a clear blue sky…

And they were canopied by the blue sky,
So cloudless, clear, and purely beautiful,
That God alone was to be seen in Heaven.
Lord Byron, “The Dream,” 1816


(Julie Cook / County Cork, Kinsale, Ireland / Sept 2015)


(Julie Cook / County Cork, Kinsale, Ireland / Sept 2015)

Despite the calendar refusing to turn from one season to another, there
was that ever so gentle hint of change.

The lack of humidity, coupled by a deep azure blue sky up above,
brought a slight smile to my face while I walked between the two
school wings.

I was well aware the bell was soon to ring as we readied to move from
2nd period to 3rd.
Over in an adjacent building, I had to pick up some copies for my next class,
so I joyously soaked in the quick respite of peace found outside
on this beautiful September morning.

As I walked back into my building, ready for the bell to ring, I took up
my usual position standing by my classroom door, ready to monitor
the hall during class change.

With the ringing of the bell, doors flung open as a throng of adolescents
chirpped and chatted their way out into the hall…a sea of bodies moving
much like fish, navigating both up, down as well as around the stream of a hallway.

Suddenly, a neighboring teacher and coach, came running up to me grabbing my arm.
“They’ve attacked us…they’ve hit New York and D.C…
“Turn on your television!!!” he yelled out over his shoulder as he continued
racing down the hall.

“What?”
“Attack?”
“Who?”

As my kids began to trickle into the room, I hurriedly went over to
turn on the classroom television.

And there is was…smoke streaming upwards from one of the the
World Trade Towers.

Some of my kids had already gotten wind of what was taking place while
others remained blessedly, albeit briefly, clueless.

There was now a heavy silence in the room as my kids walked in, dropping
their backpacks on the floor as they gathered in front of the T.V.
Some stood, some sat on the table tops, all staring silently at the images on
the television.

One girl broke the silence with a panicked plea…
“Mrs. Cook, my dad, my dad, he flew up this morning to New York for business.”
“Go use the phone in my office to call your mom…”

The remainder of the day was a heavy haze.
New York.
D.C.
Pennsylvania…

The teachable moments that day were unfolding before our eyes on every channel
on every television around the world.

There remained a heightened sense of what could possibly happen next.

Following the end of the day, I waited on my son, who was in the 6th grade,
to walk up from the Jr High so we could go home.
It was more than time to go home.

Like the other kids, he walked into my room overwhelmed.
I got my things together and we walked quietly to the car.

This particular night was to be our monthly school board meeting.
It was the night that the Teacher of the Year was to be announced.
I happened to be one of the three teachers nominated.
I was representing the high school.
The two others were from the elementary school and our junior high.

I had so hoped our superintendent would cancel the meeting
but he was of the mindset that we would not let “the terrorists” win…soooo
the meeting was to begin at 7.

I called my husband telling him that I didn’t want him to accompany me
to the meeting that evening but rather I wanted him to stay
home with our son.
At this point, we really didn’t know what else, if anything, would happen.
Plus the heaviness of what was playing out before our eyes was simply
overwhelming…I wanted to be lost in my thoughts.

Before getting ready to head to the BOE, I walked out onto our back deck.
At the time, we lived about an hour west of Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson
Airport…we lived in one of the westerly flight paths…planes overhead
were always common.
On this particular late afternoon, the sky was eerily quiet because the
Government had grounded all US and international flights in and out…
all around the country.

At the BOE meeting, when it was time to begin the meeting, we all stood for
the Pledge of Allegiance—tears poured from all the gathered faces.
The Board Chairman asked for a moment of silence for all the
lives lost and for all those still missing and for those searching.

He then lead us in reciting The Lord’s Prayer.

The sobs were palpable….

And so now, all these 20 years later…
I wonder….
what have we gleaned, what have we learned?
As an educator, that is always the question…what has been learned?

Looking around…I think we’ve learned very little, if anything.
Despite our vow to remember, we’ve actually forgotten.
We’ve skewed the factual with the desirable.
We’ve softened as we’ve chosen to ignore or even twist reality.

When speaking of Nazi Germany, Winston Churchill once mused
“What kind of people do they think we are?
Is it possible they do not realize that we shall never cease
to persevere against them until they have been taught a lesson
which they and the world will never forget?”

His was a vow that those oppressors and usurpers of democratic freedoms
should never forget that those who have chosen the path of freedom
have vowed to fight the good fight to the bitter end.

I dare say our leadership today has long forgotten such a vow.

The vow to defend Western Civilization from the onslaught of
tyranny and oppression.
But rather our leadership and many of us have actually fostered a culture
of ill that strives to despise itself.
We have turned away and within… as we choose to devour ourselves
from the inside out.

Did approximately 3000 people die in vain September 11th 2001?

What of those individuals who when faced with the choice of burning to
death chose to jump to their death…were those heinous choices in vain?

Did thousands of first responders die in vain that day as they raced toward disaster
rather than retreating?

Have thousands more, who over the past 20 years have fallen victim to lasting
toxins, have they suffered and died in vain?

Have thousands of servicemen and women died in vain defending
the very freedoms that you and I simply take for granted?

Did 13 servicemen and women die last week, in vain, when hastily retreating
from an undignified exit to an unfinished mission all because of a sitting
president’s ill advised plan?

I really don’t know what to think on this 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Who is this America that now looks in the mirror?
I dare say that all those who gave and have given their lives
on and since that fateful September day would no longer recognize the
nation we have become.

Time lessens our sorrow but it also dulls our minds and hardens our hearts.

“True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else.”
Clarence Darrow

Reverence

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.
Hebrews 12:28-29 (RSV)

DSCN2784
(shot of the delightful long lost sun, looking west form Julie’s driveway / 2013)

Circumstances during the past several days have lead me to a great deal of reflection and pondering.

I suppose various situations and individuals I have both experienced and met, within the last week or so, have lead me to revaluate my place in this life and of my being dependent on the Creator of all life—as I have become painfully aware of my insignificance in the universe after so falsely feeling a puffed up sense of importance.

I must say that I am most grateful that, after such a long period of grey wet days, we have been most fortunate seeing the brilliant blue of a winter’s sky and the brilliance of a full and most healthy sun. I am humbled by the power Nature plays on the emotional psych of we mere mortals. It is amazing watching the lighter step of folks out and about running their errands, dashing here and there, once the sun and its warmth finally returned after days of hiding.

I must say that I am taken aback however by the lack of reverence I have been observing, usually during my daily routines, from many of the folks I simply pass by, here and there, during the journeys of a single day. I am troubled by how people often treat “Life”—be it the immediate environment with the littering which accumulates on the streets, the sidewalks, the parking lots. . . or of how people often treat one another— abrupt, curt, dismissive, or as less than.

There was the woman who was loading groceries into her very expensive car from her shopping cart just as I was doing the same, as I had parked next to her. She was dressed very smartly and was maybe 10 years older than I am. I finished unloading, she finished unloading. I pushed my cart back to the “buggy corral” in the parking lot, walked back to my car, only to discover that the woman had already driven off— leaving her cart merely sitting in the middle of the vacant parking spot which was between us. No car could have gotten into the space due to her abandoned cart. . . I had to move her cart out of the way, back to the corral, lest someone unknowingly hit the cart while trying to pull into the space. Really?

Or how about the myriad of people who stay on their cell phone throughout their entire time while standing in line at the ___________ store (fill in the blank), who finally get up to the check out counter without ever acknowledging the cashier as a human being who is providing a service– instead opting to stay on the phone, never acknowledging anyone around them. It blows my mind. There is a live breathing human-being standing directly in front of them, and yet they are too busy talking on the phone to a voice, that is who knows where, to be kind, courteous or simply human. Unbelievable. .

Or how about waiting on a person, as I have done in my husband’s store, whose phone suddenly rings. With no acknowledgment, they quickly, in mid sale, sentence, question, transaction, answer the phone and walk off leaving you or me simply hanging with a line of people now waiting for them to come back to finish up what they had originally intended on doing. Really?

Have we all become so clueless to our immediate surroundings or have we simply reached a point where we don’t care about those around us, vying rather for the affections of a voice emanating from a small little box we hold to our ear?! Have we lost our humanness, our compassion, our ability to communicate with real people verses voices in small boxes? I am troubled by our lack of patience with one another, our lack of empathy for one another, as well as our lack of respect for our living and breathing world. I think it simply boils down to a lack of reverence for not only the Sacred, but for merely life in general. When we lose our humanness, we lose ourselves.

May this time of year, especially this time of year, regardless of religious persuasion, allow us to reclaim our humanness, our concern for both our fellow man (yes that means women as well—I don’t feel the need to clarify as the word usage is all inclusive) as well as for our immediate environment. May we stop long enough to acknowledge those who are all around us—who is to say that by the offering of a smile, a small conversation or brief interaction isn’t what that person opposite us at the counter, next to us in line, or who is delivering packages and mail to our door, is not in desperate need of just such in order to get through their day. . .the opportunity is just waiting for us to be the right person in the right place for whoever may be in need. . .

Reverence for life, for the planet, for the Sacred, for one another–that is partly what this time of year, especially this time of year, should draw us all close to—to our planet and to our fellow man–or woman—or child. Common sense, kindness, compassion, acknowledgment, are all such simple acts which sadly seem to be more and more difficult to preform. Has our obsession with technology dulled those components within our very being which give us our “humanness”? I hope not.

May we take the challenge during the next couple of weeks to be ever mindful of those around us—those who we pass at the store, the post office, in the parking lot, at the day care, at work, at school, at the mall, etc—wherever we interact with people— by putting down our phones, our “tablets,” our earphones, our e-readers, etc–allowing for kind interaction and acknowledgment of our fellow man. For by doing so over the course of the next couple of weeks, we may develop a delightful happy pattern of interaction that will carry on throughout the entire year.

Here is to a smile and a warm hello. . .