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Tina, me and the junior high bullies

Junior High Me

In the summer between my fifth and sixth grade year, I made a new best friend. Tina’s family was new to the neighborhood. I met her one day while walking to the local swimming pool. She was friendly, outgoing and funny. We hit it off immediately, and for the next few years we were inseparable.

When we started junior high in the fall, Tina was immediately popular. Not only was she friendly, outgoing and funny, she was also exceedingly beautiful–athletic but feminine build, dark hair, flawless olive skin and impossibly long eyelashes. She looked a lot like a young Elizabeth Taylor. That she seemed so completely unaware of her beauty and its effect on others endeared her to me and made her that much more popular. What took her completely by surprise was a group of older, much larger girls whose mission was to make our junior high existence miserable. She couldn’t understand why they hated her so much–she didn’t even know them, we didn’t have any friends in common.

Unlike me, Tina went out of her way to be nice to them. She smiled at them when we passed them in the halls. They responded by calling her names. She even went so far as baking them cookies and bringing them to school. Their response? They accused her of implying they were fat and threw the cookies back at us.

While all the drama played out, Tina kept a stiff upper lip at school, but I remember her breaking down in tears in the privacy of her bedroom. “Why do they hate me so much, Kathy? I’ve never done anything to them. I don’t even know them!” My response to her then was the same response I give now to those who wonder why there are those who hate America:

Nothing you do for them will soften their hearts towards you because they don’t hate what you do, they hate what you are. Furthermore, they see your attempts at kindness and accommodation as weakness, and that perceived weakness only strengthens their resolve to destroy you. (Okay, I probably didn’t say exactly that. I was only 11 or 12 at the time, but that was the gist of it.)

From that day forward, when they confronted us in the halls, instead of ignoring their name calling or running away, we confronted them. When they threw cans or rocks at us, we picked them up and threw them right back.

Tina moved again in the summer after 8th grade. The bullies did not. And while they gave me plenty of dirty looks over the next four years of high school, they never bothered me again.

They never stopped hating us, but once we stood up to their hatred, it lost its power. Once they realized what they thought of us wouldn’t change who we were, the bullies found another outlet for their anger.

Because hate for the sake of hate always seeks a vacuum to fill, and this world is full of opportunities to nourish it.

Remember the difference

Today and always

Remember the difference between those who sought glory by taking lives

And those who found honor in the giving of their own.

Remember that the battle between good and evil begins in each heart

For within each heart both dwell.

Remember those who chose good, and honor their memory

By choosing each day whom you will serve.

Nothing much to add

image courtesy of

What could I possibly say about the tenth anniversary of America’s darkest day that hasn’t been said already by folks much more eloquent than me?

Absolutely nothing.

Except to add to the chorus of Americans who wish to recognize the bravery and the sacrifices of so many on that day and in the days, months and years that followed.

To the first responders and to the rescue and recovery personnel, many of whom lost their lives that day. Many who fight for their lives today against the poisons they were exposed to in the burning wreckage.

We remember and are grateful.

To the passengers and crew members of Flight 93 who chose to take the plane down in a Pennsylvania field, giving their own lives in order to save many more.

We remember and are grateful.

To the men and women of our armed services who volunteered to fight for our freedom against an enemy unlike any we had faced before the day America was attacked on 9/11.

We remember and are grateful.

To the families directly affected by the events of 9/11.

To the fallen heroes who were not publicly recognized in official ceremonies.

We remember and are grateful.

Thank you.

Pardon me while I rant incessantly: We will never forget

image courtesy of

September 11, 2001: We will never forget

Really? Ask a New Yorker if they agree with that statement. Many will tell you that they think most of the world is trying to do just that. Forget the attack. Whitewash history. Remember the who people died, just don’t mention why they died and who murdered them.

In the spirit of tolerance, build a mosque in the shadow of where the World Trade Center once stood. And no, I’m not going to debate that issue again. I still think it’s wrong and no amount politically correct pandering will change my mind about it. That’s not what I’m upset about (today).

Today I am angry about a World Trade Center memorial. Not what it will contain, but what it will not. The following is an excerpt from the Save the WTC Sphere Petition:

The bronze globe sculpture “The Sphere” was created by artist Frtiz Koenig. It stood as the centerpiece of the World Trade Center plaza for thirty years as a symbol of world peace.

On September 11, though severely damaged in the terrorist attacks, it emerged intact from the rubble of the WTC. It was thus embraced as a symbol of the strength and perseverance of America.

It currently stands in Battery Park, about a half mile south of Ground Zero. It was installed there with much ceremony on March 11, 2002, the sixth month anniversary of the attacks, as a “temporary memorial.” There was full intent at the time, and the 9/11 families were promised, that the Sphere would be returned as the centerpiece of the future 9/11 memorial at the World Trade Center.

Instead, however, the Sphere, the only remaining intact remnant of the WTC has been banned from Ground Zero and the “national” Sept. 11 memorial.

The designers of the memorial have ruled that it CANNOT be returned. In order, they said, “to protect the integrity of the design.”

The memorial design will include over 500 trees. Mayor Bloomberg and his deputy mayor, Patricia Harris, will not permit any of those trees to be cleared to create a proper space that allows the return of the Sphere and respects its history and significance.

At Ground Zero, landscaping takes precedence over 9/11.

This is a denial of history. It is an affront against the American spirit that triumphed 9/11; it is an assault upon truth and memory. It betrays the memory of the innocents slaughtered there.

Here’s a portion of an interview of Michael Burke, brother of Captain William Burke, a firefighter who lost his life on 911:

What this particular clip does not include is what I consider to be another  “oversight” of the planner of the memorial. Before the commercial break, anchor Martha MacCallum made mention of the names on the memorial and how they would be presented. The names of the victims will be there, but only their names.

Captain William F. Burke

For Captain William F. Burke, Jr., who was the captain of Engine Company 21, who got all of his men out alive and stayed behind in an attempt to rescue, among others, a quadriplegic man trapped inside, who sadly lost his life when the tower collapsed before they could get out, it will say William F. Burke, Jr. His title of Captain, which in and of itself helps tell the story of his heroic role on this terrible day, will not appear on the memorial. Many lives were lost that day, and I’m not suggesting that his life was more valuable than others who perished. But I think it’s incredibly important that people 100 years from now understand that when others were fleeing from disaster, brave men like Captain Burke were rushing towards the danger in order to save the lives of others. Their sacrifices should be remembered and honored.

When asked why the titles would not be included, Captain Burke’s brother Michael offered this explanation:

“This is the crux of the situation. The memorial is not designed, not intended to tell the story of 911. It is not supposed to remind us of what happened here. This is why it was chosen. Arad (the designer of the memorial) says it. In fact, the jury that picked the memorial said there can be no history of the attacks included in the memorial to protect, quote, the integrity of the design.”

I don’t often sign petitions, because frankly, I don’t know how much good they do in many cases. But I signed the petition to Save the Sphere, and I’m asking you to join me. Enough with this political correctness run amok where we bend over backwards not to offend the offensive and dishonor those who lived and died with honor.

Here’s a link to sign the petition: Save the Sphere

Enough is enough.

The death of Osama bin Ladin

My friend Billy Coffey wrote a very eloquent post today about the death of Osama bin Laden. This one won’t be nearly as eloquent.

I awoke Monday morning to a strange question from my husband, who was already dressed and heading out the door:

“Have you checked Twitter this morning? What are they saying?”

“What are they saying about what?” I said.

“They got him. Special Ops took out bin Laden. He’s dead.”

My first reaction? Relief.

Was I happy he was dead? Absolutely.

I turned on the television and saw people celebrating in Time Square and outside the White House. I can’t say I was completely comfortable with seeing these images, but I also understood that the death of Osama bin Laden was a victory for the United States. A big one. On Twitter, I saw some tweets comparing Americans celebrating the death of bin Laden to the images of celebrations in the Middle East when news of the Twin Towers burning got to them. I disagree with that assessment:

Celebrating the successful execution of a planned military strike against a long sought after enemy is not the same as celebrating the death of 1000’s of innocent people. #BinLadenDead – @katdish

Perhaps I should mourn his death; be saddened as a Christian because based on my faith I believe one of God’s children will spend eternity in hell.

But I don’t and I’m not.

He chose evil. He was not executed. According to news briefings from the White House Monday, he was shot in the head while engaged in battle against an elite Special Ops team. He was given the opportunity to surrender. Instead, this mass murderer chose to resist. According to one White House official, he used one of his wives as a human shield against the soldiers’ bullets to no avail. She was also a casualty.

In the end, this man responsible for the deaths of thousands of people, this man who encouraged young men to die in the name of Allah, this man who only valued one life–his own, died as he lived.

As a coward.

May God have mercy on his soul.

As for me, I will not mourn his death. The world is a better place without him in it. Instead, I will mourn the deaths of his victims and the brave men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and the freedom of others around the world. People who lived and died with honor.

(I don’t expect everyone to agree with my sentiments here. This is simply an honest expression of my view of these events.)

Monsters (by Billy Coffey)

Our home of four has recently become a home of five—father, mother, daughter, son, and monster.

The former four seem to have the run of the house, able to roam and ramble both upstairs and down, inside and out, and in all hours of the day. The monster, however, seems strangely confined to both the small hours of the night and the smaller confines of my son’s closet.

For the last two weeks he has awakened my wife and I with shaky cries of fear, pleading for rescue. I will toss the covers back and trudge into his bedroom, where I’ll settle him down with a big hug. In a few minutes he will yawn, flutter his eyes a few times, and drift back to sleep. I do this without thinking. After all, I should know what I’m doing. I’ve been on the other side of that hug.

My monster arrived when I was his age. I woke one night to the shifting sounds of something in the bowels of my closet. It happened again the next night, but this time the noise was loud enough to even penetrate my cotton cocoon. That’s when I started to cry. And when my father woke up.

I remember him coming into my room and giving me a hug, softly talking to me until I yawned, fluttered my eyes a few times, and fell back asleep. He did it without thinking. Because he’d been on the other side of that hug, too.

My father made the trip down the hallway and into my bedroom countless times over the next few years. He never once complained or hesitated, and I always felt better afterwards. But Dad never offered the one thing I most needed. He never told me what I desperately needed to hear.

He never said there are no such things as monsters.

I learned later on that the sounds coming from my closet were the result of gravity mixed with an assortment of poorly stacked toys. The Thing I saw in the corner of my room? Just the moonlight shining on a discarded jacket. And all those guttural sounds I thought were the churning stomach of a hungry ogre were just the furnace turning on and off.

In high school monsters became a source of entertainment rather than dread. Freddy Kruger, Jason, and Pinhead? Not only were they not scary, they were sort of ridiculous. And they always got theirs in the end.

It was during my brief flirtation with college that I finally learned monsters weren’t real. They were instead misunderstood aberrations, products of a poor childhood or a few misfired brain synapses. They deserved of our sympathy and pity rather than our fear and anger. It was a notion I found supremely appealing. A world without monsters was a world I could better understand.

But the problem was that I couldn’t.

There was genocide in Rwanda, which left tens of thousands raped and butchered in mere weeks. Then another in Yugoslavia.

And then came 9/11.

I knew then why my father always came to my room in those small hours of the night, why he would hug me and comfort me until I found sleep but never said there were no monsters in the world. And it’s the same reason why I spare my son those same words.

It would be a lie.

There really are monsters in this world.

They’re not slimy or horned, they look like us. Men and women who live in the black places of the soul, who seek to imprison rather than set free, who murder and rape in the name of God. To deny their existence is to give them power, and to spare them our anger and determination only lengthens the shadow they cast over our world.

As I write these words it’s both dark and late. I can hear my son shuffling in his bed. A sniffle makes its way through his door and around the corner to my ears. In a moment he will cry out softly for me, and I will answer. I will sit by his bed and hold him until he’s asleep again, and I’ll leave the hall light on just in case.

I will not tell him what he wants to hear. The truth, even at his age, is better. Like me, my son will believe in monsters. And like me, he will be raised to fight them.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at What I Learned Today and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

What were you doing 8 years ago today?

Monday, September 11, 2001

My day began as most did back then. Awakened by the soft cries from the baby monitor, I dragged myself out of bed and made my way upstairs to tend to my baby girl, just over a month old. With a full tummy and a clean diaper, she fell asleep in my arms and I enjoyed the few precious moments of quiet before my four year old boy came bounding down the stairs.

My husband was enroute to the airport. He had reservations for a flight to California. A flight that would not take off that morning.

By 7:00 a.m. CST, my son had eaten his breakfast and was watching Franklin the Turtle on Nick Jr.

A few minutes before 8:00 AM, the phone rang. I correctly assumed that it was my husband calling to check in.

“Good morning,” I said.

“Are you watching TV?”

“Cameron’s watching Nick Jr. Franklin’s on and…”

“Turn on the news.”

“What’s going on?”

“Turn on the news!”

“Okay, but…”

I watched in stunned silence as smoke poured out of the north tower of the World Trade Center.

Moments later, still on the phone with my husband, my mind tried to compute what my eyes were seeing on the television screen.

I thought to myself, “Are they showing a re-run from a different angle? No, that’s not the case because the building beside it is already burning.”

What I and millions of others were witnessing live on television was United Airlines Flight #175 crashing into the south tower of the World Trade Center.

“What does this mean? What does this mean?!?

“It means we’ve been attacked. It means we’re going to war.”

  • 8:46 a.m. EST American Airlines Flight #11 strikes the North Tower of the World Trade Center
  • 9:03 a.m. EST United Airlines Flight #175 strikes the South Tower of the World Trade Center
  • 9:37 a.m. EST American Airlines Flight #77 strikes the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
  • 10:03 a.m. EST United Airlines Flight #93 crashes in a field near Shanksville, PA.

Where were you the day the world changed forever?