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Let peace begin with us

Terrorist attacks call to mind other tragedies, scars they leave

Posted: Monday, September 24, 2001

I don't have a television at my cabin, but after the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, I made it a point to stop in front of every TV that was on so I wouldn't miss any news.

Listening to radio talk shows isn't one of my favorite activities, but I found myself glued to call-in programs flooded with people trying to make sense out of the senseless acts that claimed thousands of lives.

A hailstorm of articles on terrorism and the war to be waged against it rained down around me in daily newspapers, quickly published magazines and minute-by-minute updates on the World Wide Web. I did my best to read everything on which my eyes landed.

Like others, the horror of that day's events became the center of my universe. I was hungry to hear every press release, every story, every late-breaking piece of news. It was the topic of conversation when I stopped at my favorite coffee spot. It was the understood topic behind the half-smiles and vacant stares of those I passed. It held sleep at bay and kept my mind whirring late into the night.

Finding some way to understand it, to reclaim some sense of security and trust, to honor the deaths of fellow countrymen and the loss of their families fueled a need to immerse myself in the details.

Slowly, I realized that in spite of the events of Sept. 11, my life was going on. There were day-to-day activities to tend to, work to be done and loved ones to care for.

But focusing wasn't easy. The images I saw on television haunted me. The stories of victims, survivors and rescue workers echoed through my days.

So I forced myself to be more selective about the television I watched, the radio to which I listened and the articles I read.

I remembered the earthquake that struck the Los Angeles area when I lived there in 1971. The television fell over on its glass face. Food spilled out of the refrigerator. Dishes crashed to the floor. The building I lived in twisted and groaned and, braced in a doorway, I was certain I would die. Others did. Those of us who survived lived in fear, each aftershock causing renewed waves of terror.

I remembered a time when my daughter, Emily, was the fire watch on a project at Prudhoe Bay. An explosion occurred while the night crew was on duty and her counterpart was hurled from the platform where she stood during

the day, his momentum suddenly and painfully stopped by a pipe. The serious injuries he sustained required immediate evacuation for emergency medical treatment. Emily called to give me the details and assure me she was OK. I wanted her to leave the job, but she chose to stay with her crew. From a distance of hundreds of miles, I became frighteningly aware of my inability to protect my child.

And I remembered the trip my father and I took to Egypt. We were startled by the security required to travel from the Israeli border, across the Sinai desert to Cairo. For a very long eight hours we traveled from afternoon until midnight with police escorts in front and in back, sirens wailing and lights flashing, passing through numerous security checkpoints.

Several days later we retraced our steps, crossing the Sinai in early morning light, a brilliant orange sun cresting the desert's eastern horizon. We dozed, enjoying the ride, only to be suddenly awakened when our convoy swerved to avoid a body lying in the road. My fellow passengers and I were suddenly conscious of the very real danger and our vulnerability.

After each of those events, my life went on. But it wasn't the same. It expanded to make room for increased terrors and decreased control.

In the course of writing a recent article, someone shared a quote from the writings of his faith that said, in part, "Do not think the peace of the world an ideal impossible to attain!" Those words have played across my mind these past few days, making me keenly appreciative of peace-filled moments.

The phone conversations with my daughters in the early hours of Sept. 11, assuring me they were safe, ending with, "I love you."

Friends in New York, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Washington and across Alaska e-mailing just to say they were OK and make sure I was, too.

My friend, Carol, whose birthday is this month, requested that for her birthday we donate to the American Red Cross or give blood.

Discovering a deeper appreciation for my father who, in light of the rescue efforts in New York, recalled the time his ship struck a mine in Manila Bay during World War II. The engine room crew was trapped and it was six months before my father and his shipmates could retrieve the bodies.

At Tuesday's Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting, the room was silent as the minister gave an opening prayer that was longer than usual. But no one moved, clinging to the words like bone-chilled pilgrims drawn to the comforting warmth of a fire.

My friend Kathleen sent me the words of a United Airlines pilot to his passengers on a flight out of Denver the day air traffic resumed across the United States. It was printed in the Washington Times. He gave tips on what to do in the event of an attempted hijacking, and reminded them that the Declaration of Independence says, "We, the people." (See related column, this page.)

"Now, since we're a family for the next few hours, I'll ask you to turn to the person next to you, introduce yourself, tell them a little about

yourself and ask them to do the same," he said.

With troops being called to gather and the dark shadow of war hovering above our heads, it seems a small thing to do. But if the goal of peace is to be attained, it begins here. Between you and me.

And I am reminded of the lyrics of a well-known hymn, "With ev'ry step I take, let this be my solemn vow; to take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally. Let there be each on earth and let it begin with me."

Amen.

McKibben Jackinsky is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.



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