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Seminal Events

September 11, 2017

We all have seminal events in our lives. Most are personal–births and deaths, weddings and divorces. Some, however, are public. Massively public. Depending on how old you are, you can respond immediately when someone asks, “Where were you when…?” Pearl Harbor. Kennedy was assassinated. The Challenger exploded. Armstrong walked on the moon. 9/11.

This will be published on 9/11. September 11, 2017. I can remember exactly where I was when I heard my country was under attack. I remember watching the twin towers fall again and again on television, never thinking that, to a child, all buildings in all cities were under attack. Watching the Pentagon on fire, not knowing how many were killed or injured. Weeping when passengers took down a jet in Pennsylvania before it could be turned into a weapon.

Yes, we can remember, but what I remember most is what happened later. After. When we drew a collective breath and realized there were no additional planes in the air waiting to attack us. When there was a run on US flags and poles for displaying them. People who had never flown the flag did so with unabashed patriotism. Some flew it to thumb their noses at the cowards who attacked us. Whatever. They flew them. Whole subdivisions, whole city blocks bloomed red, white, and blue. Many of those flags still fly all these years later. Mine does, although my original flag has long since gone to its grave. Properly destroyed in a military-style ceremony when its colors were retired forever.

Doors opened to strangers. When the commercial jets were pulled from the skies and hotels filled up, people took in strangers. Some stayed more than a week, because the skies were closed for many days. New friends became instant best friends. Blocks had cookouts and group functions to share their grief, pain, anger. Strangers worked hard to help their hosts. Prayers. Hand-holding. Hugs. “Thank you” didn’t seem like enough, but it was.

As days turned into weeks, people in cities looked for hiding holes should there be another attack. Knowing cities could never be evacuated should there be a biological or nuclear attack, city dwellers looked for places away from home where they could feel safe. We gave eight families invitations to our lake house, where we now live year round, but where in 2001 we didn’t. We told them where to find the outdoor key, told them to eat what was in the freezer, sent them maps not only to the house but the local services. Gas stations. Grocery stores. Pharmacy. Liquor stores.

We were lucky. No one needed a rush evacuation due to new attacks. Everyone who knew where the keys were came for long weekends after the initial fear cycle was behind us. The keys are in the same place, so if anyone needs to get out of any situation, they have sanctuary with us.

I have never forgotten the kindness the world showed the US. It seemed that even age-old enemies stood beside us symbolically. We wept and raged together. Later, we met together on battlefields against a common enemy.

The blog entry will be published on September 11, 2017. My gratitude toward the world hasn’t weakened. We were all Americans for a period of time. All over the world. The world became one when we were attacked.

Now, I wish we could become one again. Not due to a tragedy. Not due to a natural disaster. But, because we need to be one world. We need to stand together. We need to build bridges. We need to make amends for our actions which have disrespected other countries. We need to open the door of friendship. We need to be the grownups. We need to do it now.

Featured, Lifestyle, Patriotism

Cosmic Dis-ease

September 12, 2016

I don’t usually wear my patriotism like a protective cloak, but I will post this after the 15th anniversary of 9/11. An appropriate time to reflect, don’t you think?

I’ve always been proud of my country and the ideals on which it was founded. I still am. I am not proud of how my government officials act, and that might be the subject of another post at some later time. I believe in what my country stands for, not the oft-shouted pronouncement about which political candidate reflects America’s values more. Rather, I believe in the hopes expressed by our Founding Fathers. None of our current crop of candidates reflect the great ideals from the time of our founding. Instead, most of them espouse their narrow interpretation worthy of their worship of their own graven images.

My country has survived so many dark times. In my own lifetime, we’ve had the Kennedy assassination, the war in Vietnam, laws legislating the end of the shame of Jim Crow, the way our forces were treated when they came back from Vietnam, 9/11, more.

My country has been attacked from within. Let us never forget that Timothy McVeigh was a blue-eyed blond, a right-wind extremist who sought to make a political statement by bombing a Federal building in Omaha. One with a daycare center full of children.

Foreign extremists tried to bomb the World Trade Center in 1993 only to discover that a weak car bomb set off in the parking garage wouldn’t bring the towers down. It took a coordinated foreign effort of hijacked planes to destroy the Twin Towers, damage the Pentagon and crash in a field in rural Pennsylvania after brave passengers formulated a plan to bring down their plane. After a vote of the passengers, a group upset the plans to bomb the Capitol (we think) and saved our government from further damage.

Even after these grand attacks and a series of smaller one by terrorists and home-grown misfits that drive up body counts, I believed my country could rebound. After so many attacks and after much good will pouring in from all over the world, I thought, hoped that we’d find a way to put the hate behind us. Cosmic dis-ease seemed manageable. Now, I wonder if it is.

Cosmic hatred prevails around the world. Hate speech in the U.S. is protected by our Constitution. Bombings occur all too frequently, often masked by ideology but more likely covering up venal plans to take control of a portion of society or part of a country for person gain or self-aggrandizement.

Now that hate speech has become acceptable, cosmic dis-ease grows exponentially. We feel safe denigrating people of a different color or religion and hide behind the rubric of wanting to be brutally honest. No more political correctness. No more manners. No more “agreeing to disagree.”

I’m more fearful for my country. Until Saturday, Sept. 10th, that is. At the Navy football game. On the day before 911, the flyover, the singing of the National Anthem with thousands of people standing respectfully, of the fans standing in honor of the passing of the colors–all were crystallized into a power feeling of hope.

These young men and women of the cadet corps are our future military and industrial leaders. Their willingness to be unabashedly patriotic made me and my friends pause and reflect. That’s standard fare at a military academy football game.

What was unusual was a minute of silence for the souls lost on 9/11. The stands were silent. I mean, 25,ooo+ standing, motionless. Tears flowed freely.

And in that minute of reflection, happiness and hope filled my soul. My country may be dented, may have deep wounds that need to be healed, but it stood strong and proud at that moment, united with a strength of mutual commitment to survive and do better.

I left the stadium a little lighter in spirit, a little straighter of spine, a little more optimistic.

Oh, Navy won. Thank you for asking.



Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max, Unintended Consequences, and Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery, now available at Amazon and Barnes and NobleI’m really excited that the trade paper edition of Uncharted Territory was released this week. Please follow me on my website, on TwitterFacebook and Goodreads.

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