September 27, 2001
I Love New York

"I felt a great disturbance in the Force...
as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror
and were suddenly silenced."

I will never again watch that scene in "Star Wars" the same way.

Ireland seems a million years and a million miles away now. Hard to believe how happy I was then.

I'm not going to post most of what I e-mailed to friends during all this, because it's too personal, too private, for general consumption. But I'll post a few things I feel comfortable with:

The Left says the terrorist actions were my fault, because of U.S. policy. The Right says it's my fault too, because of U.S. lifestyle. The politicizing of this, so early, is frustrating and exhausting.

Right now, I'm just trying to help people and keep from going out of my fucking mind. If it wasn't for CNN and the Internet, I would, indeed, be insane -- these are the only ways I know what's going on, both from a "news" and a "human" point of view, and my only connections to home.

My mother flies her U.S.A. flag proudly, sings along to all the patriotic songs being played on the radio, and marched herself down to a church in Henderson, Kentucky to support a Muslim cleric who came to address the congregation about Islam. Yes, you can be patriotic, Christian, American, open-minded and tolerant, all at the same time.

A friend from Bangledesh has already been harassed on the streets of New York. But before he could respond, other New Yorkers told the name callers to shut the hell up. God Bless New Yorkers.

I feel so sorry, so very very sorry, for the guy in Florida that runs that flight school. I saw him on TV and he looked positively suicidal. I want to write him so badly and tell him it's not his fault.

On the Friday after all this, I got home and walked the dogs and their new reception committee was waiting -- it's these three little kids of indeterminate middle eastern descent who are always in the playground in the afternoons that week. They don't speak any English. They are absolutely fascinated by the dogs. They bark at the dogs, but they won't get close, except for one little girl, the oldest. She's about 9. She will actually come up and pet Wiley. She was so tentative at first, barely touching him the week before. Now, she walks right up and pets him with great confidence, and looks back at the others to show that he's really a sweet dog.

A message went out at work that day that, in the evening, there would be a joint ecumenical service at the American church by the Protestant pastor and the Catholic priest service. So I went. I needed to be with people who believe there is something bigger than all of us, even if some of us don't call it "Jesus." I would have gone to a Taoist meeting if that's the only thing that had been available. Outside the church was a large grouping of flowers and candles. There were notes in German pinned to some of the flowers. The church was full, but not packed -- more than 100 people. It was a very simple service, about finding love and strength, and thanking God for the goodness that we've seen. We had a unison reading of Psalm 46 and Psalm 23. There was a 20-something German girl next to me who cried through the whole thing, which made me cry a bit. But I held up relatively well. We sang "I Want Jesus to Walk with Me," "Precious Lord," and "My Faith Looks Up to Thee." Well, I sang. Everyone else kind of mumbled. The little German boy in front of me kept turning around and staring at me because he could hear me singing.

I've decided I'm a Buddhist Baptist. Just like my mamaw, although she doesn't know she's half Buddhist. But she is. It was her birthday on September 11.

I went to church again the following Sunday. It was packed. We sang "Great is Thy Faithfulness," 'O God, Our Help in Ages Past," and "It is Well with My Soul." I was fine until the unison reading, at the part where we said "Assure us of your love that we may be able to accept what we cannot understand." I lost it then. Later, we had a time of prayer (one of many), when members of the congregation are invited to share their prayers out loud with everyone. Three Americans did. Then came this soft voice -- a woman praying in German. I lost it again.

I ran into my Pakistani co-worker the next week. I told him I know that it must be really hard for him right now. He nodded. I hugged him.

So many of the dead from the WTC are foreign nationals. So many are from the Middle East. Are Americans realizing this?

I looked on Yahoo at the pictures of people all over the world, of all nationalities, praying over this (I took photos as well), or to just show solidarity. I see people from Afghanistan now living in the U.S. calling the FBI to volunteer their translation abilities. I saw footage of a crowd of people, including two elderly nuns, standing outside a mosque in Chicago with signs of support for the Islamic community. I'm seeing, via the news, gourmet restaurants in New York staying closed so that they can make food for the rescue workers. People who want to volunteer in New York and are turned away stay to stand and cheer the firefighters, police and construction workers coming off-shift.

The telethon was heart-wrenching. But wonderful. I cried so many times. I felt my heart sore over Tom Petty singing "I Won't Back Down." The Dixie Chicks, Neil Young singing "Imagine", Paul Simon singing "Bridge over troubled water, Willie singing "America"... amazing, amazing, amazing. A co-worker knows one of the many, many non-stars who were answering the phones, and she said he said that people were so wonderful, so generous, so happy to be able to do *something*. Some made jokes: "Are you Brad Pitt?" and him saying, in a voice so obviously not Brad Pitt, "Well, yeah, hon!" It must have felt so good to connect and laugh.

From my friend Jennifer in Louisville:

Sure has been touching to see the rescue dogs working so hard. They are awesome! Saw a story about one dog who fell into a big pile of dust and had to be taken in an ambulance to a special vet for treatment. Literally ten firemen came to help the dog and make sure he was safe. Yes, the dog is fine and back at work. Always got to get the ending to the scary dog story, remember how upset everyone was about the bees?

I love dogs.
And firemen.

I heard that Delta Airlines is laying off 13,000 people. Are those two wonderful, wonderful people that helped me at the Atlanta airport when I came to Germany among those losing their jobs?

To express their feelings and thoughts about the horrible events, designers have posted graphic interpretations on the AIGA website. These are *amazing*. I don't agree with all of the messages but every image gets an emotional response.

A special thank you to everyone who did their best to keep political talk OUT of this for the first week, while everyone tried to concentrate on the dead and injured. That excludes Michael Moore who, for the first time in my life, I'm very dissappointed in.

Here's a child's response to the terrorist attacks. Brilliant. We have seen the very worst and the very best people can be in such a short span.

More later . . .

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