Sunday, September 11, 2011

What I recall

I love watching the DVD commentaries on movies or tv shows. I always find the behind-the-scenes crew interesting and I jump at the opportunity to be one of them. I don't think there is an aspect of production that I find boring -- from writing, to prop creation, camera angles, and coffee-fetching, it all looks so interesting.

I gobble down as much of the show "Mad Men" as I possibly can. Whenever I get a new DVD set of a season, I watch the episode first and then go back and listen to the commentary. I especially like listening to the commentary with the show's creator, Matthew Weiner, because he gives insight into the plot and characters as well as how the show strives to keep period attitudes and sets.

The fourth season of "Mad Men" takes place in 1963 and at one point a character's daughter is planning a wedding for November 23, 1963. I immediately thought "Oh, that is going to be the day after the Kennedy assassination". In the DVD commentary, Matthew Weiner also hints at this event.

Then the assassination episode happens. For reasons I could not explain, I was bawling when it is revealed that president Kennedy died. The only humor I could find was when the daughter finds out and is bawling her eyes out because her wedding is the next day. It was very rude of the president to die right before her wedding!

I could not put my finger on why the Kennedy assassination episode struck such an emotional spot with me. When I listened to the commentary on the episode, Matthew Weiner talks about how he and the other writers wanted it to feel like September 11th -- the feeling that the world is changing and one's faith in all institutions is shaken. My emotions during the episode then made sense because I remember how unsettling that day was.

I was in my senior year of college in September of 2001. All was going well. I was with wonderful friends, my boyfriend had moved back to Santa Fe from Seattle and had a job, and I was at a school I loved. I tend to rise at a decent hour (7 a.m.) and got up at my usual time, grabbed my towel, and proceeded to the shower for one of my infamous (among my roommates at least) hour-long showers. I was just washing the conditioner out when my friend Erin (Irene) poked her head through the outer curtain to let me know that "planes", "New York", "Twin Towers", "dead", and "on radio".

I replied "huh?" and said I would attend when I got out the shower.

We listened on our radios tuned to the local NPR station as we heard that two planes had struck the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon. Wide eyed and ears tuned to everything, I dressed and got ready for breakfast. I remember the newscaster breaking the broadcast and saying "We are probably going to hear more about this in the weeks to come, so we are going to switch over to our normal programming."

Stunned by his attitude, I went to breakfast in the student center.

On a normal morning at St. John's College in Santa Fe, the placita at 8 a.m. is sparsely populated and if there is anyone there, he is moving slowly, a cigarette dangling from drool crusted mouth and a black cup of coffee (in a measuring cup) is in one hand while the other holds a copy of a lab manual for a 9 o'clock class.

The placita that morning was a buzz -- students and faculty everywhere, talking, smoking, wide-eyed, awake. I ate my breakfast and chatted with others about the events. I learned a plane crashed in Pennsylvania and classes were cancelled. There was a meeting in the Great Hall where a projector was set up with a broadcast of news. I went back to my room. Sure enough, the broadcast had resumed and I am sure the commentator who wanted to go on with normal programming was fired. I called Lance to "make sure he wasn't traveling anywhere". "Um, no," Lance responded, "why would I? Of course I am ok. Yeh, I love you too. See ya."

TV reception in Santa Fe is extremely spotty. If one expects to get a clear picture of a TV station, one needs to shell out money for cable. St. John's budget did not allow for such luxuries (and rightfully so, in my opinion). Students piled into the Great Hall to see grainy images of news bulletins on the screen where we normally watched films. I recalled that several students were from New York or had parents who worked in the Pentagon. I found folks, I made inquiries, and it seemed that all was well. Some were nervous because they had family or friends who were supposed to travel that day. A fellow in my core group had a mom who worked in the Pentagon. "She's fine," he answered in response to my inquiry, "but she said all the generals are running around totally pissed about all of this."

John Balkom was the president of the college at the time and came forward to speak and just give a summary of what had happened and what the plans for the day were at the college. We were going to have a community seminar and resume classes tomorrow. The college would continue to project the news on the screen. Planes were grounded, so it was not possible for anyone to return home to see family. Mr. Balkom then opened the floor to questions.

A friendly acquaintance, Lucia, asked "Is our country at war?". There were murmurs, mostly embarrassed for her, but some with nodding heads. "I do not know," Mr. Balkom repilied, "I am sure we will find out if that happens."

"If there is," Lucia said later to me, "I will fight. I will join the army and I will fight." I don't know if she ever did.

There would be a break, community seminar, and dinner. I talked with Daniel Bethencourt (now Fr. Daniel) and he said "weren't we just on the mountain, having a great time eating s'mores?" The Saturday before we had gone up to the ski basin for a campfire instead of attending S & C, a dance which "inducts" the freshmen to the more carnal aspects of St. John's. It was lovely to be with friends. I still had apples and marshmallows in the living room from the event.

The phone rang when I was back in my dorm. Elizabeth Starr had called to say there was a special prayer service at noon at St. Juliana's. I said I would be there and put the left over apples in a basket to take to church figuring someone would want to eat.

It turned out to be the prayer service that is described in the novel "War and Peace". Tolstoy describes the scene from Natasha's point of view: Napoleon is invading, they are on cushions kneeling in church to supplicate God to deliver them, and she is confused by all of this. It descibed my experience minus the cushions. We prostrated, we prayed, and we hoped against hope that it would never happen again. The sky in New Mexico was that bluest blue but not marred by airplane tracks as it normally was. It was eerie and my life seemed more uncertain. I handed out apples after the service. "Oh," responded David Starr (now Fr. David), "thank you, thank you. I don't think I have eaten today."

I got back to campus, my mind still whirling with the prayers, wondering about Lucia's comment regarding war, and now fearful for how it would change my life. I said this in the community seminar I was in and I am sure it was just a babble of selfish nonsense about how I didn't know what this meant for everyone. Would we become some war-torn country? Would Lance be drafted before we got married? Not that he had proposed, but it was something we were talking about with each other.

Jessica Godden responded in a very mater-of-fact way: "I know that I can only do what I can do. I am focusing on what I can do in this situation..." and then some other things that I am sure were soul satisfying to some but only got half way there for me. I knew I had to trust in God and that pray was the only thing I could really do. I couldn't' change events, I couldn't rewind and make it all better. I could only trust, pray, put my hope in God, and love those around me.

Later Lance reminded me that he had asthma and there was no way he would be drafted if the draft was in fact reinstated.

That evening in our suite, my roommates and I crowded around my small TV, tyring to get the rabbit ears to detect some sort of signal. We were able to get ABC news with some clarity. The image was grainy, but I remember seeing the second plane hit and saying "Oh my gosh, it isn't even a day old and they already have doctored up some image to coincide with the news." I think it was Theresa Campbell who said to me, "Juliana, that isn't an image -- that is actually footage." My jaw dropped.

The days and months that followed are of course blurred. I remember that Friday St. Juliana's had an Akathist for the Dead service and I missed singing "Sicut Cervus" at the memorial service St. John's held. Story after story was told about what people saw and felt. One story struck me of a father having to talk to his daughter about the tradegy as she was able to see the world trade center from her daycare. The little girl told her father that she saw birdies on fire. He was shaken not knowing how to tell her those were bodies. At bedtime, as her sleepiness helped her mind open up, she told her father that she knew those were not birdies. Her father felt in some way she was trying to protect him from further grief.

A year later there were protests and Santa Fe, and all, over regarding the war in Iraq. I was devastated to hear about the decision. Member of my family, both distant and close, have served. I know it has changed my cousin forever.

The little details of that day I am sure will fade away, so I am glad I had some opportunity to get them down and reflect on what my mind held as important. The feeling, the soul-tearing feeling, will always be with me and rise to the surface every September 11th.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Nina Dances

Though I do not remember it, apparently when I was about a year old (or less) I would sing and dance along to the "Muppet Show" opening. I am pretty sure there is a picture of me with a haircut like Nina's in a stripped shirt, diaper, and a pair of snow boots dancing in front of the tv. If either parent has the picture, I WANTS IT!

Whether Nina likes music because of an inherited disposition or whether it is just something babies like, I love that she dances to it. Here are a few short clips of Nina enjoying a good wiggle to music.

In her high chair:

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In the next one, I promise I am not singing.

We had the radio on the tv. I know. What an age in which we live. Towards the end she stands on her own and dances.

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