Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Protect and Celebrate

Protect and Celebrate
8.5" x 11"
ink and watercolor

It was about this time of day. 2001. I had a sore throat so I called in, early, for a substitute teacher to take my classes at school, and went back to bed. My tv was going, as usual, and I slept.
"Wake up and look at the tv!" my daughter turned on the light in the room. I tried to open my eyes, and look at the small screen. The morning news was on. I'm not an easy person to wake up.
"Look! They said that a small plane has crashed into one of those skyscrapers in New York," she told me. "It may have been lost, or gone off course, but it hit way up there."
I sat up in bed, watching a stream of smoke coming from the distant building.
"Now, they are saying that they think it might be a bigger plane," she came back in the room with updates, although I was watching.
She went back into her room, with plans to go back to sleep, now that her sons were off to school.
I got up and stood in front of the tv set, in order to see better, as a speck in the sky appeared and headed for the second of the twin towers.
"Are you watching!" I shouted into my daughter's bedroom. "There's another plane."
The rest of the day was spent, watching the events of that September day unfold on television.
In the days that followed, television sets were on, even at school, all tuned to the news. As a journalism and art teacher, I thought that this was important to watch. We wrote about it, we made cards to send, and we did art work as we watched. I felt bad that some people seemed to be apathetic and cold, lacked feelings of patriotism, or even concern for, not only other human beings, but also for our country. I hoped that maybe, inside, they were feeling something, and just thought it best to be unresponsive and go about their business as usual. Most people seemed to be in shock and expressed disbelief at what was happening.
I was involved with watching, as one after another events occured. I didn't think of doing art work or writing myself. I watched and directed others, encouraged them to express themselves and do what little we could at a distance. It was hard to write or draw about that time, as it was happening. Events kept happening and it was hard to make sense of or understand what was happening.
I thought that, if I had the money, and the freedom to do so, I should go to New York and help in some way. But, I had a job, and not enough money, and, of course, I didn't think of my age and the difficulties I was having with my knees as being more of a hinderance than help in most situations. So, we made cards, we watched, and we learned.
In our small town life, we didn't know much about cities, skyscrapers, or what was inside them. We thought it was quite an adventure to go on a field trip and ride an elevator to the second or third floor of a building. Our legs ached and we huffed and puffed, if we went somewhere and had to walk up several flights of stairs. Nothing in our home area was over 2 or 3 stories tall. But, we learned quite a bit about those amazing places in New York, and are still learning. We didn't know much about flying in an airplane, either. We saw them fly over, sometimes. And, occasionally, we could go to a small airport and watch small, but large, to us, planes land or take off. We all ran to the windows to watch when a Life Flight helicopter landed in the field near the school to transport patients to a larger hospital.
We had not thought of what went on inside buildings. We had just seen pictures of the exteriors. We had no idea that there were lower levels and even trains running underneath.
Such terrible things to see, though, as we watched from afar. I still wonder about the people and their stories. I don't think it is possible to know exactly how many people were involved and lost on that day.
We continued keeping the news channel on at school, in all rooms for a while. And, in my art/journalism room, for the rest of the year. More things kept occuring and we needed to know about them.
When the "Shock and Awe" operation occured, the principal spoke over the intercom and announced that this is something historic. Something we have never seen before, and, hopefully, will never see again in our lifetimes. And, we watched in silence as bombs fell and sirens screamed.
What would happen now that we were in another war? I remembered back to World War II. And I thought that we needed to prepare, and think of how life was then. Almost everyone was involved, and there was always the fear that we would be attacked. We sacrificed, we supported, and there was an all out effort to win.
I thought of the cold fear that hit me as I drove home from school late one afternoon. The announcement came over the radio that we were at war in Iraq. The first Iraq War with the first president Bush. What was going to happen next? What could I do to ensure the safety of my family and my students, and to help my country? My car was the only one on the highway at that time. I wondered if I was supposed to pull over to the side of the road and stop, or should I just keep driving. I chose to drive home and hug my grandchildren.
I had my students make cards to send to the people in service, especially those who were from our town, or those we knew. Some students didn't want to do any work at all, and made silly, rude cards. (Those were not sent.) I told them that, someday, they may be in service, away from home, and would be happy to get anything from home-even a little handmade card from a student in our little school. They didn't believe me. But, sure enough, eventually, many of those same kids came by, on leave, in their uniforms, and thanked us for the cards, and gave me a big hug. I was so glad for those hugs because it meant that they were home, safe. I covered my bulletin boards in the front of the room, with newspaper clippings and pictures from the local newspaper about our former students who were in service, and added notes that we received back, thanking us for the cards. That was a thrill, to know that someone was happy to communicate with us. We couldn't say a prayer at school, but we could do so in our hearts.
An American flag that had been carried in Iraq was given to our school and placed on the bulletin board across from the office. People gathered to look at that flag, in awe, and to look at the pictures of the medical group that had given us the flag.
And, then there was Korea, and, later, Viet Nam. The country seemed to become less involved with each war. I knew a few people of my age group, who went to Korea. But, I didn't really see them aftr they left. I worried that we were too complacent in this country. We were not prepared or aware. Some of the WWII vets that I knew, felt that the great war was behind us, they had done their part, and they were wanting to live the rest of their lives at home, in peace. That concerned me. Who would fight for us? And who was better prepared for that than the experienced veterans?
And, so, in something that was a bit like a "Little Rascals" or "Our Gang" movie, I started a children's army. If the adults weren't ready, we would be. But, that's another story.
During Viet Nam, I didn't know anyone who was in service. The only way we knew there was a war was in seeing the occasional train with Army tanks, trucks, and Jeeps, heading for Houston, and through the reporting on the evening news of people like Dan Rather. Pictures came into our living rooms as we were having supper. We heard stories of protestors, who burned their bras and draft cards, and that they were disrespectful to returning veterans. I didn't see any of that, except on television. Like others, I was busy with my children and work. Still, in the background, there was the concern that we wouldn't win, that Communists would take over the world, or would invade our country. As we worried about Russia and Communism, some people started soothing everyone by saying that it wasn't the Russians who would take over the world, but the real danger was from the "Yellow Race". They emphasized this by saying that it is in the Bible. I never saw it, but people who belonged to another church were insisting that it was true.
We still, today, have great concerns that our way of life and our freedoms are threatened. Some people seem to think that we don't have to be strong and fight for what we have. They appear to be saying that, if we just tend to our own business, and keep to ourselves, go about our little daily routines, the rest of the world will "play nice" and not bother us. It doesn't, unfortunately, work that way.
I don't intend to get political or preachy in my blog. But, this is a time to reflect, and each day, we can't help but think about our history and our future.
My picture today is a sketch that I started for July 4th. I had several things that I worked on with a patriotic theme that day. I had not finished this one, and decided to use another one, that day, showing the days when we had our morning opening ceremony at the flag pole at school. You can see that one in my Archives for July.
I thought that I should put something on my blog today, with thoughts of 9-11 and this country. I added some color (watercolors) to this drawing and decided to use it, instead of the one I had planned to use on my Macular Degeneration experience. I hope it shows a bit of patriotism, joy, strength, celebration, continuity, tradition, and rememberance.
This is another of my works that is in my cartoon style, a technique that I easily revert to when I just want to draw something .
Tomorrow, look for more art work on my experiences with Macular Degeneration. Thanks for looking at my work. I couldn't get online yesterday or last night to post anything, in case you missed a post from me yesterday. It seems to be working again today.
Today, I will listen to the news, paint, and remember.

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