Wednesday, August 31, 2011

9/11 Parking Spots

An account of B. Viggiani after 9/11.  New York.

From "A Tribute to the Heroes of 9-11, 10 Year Memorial" calendar.

"Those first days of Autumn 2001 seem to wash away the lingering darkness of loss that hung over the city, like a bad dream.  The smells were nearly gone or perhaps we had just gotten used to them by then.  The skies were clearer that day than they had been in some time and I found I could look upward with less fear than I had in some time.  I forced myself to get back to my regular pre 9/11 NJ Transit schedule I had so routinely done in the past, sitting in the last car at the same window seat reading the sports pages.  It was important to get back to reality; the quicker the better.  New York City was too quiet for too long.  Even the notorious horn honkers, New York City taxi drivers, were more courteous with fewer blasts.  People actually said hello or at least made eye contact on the city's streets.  It was time for the city to 'get back to normal'!

And so it was that cool October evening heading home from another day at work.  The early autumn sun made black silhouettes of the lower city skyline slowly descending from behind.  As much as I tried not looking across the expanse of the Hudson River toward "that skyline", I found myself unable to keep from looking, drawn there everyday almost as if to somehow keep their spirits alive.  So I looked.  And the towers still weren't there.

Same train, same car, same window seat.  Returning home.  Losing myself in the back pages of the NY Post, my beer sitting atop the flat metal screen under the window.  For a good part of the ride, I rarely, if ever glance out the window.  In fact the first stop that I usually put aside the paper and look out, is at the train's longest stop, Ridgewood.  Sitting in the last car, one could look straight down Ridgewood Avenue.  As dusk settled in, the town's many storefronts became lit to greet the night ahead.

I was about to return to the sports pages as the train slowly left the station when I noticed something odd just outside my window.  As the main street began to disappear from view, I watched a row of several automobiles go by, parked in those most sought after spots along the front row closest to the train platform.  Those commuters were the ones who left earlier than most to get those coveted spots.  I often wondered what they did for a living to get up so early to head into the city.

The first car that attracted my attention was a large model Mercedes Benz.  How dirty it was; especially sitting in such an upscale town as Ridgewood.  Dirty cars were just something you never saw, either driven or parked.  The car next to the Mercedes was just as dirty as was the next until the train was moving to fast for me to see anything more than the disappearing station.  The train was barely out of Ridgewood when it hit me like a lightning bolt.  The dirty cars parked there along the front row closest to the station platform; those same cars that made me wonder what the owners did for a living, their owners had parked their cars and headed off to work as they did every morning only...this time they never came back.

Now I can only wonder who each of them were as people, as husbands, wives, sons or daughters, friends to so many.  I wondered about their routines that day, that morning as they headed to work.  Did they stop for coffee and a bagel across the street from the train station after parking in their VIP-ish spots?  Did they kiss their loved ones goodbye?  What unfinished work awaited them at their offices across the Hudson?

Pulling into Ridgewood station that next morning on my way back to work, I held my breath and could feel my heart pounding.  It was that same feeling of not wanting to look but needing to as the train came to a stop.  At first I thought I would not be able to see that far, perhaps being saved from what I knew I'd encounter.  Yet, there they were.  I could barely see the tops of the cars but they were still there.  Dirty, side-by-side waiting for the turn of the car key, one dustier than the other, lined up in their front row spots closest to the platform.  Only now in daylight did I allow it to hit me.  As if seeing them in daylight confirmed my thoughts.

On that beautiful clear blue sky day, each of the owners of those cars stepped onto their favorite train, sat in the same seat, sipping coffee and reading the papers.  Yet, they never came back.  Not to their cars parked in those front row spots.  Or home to waiting wives, husbands, children, or friends.  They never came back.  Ever.

Soon after that morning the cars were removed from the parking lot and from those coveted spots.  It did not take long for those spots to be filled with a new group of early commuters and I began to wonder all over again.  What did those people do for a living?

Dedicated to those we lost that day and those who live with their loss.  Never Forget."

-B. Viggiani, August 2009

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Is it good to desire greatness?

Beth Moore asked me this morning, "Is it a good thing or a bad thing to have a desire for greatness within us?"  

Ok, so she wasn't verbally asking me, but it was in my morning devotion...written by her.

The question stunned me.

It's good, right?
No, it must be bad because greatness brings pride, doesn't it?  
Darn!  I don't know.  

With a passionate personality and "stage presence" like I have, I have grown used to attention being drawn my way.  I have always figured it was the God-given personality I have embraced.  Writing, dancing, motherhood, politics, scripture.  I never thought maybe I was totally motivated by pride.  Granted, there are plenty of moments (weeks at times) of pride, self-righteousness, and pharisaical attitudes that I am so thankful God brings to my attention.  But is my sole motivating factor self?  Yuck!  It is certainly possible.  God knows my heart and so here I am wondering why I do what I do.

I may say that my heart's intent is to do what I can to secure a free future for my children, to make the truth known, to save the unborn, to be concerned with the eternal salvation of mankind.  But is it really?  I am not saying it is and I'm not saying it isn't, but I do want God to search me and know my heart, try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. (Ps. 139:23-24)

I certainly don't embrace or approve of passivity or ignorance.  What's a passionate girl to do!?

God, help me to get over myself.

"Jesus...did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  He humbled Himself and became obedient to death -- even death on a cross." (Php. 2:8-9)
Humility.  Service.  Passion.  Action for the sole motive of righteousness, salvation, and bringing pleasure to God.  Not caring who gets the credit.
Oh please God, let this be me.

"There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit." ~Ronald Reagan

I want to be a world-changer.  Is that ok?
Why do I want this?  So that truth and righteousness will reign, not deceit.  Not so I can say, "Hey! Over here!  World-changer here!"  Do I care if anyone ever knows how much I do or what efforts I make?  I can say no, but I can also look at the not-so-distant past when I was not only grossly under-appreciated for something I'd done, but wrongly accused of causing harm.  I did not handle it well.  It was not pretty.  Suddenly I wanted to demand recognition and appreciation.  And so my true colors show.  Yuck!

So, I guess I don't know yet.  How will I perform the next time the pressure comes?  Oh please, Lord, let me pass this test.

This is a struggle for me to grasp today, and to figure out how to balance.  What is my true motivation?  Is it to be great?  Is it to exalt myself or my ideas?  I see these as possibilities.  I hope not.  Change me!  Or is it truly for men's salvation, and a future for my children and nation as I so often claim?  I must meditate on this today and see if I am standing in the right place, in Your will.  Please show me.  I need to know what in me requires change or even purging.  Help me today, Lord.

(The devotion is Jesus: 90 Days With The One And Only by Beth Moore.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Was the atomic bomb revenge for Pearl Harbor?

I recently received a message from a dear, precious friend who inaccurately accused the U.S. of taking "revenge" on Japan via the atomic bomb for their attack of Pearl Harbor; and he accused us of killing innocent children.  I was horrified since this message was also sent to several other people.  Here was my response:
I'm sorry, but I feel that you are inaccurate.  You know I love you more than life itself.  And truly your heart of love is so apparent in this message.  You are so special and precious to me.
The atomic bomb wasn't until 1945.  Pearl Harbor was in '41.  The Doolittle Raid was our response to Pearl Harbor.  Upon my recent reading about the Pacific side of WW2 (Unbroken about Louis Zamperini, POW), the atomic bomb was necessary because Hirohito would not back down and was preparing to send even Japanese women and children into war because so many Japanese men were lost.  He would not have stopped unless there was a decisive move on our end.  Certainly, the atomic bomb was extreme to say the least.  But, sometimes these things are necessary.  Hirohito was a Hitler in Asia...believing that the Japanese were superior to other Asian people groups - enslaving women and children from other Asian countries.  I'm not incredibly knowledgable about the Japanese side of WW2, but am learning more and more.  It was an incredibly devastating situation for non-Japanese Asians.  It is awful to think of the innocents that were casualites of the atomic bomb...especially children.  But there were several warnings in the weeks preceding the bomb to warn civilians to find safety (American B-25's dropped thousands of flyers warning the people).  It was the Japanese government that kept its own people from knowing about these warnings, or downplayed the seriousness of them.  War is a necessary evil.  But even God's chosen people, Israel, have been forced time and time again to defend themselves and typically to the utter destruction of their enemies.  Old Testament references even mention women and children not being spared in some situations.  I personally think that is awful, but who am I to argue with the commands of God in His Word?
However, when we (Americans) are viciously attacked on our own soil (Pearl Harbor, 9/11), a response is critical.  If we fail to respond, we portray weakness and are therefore vulnerable to more attacks.
I don't mean to counter your statements, my precious friend, but the atomic bomb was not the response to Pearl was what ended the war...and it was unfortunately necessary (in my opinion).  Hirohito brought it upon himself.  He was a tyrant and unwilling to back down.  Post-war crimes proved his guilt.
I want to encourage you not to blame the beautiful USA in a culture where so many Americans (particularly our very own president) are apologizing for our exceptionalism and success.  We are successful because God has blessed us and because we have supported Israel all these years (God said to Israel, "Blessed are those who bless you; and cursed are those who curse you.")
I would ask that you find the truth and make that known.  I feel that your message was a slam against our home country...which is the very last thing we need in our current cultural climate.  Will you please research the atomic bomb and Pearl Harbor and correct your statement?
I know it is a sensitive subject and one that stirs much opinion.  Let me just say that "response" and "revenge" are different.  And I agree with you that we, as Christians, are not ever to seek revenge, but forgiveness and reconciliation.  Don't you think that has happened between the U.S. and Japan?  I think it's really sweet to have visited Japan and seen the respect that the Japanese have shown to Americans.  I hope we would respond the same way.  I believe that there has been a beautiful reconciliation between our two countries.  Sometimes, it takes extreme measures (atomic bomb) to change the rules (Hirohito's dominance and tyranny).
I love you very much.  You know I am a patriotic freak-of-nature.  I couldn't let this one slide. :)
I post this in case you might be as ignorant as I recently was about the history of the Pacific side of World War II.  And to encourage you to not let people inaccurately portray this great nation.  Certainly mistakes have been made, but we must proclaim the truth no matter how pretty or ugly it may be.  Let's be honest and not give way to agenda and propaganda.

Bless you,

Saturday, August 27, 2011


I am in the process of writing my September 11, 2001 experience.
Can you believe it has been 10 years?  Jamie and I will be in NYC a week after the 10 year anniversary.  Yes, our main destination is the new 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero and to hunt down the beloved cross that shouts the presence of Jesus during the darkest hours of our history.

I want to encourage you to also write your own 9/11 story.  And maybe you're Challenger Disaster story and, if you're old enough, your JFK and Pearl Harbor stories.  As people who have lived through these life-changing events, I think it is desperately important that we record our version for the sake of our posterity.

Tomorrow evening, an interview with George W. Bush is airing on the National Geographic channel.
Also, the History Channel is showing 102 Minutes That Changed America on the morning of September 11th beginning at 8:46 am, the same time the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center.

Share this history with your children.  And do something special to remember the thousands of innocent lives lost that day.

The Nixon Presidential Library is having a few special events the week preceding 9/11.  The boys and I will be attending the September 5th display of 16,000 tons of WTC steel and a first-responder firetruck.  I am sure there are several other events going on across the country.

Also, Laura Bush has a stunning account of her 9/11 experience in her recent book Spoken From The Heart.  Get it from your library and read that section (though the whole book is very good).

I pray you have a day set aside for remembering this infamous day and that we will always remember.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

more from Laura Bush

"The presidency is larger than the men who are in it.  The founding fathers - who in the spring of 1787 wrestled with this issue - designed it that way.  Each President's responsibility is to the office, the sole national institution that speaks for all Americans regardless of their party or class or home or age.  George always believed it was his responsibility to treat the office with great care.  Presidents are not always right but history tells us that our core values are right and that our country is good."
"George acted on principle.  He put our country first and himself last."
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.  Laura is a classy and dignified First Lady.  Pick it up.  You will enjoy her gentleness, her truthfulness, her self-control in not slandering those who were so nasty to her and her husband.  She is a refreshing woman of character.

Also, you will enjoy her account of 9-11 which we all should have at the forefront of our minds and hearts as the 10 year anniversary approaches.

(Quotes by Laura Bush from her book, Spoken from the Heart.)

Friday, August 19, 2011

wisdom and hope from Laura Bush

"Things may not change, but that's no excuse for not speaking out when the need and opportunity arise."  ~Laura Bush, Spoken from the Heart