Think of the 1960s and early ‘70s and most likely you imagine bad. Bad hair—long, shaggy, or beehive. Bad clothes ranging from pink bell-bottoms (and yes, I speak from personal experience) to polyester suits and a hybrid cross between shorts and knickers called coolats. There was even bad war—the never-ending controversy of the Vietnam War.
Just a toddler when JFK was assassinated I spent my childhood growing up in the fading whispers of the wonders of where the United States was heading. I vaguely remember when Martin Luther King was assassinated, but what followed, I believe, has remained with me all these years and has influenced who I’ve become. To this day I cannot listen to the song We Shall Overcome without choking up in tears.
Ten years ago, on a beautiful—it was the mild, crisp, sunny, blue-and white day one is convinced exists in heaven—September morning I left my home to drive up to Saratoga, NY to attend a writers’ meeting. Since I’d made this trip twice monthly for several years already I’d become accustomed to what was usual. That day, pretty much everything—except about 8-thirtyish AM there was this plane flying overhead taking an odd route for that day—flying west (from Boston?) but suddenly veering south as it neared Albany toward NY City.
Although I’d be presenting a workshop that day, rather than mulling the presentation I listened to the last part of the audio novel of HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG by Andre Dubus III. Wow, I thought when the riveting story ended. Three people, from three different backgrounds all wanting the same thing—a place to call home—and what they were willing to sacrifice for a place to kick back and cuddle up with a mug of coffee or tea or a can of beer. But then, I tuned the radio on.
Why was H.G.Wells’ War Of The Worlds being broadcasted? This was the turn of the 21st century—not the 1950s! I listened more but as if my brain had stopped functioning I couldn’t comprehend what all the talk was about. Airplanes? Twin towers? Hell erupting in New York City? I began to see police vehicles stopping people. I made it to my meeting with a tight gut and dry mouth. No . . .dear God . . .we’re not being attacked, are we? The president of the writing group dismissed the meeting and I drove the hour home. I stopped at the vet to buy cat food. I stopped at the convenience store to buy milk. Weren’t these essentials the kind of things you need to have when your country is turning upside down?
I don’t know. I still don’t.
What I do know is that September 11th—9-11—two numbers that have taken on new meaning throughout the world—is basically similar to Mr. Dubus’ novel. Earth is a huge planet, filled with diverse people, and we all want the basics in life. A home. The right to food. The right to believe in the faith and God we choose. The right to have a lifestyle one wants. Yet, on that once beautiful day several people banned together to make what they believed was an honorary statement and to accomplish that feat they had to kill thousands. This was not the first time in history of humanity that this has happened. I pray to God it will certainly be the last.
Since that day ten years ago, I have changed. I try to be more kind to others. More accepting. More patient.
I write differently.
I pray much more.
May God bless us all,