Monday, September 12, 2016

Sackcloth and Ashes

“To every thing there is a season. A time to be born, and a time to die; A time to kill, and a time to heal; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to love, and a time to hate; A time of war, and a time of peace.”

On the second September Sunday morning of 2016, Americans turned off alarm clocks, got out of bed, put on the coffee and maybe got dressed for church.

At some point, we may glance at a calendar and remember where we were when terrorists attacked our country. We will experience, just as we did for all the previous years of remembering, a sickening feeling in our bellies; fear, helplessness and unbridled anger. It has been a very long fifteen years.

9-11 made such a profound change, whether needed or not, in our lives. We saw everything differently. We know now that nothing can ever be the same. How then, have we dealt with the effects of 9-11 over the last fifteen-years?

This is my story.

After the attack in 2001 someone asked me, “How can you even think about writing humor after everything that’s happened?” Actually, I hadn’t had one creative thought since the attacks. Fortunately for me (and my editor), I tucked away six upcoming columns during an August streak of manic productivity. I was not alone; many of my writer friends struggled with the same affliction. Some said it was writer’s block. I called it writer’s paralysis.

Mystery writer Ed McBain reported that he expected to throw away most of what he had been able to get down on paper since that dreadful day. His admission provided me with a better understanding of the national grief that attacked us all at that time.

National grief is some of us have experienced. I was only a baby when Pearl Harbor was attacked, a young mother when JFK was assassinated and middle-aged at the time of the shuttle explosion. As saddened as Americans were during those times, nothing can ever compare to the magnitude of national grief, the sackcloth and ashes worn by Americans because of September 11, 2001.

Maya Angelou said, “Now is the time for thinking Americans to think.” We did that. We ran the gamut of emotion from shock and disbelief to vengeful hatred. Who among us was not touched by the incredible burden placed on a newly elected President? He told us to go out into the world and live courageously. He said we should pick up the pieces and continue to go to our jobs, to school and to church. We should hold our heads up high, he said, and be thankful that there were not more victims when evil struck.

As appalled and saddened as I was following the tragedy, my heart knew it would be unhealthy to wallow in grief, to remain out of touch with everything except sadness, but knowing something doesn’t make it happen. CNN’s constant coverage of America’s New War offered no comfort. It frightened me; it made me cry harder.

It took time, but eventually I came to realize that laughter was long overdue, that laughter, in the midst of my mourning, had gone missing in my life. I needed to put grins back on your faces as well as my own because I owed it to the innocent souls who died on September 11, 2001.

So, once again as another anniversary of our nation’s tragedy brings up so many emotions, I will ask myself this question: Is it possible that laughter is the medicine that can help heal our brokenhearted country? Maybe. Maybe not. But I think perhaps it is worth considering.

So this is what I propose: I will do my part but you have to do yours. I will sit at my keyboard day after day and week after week writing good humor and sometimes not so good, but always with the sincere hope that you, my readers, will keep looking on the bright side of things so that your smiles and laughter will once again light up our world.

Laughter can be the second shot heard around the world, but it is up to us.

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