertinent facts of the matter:

  • Turkish staff at the consulate had been told to stay home that day
  • Two charter planes carrying nine Saudi officials and intelligence officers had arrived in Istanbul from Riyadh and the passengers had gone to the embassy
  • At around 4:00 p.m., six vehicles left the consulate carrying the nine Saudis. Two other vehicles with unidentified passengers drove to the Saudi consul’s residence and remained there for the next four hours
  • On the night of October 15th, Turkish officials searched the Saudi consulate and reported that it had recently received a coat of fresh paint throughout the interior

Those are the only absolute, verifiable facts in the case to the best of my knowledge.  The Saudi government has changed their story enough times to arouse suspicion. A Turkish official claims to have an audio tape of Mr. Khashoggi’s brutal murder, dismemberment and beheading, and the Turkish government claims that senior figures in the Saudi royal court had ordered his killing.  As yet, this is not verifiable, and I offer it at face value.  U.S. Intelligence agencies are reportedly convinced that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia is culpable in the killing, although they have not yet been able to collect direct evidence.  The Turkish government has reiterated what they say happened and with great detail, but they have declined to share such evidence as they have with the U.S., and so I cannot speak to the veracity of their claims.

Mohammed bin Salman.jpg

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

What I will address, however, is the U.S. official response to the disappearance and likely murder of Jamal Khashoggi which is, in a word, shameful.  Abominable.  Sickening.  Disgusting.

Donald Trump, first of all, came out in support of Prince bin Salman and said he would not cut off arms sales to the Saudi government because Saudi Arabia would spend their money elsewhere, and for Trump, it’s more about money than human lives.  He also at that time stated that while it should be looked into, Mr. Khashoggi was not an American citizen and since the disappearance had taken place in Turkey, it was not a great concern, although, “We don’t like it”.  We don’t like it, but oh well, not my monkeys, not my circus is basically what he is saying.

Justice for JamalThis, as much as anything, exemplifies why the U.S. pulled out of the United Nations Human Rights Council in June.  The U.S. is, itself, in violation of human rights by the detention of children we separated illegally from their parents on our southern border, and Trump has no desire to be constrained by rules that dictate human rights or his response to violations.

Next week is the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, an event Trump swore he would not pull out of, even as other nations, horrified by the Khashoggi disappearance and the likely scenario, had dropped out of the conference.  Finally, yesterday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that we, too, would withdraw from the conference, only because of the bipartisan backlash over his intent to attend.

And let’s not leave out the evangelicals.  None other than Pat Robertson said …

“You’ve got a $100-billion worth of arm sales which is, you know, that’s one of those things, but more than that we’ve got to have some Arab allies. I know it’s bad, but I mean we’ve had all kinds of stuff, but you don’t blow up an international alliance over one person. I mean, I’m sorry.”

I side with Stephen Colbert on this one when he responded, “Thank you, Reverend, for capturing the core message of Christianity. How important can one man’s death be?”

And now for the real kicker.  A ‘whisper campaign’, for those who may be unfamiliar with the term, is an unethical attempt to spread lies and venom about a person to discredit them.  Another term is ‘smear campaign’.  Yesterday, The Washington Post reported that …

“Hard-line Republicans and conservative commentators are mounting a dark whisper campaign against Jamal Khashoggi that is designed to protect President Trump from criticism of his handling of the dissident journalist’s alleged murder by Saudi Arabian operatives — and support Trump’s continued aversion to a forceful response to the oil-rich desert kingdom.”

The right-wing media, starting with none other than Trump’s state-run media Fox News, has indeed launched a smear campaign to attempt to convince the public that Jamal Khashoggi was a ‘bad guy’.  And why?  To cover Donald Trump’s fat, white arse.  If you cannot convince Trump to act as a human being, then make the rest of the world look like they are donkeys too!  Angry?  Moi?  You betcha!

Conservative House republicans, read members of the House Freedom Caucus, have assisted in the effort, attempting to begin conspiracy theories about the time that Khashoggi covered bin Laden some 14 years before 11 September 2001.  It has even spilled over onto the campaign trail.  In Virginia, republican Corey Stewart who is running against Tim Kaine for his seat in the Senate, claimed with no facts or knowledge that, “Khashoggi was not a good guy himself.”

A Tuesday broadcast of CR-TV, a conservative online outlet founded by popular talk-radio host Mark Levin, labeled Khashoggi a “longtime friend” of terrorists and claimed without evidence that Trump was the victim of an “insane” media conspiracy to tarnish him. The broadcast has been viewed more than 12,000 times. A story in far-right FrontPage magazine casts Khashoggi as a “cynical and manipulative apologist for Islamic terrorism”.

None of these stories are true.  Remember, Khashoggi was a journalist.  Journalists often have contact in the course of their reporting with unsavory people.  It doesn’t mean they are affiliated or share their beliefs … it simply means they are doing their job.

I am sickened by this entire thing, starting with the murder of a good man, Donald Trump’s inhumane response, and ending with the attempts by Donald Trump’s boot-lickers to cover his utter inhumanity.  Thankfully, I am still able to believe that the vast majority of people in this nation are better than this, but unfortunately those in our government are naught but low-lifes.

 

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.

 

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

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An Open Letter to President Barack Obama

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Dear President Obama,

There is less than a week left until you pass the torch to your successor.  I can only imagine the mixed feelings you must have at this juncture.  I write this letter because I wanted to take a moment to let you know that I, for one, greatly appreciate all that you have done for this nation.  You have accomplished much in your eight years in office, especially considering that throughout your tenure, you have had very little cooperation from the people in Congress or the American public as a whole.

January 20th, 2009 … a date I remember well.  I watched the inauguration with tears of joy!  Finally, I thought, the nation has put aside its collective racist mentality and made a stand for equality.  Your inauguration was one of the most-observed events ever by the global audience, and I was so proud of our nation on that day.  My tears were tears of joy until the news came that Senator Ted Kennedy had suffered a seizure and collapsed during the inaugural luncheon.  He would die a short seven months later, but I believe one of the proudest moments of his life was being at your inauguration.

Arguably your greatest achievement domestically was the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which helped some 20 million people have access to basic healthcare.  Despite the complaints of some, there can be no doubt that this was a great accomplishment by almost any standards.

As noted, you took office during a particularly difficult time economically, and during your eight years, you have added 10.7 million jobs and lowered the unemployment rate to under 5%!

You have done much to make not only the United States, but the entire globe a healthier place with a brighter future in terms of the environment.  Though our nation seems to have more than our share of naysayers, scientists have proven that the environment is in danger and that mankind has contributed to that danger.  You believed, and you took steps to help our nation be part of the solution.

I remember the sudden chill, then tears when, on the night of 02 May 2011, my friend Jerry called and told me to turn on the television immediately, and I heard you speak these words:

“Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.”

Your quiet perseverance made the world a little bit safer that night, and I wished then that I could hug you and say “thank you, Mr. President”.

Throughout your tenure you have been a champion for many of the causes I strongly believe in:  LGBT rights, voting rights, women’s equality, environmental reform, land and wildlife preservation, immigration and immigrants’ rights, gun regulation, affordable healthcare for all, and much more too numerous to list here.  But the respect that I have for you goes deeper than policies and political actions … it is about the core values you and your family have brought to the White House and thus to our nation.

You and Michelle have brought dignity and grace to the highest office in the nation, a dignity that has been lacking for many decades.  There has been no breath of scandal, no illicit affairs or inappropriate behaviour.  You have successfully kept your children out of the limelight and allowed them to grow into the young women they are becoming.  I have so often smiled or laughed watching you and Michelle interact, whether dancing together or merely sharing a moment, a bit of conversation.  Michelle has been exactly what a First Lady should be … passionate about family issues, women’s rights, and yet quietly dignified and always a lady of grace.  You have been soft-spoken, compassionate, and a beacon of hope for so many of us.

Perhaps Chicago Tribune reporter Rex Hoppke said it best: “President Barack Obama is a good and decent man.”  You are, indeed, a good and decent man. You and Michelle are both role models I would be happy to see my grandchildren follow.  I will be deeply saddened … am deeply saddened … to see you leave the White House.  I think it will be many decades before we see a return to the values you have brought to the nation, if ever.  As you return to private life, I wish you and Michelle, Malia and Sasha, the very best that life has to offer. I hope that you can find peace, and take pride in knowing that what you gave this nation was appreciated by the often-silent majority, if not the more vocal minority.  Today, the United States of America is a better place because of the values, hard work, ethics, intelligence, and respect you gave us.  Thank you, Mr. President.

 

Sincerely,

Jill E. Dennison

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