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Flashbacks of A Nightmare, An Eleven Year Reflection of September 11, 2001

September 10, 2012

Like most Americans, I was devastated by the images of the mutilation of a dream, as I watched the symbols of America come tumbling down.  Like most Americans, I cried that day.  I wanted the reality of that day to be a nightmare from which I would awaken.  Instead, the reality became more vivid with each movement of the clock that signaled the passing of seconds, minutes and hours on that day.

In my dreams, the nightmare was often in replay like it was on CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX.  In my head, I heard the voices of more than three thousand people praying for their God and calling for their loved ones.  The screams of their excruciating pain and the anticipation of death just moments away plays in high definition in my mind.  I cover my ears and yet I cannot silence their screams; eleven years later it still echoes in my ears.

As long as I live, I will remember where I was on September 11, 2001, the day that hatred and greed gave birth to a new America.  It was the day that the freedom and calm we took forever was replaced with the reality that our our freedom and security are at risk.

It was a beautiful Tuesday morning and I had debated with myself if I was going to work that day. The suburban area in which I lived was about thirty miles south of Washington, D.C. and is has traffic second only to the traffic in Los Angeles, California.  Interstate 95 was the most expedient route to my office but it is also one of the busiest corridors for travel between the South and the Northeast part of the United States.

As always I turned my radio between my two most favorite stations in the Washington, DC area; Howard University’s music Station WHUR and local talk radio station WTOP.   I heard the announcer on WTOP say that there was a report that a plane had hit Tower of the World Trade Center.  I thought to myself “what a horrible accident, some inexperienced pilot really lost his bearings and hit the tower”.  I imagined only that he had knocked down the antenna, never considering that it was a commercial jet that had hit the top floors with dozens of passengers onboard.

After hearing the news of the first plane, I turned from WTOP TO WHUR and heard that a second plane had hit the second tower.  I then realized thenthat the plane crashes were not accidental and this day was going to be an extraordinary one.

As I approached the sign that said Seminary Road Exit ¾ miles, I saw black transforming the sky several exits ahead.  It appeared to be billowing close to the exit I would take near the Pentagon.  I was an exit that would take me to Route 110 through Rosslyn, Virginia to Clarendon where my office was located on Wilson Blvd.    I called my office and told them I would not be coming to work, and my manager suggested that I just go home “something terrible was going on and the office would likely be closing” he said.   I pressed my foot to the petal hard to drive myself home as fast I could; I just wanted to get home;  I wanted to see my son.   I thought to myself “If I am going to die,  I want to die at home”.

I drove down 395 so fast that I do not recall passing the usual landmarks, I remember turning off at my exit only because the warning light for low fuel caught my attention with its ding.  As I stopped at the traffic signals after exiting near Potomac Mills where I lived, I looked over at the cars on each side of me.  I wondered if the drivers in those cars knew that our we were under attack. I wondered if they knew that people were trapped in the burning planes and buildings in New York and in Washington, DC.   I wanted to tell them, I wanted to get out of my car and hug them and I wanted to tell them to hurry home to their loved ones.

I had stopped buying gas from Shell during Apartheid but on this day  I stopped to a Shell Gas station to purchase gas and as I pumped my gas, a white man who was refueling his car in the island next to me and I at a simultaneous moment said” How could this happen?”  We both just wanted to get home.  We wished each other safe travel and got in our cars and drove away.  I felt a tremendous bond to that stranger, a person who on any other day would likely never have spoken to me or me to him.

I arrived in front of my home, got out of my car and expelled a sigh of relief as I turned the key to open my front door.  I turned on the television and watched in disbelief the horror that continued to unfold during my commute home.  I heard reports of a third plane that went down in a field in Pennsylvania with dozens of passengers onboard.  I called my mother, my sisters and brother, other family members and friends to ask if they were okay.

I prepared myself for the worst. I prayed for those in the Twin Towers, at the Pentagon and in the field in Pennsylvania.  I prayed for America.  I have tried to imagine what those in the planes and in the building at the Pentagon must have gone through before they died. Some called loved ones to say goodbye and others comforted each other as they took their last breaths.  They did not think of color, ethnicity, social status, religion or political persuasion in those moments;  they were all people with a horrible common fate.   I pray that on this eleventh anniversary of their deaths, we remember their sacrifice.  I hope that we have learned that life is short and fragile and that freedom has not been free.  I hope that we do not wait until we are faced with a similar fate to realize that hate is not a respecter of persons or countries, we should focus our vision and our minds and see our fellow Americans and other world citizens as human….. is that not more than enough to unite us all?

Did Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood) Still Mitt Romney’s Dream?

September 1, 2012

On Thursday night, Mitt Romney accepted the GOP nomination for president.  It was the night Romney had anticipated most of his adult life and it had finally arrived.  His perfectly aligned teeth showed the world how pleased he was to be one step closer to the second part of his political dream.   Media hype about the night was high.  Speculation about the messages of scheduled speakers and the mystery surrounding a surprise one, dominated many social media websites.   Political analysts predicted historical consequences, network bosses hoped for high ratings.

My television was programmed to turn to MSNBC at 10:00 sharp.  I focused my eyes on the 52-in screen and had expected to see Mr. Romney standing on the platform.  Instead, I saw an aging actor who portrayed one of America’s most famous fictional cowboys. The mystery guest had been unveiled; it was actor and director Clint Eastwood.  My first impression of Eastwood was that he was old and thin.   Each strand of his thinning white hair was going in a different direction.  He looked tired and a bit nervous.  His voice was weak and wavering. As I listened and watched I realized Eastwood was talking to an empty chair, a chair in which an invisible President Obama was seated.  My thoughts reflected on another night on which a similar vision of Eastwood was clear.  It was during the Kennedy Honors Awards in December 2008.  Eastwood  rambled and talked overtime that evening while there to honor  his close friend and fellow actor, the Oscar-winner Morgan Freeman.  (Freeman is a supporter of President Obama and in  July 2012 he donated a million dollars to his presidential campaign).

What does the choice of Eastwood as a speaker and the order of his appearance on the program of his political prom say about Romney?  How can a man who could neither manage, strategize nor consult with a campaign team to present himself in a strong authoritative light manage, strategize, plan, consult or lead a country?  Why should we entrust him with our destiny that is economically precarious (because of years of political posturing on both sides) when he could not master the fate of his own political destiny so long in the making?

Why did he think that the mere celebrity of Clint Eastwood did not call for a conversation with the actor about the content or duration of his message?  Why did he not question the content of material from speakers Rubio, Christi and others who boasted more of their own political achievement than of his attributes and measurable accomplishments?

How did he not imagine that the video created by his campaign team to show America his compassionate, emotional and loving side would impact Americans with the compelling effect it was intended to do?   The video was the perfect way for Mitt Romney to say “So America who want to know the real Mitt Romney, well here I am”!  Imagine the impact if after Rubio’s speech the Romney video had been shown and then the man; the Romney in the video had simply walked out on stage; that would have been creative genius.

Consequences of decisions made for the Republican National Convention  2012’s big night remain to be seen and may not be revealed until Election Day 2012.   Conversations of Eastwood’s ramblings will transition and go from loud laughter to silent unspoken thoughts.   Like the invincible character Josey Wales, Eastwood is still standing unscathed.  Unlike the character Josey Wales who fought for the underdog, the abused and tortured, Mitt Romney stands only for his ego, and his foreign bank accounts. There were many significant issues missing in action in Romney’s speech.   Absent was expression of gratitude for the sacrifices our troops have and are making for our country.  Romney did not mention the current war but even a forgetful Eastwood did.

This writer’s impression of Romney has been reaffirmed; the only thing that Romney can control is his hairbrush and the marching of his millions of dollars into foreign bank accounts.  I predict that one of America’s most favorite fictional characters, Josey Wales may have cost Mitt Romney his dream. No Clint you may not have made Romney’s day on Thursday evening, but you sure did make mine.