9/11 remembered and the garden on a hill

“What separates us from the animals,
what separates us from the chaos,
is our ability to mourn people we’ve never met.”

David Levithan


(the sign outside of the Remembrance Garden in Kinsale, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

16 years have passed…
and yet our hearts still mourn.

In 2015 when on a trip to Ireland, I had the privilege of visiting the small
picturesque fishing village of Kinsale.

Tucked away off the beaten path, perched high on a hill overlooking the harbor,
is a humble and unassuming memorial garden park.

This however is not any sort of average garden nor an average memorial….
certainly not what one would expect to find in an Irish fishing village.

It is a living memorial to the American tragedy of 9/11.

The following link is to post I wrote, almost two years ago to the day,
after returning home regarding our visit to the garden….

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/out-of-the-darkness-has-come-a-great-light/

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Revelation 21:3-4

How do we remember

“Well I won’t back down
No I won’t back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down”

Tom Petty

dscn4315
(my son’s 7th grade school picture shortly following 9/11–
the kids all made the small flag pin he has pinned to his shirt—we still have the pin)

How is it that we remember?
How do we mark those important moments in life?
How do we best remember them–both good and bad?

From the perspective of a parent, it is most likely by our children.
how old they were…
where they were…
what they were doing…

My son was in the 7th grade that fateful September day.
It was a warm Georgia, clear blue sky, kind of day.

With razor sharp precision,
we remember exactly where and when,
on those earth shattering days when tragedy strikes…
as life suddenly stands still.

Life stopped in time,
that New York, clear blue sky, fateful Septemeber day.

Life stopped in time,
that warm Pennsylvania September Tuesday morning.

Life stopped in time,
that typical September Tuesday morning in Washington D.C.

For thousands of Americans that September day,
life simply ceased.

Stopping forever for…
young and old,
male and female,
Black,
White,
Latino,
Asian…

For stopping and ceasing does not bother to discriminate nor separate.

Parents were suddenly gone.
Brothers were suddenly gone.
Grandparents were suddenly gone.
Sisters were suddenly gone.
Mothers,
Fathers,
Friends,
Husbands,
Wives,
Children
all suddenly gone.

With the breaking news…
those of us who were parents,
suddenly felt an innate urge to run and find our children.

It mattered not that they were at school, day care or with sitters
and that we were at work, or at school, or on business trips….
We wanted our children.

We wanted to run to them,
gathering them in our arms…
Wanting, needing, yearning to…
see them,
touch them,
hold them…
holding them close and tight in our arms—
reassuring ourselves that our small world was…
still safe,
still real,
still whole…

For thousands of Americans that clear blue sky Tuesday September 11th morning…
their worlds were broken…
forever…
for both those who were gone and for those who remained….

And the fact that those holes still remain in the hearts of those who survived…
or remain in those who simply remained,
left to carry on without those who they loved and still long to hold close…
that is something the rest of us must always remember…

Show us your mercy, O Lord;
And grant us your salvation.
Clothe your ministers with righteousness;
Let your people sing with joy.
Give peace, O Lord, in all the world;
For only in you can we live in safety.
Lord, keep this nation under your care;
And guide us in the way of justice and truth.
Let your way be known upon earth;
Your saving health among all nations.
Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten;
Nor the hope of the poor be taken away.
Create in us clean hearts, O God;
And sustain us by your Holy Spirit.

Book of Common Prayer 1979

Ever vigilant

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
1 Peter 5:8

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
Thomas Jefferson

DSCN1562
(A statue of an Irish wolfhound stands guard at Ashford Castle / Counties Mayo – Galway, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

We are currently caught in a maelstrom…
a
black
swirling
churning
drastically
changing
moment
in
time …

A time of grave darkness.

It was in 2001 when we first heard the words…“we are winning the war on terrorism….”
words Spoken by George W Bush.
He had first publicly used the term “war on Terror” following the attacks of September 11th.
However we can actually look back to the Reagan administration when the phrase was first used by then President Reagan as he implored Congress to pass legislation to freeze the funds of various terrorist agencies.

Terrorist regimes are not new.

Yet our current President tells us that we are winning, making gains, making great strides, curbing and shutting down this insidious menace….
In May he even boasted that the war on terror was over…Hummm
“The “Global War on Terror” is over, President Barack Obama announced Thursday”
(US New and World Report May 23, 2015)
He again touted that we were winning the war on November 13th, just hours before the deadly attacks in Paris.
He must know something the rest of us don’t. He must see something that the rest of us aren’t seeing.

Somehow I think that San Bernardino and Paris and Brussels and Tel Aviv and Egypt and Russia and Tunisia and London and Yemen and Saudi Arabia and Algeria and Denmark and Canada and Bangladesh and Australia and New York and Texas and Afghanistan and Lebanon and Libya and Turkey and…..
All of which would beg to differ…for each and every one of these cities and or nations has had to clean up the spilt blood of their citizens and guests…of which has been shed at the hands of terrorists— either ISIS, aka Daesh, the Radical Muslim terrorist organization, or their duly inspired henchmen.

It doesn’t seem to get any clearer than that…

As it certainly appears that this war on terrorism is pretty much a global issue…

And it is with great frustration that we continue hearing, listening to and seeing the lamentations and the finger pointing…
The accusatory rhetoric from individuals, various nations, the news media, various heads of states and governments, religious leaders…
the “I told you so”
the “this is all your fault” business…
the “this is what you get for _________” (allowing you to fill in the blank)

The “all of this is all the fault of western civilizations….”
(Then why are so many attacks also happening in the Middle East?)

“all this is the fault of Christianity…” dating all the way back to the first crusade…

“All of this is the fault of the Jews dating back to…to…to…Abraham…”

And maybe that is where much of all of this may have actually come about with that whole Isaac and Ishmael business but that tale of woe is for another day…

Since the terrorist attacks on American soil on September 11, 2001, the governmental powers that be will have issued 3 different, or amended, terror alert systems with the latest one to roll off the shelves within the very near future.

I don’t know how many more steps one can add in between BAD and REALLY BAD.

Today’s young people, age 25 and younger, have been living under this raging war on Terror for the majority of their lives—14 long years
And with each passing year, the sitting president continues telling us we are winning the war.

We are NOT winning the war.

If you think anything differently, you are merely deceiving yourself.
The war is simply morphing, evolving, changing.

However it should come as no surprise to any Christians among us that this menacing business of evil has long been with us…dating back to that whole Adam, Eve and serpent debacle.
For it was in that very moment of disobedience that mankind went to war.
Man went to war with himself, against himself, against his descendants, against his world, against His God…
And Evil has freely walked the face of this earth ever since that fateful day when the gate was slammed shut in Eden.

Yet as Christians, we know that this war may indeed continue being fought as it is raging without a seeming end in sight… it may be bloody, it may be cruel, it may be catastrophic…. but one thing is certain…
there will be no victory for the prince of Darkness.

And whereas there are those who will say that such talk is delusional, it is equally delusional to deny that there is Good and Evil and that we are all in the midst of a battle between Light and Darkness.

Our government calls for vigilance.
This vigilance was initially more pertinent for those who were traveling—be it at home as well as abroad.
Yet now that vigilance blankets our journeys much closer to home…journeys now to the mall, to work, to sporting events, to plays, to the theater….

Vigilance.

As Christians, we are making ready our preparations during this Advent season as we are filled with expectant and ever vigilant hearts…
For we are making ready for the arrival of the One True Light…the birth of all Salvation, of all Hope and of the greatest Victory yet to come…
even so, Come Lore Jesus…..

Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
A voice says, “Cry out.”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
“All people are like grass,
and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.”
You who bring good news to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”

Out of the darkness, has come a great Light

“…the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.”

Matthew 4:16

DSCN0735
(entrence to the 9/11 memorial in Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

The sound is almost overwhelming as the sickening thud of felled trees, one right after another, causes the entire earth to shake beneath my feet. The maddening buzz of saws fills the air as progress marches sadly forward on the property across the street. Once beautiful woods are now giving way to a muddy stubby mess as blue sky abruptly punctuates what was once a shadowy lush green canopy, all the while as worrisome thoughts of what is soon to be hangs heavy in the air.

Disconcerted and rattled with each crashing tree, my thoughts thankfully drift away, thousands of miles away across an expansive ocean, to a very different forest of trees.

Perched high on a hill overlooking the serene harbor of Kinsale, a colorful fishing town found on the southeastern coast of County Cork, Ireland, is an unassuming park. This park isn’t the sort of destination topping the list of must see places for those visiting Kinsale. Far from the shops, restaurants and fishing piers that make Kinsale a favorite stopping point for those visiting Ireland, rests a serene respite I was fortunate to visit.

We had spent the day driving around much of County Cork. We had visited the seaport town of Cobh which is steeped in history. It was in the city of Cobh which was most often the last piece of Ireland that many an Irish immigrant savored before setting sail for America during the infamous Irish potato famine. It is also in Cobh that the few remaining survivors, as well as the recovered bodies from the ill fated Lusitania, the passenger ship that was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1915, were received following the sinking of the ship. Cobh is also the town in which the Titanic set sail on its tragic maiden voyage.

DSCN0716
(a memorial to the victims of the Lusitania rests in the city center of Cobh, County Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Having spent the day stepping in and out of history as we enjoyed the idyllic coastal fishing villages around Ireland’s south easterly coast, we were ready to head on back to our hotel in Kinsale, to dinner and to calling it one more day rich in sights and wonders. But our driver and friend Paul had one more stop this day that he knew we needed to see and experience–this stop was to be much more current and personal in our lives as Americans then the sad exodus of immigrants or the tragic losses at sea.

Kathleen Cait Murphy was a local girl from Kinsale who spent forty years of her life living in New York working as a nurse. It was from her time working in New York that she both admired and befriended many a New York firefighter.

DSCN0746
(remembrance to Kathleen Cait Murphy/ Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Kathleen was a personal friend of firefighter chaplain Father Mychal Judge, who along with 343 fellow firefighters, lost his life on that fateful 11th day of September 2001.

Before her death in 2011, Kathleen envisioned a memorial to not only her friend Father Judge but to all the firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice that ill-fated beautiful blue sky September day in 2001.

DSCN0752
(a small view of Kathleen’s memorial park / Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland /Julie Cook/ 2015)

Kathleen, with the help of family and friends, planted 343 trees, one for each fallen firefighter. The trees have now grown creating a forest of gratitude and love.
Each tree has a small marker with the name of a firefighter, his fire house and rank as well as an individual American Flag.

DSCN0742

DSCN0743

DSCN0741

DSCN0736

I stood in silence overwhelmed, as tears flowed freely down my cheeks, amazed and humbled by the image of the 343 American flags gently waving in the Irish breeze underneath a tiny forest of beautiful trees.

DSCN0744

So often, as a traveler, I am on guard as I know that Americans are not alway looked upon favorably by others. Even our own Government has us feeling almost ashamed as to who we are as a Nation. Yet here on “foreign soil” as I stood awestruck, I was a tiny spectator of a poignant tribute to the very Country I call home as well as a tribute to a portion of her very brave and selfless sons and daughters who made the ultimate sacrifice. I imagine those who visit Normandy feel very much the same, albeit on a grander scale than this, but humbling none the less.

It is because of such a tribute and memorial that we are allowed to turn our hearts…as we are gently reminded that we mustn’t hold on to the anger and hate, the rage and righteous indignation which so often fills our minds and hearts as we recall such a fateful day. Rather it must be to the hope and to the light cast from the sacred bond we share as human beings—It is because of these very humanistic qualities which make us more alike than different–those shared emotions of both joy and sorrow which bind us, unconditionally in love and to the shared respect we have for one another as human beings.

No, we will never forget that tragic September day which remains still very fresh in our minds and hearts, yet it is to the selflessness and compassion of Kathleen Cait Murphy that we may recall such sadness with a ray of hope, the bond of kindred spirits and a wellspring of gratitude that others share not only in our grief but in our hope as well…
Thank you Paul…

DSCN0740

DSCN0745

DSCN0753

DSCN0749

DSCN0747

DSCN0756

DSCN0739

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
Isaiah 9:2

life is a highway

Life is a highway
I wanna ride it all night long
If you’re going my way
I wanna drive it all night long

Chorus from Life is a Highway
Rascal Flats

IMG_1380
(sitting on Atlanta’s infamous 285 / Julie Cook / 2015)

It was a beautiful blue sky, polka dotted popcorn cloud, kind of day.
The kind of day one should be on a road trip to the beach. . .
Not the kind of day to be racing the 70 miles over to Dads. . .

I get a call Saturday afternoon from the care giver. . .
The only thing I can understand and make out is
“911,
can’t breathe,
Ms Gloria. . .”

I immediately call Gloria’s son telling him the ambulance is on its way
as I’m grabbing my keys, racing out the door.

One would think that a Saturday’s drive to the city would be a piece of cake.
Idyllic,
Quick,
Easy,
Just a carefree sort of blue sky kind of day,
A beautiful day for a drive. . .

Suddenly there is an odd sound coming from somewhere in my car or my head, or. . .
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Atlanta does all of its interstate roadwork on weekends.
Upon my approach to the Perimeter, aka 285, I notice that traffic is backed up and at a dead stop.
Hummmmmmm. . .
Quickly deciding I’ll be smart. . .
I’ll just head straight, going straight through town, hitting the connector.
You know, downtown,
As in downtown. . .
As in Petula Clark now singing in my head. . .

So go downtown
Where all the lights are bright, downtown
Waiting for you tonight, downtown
You’re gonna be alright now, downtown

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH
Hysterical laughter is again raining down from what I have determined to be the mystical traffic gods.

It’s a stop and go drive the entire way. . .
Are you freaking kidding me!!!!!???
It’s Saturday for heaven’s sake!!!!!!!

Here’s the question—
If I drive on the emergency outside lane, bypassing the madness, would a state patrolman
cut me any slack if I told him I’m trying to get to my dad’s as my 87 stepmother may be having
a heart attack?
Do I take the chance. . .
Hummmmmmm

Long story short—-
Thankfully Gloria checks out fine.
With a few non threatening concerns to be addressed at a later date.
Dad is now much calmer
And life is back to its normal level of surrealism at 4825

As the sun begins to set, with everyone settled back into place,
it’s time to make the trek back home.
Traffic should be better, right?
It should be a breeze getting home. . .right?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH
The traffic gods are laughing again.

Stop and go.
45 minutes sitting on 285 when I should have been long gone,
It takes me an hour just to get on to I20 in order to head out of town.
Stop and go the entire way home. . .
It’s Saturday. . .
Are you freaking kidding me????

Does anyone ever go home, or get to where they want to go???

Oh. . .and should I be concerned when a storm chaser van, changing lanes, pulls in front of me
exiting onto my same exit?

IMG_1384

I scan the blue sky and popcorn clouds.

I follow the storm chasers. . .
wondering, what’s in store for me further down the road. . .
when suddenly, I burst into song. . .

“Life’s like a road that you travel on
When there’s one day here and the next day gone
Sometimes you bend, sometimes you stand
Sometimes you turn your back to the wind
There’s a world outside ev’ry darkened door
Where blues won’t haunt you anymore
Where brave are free and lovers soar
Come ride with me to the distant shore
We won’t hesitate
To break down the garden gate
There’s not much time left today”

Life is a Highway
Rascal Flats

Meet the neighbors….

They are loud, mean, obnoxious, big, dirty. . . plus they smell really really bad. . . and worst of all— they live right across the street. . .

DSCN2430

When we first bought this property almost 15 years ago, this entire area had once been part of a large farm. Our property had actually once been pasture land, as was the property next door, as our neighbor still actually maintains it as a farm and pasture for her horses. The land across the street was still a fenced off, rather large, pasture full of cows. The owners did not live on the the property but would drive out, checking on the cows at least twice a day, bringing in hay or water as needed.

The cows really never bothered us except for the occasional loud mooing. The truly big annoyance was the influx of flies we’d notice during the summer months or if the wind was out of the Northwest, an unpleasant aroma would waft our way with the worst being when the owners would decide to fertilize the field with chicken manure—let’s just say outdoor garden parties would not be advisable.

All in all however, life with cows as neighbors was ok. Then one day, about two years ago, the owner of the property, an older man, sadly passed away. All that remained was his grown special needs son. The land then passed on to the next of kin. This is when things took a big turn in direction.

One day a big cattle truck showed up and moved all the cows away. “Hummm” we wondered. “Were the new owners going to build on the property or perhaps, Heaven’s forbid, attempt selling it to some big wig real-estate developer?!” we mused to ourselves feeling all a bit hopeless. It wasn’t long until we discovered who, or actually what, was to be our new neighbors. . .

DSCN2421

Bulls.
And not just any bulls, these were the “wood” bulls. Wood bulls you ask? Yes, a most unique species indeed.

It seems that living out of the city limits as we do, there is indeed a hodge podge of what goes on with the county property. There are subdivisions, a retirement facility, farms, individual homes such as ours, plus a multi million dollar golf club and neighborhood all within 3 miles of where we live.

There is also some property nestled in between some beautiful homes and the golf course that is a fenced off wooded piece of property. On this property of woods lived a bunch of bulls and steers. I would drive by these animals always on my way to and from work, feeling so sorry for these bulls as they were not living on a nice pasture, but rather in the midsts of overgrown woods. Who can graze in the woods for heavens sake?! Even this city girl knows a cow needs open space and grass!

Imagine my surprise when the “wood” bulls were unloaded across the street. They now had their pasture I had so wished for them–it just happened to now be directly across from my house! Imagine 30 to 40 giant, all male, very male, bulls living together in one pasture. There is a great deal of vying for being king bull. Are you familiar with rocky mountain oysters? Lets just say that I understand the comparison now to huge mountains.

Loud groaning and moaning goes on at all times of the day and night. Dirt is kicked up into a frenzy. Horns clash and rattle together as domination is sought in the pecking order of life between these wood bulls.

The owners are not the best keepers of these animals. The fence is piece meal and old, patched together here and there with wire. Many a time has a bull knocked through the fence. Do you know what it is like to be driving along a road, minding your own business, when suddenly you are front bumper to head with a massive angry bull? Do you know what it is like to suddenly look out your window only to see 5 gigantic 500 pound animals in your yard pawing at what use to be grass?

How many times have people up and down this road called 911.
operator: “Hello 911, what’s your emergency?”
caller: “Uh there is a bull in the road”
operator: “excuse me?”
caller: “yeah a bull and someone is going to get killed it it’s not moved out of the road”
Enter the local sheriff.
How many local sheriffs does it take to move 1 bull?
One in a car behind the bull and two out walking, waving their arms in front of the bull praying the owners show up soon.

We had to take quick action by putting up a fence along the front of our property. So far it has kept out the unwelcomed guests. I can’t tell you how many people would stop at our door at all hours of the night and day to report that “our” bulls were out in the road—again. It got to a point that I taped a sign by our front door stating that we did not own the bulls nor did we know their owners name.

But I confess–I do feel sorry for these animals. I have discovered that they are rodeo bulls. They are used in the small circuit rodeos that are held in this, as well as, neighboring counties. Their pasture is not fertilized and is full of weeds, the fence is a piece of crap, and there is no naturally occurring water on the property so the owners must bring in massive quantities of water that I don’t think is nearly often enough in the summer months.

So for now, I am learning to tolerate my neighbors while maintaing a healthy respect–all as my empathy towards these creatures continues to grow. . . however my biggest and latest concern is no longer the wood bulls but rather who in the heck has gone and gotten a rooster?! You only think those things crow just in the morning. . . there’s just something to be said for ordinances!

DSCN2429

DSCN2426

DSCN2420

DSCN2425