Remembering…at Christmastime: A Story for My Grandchildren

When I was a little girl, the Sears & Roebuck Christmas catalogue came every October. That’s how I knew Christmas was getting close. It was a shiny, red, magical book, with Christmas tree lights, maybe a rosy-cheeked Santa, and little boys and girls in warm PJs on the cover. I’d sit on the couch and turn the pages through this “wish book” and dream of all the toys, from sleds and ice skates and bicycles and dolls—all sizes, all kinds—and doll wardrobe cases and dress-up cowboy and Indian outfits. There were microscopes, rock polishing kits, toy pianos, teddy bears, and train sets. There was much to pick from.



On Christmas morning, at barely light, the living room would be full of toys under the tree. Its red, blue, green, and yellow lights made all the presents sparkle and shine. My little sister and I, awakened by our father, barely had our eyes open, were shy at first, just standing there and looking at all Santa brought.


Oh! It was a wonderland of new perfect and pristine toys! My daddy would dive right in, laughing and picking up each toy, playing with it first. He had more fun than we did. I remember a blue bicycle the year I was seven. One Christmas, we got a merry-go-round. A pogo stick was one of my favorites. We got dolls—lots of dolls. There was the Bannister Baby, the Madame Alexander, the 36-inch doll, Chatty Cathy, and then the Barbies came along. There were pop beads, jewelry boxes (I still have mine!), pearls, roller skates, and boxed games. In our stockings were candy canes, chocolate Christmas candies, and oranges. To this day, when I see a lighted Christmas tree, I still remember those long ago Christmas mornings in my little house on Deering Street, with my mama and daddy and sister, and I still get that funny-happy feeling in my tummy.


When I got a little older, my daddy told me that when he was a little boy growing up on the family farm at Hardy Hill in Kemper County, Mississippi, all he got for Christmas every year was a toy wooden car, a handful of firecrackers, and a couple of oranges. My daddy and mama grew up during the Great Depression in the 1930s, when people didn’t have any money, some didn’t have any food, and they certainly couldn’t afford Christmas presents. Dad seemed happy, though, remembering what he got. I could picture those bright-colored oranges down in his soft red-felt stocking hanging from the fireplace mantel. Maybe oranges were rare and special back then, and it was a treat to get one, all sweet and juicy and colorful. So I carried forward the tradition. When I grew up and had two little boys, I always put an orange in their stockings.


I wonder now if my daddy’s parents, my grandma and grandpa, were so old that they were close to the old traditions and grew up with legends that I didn’t know about.

The Legend of the Oranges

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

“A Visit from Saint Nicholas”


Once upon a time in a faraway land, there was a man named Nicholas, born in a village on the Mediterranean seashore in the country we now call Turkey, 270 years after Jesus lived not too far away. Nicholas inherited a large sum of money, but spent his life giving it away to help the poor and the persecuted, and eventually became a bishop in the Christian church and a saint.


One day Saint Nicholas heard the villagers talking about a poor, widowed man who had three beautiful daughters but was having a tough time making ends meet. The father worried that he wouldn’t be able to find suitors, or husbands, for his daughters because he didn’t have money for a dowry. It was a custom in days of old for girls to give money, called a dowry, to their husbands upon their marriages. Saint Nicholas wanted to help, but he imagined the man might be too proud to accept charity. One night, he went to their house, climbed up on the roof, and tossed three bags of gold down the chimney while the family was sleeping. One of the bags of round gold coins landed in the toe of a stocking that was hanging from the mantel. The girls had washed their stockings and hung them up by the fire to dry.

When the family awakened in the morning, they found the gold, including the bag in the sock which had turned into a ball overnight—a shiny bright golden ball. Because of Saint Nicholas’s generosity, the daughters were now eligible to wed, and their father was happy.

So, Hardy and Jillie, the bright-colored oranges your great grandfather, your grandmother,  and your father got in their little-boy-and-girl stockings were a symbol of the shiny bright gold left by Saint Nicholas in those long-ago stockings hanging by the fire. Giving the orange is a way to celebrate generosity and caring for others, without thinking about a gift in return.


Today, maybe there’s a lesson for you. If you get an orange in your stocking, remember Saint Nick, the poor father, and the three beautiful girls. Remember the gold. Believe. Believe in the random kindness of others. And believe enough to let yourself be moved to show kindness to those in need. Give a hug to your grandma; give a kiss to your mama and daddy; give a smile and nice word to your friends. When you share the sections of an orange with someone, you are sharing the gift of you, sharing what you have and giving from your heart. For giving is the true Christmas spirit.

Silence Is Acceptance

I shared this on Facebook because I thought it was powerful. This is someone else’s story – not mine – but in 7th grade, I would have never spoken up at all. Would you have? Would you now?


“A few of us choked out some words . . . but were immediately squashed.”


Everybody I know has basically told me to shut up. Some of them hate what is happening in our country and are hurting and disturbed, too. Some are loving it. Some just plain have no clue and are happy to have a new Savior that can heal everything from a headache to lack of a job. Some just vote for the R Party no matter who’s running.

I keep telling them that I can’t be quiet and I can’t not say anything if I see something distressing. Something wrong. Something completely against the Bible I grew up with and the teachings of my parents and church and school. Something that makes a mockery of the way I raised my children and the stands I took as a classroom teacher.


One little thing happens. One lie is told. You sit back and let it go. Another lie, another ill-meant action, and you turn your head and pretend not to see. Another and another. It becomes easy to slide into a pattern of silence, of closing your eyes, of ignoring wrongs, of taking the position, “It doesn’t do any good to say anything.” It becomes easy to just smile and sit back and let your character melt at your feet.

I read Anne Frank’s diary several times in junior high and high school. Every time I read it, I thought: How could people let this happen? How could they hate this one group known as Jews? How could the rantings of one madman lead to so much destruction and death, when there are so many good people out there?

Now I know.

I also thought: This kind of thing could never happen in my country.

Now it is.


“Don’t ever let anyone tell you that what you see with your own eyes isn’t happening.”


I’ve climbed those narrow steps behind the swinging bookcase up to the secret annex in Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam. I looked out the window at a tall church steeple nearby. I refuse to go back again to a place created by hate, fear, and silence, so near to God.

Should I?

I’ve been thinking about it and thinking about it, and I’m getting more serious about it. Should I? Could I?


If I’m going to, now’s the time. What would it be like to hook up my own little ultra light white and blue camper and take off for the coast? Park it right on the beach. Listen to the waves all night. Just sit there and be lulled by the waters, watching the waves come in one after the other. Just me and the dog. Getting in tune. Peace. Quiet. Nothing but the sound of waves crashing in and the softness of puppy breath.

I’m thinking I would love to go to the mountains, but I’ve done that…without a trailer. I’ve driven up a high, steep mountain, 5 mph, scared, trailing behind me a mile-long string of cars. If I can’t do it without a trailer, maybe I shouldn’t with one. Or maybe a small mountain.

I love the idea of always having a roof over my head and taking my “roof” with me. Of packing the basic necessities, and a laptop, of course. Writing on the road…

I’ve upped this dream to the top of my mind. Yes. It’s a dream. And dreams can be made to come true.

Come spring.

Chaotic Mangling of the English Language

As a teacher of ninth-grade English, I never had to deal with the incoherent, inarticulate rambling in written papers as found in the following New York Times interview transcript. After all, I was teaching children who were fourteen and fifteen years old – children who soaked in world and national issues and were eager to understand and discuss, children that were quite capable.

The interview question had to do with mixing personal business with the role of President. And here is the answer:

trump“As far as the, you know, potential conflict of interests, though, I mean I know that from the standpoint, the law is totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest. That’s been reported very widely. Despite that, I don’t want there to be a conflict of interest anyway. And the laws, the president can’t. And I understand why the president can’t have a conflict of interest now because everything a president does in some ways is like a conflict of interest, but I have, I’ve built a very great company and it’s a big company and it’s all over the world. People are starting to see, when they look at all these different jobs, like in India and other things, number one, a job like that builds great relationships with the people of India, so it’s all good. But I have to say, the partners come in, they’re very, very successful people. They come in, they’d say, they said, ‘Would it be possible to have a picture?’ Actually, my children are working on that job. So I can say to them, Arthur, ‘I don’t want to have a picture,’ or, I can take a picture. I mean, I think it’s wonderful to take a picture. I’m fine with a picture. But if it were up to some people, I would never, ever see my daughter Ivanka again. That would be like you never seeing your son again. That wouldn’t be good. That wouldn’t be good. But I’d never, ever see my daughter Ivanka.”

Now, honestly, as a former teacher, if I had had five classes of thirty students each and 150 essays like this one to grade, I think I would have pulled my hair out and then closed the grammar book and started over on a first grade level, teaching how to think…how to focus in on one pertinent nugget of information that satisfies the answer…how to work through a thought process in a logical manner…how to write thoughts in a clear, concise way, staying on track and avoiding repetition. I can’t imagine passing a student on to the tenth grade with no better command of the English language than in this answer. Moreover, I cannot imagine students entering the workforce with no ability to communicate…except by stringing unrelated words and clauses together in meaningless chaotic rambling, like you know, you know, that wouldn’t be good, no it just wouldn’t be good, because I just couldn’t, you know, I’d need red, I’d need a lot of red, just a whole lot of red, or maybe crayons, and maybe wide, bigly wide what do you call those things–margins, yes, you know, margins, so I could write in and I’d run out of red, yes, on the page there on the paper, there wouldn’t be enough, so I’d run out of ink, and I would never see my family again.

And just think…the writer of the passage above in quotes will be on a world stage in front of world leaders and informed people and intellectuals, and he will have to speak in front of the whole world, and he will be sitting in private talks with rulers of other countries, talking about his bottom line and our bottom line, running his businesses and our business, and making decisions that will affect him and his businesses and us and our way of life for the rest of our lives.


(Copied from story on a New York Times interview transcript with President-elect Donald Trump.)

Sunday After Thanksgiving

The Sunday after Thanksgiving is the last breath out after the gathering of family to eat and share and affirm, and then two days of saying good-bye, left-overs, and a houseful of desserts that can’t be denied. The next breath in will be in preparation for Christmas—putting up the tree, shopping, wrapping, baking (again!), and making more plans. So as I rested on Sunday morning, I mixed it all up—undid the usual, did the unusual.


I got my first cup of coffee and sat in the living room. I turned on the TV for the local news about thick fog covering up downtown Nashville, a house fire off Briley Parkway, and a wreck with multiple fatalities on I-24. I never turn on the television in the morning. Can’t stand the noise.

I did some quiet planning for the next scene in my novel . . . Chapter 9 about Betsy’s Trunk, and I must admit that this was much fun.

I cooked breakfast, and we ate together, the dog and I. We had eggs, left-over Sister Schubert’s rolls, and “cookie-later.” Cookie-later, said as one word in a high-pitched voice, has a story behind it. Recently, when the pup was in Canine Good Citizen class, we learned the week before the final test that no treats are allowed when commands are completed during the exam. Dogs work for treats, and the better the treat, the harder the dog works. So I had to do something creative. The week before the test, I bought and cooked bacon and taught her that bacon is “cookie-later” and during practice, after she completed a command successfully, I’d say “cookie-later.” Afterwards, I’d give her tiny pieces of bacon. For the test, I rubbed a little bacon on my fingers and after she completed each of the ten steps of the exam, I told her “cookie-later.” She worked like a dog for it.


I pulled out the crock pot and dropped in all the freshly washed produce not used over Thanksgiving. Soup sounds good for the week: green beans, kale, carrots, onion, celery, leek, and tomatoes, along with some brown rice and already baked chicken breast.

I put all the silver away in its chest. It’s only used once, maybe twice a year. Before Thanksgiving dinner, our new bride put the Wallace sterling forks, knives, and spoons at each place setting. With her recent “I do,” the silver became hers. It was given to my son more than thirty years ago by a woman in our church who had no children to pass it on to.

I folded the clean napkins, kitchen towels, and potholders and put them away. The guest towels and sheets are drying now. The china and wine glasses have been returned to their places.


Lastly, I’ll store the two pumpkin decorations: the fragmented glass pumpkin and the block of cedar carved into a pumpkin with a chainsaw. I love that pumpkin, mainly because of the unique color of its stem, light creamy green.

I can’t begin to think of Christmas yet. But the next breath in will come soon, and I will gear up.

October 28 Rehearsal Dinner at Buffalo Nickel

Everybody told me in the ten months between the engagement and the wedding ceremony that the job of the groom’s mother is to “shut up and wear beige.” I worked hard toward doing that, failed some, succeeded some, and wore cobalt blue. So now, I’m having my say! (All in fun, and all because I want to remember it forever!)

rd-1Buffalo Nickel Game Room

What a fun October Friday night rehearsal dinner at trendy West Asheville’s Buffalo Nickel restaurant! There are so many neat things about this place: the flooring came from 120-year-old barnwood in Kentucky. The 18 vintage chandeliers—some nearly 100 years old—came from all over the world, including a church sanctuary in London. There’s fine dining, farm to table, downstairs, and upstairs are the bar area and a huge game room—three pool tables and foosball and other punch-and-push games—and this was our reserved venue. Our guests selected greens with champagne dressing, an entrée of salmon or chicken, rice pilaf or fingerling potatoes, seasonal vegetables, and dessert.

But this night was about PEOPLE! Guests came to the wedding from 14 states. The rehearsal dinner hosted folks from Tennessee, North Carolina, Texas, Colorado, Florida, and Pennsylvania. This night was about Leah and Corey, the bride and groom—a CELEBRATION. It was peak-leaf time and a beautiful weekend for a wedding, and the weather was perfectly marvelous.


WELCOME! to a recap of the night! First was a poem I wrote, beginning with a quote from Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables.

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

The others are a solitary hue, brown or green,
But October comes clothed spectacularly
In cheery yellow, orange, and maple red.
The mountains put on a jubilant show,
A pageant in full splendor.
Calliope colors sing a treetop chorus,
Wind-sway, frolic, swirl,
Colors gather round,
Spin joy, fascination, awe
As two hands hold enthralled
And two hearts together beat
In passion, desire, and love
Like the fiery mountainside.

 You’ll always have October to tell your story.

rd-10-bridegroomHappy Bride & Groom


Lord, help them always remember when they first met and the love that grew between them and the common likes they’ve shared and the team they quickly became. Give them always words both kind and loving, and hearts always ready to ask forgiveness as well as to forgive. Help them to always cherish each other, to endure all things together, to walk life’s path together to its end—and in the yellows and reds of October, as in every day, to be reminded of their story, their love, their vows to each other. Bless our time of celebration, bless our food, bless our evening … in their honor, in your honor. Amen.

rd-8-headtable2Head Table…Two Merging Families

rd-4-headtabledecorHead Table Decorations – a pebble art canoeing couple, a big L & C, and on sliced wood, 3 cylinders with birch twigs, river rocks, and river glass. Pebble art: the canoe came from Devil’s Tower, the paddles from the Harpeth River, the rocks forming the couple from the French Broad River, and the boulders and stones from the Oregon Coast and Jasper Beach, Maine.


The room was adorned with objects that reflect the lives of Corey and Leah, an outdoorsy couple living in the mountains of Asheville, hiking, kayaking, camping. She’s in Outdoor Recreation at UNCA. I pulled in the elements of earth, fire, and water. A few vases held white and green mums and baby’s breath. Most tables were decorated with a host of glass cylinders holding water and some with birch twigs, some with river glass, some with river rocks, and a lighted candle on top of each cylinder.


Birch is symbolic of beginnings, renewal & starting over. It was used by the Native Americans as the center pole in yurts and teepees—the center must start fresh the process of gathering, shelter, and all other representations of home. The Gauls used birch twigs in marriage ceremonies. Traditionally, branches would be lit as a sign of good luck and an omen for a long, happy marriage.

All the river rocks and river glass I used came from Section 9 of the French Broad River where Corey and Leah kayak. He collected them for me and mailed them to me over the summer.


Baby’s Breath is a flower that symbolizes everlasting love. The tiny white flowers represent the purity of emotion that two people should have for each other during a wedding ceremony. White is the color of new beginnings.

My sister Judi, her husband Buzz, Adam, Hayley, and Chaderlee took charge of following the theme and making the room fabulous! (Thank you!)


rd-5-shelfpoemdecor“Celebration” Pebble Art and Framed Poem

I commissioned a poem for Leah and Corey by my longtime writer friend, Susan Donovan Dunham, member of ASCAP, author of several published essays, writer of a song for a movie, and member of the Arts Collective at Journey Church. She prayed about the task before her, got inspiration and a vision, and this is her creation about our sweet couple (whom she knows and has followed for eight years) getting married in October, outdoors in an arboretum next to the French Broad River.


Bared soles rest on patches of smooth river stone as
clear, cold, liquid satin flows over twenty toes.
Butternuts, birches and maples create a stained-glass sanctuary,
offering prayers of protection for two hearts, bodies, souls.
Congregations of birds harmonize to the fantasia of the French Broad,
its fragrance filling what’s empty, entwining two lives through
chilled breaths suspended in the autumn air.

 We will~

rd-7-headtable1Toast Time!


Six toasts were presented by loving guests: Buzz (uncle of the groom and Hardy family patriarch), Karl (grandfather, or Opa, of the bride and family patriarch), Jesse (longtime friend of Corey from Nashville), Pete (brother of the bride), Dave (father of the bride), and Charlie (father of the groom). Fun, funny, happy, tender, sweet, meaningful, loving!

rd-12-toastbuzzyUncle Buzz

rd-14-toastkarl2Karl, “Opa” (L)


rd-16-toastpetePete, holding baby son



The groom’s father’s toast ended with an invitation for his son to call him any time he needed advice. All Corey’s life, his dad would share lessons and life stories from his vast reservoir of knowledge. He’d preface any advice with that phrase, and it became a rolling-of-the-eyes moment for both sons. But those are the things one remembers. So Charlie had a cup made for Corey, and on it was printed…yeah! Vast Reservoir of Knowledge. Great moment!


rd-25-loves_me_in_nashville_bbq_apronThe legend goes…

In past centuries, toddlers wore aprons or pinafores to keep their clothes clean. These aprons had a pair of ribbons or strings sewn to the shoulders, which the mother would hold onto, rather like a leash. When the child was old enough for some independence, the strings would be cut off. So, “cutting the apron strings” means becoming independent from one’s mother and family and going out on one’s own. Corey has been independent for years, but since it’s a family tradition, we rolled with it.


I ordered chef aprons that said “Someone in Nashville Loves Me” on the front. (That would be me.) I explained the legend, pulled the apron out of a gift bag, put it on Corey, and tied it. Then I picked up my scissors and held them to the tie string. “No!” Corey said, “no, no, you’re not going to cut it, are you? I’ve always wanted a barbecue apron. Don’t ruin it!” Well, I’m too practical to destroy something new. And I don’t like the idea of cutting people off and sending them away. So I changed tradition. Instead of detaching and separating, I widened my tent and welcomed in Leah and her family, by presenting her with an identical apron and tying it on her. “Now, you two go off, establish your hearth, and cook on your own, but remember you’ve got a bigger family now, and remember someone in Nashville loves you both.”

rd-21-groomsmengiftsGifts for the Groomsmen

rd-2-judihayleyHayley and Judi

rd-6-chadadamChaderlee, Adam

Somewhere amidst all this fun, we enjoyed food and drink.

Tell My Grandchildren My 9/11 Story


Tell my grandchildren. Tell them about that late summer day of blue morning skies and a brisk hint of fall, when all of a sudden, out of pristine cerulean, there came crashes, infernos, and collapses, and thousands died.

The twins are seven, in second grade, innocent of bad people and horrific events in world history. On September 11, 2001, they weren’t a hope or a dream; they weren’t even thought of. They were born seven and a half years after 9/11, the attack on America. They don’t know.

It’s like me being born the same stretch of time after the attack on Pearl Harbor. I have no first-hand understanding or compassion of it, except what I learned in a few paragraphs in a history book—and the stories my mother told me. That day she sat with her parents, brothers, and sisters in front of the radio and listened to the news and the president’s declaration of war. She was twenty. She told that story over and over during my growing up years.

So tell my grandchildren. They will only read a half page about it in history class one day.


Tell them that 9/11 is short for September 11, 2001. On that day, 19 men hijacked four commercial airplanes. They flew three of the planes into buildings. Two planes hit the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center in New York City. The crashes caused the 110-story Twin Towers, once the tallest buildings in the world, to collapse.


The third plane hit the Pentagon in Washington DC, our nation’s capital. The Pentagon is the headquarters for the armed forces of the United States. The fourth plane, likely headed for the US Capitol building, crashed into a field in Pennsylvania because its passengers and crew fought back and kept it from reaching its target. Nearly 3,000 people died that day—people from 90 different countries. A terrorist group called al-Qaeda did this. The terrorists thought that by attacking famous and important buildings in our country and killing and harming many people, they would frighten Americans and force us into changing our policies and point of view about the Middle East.


Tell them that on the first anniversary of 9/11, their grandmama and Poppy drove to the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home in Brentwood, where nearly 3,000 little wooden crosses had been erected, one for each person who died in the attacks. Tell them the red crosses represented firefighters, the blue crosses represented policemen, the gold crosses represented children, and the white crosses stood for all the others.


Tell my grandchildren what they can bear.

And tell them my story of that day, like my mother told me hers. Because stories help us to feel the moment and picture it and experience it like we were there. Because remembering and telling will help us all to stay alert and vigilant and to take care of America.


My 9/11 Story

 I quote from my journal of 9/11/01: This day began like any other day. I woke up at 5:30, let the dog out, and got a cup of coffee. It was cool, in the 50s, and a beautiful morning.

A crew of painters arrived that morning to paint the trim on our house. We decided that Charlie would stay home, give instructions, and get them started, while I went to the office to take care of important details before returning home to exchange places with him.

Driving east on Mack Hatcher Bypass, approaching its intersection with Franklin Road, I heard the news on 92.9 that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I thought a small plane, an accident. So did the deejays, but they also suggested the possibility of a terrorist act. One said, “Oh, gosh, why would anyone do that?” Stopped for the red light, I grabbed my cell phone, punched in the 5-digit code to unlock it, and called Charlie. He would be at his workbench in the garage with a TV just above him.

“You better turn on CNN immediately,” I said. “Something’s going on.”

He had Channel 13’s Breaking News on before I finished my sentence. Then he started a roll . . .

“Oh my God. Oh my God. OH MY GOD.” Accents on different words each time. Short and staccato. Soft and slow. Loud and distinct. Long and drawn out. “OH-H-H MY-Y-Y GOD.”

“What? What? WHA-A-AT?” I pleaded. “What is happening?” He’s an engineer—logical, exact, serious, factual, precise—never emotional or panicky like me.

“Apparently, one plane hit, and now a second.” His voice shook. “I just saw it hit the tower. Oh my God.”

The crew of Mexican painters had gathered behind him, he told me, uttering words in Spanish, shaking their heads in disbelief. He continued, “Get the essentials done quickly at the office, and come home!” And then he uttered the words that still send a chill down my spine: “LIFE AS WE KNOW IT HAS ENDED.”

I was still reeling, my head spinning, trying to achieve a balance with my thoughts, trying to make sense out of all this, not understanding the full implications, the utter horror, the short-term or long-term significance of what had just happened. How could he grasp this concept? How did he know?

Heart thumping hard, I jerked open the office door, bell clanging a B flat above my head, and cried out to our technician, seated at his desk, “What is going on in this world?” He was a part-time employee of the Tennessee Air National Guard. Puzzled at my frenzy, he never took his eyes off me as he switched on the radio. We listened to unfolding, breaking news.

Two planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. A plane hit the Pentagon. The White House was evacuated. Another plane crashed near Pittsburgh. Why Pittsburgh? We learned later that it was headed for the White House or the Capitol.

Hands shaking, I sat down at my computer and typed a quick email to my son. I knew he’d be at his desk, working.

Subject: emergency

Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001 08:39:25 –0500

turn on tv–2 planes crashed into world trade center…

No capital letters. I was in a hurry. In a panic. I always use capital letters when appropriate. I’m always careful about my grammar. I’m an English major for godssakes.

I felt scattered. Things were happening that shouldn’t be happening. Gravity did not exist anymore. Everything had gone awry. The whole world had exploded into confusion. Like confetti scattered to the wind. How do you collect it all? I wanted to sweep it all up, to put my world back together. How would we ever restore order again? Where would it end? What other tragedies were lurking, waiting to happen. What else? WHAT ELSE?

Charlie called, “Go do your banking and come home now! I’m going to the store. Going to get some necessities—flour, sugar, bottled water, canned goods. We don’t know what’s going to happen.” I wasn’t sure why we needed flour and sugar, but if that’s what he needed to feel safe and prepared, so be it.

All planes in the United States of America were grounded. All planes were ordered to proceed to the nearest airport and land.

On my way home, I drove across South Berry’s Chapel Road, as I do every day. Over the high hill and down into the beautiful valley, gated community with million dollar homes, green pasture on the hillside, horses grazing, swishing their tails, trees flirting with September yellow, Canada geese on a pond, skies so blue, so beautiful. A plane, an orange Southwest, flew over low, headed to the airport for an unscheduled landing. I slowed and watched it overhead through my sunroof. It would be the last jet I’d see for a long while in normally busy skies. The skies were empty, eerie. And so quiet . . . so damn quiet.

Again, I quote from my journal of 9/11/01: For the first time in my life, I was afraid. I kept looking at the skies—looking for the dreaded long white contrails of nuclear missiles approaching.

I was glued to the TV news the remainder of the day. Watching over and over the plane hitting the second tower. Over and over the towers crashing down, killing thousands of innocent people. Watching gray survivors fleeing, coated with ash. Ashes of victims incinerated. Ashes of powdered concrete. I just stared. I couldn’t comprehend it. I couldn’t process the horror.

I could not react. It was so far away. It was in my living room. It was in my country. America. We live above violence of this nature. Things like this don’t happen here. This is America, for godssakes! We are safe here. We are not safe here. We will never be safe here again. Tears wouldn’t come.

From my journal of 9/11/01: I watched continuous coverage on CNN. CNN’s banner was “ATTACK ON AMERICA.” During the afternoon, I retrieved messages from the office. One message was from the Air National Guard, trying to reach our technician, a navigator. It said, “We are considering this an Act of War.” The guard was on Threatcon Charlie, the second highest alert, with two units on Threatcon bravo. Chilling.


Day in Infamy

Azure skies await.
Three thousand souls march upward.
September ambush.