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The last time before this weekend that I went to Ground Zero was the last week of September, 2001. My husband and I had planned a long weekend in New York to see plays and go to museums, as we did from time to time before the little boys were born. We wondered seriously after 9-11 whether we should cancel our trip, but then heard Mayor Giuliani ask Americans to come, to not abandon his great city. So we went.

We  couldn’t see anything at the site of the attack that September not quite 15 years ago, except for the black tarps covering the buildings that still stood facing where the twin towers had once loomed. There were barriers up all around the pit that was left behind, the pit where the men and women worked to delicately remove remains of those who had passed and what was left of the World Trade Center. NYPD stood guard at every entrance. Tourists asked to have their pictures taken with them.

There were memorials of flowers and candles near many of the entrances back then. And there were the “Missing” pictures and posters everywhere, some (pictured above) are included in the museum today. 15 years ago those “Have you seen my loved one” signs were everywhere, in the train station and airport, along every avenue, and especially at Ground Zero.

I went to Ground Zero to see the memorial and the museum this weekend, thinking I would pay my respect for an hour or so. When I emerged from the new One World Trade Center five hours later, I was shocked at the time and the exhaustion I felt.

I am not be able to describe to you in any way that does justice to what you will experience when you go there. What I mean to do here is to implore you to go. I know we all lived that day, but I have never felt it. Not like the people it actually affected. And while that is never truly possible, this experience there now is both respectful and important, for all of us.

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The museum takes you down, down into what used to be called the bathtub. It is the area where you can see the slurry wall, the great wall built by the masons 40 years ago to hold back the river so that the building of the twin towers would not destabilize the underground and let the river flood lower Manhattan. Miraculously, the wall held during 9-11. If it hadn’t, the subway system would have flooded and who knows how much of the island itself.

This picture is of the “last column,” the final column removed from the site which the fire and police companies wrote their names and call numbers on. There are pictures of police and fire men and women on the column. There are loving farewells. It is a reverent artifact to stand next to, and then you turn the corner and see the actual fire truck that was demolished. You can touch the portion of the antennae that stood atop the North Tower, a thing as wide as a jet engine. They recovered a window from one of the planes.

But it isn’t the artifacts that will stay with you. It is the voices. The first thing you experience when you walk into the museum are voices of people recounting what they saw and thought, recordings from people calling into New York City radio stations describing the paper flying everywhere along Wall Street. Later, you hear the recording of a man in the South Tower, leaving time stamped messages for his wife, telling her something terrible has happened in the North Tower. Message after message. Asking her to pick up.

Later you hear the descriptions of the employees at the Pentagon tell of following the voices of someone shouting where to turn because the smoke was so thick they couldn’t see anything. They followed the voices until suddenly there was light. Doctors, even a general, came to pour liquid on them to make them stop smoldering.

Then Flight 93, and you hear the remarkably calm voice message of a woman to her husband, telling him there is a “little problem,” but she is fine, and she loves him. “Tell the children I love them.”

It’s the voices you will not forget. The images caught and described by the people who lived it, images not shared on the news, some not appropriate for children. A woman in an apartment building across from the towers saw a woman jump to her death. She felt to look away would have been inhumane. The woman pulled down her skirt before she stepped from the window. One last act of modesty.

I felt so much love and helplessness as I walked through the museum. And I felt hate when I heard the terrorists say “Allah is great” before they turned Flight 93 toward the ground. I prayed to let go of the hate. It was Easter Sunday. Hate will only lead to more 9-11’s.

When we emerged from the museum, I needed to sit, but my husband wisely urged me toward the new building just a few yards away, built by people who would not let the terrorists defeat their dreams. One World Trade Center. The tallest building in North America. A spectacular shining inspiration with a 360 degree view of all five bridges and two states.

I saw the Statue of Liberty from the observation deck and cried for the last time that day.

Thank you for reading this. Let us love each other better and more fully. Let us forgive but never forget what happened that day. As the beautiful quote reads inside the museum, “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.” Let us be filled with gratitude for the heroism of every possible variety that was demonstrated by the people of 9-11. I am inspired to live with purpose for as many days as I have left on this earth.

I cannot help but write on the occasion of the armed men taking over BLM property in Oregon in protest of the sentence handed down to their fellow ranchers, Dwight and Steve Hammond. Today the Hammonds report back to federal prison to serve a sentence which these armed men in Oregon, and many others no doubt, believe is unfair. The sentence is five years for the lighting of fires on federal lands. I will not take your time here to explain the details that prompted the charge and the sentence. They are complicated and they are in dispute, but the key issue, which is not in dispute, is that these men were sentenced under the rule of law to serve these sentences.

I have, in my brief time as a lawyer and longer time as a student of the law, seen many sentences which seemed to not fit the crime. Decades for seemingly small thefts under the three-strikes-you’re-out law. Similar terms, sometimes life terms, for what seemed on their face to be small drug offenses if the “wrong” drug was involved. I remember a case here in Utah where a defendant was sentenced to multiple years for sticking a dollar bill in a vending machine with a string tied to it, then pulling it back out attempting to get both the dollar back and change as well. He did this multiple times, trying to trick the machine to give him change for the dollar and the dollar back. I don’t think he stole more than a few dollars, but it was his third offense.

The laws , as you know, are written by legislative bodies, elected by us, to protect our interests. If we disagree with the sentences imposed, we have means of redress. If we are the party involved, we may appeal the sentence. If we believe the sentences are wrong for not only that defendant but all like him, we can petition the Congress or state legislature to re-write the criminal code. These are the lawful and constitutional ways we seek redress in this country.

Because as John Adams said, we are “a government of laws, and not of men.” We do not take guns into buildings, whether they are occupied or not, remote or not, the government’s or not, and announce our intention to stay for years if necessary until we get our way. That is not the way we petition for redress of grievances. We appeal to the courts. We appeal to the Congress. We appeal to the government. We behave in the lawful and respectful manner that separates us from the governments we criticize in other parts of the world.

If you disagree with the way the federal government is managing land in Oregon or Utah or any other state, then you bring your case to the Congress and the president. If you are unsuccessful, you do not get to occupy federal property with guns until you get your way. That is the 4th grader mentality of stomping your feet and demanding you are right even after you’ve lost the day. “Not fair! Not fair! Not fair!”

We are a society of the people, by the people and for the people – all of the people – not just those who agree with you. That is why we agree to be governed by laws – for the people’s sake. The government is not above the people – it IS the people – made up of the people who are enforcing laws enacted by the people. We must stop seeing each other as the enemy. We must tap into our higher natures. We must remember that when we lose an argument, the judge or the jury or the government who decided against us is not necessarily evil or unconstitutional or even wrong just because they disagree with us.

When schools must be closed nearby to protect the children in case violence breaks out, that is a pretty good clue that the path you are pursuing is not what our founding fathers had in mind. Use your stronger weapon – which is not your gun – but your mind. Make a better argument. Win the day with your words in the right place and time. If you are using guns and not words, that feels like terrorism at its worst and bullying in its least offensive light.

I say to the Bundy brothers – go home to Cedar City and Arizona. To those who support them, allow your frustration to serve your political activism, but in a respectful way. This is the American way. Because we are a government of laws, and not of men.

  There has been much discussion today, after the mass shooting at Umpqua College in Oregon, about whether we in the news should report the name of the shooter. The sheriff in Roseburg would not state the shooter’s name and asked the media to do likewise, although, of course, we could not heed his call. We are in the fact business, however much many of us may have agreed with the spirit of his request.

There is a larger question here about what we choose to include in the news because it is, very much, a choice. I have never subscribed to the theory that news exists “out there” and we are compelled to go cover it and bring it to you on the radio, television, newspaper or web. There is no event, with perhaps limited exception, that MUST be included in the news. The news is, if you will forgive the tone of this statement, what we say it is. Or perhaps more accurately, what we think you want it to be. We do endless research about what you want to hear about, and then we give it back to you. There is a good deal of tail wagging the news dog, but that does not remove our responsibility, our moral responsibility, to own the decision. We decide what goes on the air, and we must, therefore, take some ownership for the effect it has on society.

The point I mean to make is this – we watch a half hour of news, scroll down 20 stories, listen to 20 minutes of news on the way into work, and on an average day what are we fed? Road rage, corrupt politicians, murder, hit and runs, children abused, computers hacked, armed robberies, people killed in all manner of ways. Oh, and the feel good story thrown in for good measure at the end. No wonder a considerable percentage of our society tunes out to the news in total, trying to protect themselves and their children from the filth and negativity.

When you ask news directors why we report so much crime and negativity in the news, most will tell you that the “news” is by definition that which is different, that which is unlike the norm, unlike the day to day, and these mass shootings and crimes are what is newsworthy, unusual, remarkable in that they are worthy of being remarked upon. That may be true, but the impression that these choices in coverage is leaving on our culture is that we live in a dark and violent place, that our children are not safe in school, that people are manipulative and not to be trusted. No wonder everyone wants to own a gun. We watch and listen and read and believe that THAT is the way it is because we forget what we are hearing does not represent the vast majority of daily life in America. The vast majority of daily life in America is not, according to the newsroom’s way of thinking, newsworthy.

Marriages work, but you don’t hear about those. Children go to school and learn and feel good about themselves, every day, and come home safely, but you don’t and you won’t hear about that. People get jobs and keep them and feed their families, but you won’t hear about that. Fathers and mothers find a way to take care of their children, and elected officials do the best they can to represent their communities. The people who run companies are usually hard working souls who care about their employees and are not embezzling money. Police officers are brave and kind and generous to a fault. And the same goes for teachers and the people who work the bank and car dealers and just about everybody else I know. I desperately want to end every newscast I read with something that sounds like this, “I’ve just informed you about the unusual events of the day, but please remember, they represent less than 1% of what life is really like. Don’t lose sight of what real life looks like. For most of us it is filled with abundance of some kind, material or otherwise. It is a good and peaceful world in so many ways.”

That is not Pollyanna. That is fact. It’s just not one the news will ever tell you.

Thank you Anna. I have not thought to blog in so many years.  If it hadn’t been for your kind email, I wouldn’t be writing now. 

And writing is so much better than eating pretzels, which is what I did yesterday. Not that there is anything wrong with pretzels.  There is just something wrong with the way I eat them. When my children are home and I don’t want to cry in front of them, I eat pretzels. One after another after another. Long after I’m full. Just to taste the salt on my tongue and feel the crunch, which for some reason keeps the tears away.

This is not a good lesson I’m teaching them, if they’re learning, and aren’t they always learning? But I don’t like crying in front of them, either.  I don’t want to be the mom who is always crying.

“What’s wrong with Mom? She’s crying again.”

“I need her to turn the Xbox on.”

“You ask her then. I’m not asking her.”

So . . . I eat pretzels.  Which, having just turned 50 and feeling my metabolism slowing down, is not a good idea either.  I’m just giving myself something else to cry about.  “Hi guys, how’s it going?” Crunch. “What are ya playing today?” Crunch. “Have any homework tonight?” Crunch. Crunch. “Where’s Dad?” Might have to crunch in secret.

I was reading an article this week about emtional eating, the kind of eating that craves a particular kind of food, that comes on all at once, and continues long past you’re full.  Yes, yes and yes.  For those of you who know me, you know there is so much joy in my life.  I have a job, two jobs really if you include teaching at the university, that I truly love. I have a husband I cherish and 5 kids I love (and worry about every day, but so does every mom.) You would be justified in asking, “Why are YOU crying? Why are YOU an emotional eater?” And yet, to me, that question feels like asking the sky, “Why are YOU snowing in May?”

Because it is.

Because I am.

I have been the person to teach lessons in my life, and now I am the person to learn them. Or maybe I have always been both. My prayer is that I will keep my heart open, each day, to whatever comes, and try to stop labeling it so much.  This is painful.  That is pleasurable.  Isn’t it all both depending on how you tilt your head?

I am looking out my office window right now at a sunny day, eating a Cup of Noodles (my favorite thing except for peanut butter . . . and pretzels), and I am realizing that this view has given me both great pain and great pleasure in the 25 years I’ve worked here. The view certainly has changed over those years, first the Delta Center, then Energy Solutions Arena, but that’s not what caused the change in my heart.  It was entirely the thoughts I brought to the gazing. I remember a time when the Trax station outside of my window looked like the scene from a horror movie.  But when I think grateful thoughts, as I am now, this view is as nurturing as any serene moutain lake. The trees today are lush and green, the fountains lazy and inviting. The passersby seem kind and not in a hurry.

I think I’ll skip the pretzels today.  I thank you, and Anna, for that.

 

 

“My heart pushed the bullet out,” he said. Literally.  Pushed it out.

That was what happened to  just one of the 9 bullets that entered Utah State Parks Ranger Brody Young’s body two years ago when he was ambushed and shot while on duty in Moab. Some of the other bullets passed through, broke up, were cut out.  But the one that entered his heart could not stay.  His heart would have none of that.

I met Ranger Young at a luncheon this week where nearly 50 college scholarships were awarded to the survivors, wives and children, of men who had been killed on the job.  These scholarships are provided by Workers Compensation Fund, an act of corporate generosity and community leadership that inspires me, and I believe raises the bar for all companies in Utah. But what I want to write about today is something Ranger Young said when he spoke.

He said that after he had been shot, and was lying there alone in the canyon, bleeding intensely and unable to reach the station on his radio, he had that moment where he thought, “Do I die or do I return fire? Do I die or do I try to get back to my vehicle and call for help?” As I remember his description, it was a decision that likely lasted a second but felt much longer.  And then he told us, “What you train, you do.”  He said that at that moment, he felt no anger, no animosity.  He just did what he trained to do.

He rolled, took a breath.  Rolled, took a breath.  He returned fire.  He wounded his attacker.  He got to the vehicle and called for help.  This is what he had trained to do.  He heard the familiar voice on the other end of the radio tell him help was on the way.  The best doctor for miles around was on call that day.  He knew if he could just keep breathing. . .

As I listened to him, I felt the tears in my eyes and a well of courage somewhere in me.  Perhaps I was borrowing some from the blonde man at the podium who somehow lived through that attack years ago to tell us his story.  “What you train you do.”  I know the ranger was continuing with his remarks, but I kept hearing that phrase.  I felt the power of it.  Whatever we train to do in our lives is what we will do in the hour when we are under attack. 

And so it has been for me.  I have no training in anything comparable to the ranger.  The only thing I have ever done consistantly in my life is love people, build them up, and find a way to see the best in them.  And so when I have come under fire in my own small way, I have gone back to my training, as well.  Love people.  Love them.  What else can you do? See what is good in them.  This is who you are.

Ranger Young has not told his story until now, has not been able to tell it for all these months because the case is still open.  But now that he is allowed to, he is glad to share it.  “There are so many miracles in it,” he said.  Yes.  There are miracles in it, in him.  In all of us. 

What you train, you do.  What is your training?  How has it helped you in times of attack or struggle?  How has it let your mind rest in the comfort of effort already expended, almost like the Olympic athlete steps up to the blocks, knowing he has run this 100 meters a thousand times before.  He can do this in his sleep.  Let go and let the training guide him.

And if you don’t like where your training is guiding you, then rethink your training today.  Today, and everyday, may be the day your heart “pushes the bullet out.”