Saturday, September 11, 2010

Memories of our nation's attacks; 9/11 and 12/7/41

Today, the memories of 9/11 are strong and as we recall the disbelief and horror of that unforgettable scene, there have been many of these expressed eloquently on many sites.

My son called me the moment he heard the news. I expect that all long-haul truckers  had been placed on an immediate alert by their companies.  I also made some phone calls and watched in horror and disbelief   as the scene was shown continuously on the TV screen. That such a thing was actually happening was beyond belief. The crash of the planes into the buildings, the towering smoke and the images of the tiny figures tumbling into space should have been scenes from a movie but they were terrifyingly real.

In the following hours, other thoughts crowded in: those of the hundreds of firefighters making their desperate attempts to save the trapped occupants of the buildings, a jolt of realization of the dedication they had to their duties and the dangers they were facing, and the memories of another time when our nation had been surprised by another attack: that of December, 7, 1941.

On that Sunday, so many years ago, there were no scenes to watch; only a voice on the radio, which in our household was a powered by its battery. Regardless, the news was sobering and the next day's school assembly to hear our president speak was equally so. I  remember very little of President Roosevelt's  speech except the words "We are at war" spoken in that unforgettable voice.

The serious demeanor of the principal and other teachers was impressive. We
were only naive kids; they were aware of what was before us, but we were soon to learn. We were seniors and before many months boys in our class were  taken into some branch of military  service. Rationing went into place, young men teachers were drafted, the labor force was depleted and women went to work in fields they had never before considered.

In fact, these fields had never before had a need for more workers, but as the nation found themselves pitifully unprepared for war there were shortages on all fronts. The need for airplanes, all types of ships, clothing and food, and various forms of transportation, became acute. We never knew how desperate our situation was until years later, because along with rationing, we also had censoring of everything that might provide helpful information to the enemy.

Two terrible attacks on our nation: similar in destruction and loss of lives, yet different in so many other ways. In the Pearl Harbor attack there was no doubt concerning the identity of the attacker and our response was immediate. In the 9/11 attack there was doubt and confusion. After  Pearl Harbor the nation united as one; an ant bed of activity, ready to sting anyone who dared venture close. How different 9/11 has been. The nation was ready to lash out but there was no place to land a blow. There was uncertainty and confusion. Our citizens had divided opinions concerning how and where to retaliate.
We became frustrated---and still are.

Like  Pearl Harbor, the memories of the 9/11 attack remain but with the 9/11 memories, anger and the frustration still exist as shown in the ongoing controversy concerning the plans of a Muslim group to build a mosque near Ground Zero. Our graphic memories are not fading and this controversy is not going away. I expect that  even after the affair is settled it will remain as a contentious matter. Today, however, it occurred to me that there is one point of view that I have not seen discussed: that of the reactions of patriotic citizens.

Surely, the members of this group are U.S. citizens and as such shouldn’t they share our outrage over the attack on our nation? As citizens, don’t they understand that the attack was meant to be a slap in the face to the United States and all that it represents. It was meant to show disrespect: it was an act of hate and a disregard for life. As citizens, shouldn't they have felt outraged at the attack.  And however unfortunate or unfair it may be that their name is connected to the attackers, that will not change. It was a confusing situation. 

 In the minds of many, rightly or wrongly,  it is that association that is making the building of the mosque so near ground zero an act that insults the memories of lost lives and reflects the the attackers' hate and disrespect of our nation. As  citizens, natural born or naturalized, how can this group disregard the insult and injury our country suffered? How can they not feel the pain of the loss of life? Why do they not realize that their planned building appears to be another slap in the face?

I would hope that those who choose to live in our country and enjoy its freedoms and benefits, would also share our injuries and losses. If they accept this nation as theirs, how can it be otherwise?

There must be other sites; ones that have no disquieting memories, ones that reflect peace and calm instead of discord. How else can this controversy end without continuing conflict?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Never a Dull Moment

The cats still claim my hill, my front porch, and the porch swing. I feed the skinny things but are they interested? No! They follow me down the sidewalk as I go for the paper. They wind in and out around my feet. They meow, telling me their troubles but don’t like the answers I give. Patches got too close and got her tail trounced on and I don’t know who moved the fastest, the cat, or me but she definitely yowled the loudest.                                     Patches >

Noises at midnight...
All is quiet and peaceful…until there is a crash near the back door! The house is secure the doors are locked, the alarm is set…so-o once the goose bumps       subside, a tentative search begins. The cause is found: nothing more than a canister finally giving in to gravity and falling from its unbalanced perch and knocking over several other containers on its path to the floor.

Another peaceful night and Facebook is holding my attention until stealthy rustlings come from the back porch. More goose bumps!  Do I dare turn on the porch light? Well of course I do. I’m no scardy-cat!  What do I see? All seems normal until I see a ‘possum ambling across the patio leaving the obstacle course that my porch has become.

…And then there are the bugs attracted to the lighted windows. Tap, tap, tap! Surely that is a bug
....Ice cubes drop, the freezer starts with a loud click, the dishwasher has its series of clicks and gurgles.
What happened to peace and quiet?

Whistles and gurgles and sirens
the latest installation
There have been times, when groggier than normal, I have opened a door without first turning off the alarm: in fact, the answering folks are becoming amused at my varied excuses.  How ever nice they may be; I have become very sensitized to any noise that sounds, even remotely, like an alarm siren. The first ding of the microwave or dryer as their job is completed; the hiss or whistle of the hot water heater, the song of a happy cicada…all bring me to an alert. Imagine, then, my reaction the evening I was returning home and dutifully turning off the alarm before reaching the front door AND immediately heard the blast of a siren!  What could possibly have happened? I had not even reached the door. The remote should not have caused all the commotion but it must have, so the off button is punched again, and again.  Then the puzzle was solved as the emergency vehicle screamed it’s way down the street.

An eerie feeling...
Numerous tales have been told about the silent appearance of departed loved ones, so you can imagine the direction my thoughts took upon experiencing this:  I was resting with my eyes closed when there was a sudden strong whoosh of air immediately above me. My eyes flew open: there was no sound, no other movement anywhere, but I knew it had been a real and strong air movement.  Almost afraid of what would happen next, I began a reluctant look around the room.  A sound from the dining room drew me there and the mystery was solved. A large chimney swift was fluttering against the blinds. I grabbed a cup towel, gathered the bird into its folds and released it outside. Problem taken care of very efficiently, or so I thought.

Then another bird flew by, back and forth, from window to window as it frantically hunted a way outside.  The back door was only a foot from the path of the swooping bird, so I opened it to help it along its way.  All that accomplished was to send the poor bird into another room…a room with breakables that I feared would be knocked to the floor. Again I grabbed my cup towel, hoping to catch this second bird before there was a disaster.  The bird had disappeared but then I spotted it, exhaustedly resting by the drapes. Another outside trip to deliver the poor thing into it natural habitat and settled myself for a bit of meditation about the events of the last hour.

 That was not to be: another bird appeared. Three birds in one hour called for son-in-law help!  He also caught his bird and then began a hunt for the point of entry.  A fireplace damper had not been closed properly and the chimney swifts, that had appeared so small as they swooped around in the sky, had entered through the opening and appeared in the house with their 12  inch wing spread making them a very large bird to be careening through-out the rooms.

Again, the problem was solved: the bird was outside, the damper was closed, and all is peaceful once more: until I hear a scratching sound from the window behind my chair. I recognized that sound. It could be nothing other than another bird so with cup towel in hand, I find it huddled on the window sill and assist this fourth bird on its way outside.

The damper is closed securely; the birds are free in the outdoors. But the eerie  experience of feeling that strong, silent air  movement remains.