2006 Sep 15, 8:08pm
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Clear Skies

Written September 15, 2001

I went for a long ride on my road bike today, and one particular thing caught my attention – the sky. Something seemed odd, and at first I couldn’t quite put a finger on it, but then it hit me: it was a beautiful, clear day (a gift of a day really) and I found myself riding through an Italian Renaissance painting. There was nothing Italianate in the landscape of course, no distant mountains, no cypresses, no Roman architecture, but the color of the sky, and the quality of the light was akin to that which I have only previously seen in older paintings – Italian, or perhaps pieces from the Hudson River School era.

With virtually all air travel suspended, there were no contrails, and the massive quantities of airline pollution that are daily pumped into the upper atmosphere over the States had finally cleared to unveil a sublime, azure masterpiece the likes of which I have never seen in person, and very likely will never behold again. It was indeed a peaceful – dare I say transcendent – experience. I find myself unable to conjure words that will carry enough weight of expression to communicate the experience. I suppose you just had to be there… Maybe you were.

Footnote addendum: An interesting article in U.S. News & World Report on May 27, 2002 titled, “Cool your jets”, cited a study presented at an American Meteorological Society conference. The study used satellite photos to “track military jet contrails as they spread  within just a few hours into sheets of high cloud covering thousands of square miles”.  It went on to say that another study showed how spreading contrails limit temperature extremes by dimming sunlight and trapping heat closer to the ground. During the ban on air travel more than 4000 weather stations reported a temperature range more than 1 degree Celsius wider than normal.


2006 Sep 11, 8:24pm
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September 11

On September 11, 2001 and the few days after, I wrote what follows in a notebook; my thoughts simply poured onto the page in snippets with no logical chronology. In the week or so that followed the 11th, as I began to process these events, I organized these thoughts into what you now see before you. I did not have a blog at the time, and have been looking over things I have written in the past, so I have chosen to share this with you today.

September 11, 2001

This is not the world we wanted; it is not the world we planned. This is not the way we had hoped it would be; this is most certainly not the way it should be. We, collectively, have come so far; we have so far yet to travel. No, this is, without a doubt, not the way things should be.

Today two buildings collapsed.

I watched the jetliner strike the tower, an errant missile filled with precious, irreplaceable cargo. I watched it over and over. I watched the buildings fall, each in turn like weary guards crumbling with fatigue. Sleep. All day long I witnessed it over and over – a surreal event played out on a technological stage for the entire world to see. I know it happened, I saw it happen, but I do not believe it happened. It must be the stuff of modern cinematic wizardry. It is not.

Wives and husbands will not be coming home. Daughters and sons will not be coming home. Mothers and fathers will not be coming home.

Today humanity revealed its nastiest face.

The television brings me images of people celebrating in the streets of some distant land, rejoicing at the deaths of fellow human beings. It is not just adult men and women, there are children taking part in the macabre victory dance. The despicable torch of hatred is passed to the next generation.

A well-known religious leader in this country urges vengeance, revenge, and swift military retribution against those we suspect (suspect, mind you, we know nothing yet) are responsible. A religious leader… More hatred.

Today humanity revealed its most courageous face.

Men and women ran into the claws of death to snatch their fellow human beings from its cold and crushing grip.  I wonder, what gave them the courage to offer of themselves so personally, so deeply? Is that something I could have done? I realize that have no idea; I am not there.

Today, I feel fear. I know it is reactionary, transitory – the empty space between heartbeats when one waits for the other shoe to drop – and it will pass soon, but for now, that is what I feel.

More than recurring terrorism, I fear the saber rattling and chest-pounding that will surely come of this. The president, the man who holds office at this moment, loves power more than anything else – more than diplomacy, more than sensibility, more than leadership, and more than the people of this country and of this world. War can give a leader power, and this man itches for power within the facade of what began an impotent presidency. Kids, each born and raised in this country, will die; kids, each born and raised somewhere in the Middle East, will die; and the cycle of hate and fear will grow like an infection until it stains the world.

We desperately need a leader who possesses the wisdom to choose a higher and nobler course despite the din of an outraged nation – a nation, which at the moment, is far too frightened and angry to think straight. Now is the time for a great leader to stand up and act by what is right, rather than by the will of a people driven to the edge. Today I fear for this country, and I fear for this world. I fear we will not have this leader.

Today we are not one country; we are one world.

This world is no longer wide; it has become so very small.

We are not they and we; we are only we.

Today, I fear we will forget this.


 
 
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