Friday, February 22, 2002

I'm looking out my window right now - and I can see everything clearly. But if I need to read these notes right in front of me, I would have to put my glasses on. When I'm driving down the road later today, I won't need my glasses. I've got no problem seeing the road ahead, the cars around me, that road kill I want to avoid. But if I need to pull over and look at my map, forget it - I'd better have my glasses or I'll never find that small town I'm looking for. I am, as they say, farsighted.

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

When you've got young grandchildren, you keep learning about these "heroes" they have from children's videos and television programs. In America, you get acquainted with characters like Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber from "Veggie Tales," and "Blue's Clues," and "Bob the Builder." Now, he was the cause of some major excitement last Christmas. An aunt and uncle gave our three-year-old grandson Bob the Builder coveralls - see, Bob wears this yellow hardhat and blue coveralls, with yellow tools hanging from a tool belt. Well, these coveralls even have the belt, with a yellow plastic hammer, a plastic screwdriver, a plastic wrench - you get the idea. When our grandson emerged from the bedroom as Bob the Builder, man, he just lit up with excitement.

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

It's one of those photos you never forget - like the picture of those American soldiers raising the American flag on Iwo Jima. You've probably seen the photo of those three weary, dusty firefighters raising the American flag in the ruins of the World Trade Center. USA Today says "it may have been the blackest day's blackest hour" when that picture was taken. It was becoming apparent that there would be few survivors, and another tower - 7 World Trade Center - was about to fall. An evacuation order was issued to all the firefighters searching in the rubble. But one firefighter saw something on a docked boat - a debris-covered American flag on a broken pole. With the help of two other firefighters, he found a large metal flagpole jutting at a 45-degree angle from a ledge about twenty feet above the ground. They climbed up and rigged the flag to the pole - totally unaware that a photographer was watching - and capturing it for the world to see. A woman who taught nearby, summarized what that moment meant - "People were grasping for hope," she said, "and suddenly there it was."

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

There are so many stories that put a face on the World Trade Center tragedy of September 11, 2001. I saw a particularly moving first-person story of one woman who miraculously survived the collapse of the North Tower that awful day. She tried to make her way down the long stairwell from her office on the 64th floor, and she made it to the 13th floor. That's when the entire tower began to crumble. She fell to the ground as the building continued to collapse around her. She dropped thirteen floors and ended up with her head pinned between two concrete pillars, her legs trapped in a staircase. She said, "I saw that no one came, and I wasn't hearing any noises around me. So I thought, 'I'm going to die here. I'm going to see myself slowly die here.'"

The young mother prayed, slept, prayed some more - at one point, asking God for a miracle. That's when she heard noises. She yelled out, and someone answered back. She had been trapped under tons of debris for 27 hours. Here's how she described what happened next: "I took a piece of concrete and I knocked the stair above me. And then they heard the knocking, and then they started to come closer. And then I put my hands through a little crack in the ceiling, and I felt the person hold my hand. The fireman found my hand and he said, 'I've got you.' And I said, 'Thank God.'" She was the last person pulled alive from the wreckage.

Monday, February 11, 2002

Alexander the Great conquered most of the then-known world by the age of 33. One of the reasons for that was the iron discipline that he insisted on among his troops. That's why a young soldier was so terrified as he was hauled into Alexander's tent to answer for charges of cowardice and desertion in battle. The general was seated at a table, and the accused soldier stood before him. Alexander said, "Soldier, you've been accused of deserting during a battle - guilty or not?" "Guilty," he replied almost inaudibly. The general followed up then by asking, "What's your name, soldier?" The answer came back - "My name is Alexander, sir." It was at that point that Alexander the Great leaped to his feet, reached across the table, grabbed the soldier by the collar and shouted, "Either you change your life or you change your name!"

Wednesday, February 6, 2002

It's probably a common term in the military, but I had never heard it until I saw an interview with some American soldiers working to establish an air base at Kandahar in Afghanistan. They were busy finding and clearing land mines, repairing and expanding the runway - and, at the same time, carefully defending their perimeter. The soldiers pointed out that there were still Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters hiding out - and waiting for an opportunity to do some serious damage. That's when one soldier referred to what he called "high value targets". He said the enemy still had the capability to take out some "high value target" like an incoming aircraft, for example.

Monday, February 4, 2002

We were in our seats, waiting for the curtain to open in this great, family-oriented stage show. I knew it must be show time - the lights went down, and unobtrusively the live band quietly filed into the orchestra pit. Most people were focused on the stage, but I was fascinated by something I saw going on with that band. One woman in the band had the arm of a fellow band member in her arm. She was obviously leading him to his position at the keyboard. I realized with some amazement that the keyboardist was blind. He put on his big headphones and, as the curtain opened, he started playing with all his heart. It was awesome.

Friday, February 1, 2002

We had seen some very painful scenes at Ground Zero in the rubble of the World Trade Center -- firemen, policemen, emergency personnel, combing through the wreckage for their fallen brothers and sisters. Later, pausing for a moment of silent tribute as the remains of one of them was carried out. But at a time when there was talk of reducing the number of workers at the site, we saw a scene that was painful in a different way. Tempers flared in the raw emotions of that moment, and some of those firefighters and police who had been fighting together to save or find people in the rescue and recovery effort were suddenly fighting with one another at Ground Zero.

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

It was a "dream car" for our teenage son - a blue, '66 Ford Mustang. He saved for it...he sold off valuable baseball cards for it - but eventually, he owned it. And it really was a pretty 'hot' car. I actually got to drive it once. Our son needed it driven from Chicago to New Jersey and somehow my wife and I were the lucky winners. And I have to admit, it was a lot of fun to drive. People would pull up next to us on the Interstate just to stare. Some would honk and wave. Folks would come over to check it out and talk to us about it at gas stops. I felt like a celebrity. Actually, the car was the celebrity. But as much as I enjoyed that Mustang, there was one thing I really didn't like about it. I had forgotten what manual steering felt like. And that hot little car was a "bear" to turn! I mean, I felt like a corkscrew by the time I finished wrapping myself around the steering column to make a turn.

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

The precision of America's weapons during the war in Afghanistan has been pretty amazing. But even in these days of high-tech efficiency, there are still casualties and fatalities from what's called "friendly fire." In the war on terrorism, one of our most accurate bombs went astray and killed some of our own military. Several days after that tragedy, four of the men injured by that bomb - men who lost some of their comrades - were interviewed. I was struck especially by the comments of their commanding officer. Basically, here's what he said. "I will have my time to cry and grieve for what we've lost, but not now. I have men to lead and a war to win. My feelings will have to wait."

            

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