Sunday, December 25, 2016

9/11 - The Artistic & Spiritual Experience Part 4 . . .

PART ONE:  An Online Illustrated Anthology: 9/11: The Artistic & Spiritual Experience

PART TWO:  An Online Illustrated Anthology: 9/11: The Artistic & Spiritual Experience

PART THREE:  An Online Illustrated Anthology: 9/11: The Artistic & Spiritual Experience

PART FOUR:  An Online Illustrated Anthology: 9/11: The Artistic & Spiritual Experience

Christal Cooper

An Online Illustrated Anthology:  

9/11:  The Artistic & Spiritual Experience
Part Four

Six individuals from across the globe were asked two questions:  1.  What is your personal experience of 9/11? (and) 2. How did 9/11 influence your art and/or your faith?  Their responses, photos, and examples of their artwork are included in this post. 


Chicago, Illinois

It was my intention to search my memory and try to recreate the first days of my experience after 9/11. To that end, I turned to my journal of those days, and having reread it, decided that I could do no better than to present raw the recording of my thoughts as they occurred. So the journal from September 11 to October 11, 2001 follows, edited only for length, clarity and spelling.

Peter is my husband, Tim and Alex my children; the other people mentioned (not always generously) are if not well known, then friends and colleagues at Florida State U.

These events informed my life in a fundamental and permanent way. Some of my imagining of what the 9/11 victims endured found its way into my novel Bridge of Sand (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2014). 

Of the many things I did not then know, the crucial one is that I did not know my son Tim Eysselinck, who was at the time leading a team of mine-removal trainees in Ethiopia, would be doing the same in Iraq by June 2003, or that his enthusiasm for that war would turn to disillusion and disgust, that he would return to his family in 2004 and two months later take his own life.

That story I have told at length in Losing Tim and will not repeat here, only register that these events, which I then wrote of in ignorance, now are charged for me with anger, grief and better understanding of what loss is.

I have long known that I use my writing to make order where there is internal chaos. I trust writing as a process for my own understanding, and have found a spiritual peace in the writing of others. As I put it in an essay many years ago:

I believe in the moral use of written words, as a vehicle for the capacity humans have of imagining each other. I think this capacity is urgently in need just now, in the societal pastiche we do and will inhabit. Literature is my credo because it is capacious, tentative, and empathetic; because it acknowledges irony and anomaly; because it poses dilemmas, for which it declines to offer a way out, in small acts of perpetual reconciliation.

The journal: 
September 11th, 2001

Was doing my exercises to CNN news as usual when they interrupted some sports or fashion drivel to switch to the pix of WTO with a gaping hole in the side. I called out to Peter and then saw the second building blister and break with flame—I did not realize a plane had gone into it, though I had vaguely been aware that planes were in the sky because I had thought: do they fly too close to those buildings? CNN at that moment too was speculating some air traffic controller screwup. P & I both said: nah, we have been ripe for this. P in fact has sat in front of the news for two years saying: why haven’t they?

Tried to call Tim—he is not in danger and won’t think I am, but my impulse was for contact. Could not get through—busy—and the same for Alex. P was by this time at the U. Learned that the Pentagon had been hit and called him. Left a message for Julia assuming she had heard but later learned that I was her first inkling. Watched the band on the bottom of the TV screen register a 150 point dive in the DOW and then the little amber arrow blipped away and UNCH appeared, and I knew the stock market had been shut down.

Mark’s email, jaunty (for which he later apologized) said we would nevertheless meet this aft. for Writing committee. But Peter came home having cancelled classes; shortly after that, all gov’t offices closed, and shortly after that, the U.

Afternoon, Robert O B (Olen Butler) points out that though everyone is assuming Bin Laden, what have we got? Four hijackings. What’s to say it isn’t domestic terrorism a la Murat? Just this maybe: 11 Sept. 1992 was the Camp David accord. Rumors or info, the plane that went down in PA was said to be headed for Camp David.

Various Claudia calls—(her daughter) Anne Loomis works on 25th St. with a view of WTO; she called to say she was okay. But her company, Royal Blue, has annex office on 40th of WTO second building hit, and she watched the building fall. Anne walked over Brooklyn Bridge to home in Brooklyn, is apparently very strung out.

Edith in the Travel Agency—called (I was in no hurry to check on airplane tickets) with itinerary, needed to vent. She was headed home but leaving home number for stranded clients. Thirty of them, a bunch of FL lawyers who retreated last year somewhere (Carolinas maybe) from which they had to evacuate on account of hurricane, are now stranded in Bermuda.

We swam. Glorious sun and the pool an aquamarine.

We admitted, P & I, there is a thread of awed admiration in the horror, that they could pull it off, the timing, the scope, the intensity. And certainly we are paralyzed: terrorism works. Planes grounded, stock market and all gov’t closed, shortage of blood. There is in it the element of caper: the Cosmic Caper, so many movie heroes from Alec Guiness to Dinero and Norton, intricately outwitting big business.

                                     actor Alec Guiness 

But our President mouthing, posturing, belligerent little kid. Giuliani, for all his faults, sounds genuine, plain talker, spontaneous, focus on the job at hand. McCain as well—otherwise among the politicos so much pompompompomp.

ROB also says that the training of the suicide terrorists promises them harems of women at their disposal in heaven; they head in to the target with a hard-on.

P says maybe we will learn a little compassion from this. I say, you kidding? The hawks are aloft. Our lives have changed today. Security, censorship, military carte blanche. P says we should now ask: what have we done to be hated with this intensity? I say: that is the question. But you would not dare to stand up in a public place and say it. You would be “blaming the victim.” Never mind the victims in Palestine, etc.

All day I have wanted to eat.

A nap. Now missiles in Kabul. We wouldn’t, would we? Retaliate before we know who’s responsible, we of the innocent-until-guilty persuasion, a pillar of our socalled superiority?

Well, no, apparently, thank god. An internal attack against the Taliban by a group, don’t have their name clearly yet, whose leader was yesterday wounded, possibly killed. Rumsfeld says that the US govt. is “in no way” involved in the attack on Kabul. But ABC reporter says that everyone he’s met at the Pentagon today is angry, and that the President’s speech tonight will be “retaliatory.”

The Taliban emerged in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar around September 1994.

Peter Jennings is the best of the lot, but even he sentimentalizes the cacophony of Senators on the capitol steps singing God Bless America, my home sweet home. What is one to feel who has never been entirely at home here, first in the desert and then in the dry philistine air? The emotions are not right. I am awry, wry where I should feel grief, judgmental of the pres’s beady eyes and simplistic sentence structure when I should...

Time to register two sour turns of mind: when Claudia called to tell me of Anne’s proximity to the scene, I thought—how glad Claudia is to be able to claim a connection to the disaster. And when I talked to Mark and he said the baby had not come yet (Jennifer overdue by two days), I thought—if his child is born today he will race to do a death/birth article. These impulses not necessarily inaccurate, but unworthy, accompanied immediately by a twinge of envy. And here I am diligently writing down my own paltry experience.

Sept. 12
From Tim:
I've been sitting watching CNN since about an hour after first attack... Sitting here in disbelief and horror- can't do anything... Seeing the footage thought it was a bad dream or trailer for latest hollywood block buster. Birgitt and Thyra (his wife and daughter) are fine and are supposed to come on Friday morning.  We are wondering if it is safe to travel?

I think probably international circuits were jammed or I was on the phone with Birgitt. Much Love, Strength and Courage,

Thyra up front, and Janet Burroway in the background at Tim's funeral. 

Slept medium badly, awake at 3:28 (by the digital clock) and twisting for some length of time while the images of the plane going into tower two, the fire ball, the implosion like a feathered flower being pulled into the ground by its stem.

At mucky-talk (over coffee) we imagined it, the perspectives: you are sitting at your desk, absorbed in some minor problem of mismatched figures or wrestling with a paragraph of company policy initiatives. Glance up to see an airplane at an unfamiliar angle, yet not entirely so because the movies have done this from time to time. Wobbly, nose foremost. It is heading for you and you don’t have time to believe it before—what? the noise registers? or does not? death comes as a thunder that does not quite reach your brain before the glass, shards of steel, the paper weight from the third desk over, a crown of Bic pens is imbedded in your torso.

Or: you are on the plane, reading your magazine, aware of only a slight scuffle and disturbance—the drinks cart rattling?—and look up to see a stewardess bleeding from the back, or from the throat; she staggers toward you and collapses in the aisle. And then there are how many minutes? Half an hour by all reports, to sit nauseated, needing to pee and with some small part of your mind designated to guard against that humiliation. You hope the aliens—you see them this way, the dark skin, the set of mouth, the jerky movements—in the aisle, barking, going about their business, will not notice you. You sit rigid. You think of spouse, kids, a dull undercurrent of acceptance runs in you because you believe in your life; you say, well, here it is, but you don’t believe it; the building is in front of you but you don’t believe that either though you say, here it is, now we are gone, and things become violently slow and clear in the suddenly augmented light, the oriental cutie on the page of the magazine where it sits still open on your lap, beckoning to some island paradise; the texture of the fabric on the seat ahead of you, its ugly functional pattern of blues and reds, the drops streaming almost horizontal now on the little oval of light beside you. Sphincter, stomach, lungs, cranium, toes fingers clenched. You say: I love...

Or you are in the cockpit, the captain with his throat cut in the cramped space between the seats, the copilot still breathing bubbles of blood where he sags against the window; you have trained seven months for this, you are primed as an athlete, nervous as a state of extreme exhilaration; honed. There is no more fear than a runner with the hurdle in front of him, the hunter with the gun raised at the kudu, only a concentration so fine it is like the moment just before cosmic coitus, God in a fireball—get there, get there, Yes!

Or you are three floors above the gaping hole; the flames are at your back, below you the cascade of paper like some monstrous ticker tape parade, a snow of daily slog, the trivia of little deals and desires. The heat comes hugely at you and you know you will either burn or leap into that shower. The pieces of it flutter, waft. Choice seizes you.

Or you are falling with the rubble inward, downward, arms above your head because that is some odd peculiarity of gravity/physics/psyche; hit and hurt on all sides but only dimly aware of this because you can take nothing in but the elemental sensation of falling, the way you’ve dreamed it a few dozen times in your life, but this time it does not end, you do not wake, it keeps going, going, on, on until the breath is all sucked out of you and your feet touch something, are broken on something, that is not the ground but is now the ground, the mountain of mortar and mortality where you lose finally consciousness

Went to get the NYTimes and went into the vet’s for flea stuff (business as usual). The girl behind the counter watching CNN said: oh, look it’s that lady. Christianne Amanpour, and we agreed that she is in the center of everything, she flies to the center wherever disaster is. Now, though, in front of 10 Downing Street, which I recognized at a glance—curious that, too; I would not have known I would identify it so automatically. Nor would it have occurred to me that the vet’s receptionist wd. be aware of Christianne Amanpour.

                     Christianne Amanpour 

This is the story of the three little pigs. The WTO was concrete and steel, but it was too tall. All skyscrapers are a house of straw.

At no time, not one moment of the last several years, have I had any attitude toward the military-industrial complex but recoil, scorn and disdain. This morning between Publix and the vet I found myself thinking, well, we’re so big and strong that nobody will think they can invade us; whew.

But P & I agree that biological weapons are another matter; one missile of anthrax—could we do anything? P also reports that Wm. Sapphire says we must “pulverize” those guys. How can anyone having seen the trade towers go down yesterday with their burden of smoke-hidden body parts, use that word?

                      William Sapphire 

Still, from time to time a formula of words strikes me right (or wrong, in any case otherwise than mouthing and pieties) and the desire for revenge rises in me, before I remember how pointless the fighting against those who obsessed me and how much better even a contemptuous détente.

One of the insights of psychology that can be statistically proven is that victims of abuse grow up to be abusers. Around the world in the last few decades we have seen this principle in action—in Israel, in Kosevo, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan. We see its potential in the disenfranchised of our own country. We must, ironically, look to South Africa for any attempt to break the cycle of hatred; and in South Africa the outcome is far from certain.

The voices raised for “swift justice” in the wake of the terrible events of this week seem almost universally to equate justice with revenge. But we must also examine our justice in the sense of fairness to other nations, peoples, and our own people. Where have we been arrogant, greedy, intolerant, contemptuous to an extent that other people have suffered and died? How has our pride in our status among nations been used to abuse the poor and the weak? What have we done to foster the intensity of their hatred?

Painting of Irish ship of immigrants coming to America . .

The ancient Greeks believed in The Dike, a trap of revenge from which one could never escape. Athenian justice—a jury of peers and the principle of innocence until proven guilty—was their attempt to break that trap. Our judicial system has its roots in that attempt.

1886 sculpture of Astræa, signed "A," possibly the work of August St. Gaudens. Old Supreme Court Chamber, the Vermont State House, Montpelir, Vermont. August 2007.

In a story on life in the capitol of Afghanistan yesterday, the New York Times reports that in Khair Khana, a man selling fertilizer in a Kabul market, had three things to say about the catastrophe:

1)  The terrorists are “the enemies of God.” 

2)  “Americans are powerful and can do anything they 
like without us stopping them.” 

3)  “Americans should look into their hearts and minds 
about why someone would kill themselves and 
others” in such a way.

I hope our statesmen have this breadth of mind. Our lives depend on it.

Sept. 15th
My television tube has a bad case of post traumatic stress syndrome, keeps flashing on the same four or five images of horror, terrified anew by them but cannot let them go. At night when the tv is off I wake to carry on the same.

The news media are doing a good job, I think, no commercials, not too too much ambulance and tears chasing; Peter Jennings the best, lowest key, measured hour after hour—yet even he capable of cant lapses... Joanna says they are “profoundly unimpressed” with W.—what can one say? A moral pygmy, even P agreed at dinner last night that we wish Clinton were back. Also we all confessed to low thoughts; Elizabeth that it would buy her time on her novel; Bob that he had his new short story in Hemispheres, magazine of United Airlines, and had eerily (perhaps proudly; that was the low part) thought that it might be the last thing some of the victims had read before they were hijacked.

Trivia compared to, this morning, some first real fear that we will go to war. Not fear of “them”—I have seen the enemy and it is us. A nationwide passion to go bomb somebody. But who, is the only trouble. News reports the belligerent stance of this general and that, this senator and that, this man in the street and that—but there are far too few to who notice, for example, that the mood of sudden unification we are all feeling wd. also apply to the “enemy.” We have lost five thousand souls and half a dozen buildings and we are enraged and fist-shaking around our barbeques. Why should the Afghanis, the Pakistanis, who have nothing in the world but land and life to lose, be any less enraged when we come after them? I don’t see how we could any better play into bin Laden’s hands than to bomb Afghanistan and so unite the Arab countries against us.

All the signs are that we will “go to war.” Go where?

Sept. 16th

This news is two days old, but holds my mind—the piles of rubble, staggering as they are (a million and a half tons, did they say?) are not big enough. According to the physics of the thing, they should be stories higher. The explanation for this is that gypsum, drywall, concrete, fiberglass, perhaps brick, were pulverized in the tectonics of that collapse. That is why “smoke” poured through the streets and still hangs in the whole sky, in eyes and lungs.

What survived, wafting through this dirty apocalypse like the famous plastic bag of American Beauty, was paper. Thousands upon thousands of sheets of paper snowflaking, dancing, gliding, wafting, coming lightly to rest on the destruction and the dead. Rock, scissors, paper. Rather: steel, box cutters, paper.

And this image of the strange survival of paper leads me to observe, that this week people have set aside all manner of thing because it puts it in perspective and makes you realize, it’s only sports/a vacation/a conference/a rock concert. Nobody has suggested that it makes you realize it’s only writing. Now more than ever we need writing; the news, the interpretations, the analyses, the commentary; even the journals like this one that become particular memory. I am (is this a low thought? don’t think so) proud of being part of this profession.

Also on the subject of paper: thousands flock to hospitals and check points, are interviewed on TV, holding up photos of the “missing,” hoping that “somebody has seen my husband/brother/daughter.” The authorities gently ask them to bring dental records and DNA samples, but here they come with their photographs. “I have faith he/she is alive. Perhaps in an air pocket.” Moving but also moving in the way you are moved by someone who was once sane and now isn’t... Might there, possibly, be yet a rescue or two? Not likely. What, in this context, can “missing” really mean? There could be (and, I said to P, will be at least one novel this year on the speculation) a person or two who survived and took the opportunity to flee an unsatisfactory life. One woman this morning on CNN held up the picture of her husband, a technician for CBS who had lived through the earlier WTC bomb, was on the 110th floor this time. She hopes he will be found. The anchor does not comment. Hard to tell what the interviewers are feeling (saying in the green room) about their task here. You can’t pull grieving relatives up short on national news—but we are having a very public demonstration of how denial works.

Grieving and, a little, afraid. I read this over for the first time and I see that I am up to old tricks. I always cope first with mania. On the subject of low thoughts; Mark’s email Tuesday had as subject matter: Yikes; which I registered as trivializing, crass. But I now see that I too started out in little frets, distractions, banalities, yikes of one sort and another... The horror feeds in slowly, the losses, the days ahead. Mary Balthrop in London said she is suddenly aware of one daughter in Florence, one in Boston, herself in London, her husband in Florida: what is she doing there? And I have not yet, not yet been able to catch Alex at home. I am going to insist he get an answering machine.

Sept. 28th
Nearly two weeks of focus on getting the Imaginative Writing ms. in, then oral surgery, writing the NYTBR review of Klima. Everywhere, everyone: life is altogether changed and so much the same. People differ in what way this is so. Karen full of life, not afraid of death but tentacles-out as after a near death experience. Anne Loomis doing also well in the solidarity among her friends and the city—the opposite of what was feared—though she was afraid to go back to work. Me ashamed, here, of my reaction toward Claudia because I have now seen the view from Anne’s work window and she did indeed watch from terrifying nearness, escape in fear. Peter and I conscious of shifting sands and view with sense of inevitability a showdown, this decade or next, with the Arab world we have exploited and teased and misunderstood... Chilled by the reaction to Bill Maher—comedian who said: they weren’t cowards, they flew in deliberately at the cost of their lives; we are cowards to bomb long distance. Media, gov’t., other actors zapped down on him, he in near tears apologizing on, I think it was, Letterman. But, but, but! He was right and even if he were not, dissent is the precious right we hold and the Taliban crushes, is it not? Truisms, but I am fearful when I see so little said in his defense.


Clinton, however, did, today, indirectly defend him, saying that the “peace demonstrators” had every right to say what they felt, etc. Slick Willy launching a scholarship fund for the children of the dead, so statesman-smooth, all the right notes, he’s a boomer bad boy but we could sure do with him in the WH at the moment. Knows how to say the strong thing in the lower register, low key, instead of the weak thing squealing. However, one of his points was that the gov’t has been more restrained than we’d’ve expected, and that is blessedly true.


Later—Arianna Huffington also, strongly, Maher’s defender; and there have been a raft of others; some sponsors pulled out, but this gave rise to cries of Shame! and by early October the networks have made clear they will not pull the show—clear it would be worse for their reputations to be seen to be on the side of censorship than on the side of sentiment. (Later: but they did fire him...)

Oct. 11
In Phoenix, nine years ago, we went to an IMAX and watched a documentary on the making of Independence Day, how they did all those explosions of the Capitol with models, bomb shots, mini-dynamite placement. The experts were enthusiastic kids. What I came away with, more than the wonder they intended for me, was the understanding that Hollywood movies are full of bombs and car crashes because these guys have the toys. Also it is their living. So of course the movies are going to blow things up, you bet!

I have exactly the same insight watching some general or other on CNN this morning as he circles the bomb craters on the recon photo of the runway in Kabul, describing (voice of pride) the B-2’s, the exactitude of the missiles’ trajectory, the altitude of the surveillance equipment, the payload of the bomber. They have and love the toys; it is their livelihood to deploy them; of course we will go to war against the Evil One. 

Christal Rice Cooper
Writer and Artist
St. Louis, Missouri area

September 11, 2001 was a remembrance day for me – not only because of what happened to our country, but because of what happened to me.  I was a first time mom.  My son Nicholas was born four weeks prior, and I was going through post partum depression.

Being a military spouse is not all fun; but it is all rewarding.  Even when the bad things happen, something so tiny can be so beautiful:  picking a flower to lay on a hero’s grave; or simply watching the red, white, and blue flag wave in the breeze.   


       So even before September 11, 2001, I was in need of many heroes and heroines.  The heroines, other military spouses, came to my aid.  They knew what it was like to have husbands gone for three months at a time; to feel fear that their husbands are in danger; and to experience the unbearable ache, especially during the night, when missing their husband was physically felt.  

       Fortunately for me, my husband was home.  We were stationed at Altus, Oklahoma where he was an Instructor Pilot, and in September 11, 2001 my post partum depression was still in full swing. 

I remember that morning so well – it was a Tuesday morning – and I was watching Good Morning America, holding my baby in my arms. 

I was about to go to a Bible Study at the First Baptist Church of Altus.   This was a huge feat for me because when you go through depression like this, you tend to feel so exhausted (even though you may not do much work) that it’s so easy to stay in the house, your brain overcrowding with every dark and negative emotion there is.

       Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson were covering a story about a family man who commuted form a small town in New Jersey to Manhattan every morning for work.  He kissed his wife and children goodbye, hopped into his car, and started driving to Manhattan, the Good Morning American helicopter above, video taping the car’s every tire step.  There was the time at the bottom right hand side of the screen.  Then Sawyer and Gibson took a commercial break. 

       And then Sawyer and Gibson broke in an emergency news alert that there was an accident at one of the Twin Towers where an airplane hit one of the towers. 

There were two videos – one of the tower already impregnated with the airplane, burning hell fire;  and then another video of Sawyer and Gibson watching along with the rest of America.  Another airplane appeared on the video, flying toward the twin towers. 

I thought, “Good they can get some help, but how can that airplane in the air help anybody?  They can’t drop men off in parachutes on the buildings – they’d burn to death.  Maybe they’re going to drop tons of water and kill that fire.” 

The moment the airplane crashed into the building I knew that it was a terrorist attack.  I can’t remember if I screamed, but I do remember saying, “Oh my God.”

I forced myself to go to the Bible Study.  The minute I got to the church the room was empty.  Then a friend of mine walked in and told me that Bible Study had been canceled and that they were having prayer time instead.  I decided to head back home and as I was exiting the room to go pick up my baby from the nursery the same friend said, “They’ve hit the Pentagon.”

I made it home in quick and safe time, right before there was a standstill at the gate.  My husband’s flight had been canceled and was told to go straight home.  And he and I watched the news.

The most shocking thing of all was that those two powerful towers, more powerful than the Tower of Babel, more durable then Noah’s Ark, collapsed into mini particles of metal, mortar, wood, flesh, and bone. 

I remember them saying that they thought Osama Bin laden was responsible for these terrorist tragedies.  I knew he was suspected of being involved in other terrorist acts, but I never really knew him until that day.  I knew him, and like most Americans, particularly those in the military, police force, firefighters, knew Osama bin Laden in a very personal, intimate way – that of true anger, desire, and lust.  True anger for what he had done;  desire for him to face justice; and lust for his death. 

I was still going through the post partum depression;  seeing the psychiatrist once a week, the family advocacy nurse once a week, my counselor once a week, and having some military spouses stop by in shifts to keep me company.

The post partum didn’t’ seem as “heavy” as it had been before.   Is it possible that this event distracted me from my every day post-partum life; that I didn’t think about being depressed and that somehow led me to healing?  I don’t know.

But I do know this – if I could go back in time, I would erase this.  But I would never erase my faith and especially the Object of my faith – the Trinity God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

I have a few Christian friends who believe God made this happen or allowed this to happen as a punishment to America. 

I cannot and I do not blame God;  this event happened at the hands of an evil man and his followers.  In fact, Osama Bin laden gave credit to “his Allah” for what happened.  Osama Bin Laden’s “Allah” does not exist and was an evil hallucinogenic in his evil mind.

I am convinced most people are law abiding and would never dream of masterminding the training of terrorists to commit a suicide-terrorist mission attack against thousands of people, many of them women and children.

Osama Bin Laden and his group wanted us to become afraid, defeated, victimized, and unable to become unified again. 

But he was wrong.  America and the world became unified, like Isaac and Ishmael became unified when they buried their father Abraham together. 

The Muslim’s God Allah never approves of these terroristic acts;  the Jewish God mourned at the evil of these acts;  the Christian God, prayed for justice again Osama Bin laden and his perpetrators.  Every religion represented by the American people came together, not in the belief of the same God, or the same philosophy, but the belief of one thing:  we are all human beings and as a humanity we must unite, try to find the thing we have in common, and with these things we save ourselves. 

You see it is not the powerful tower that saves America – it is we. And those are my heroes and will be forever my heroes, regardless of our differences.

The Moment Of Time In The Atom
September 11, 2001
9:02 a.m.

Red, Yellow, Black, White,
every other color in between

Muslim, Christian, Jew, Atheist, Agnostic,
every other religion in between

A+, A-, B+, B-
O+, O-, 
AB+, AB-
Nothing in between

All blood is blue beneath the skin
All blood is red when it is shed

70 countries in the two towers
3000 hearts beating,  
sounding the same

indicating one thing:
the power of life

Spirits, souls
Black, or white,
Or void

he with his black soul,
thriving with the beating of his heart

icy cold
never functioned to begin with

except for that dirty, depraved

that only he and his followers
paid attention to.

All that green money spent on:
Pepsi cola,
trained pilots,
Coca Cola,
black hair dye
Wooden walking cane,

And the Koran
Making him feel self-righteous
One wonders how a holy book
Could be so misinterpreted

Was all of this worth it?
blue thumbs?
Suddam Hussein’s hanging?
his shooting death?

ten years of death
Tears, anger, violence, depravity?

everyone dies
an atom in time

All of us made of atoms
Each atom different

Atoms of fire
exploding against atoms of brick, pipe, cement
pushing the atoms of people
to jump off

better to die a quick, cement death
then to burn for torturous minutes

in the end, everyone
must die
leaving just the individual soul

made from what?
we have no idea

except this
the breath of God, Someone, Something
or Nothing,

which is real,

even in our dictionary
of every language

Regardless if He or She or It
Is called God, Someone, Something,

Those 3000 souls
See that compassionate Face
Feeling that breath of that Face
Touch theirs

Here, in this place,
he does not exist

But they do
All 3000,
Their hands
No longer burned
But lifted up
In ecstasy.


Gabriele Glang
Poet and Painter

I write these lines 15 years after the fact, in southern Germany, where I've been living for the past 26 years, almost to the day. What remains in my memory is that my family and I were incredibly lucky.

On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, I had just dropped off my two boys, who were 7 and 8 years old, at soccer practice. I headed over to a nearby friend's, hoping for a good coffee and chat. My friend greeted me with a horrified expression and the words, "There's something awful going on in New York." She immediately led me into her living room, where the television was showing those now unforgettable images of the World Trade Towers collapsing. We sat down on the sofa, open-mouthed, stupefied, and watched, on some level unable to comprehend what our eyes were seeing, our ears were hearing.
As soon as I'd picked up my sons from soccer practice and headed home, my husband came home from work. We all felt the need to be together, safe and sound in our Swabian Alb village. 

We spent the rest of the evening watching television, while I tried to reach my mother. My parents lived in northern Virginia. My father had been hospitalized a week and a half earlier because of sudden and severe haemorrhaging. When the news broke that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon, the Fairfax hospital ordered blood transfusions to be bunkered for eventual victims of the crash. It took me a long time to get through: 

My mother had been frantically trying to reach my brother in Boston, who in fact had been scheduled to fly to New York City for a meeting in the World Trade Tower that very morning. My mother's horrified comment, amid all her worries: "This devastation - I've seen all this before!" A German immigrant, like my father, she had grown up in Leipzig and knew first hand what a bombed-out city looked like, though she had been sent to the countryside before the Allied bombs fell (the so-called Kinderlandverschickung).

But this is an extraordinary story of luck: My brother had been wakened very early by a phone call from the airline, telling him his flight had been canceled. The woman on the line gave him two options, one of which would not have left him enough time to drive to the airport. The other flight available was 8:30 a.m. My brother responded, "That's when my meeting starts in the World Trade Tower, that's too late." The airline representative apologized, saying there were no other flights available. My brother's timeless remark: "Well, I guess this meeting wasn't meant to be." And he took the day off.
Not long after, my brother told me this experience convinced him his life had a higher purpose, that he was kept alive because God still had a job for him. (He eventually became an Admiral with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.)

Back in the hospital, enough blood transfusions were secured for my father, who ultimately came out of the hospital after 3 long weeks. As we now know, there were no survivors of the Pentagon crash, so no transfusions were needed. (My father is alive and well at 87 as I write these lines.)

Of course the events of 9/11 had a lasting effect on me, even though no one in my family was hurt or killed. My other brother, then a helicopter pilot, served in the US army, so the issues that rocked my country affected me deeply. In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks, I was preparing for a solo art exhibition. My theme was seascapes. I spent weeks in my studio in the attic, painting and weeping to a tape of whale song. 

In retrospect, I believe I was depressed, questioning my reason for being. Two things helped me heal: the very act of painting, and writing Morning Pages (I had discovered Julia Cameron: "The Artist's Way" about 6 months earlier - it has since become my bible). 

Over the next few months, I turned over all my deeply held beliefs, rejecting what seemed to me no longer useful in such a world. I began to understand on a gut level that I must embrace the moment, to live fully and with gusto, no longer put off my long-held dreams, but rather make them reality. I began to let go of fears - or, more accurately, I no longer let my fears and insecurities keep me from plunging headlong into realms far beyond my comfort zone. It was time to go forth: I had no time to waste. As strange as it may sound: the events of 9/11 triggered my emotional and artistic growth.

           LARRY JAFFE
Social activist, artist, and poet
Clearwater, Florida

A White Poet Laments

I no longer weep for myself 
It rips me a part but I cast no tears
Those are long gone in the cascade
Of lost desire and lost defense

I no longer hold ground worthier than thee
I cast my britches to the earth 
No longer clothed by my own personality

I look at friends differently
Wondering where we lost our way

I cannot cry for you my friend
I cannot look through your eyes
I cannot walk in your shoes
Nothing seems to fit  

Even my cries of justice
Are mourned by my neighbors callousness

We have become a house divided
Brothers are no longer equal

 We look at pity as a driver of nails
 We wash our hands at desecration fountain

 Were I the one that could change the world

 I would shout rise up
 Do not cleanse the blood

 Reenact the soul
 Bring joy to life

Take freedom from the jaws of slavery
Do not let the ruthless win

 Somehow find love 
 In the last ventricles of the heart
 Slowly beating 

I no longer have the right to call you brother
I reach to you and hope you will still
Call me friend                                                                

Shondra Jepperson
Professional entertainer, BMI singer         
songwriter, Actress, Producer
Sedona, Arizona

I remember 9/11 vividly as if it happened yesterday.
My husband Tom and I are full time entertainers, musicians, singers, actors and producers and together we own a company called Entertainment by Tom & Shondra. We were at that time, residing in a north county suburb of San Diego, called Rancho Bernardo. I was up early walking our 4 month old poodle Kami and upon our return home into the shared courtyard of the condo we were renting, all of the sudden a man frantically ran out of a neighboring upstairs door and in noticing me, yelled out in a panic, “Have you seen whats happening? Oh my God, turn on your TV, the world is coming to an end!”

I was of course taken aback and ran upstairs to our front door calling out to Tom as I flipped on our TV to a prime time morning show. Just as I did, cameras were catching a plane flying into New York Citys Twin Towers. Tom and I stood there watching in shock. I slowly sat down on the floor in front of the TV half believing what wed just seen happen LIVE on the air. The news anchors were beside themselves, rattled, confused, waiting for explanations to what wed all witnessed. More reports were coming in of a plane having crashed and of an attack at the White House. A normal Monday was all of the sudden, tipped upside down and sideways into complete mayhem. 

Due to our professions in the music and acting business, both Tom and I in our careers have worked, resided and even studied in NYC. I attended the Juilliard’s school of Drama and as a young woman, I was in love with Broadway and always had amazing experiences with the people there. Many people have told me that they thought I was from New York, although I wasn’t born there, that city just got into my system. Tom also always felt a great connection to and in New York. Since we’d not ever worked or been there at the same time, we’d been talking about planning a get away to experience I together. Feeling this kinship to New York and what we were witnessing was devastating to us on so many levels.

Tom and I gasped, cried, left the room from time to time to compose ourselves, toggled from network to network hearing each speculation and then finally confirmation on who was behind our countrys historic nightmare caught on camera. We could not tear ourselves away for any real length of time. I had a difficult time wrapping my mind around the fact that this was not disaster movie but rather for real. This reality, although barely imaginable, slowly sunk in. Broadcasts were capturing real people inside the Twin Towers while it imploded, people running in the streets in terror from rubble, huge clouds of thick toxic smoke, falling steel and bodies.

Overwhelmed in deep sadness, I realized, as never before, that the concept of safety in our own country had actually been a façade collapsed forever. Now our country was included on the list of places victimized by hate filled individuals who heinously coordinated and successfully made their presence known and agendas heard by a bulldoze of inhumanity and carnage.
As the afternoon progressed, announcements of church services, memorials and candle vigils were offered by and for the community, as a way to honor and mourn those whod died and lost loved ones. Unbeknown to us that day, later that week and during the months ahead well into a year, wed both be singing for 9/11 memorial events and other similar services.
Emotionally spent, Tom and I chose to head out to the beach at La Jolla Shores. It was always a place of solace and centering for us where we could walk along the shore, intend, talk and connect. When we arrived, the sun was setting and the boardwalk was quiet for the exception of a small group of 12 to 15 people gathering on the sand with candles. Tom and I joined them while I held Kami rocking her in my arms for what turned out to be an hour.
All of us silently formed a circle saying nothing to one another. At one point,

I started singing Amazing Grace and after singing several verses, all of us continued humming the melody for quite a while and gently subsided into a renewed silence. Tom quietly led God Bless America with everyone chiming in.

I could go on and on about how music is universal and can be a terrific for communicating from the heart and conduit for healing. It was an indescribable comfort to feel an unspoken connection in a circle with strangers, sharing a sacred space and singing as one voice after such an unforgettably tragic day. In that moment I felt that in some way, we’d contributed some light into the world.

The next day, one of Tom’s clients shared a story that fiancé, a commercial pilot, was scheduled to be the piloting the plane that went down in Pennsylvania and at the last minute was rescheduled. He didn’t know that at time though and when word got out about that plane going down, he was of course in a panic until he spoke with her to find out that she was okay. What a situation to be in. She lost her friends and cohorts in such a tragedy and to top it off, she was supposed to BE on that plane.

That weekend, Tom and I had several shows and we did what we could to be mindful of what had happened just a few days before while fulfilling our entertainment commitments. It’s very difficult to be upbeat and entertain people when you and everyone else are feeling sad. It does though, go with the territory of our business as there have been countless times that entertainers have been present to uplift spirits with their talents during difficult times.

That Sunday we were guest soloists at Seaside, a Religious Science of Mind church in Encinitas that we were also members of. Afterwards, a friend came up to tell us that her brother, a fireman in New York, was not scheduled to work on 9/11 although he chose to go in that day. He was there when it all went down and was lost in the wreckage of one the towers. She scheduled a trip to New York in hopes that her energy of actually being in the city would help with her brother being found. Unfortunately that was not the case. Upon her return from the city, she told us that she was surprisingly amazed of the spiritual feeling within the surrounding area and shared stories of what she did to do her part to help firemen who were working at Ground Zero. She also coordinated several peace events in San Diego, one in which I sang at.

So many around the country, were doing their part to contribute in their own ways. Another friend, Helice Bridges, booked a flight to NYC with the intention of placing and giving away her blue ribbons, “Who You Are Makes A Difference” on as many of the clean up volunteers and firemen she could find.

Yesterday marked the 15th anniversary of that insane day on 9/11. 15 years later, much has changed and yet 9/11 feels so recent. Kami is now 15 and we are full time entertainers residing in Sedona. Yesterday, Tom and I set up one of our sound systems, donating it for a huge citywide memorial dedication where one of the steel girders from the 20th floor from a Twin Tower was unveiled at Sedona Fire District Station #6. Our good friend, fire Chief Kris Kazian was there early to help us put that system up since we had needed to rush off to our weekly church service where I’m the music director.

Tom was asked to open the ceremony with singing the National Anthem in which he graciously did. He felt honored to have been asked to add his voice to this historical moment in our city’s, (and our country’s), history. With power, Tom’s magnificent voice rang out and hundred’s of people in our community including an overflowing VIP section of city and state officials and fire chiefs from all around, sang along with him. The ceremony was beautiful, poignant which included the brainchild of the memorial, councilman Scott Jablow, the architect for the site, the contractor Joel DeTar along with a 9/11 story read by cohort John Conway and prayers from our dear friend Rabbi Alicia with Pastor David Brandfass.

                          Councilman Scott Jablow

Joel DeTar

John Conway 

                         Rabbi Alecia and Shondra Jepperson

Pastor David Brandfass

This 5 ft. 3000 lb. steel beam transported from Ground Zero and placed here is something riveting to behold. It’s so peculiar. It’s so intimate. Being in the midst of it, feels spiritual in a mysterious way. This is an actual physical fragment taken from that day, that part of our history representing so much transformation for each of us here in the country and around the world. People who died there on that same site in which this girder comes from and those of us who continue on, we have all been transformed in our own personal and individual ways forever.

Today, I think back to that afternoon standing on the beach singing alongside strangers in community on Sept. 11th 2001 and then fast forwarding to yesterday’s memorial ceremony in community here. Reflecting on our participation with music for both and all the 9/11 services and ceremonies in between. All the time that has passed, a cross combination of spiritual and surreal - we will indeed always remember.


Canada and Hong Kong

Sometimes there are just no words . . .

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