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This headline amused me: Mr. Ugly Contest Turns Ugly. As it happens, the front-runner for the Mr. Ugly contest lost, and a fight broke out.

It’s one thing to possess an aesthetically unpleasant countenance, but it’s quite another to show the ugliness we’re seeing from some pundits lately.

As SueBE wrote in her spot-on post, many are calling for a limit on Middle East refugees, and pandering politicians are tapping into this fear.

Exhibit A: GOP Presidential Nominee Donald Trump, claiming that he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheering after the towers fell.

Well, I’ve got a bone to pick with that one. I live in New Jersey.

On that day, I was at work in East Brunswick, and driving like a bat out of hell down Route 18 to get my son out of daycare and take him home to Somerset, what I saw was quite a different story. Through the “moon roof” of my Passat, I saw fighter jets in formation, flying over me. Out the side windows, I saw other petrified drivers drifting from their lanes, racing to get somewhere safe – wherever that might be. When we got home, I saw neighbors on porches in a daze, asking if I knew what in the world was happening, and what we should all be doing now.

Celebrating? I didn’t see it on my block. I didn’t see it on the highway. I didn’t see it on the local news on television.

It’s a sickness of the soul to demonize people that don’t look like you, worship like you, or think the way you do.

Being from Jersey, I could throw a few choice words at the windbag, that is, the candidate, but I will refrain, because that would be an ugly thing to do. And I do believe, he’s got that part of the block covered.

All of us in the New York area remember where we were on September 11th.  I was at work in an office in central Jersey, and after we heard about the second plane, I got in my car and headed to the daycare to pick up my two-year-old son.  As I drove, I looked in my rearview mirror, to the left and right side of my car, and upwards, out the sunroof.  If there were two planes in NYC already, and – I’d just heard on the radio – one at the Pentagon, how many other planes were there? I was sure I’d be hit by a missile if I didn’t continuously check the sky.  It instilled an edgy vigilance that never really left me.

Today as I sat down to write this tribute, I realized that most of the problems of life are encapsulated in this one horrific, time-stopping event.

  • We want to live a good life, but sometimes, we encounter people with bad intentions.
  • We want to keep our children safe, but we need to let them spread their wings into the world and fly or they won’t know what they’re capable of.
  • We’re told to “stay calm” in a crisis, but if the world is falling down around us, is this even reasonable?
  • When things get hectic, we call for help, but sometimes there is no safety net.
  • Even if we do everything we’re supposed to do, sometimes things don’t work out as expected.

Reality changed for the whole country after 9/11, and life was never the same.  There was always a sense of waiting for the next catastrophe.  I’d like to recall the fact that we soldiered on, even though most of us aren’t soldiers.  We didn’t give in to easy answers, like all Muslims are terrorists, or foreigners are not to be trusted.  We pulled together and we came through, keeping alive the ideals that have made this country what it is.  We don’t give up.  We don’t believe seeking a pound of flesh will bring back our lost ones.  We try to help our neighbors and create a safer world for our children.

To this day as I’m driving, I check the rearview, look left and right, and occasionally even look up – even though the car I’m driving now has no sunroof.  Now, when I find myself reflexively looking up, I transform that skittish impulse into a prayer for what was taken from us that day.

This day was our generation’s Pearl Harbor.  You’ll never forget where you were when it happened or the souls lost that day in the crash of rubble and the cloud of ash and dust. We mourn with our hearts but pay homage by moving forward – believing in the future, having children, cherishing life.  Today we join in a vast prayer chain across the world to honor the lost and to find hope in the future.  God bless and God rest.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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