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September 11th, 2002
A Sampling of Saints for the 9/11 Anniversary

Saint Francis of Assisi is up for bid on eBay . Several of him, actually. There’s Saint Francis in terra cotta or hand-painted ceramic, and also a lovely and practical Saint Francis birdfeeder . And he’s not alone. All over the internet you can get same-day shipping of pretty much any saint you want. Medals, statues, pictures—just a click and a credit card away.
Maybe I’ll get myself one of those saints. Maybe Saint Lucy , a patron of writers. She might be a comfort, perched serenely on top of my computer monitor. Really, I wouldn’t mind her face peering down at me. I like that about being Catholic, getting to have all those famously holy people around. It was actually the impending anniversary…

September 11th, 2002
Choosing Not to Be at Work 9/11

I will not be going into work on September 11th.
I did not work in the Towers, or anywhere in the World Trade Center complex. I do not work for the FDNY or NYPD, and neither does anyone in my family. Neither my wife nor I directly knew anyone who died on September 11th last year.
All in all, my wife and I were very lucky last year. So why am I taking off work on the first anniversary of the terrorist attack? Because even though none of the above scenarios apply to me, I was nonetheless closely affected by the events of that day, and still am.
You see my office is about a mile or so north of the WTC site. I watched it all unfold from the relative safety of my office—the
explosions, the fire, the debris, and eventually the collapse of…

September 11th, 2002
A 9/11 Holiday Is Not What We Need

A year ago September 11, Lisa Beamer was a media nobody�practically a stigma in today’s American Idol Real World Funniest Home Videos Bachelor Dating Contest Survivor world. Of all the people whose lives were changed on that day, perhaps hers was changed the most.
Lisa Beamer, who has since been publicly applauded by the President, the Congress, and the media, is Todd Beamer’s wife… Todd Beamer, a United Airlines Flight 93 passenger who recited the Our Father along with a cell phone operator and then said “Let’s roll” to his fellow passengers as they overpowered their captors, protecting sacred national monuments, saving lives. The terrorists in control of the plane,…

September 11th, 2002
Reaching Out Since 9/11

We’ve noticed that many people seem to want to form connections since the tragedy of September 11th last year. Even in everyday encounters when we’re running errands, people want to talk more. Folks have more time for each other, rather than the usual self-involved way we used to run around and do the ordinary, mundane chores of life.
The horrific events of September 11th have provided a wake-up call for many people in regard to the attitudes they have toward other people.
September 11th provided us with one lasting question: w hat types of people do we want to spend our valuable time with?
Marion: I’ve found that I can sense when someone has a vengeful streak in them, or has a bad attitude, or is simply…

September 11th, 2002
Taking to the Skies and Trusting in God

“Turbo props are ok. They won’t hijack a turbo prop,” my ex-boyfriend insisted as I squirmed and looked for more reasons not to fly to my upcoming family reunion four states away. “There’s not enough fuel on a turbo prop,” he continued, “they need a lot of fuel.”
I haven’t flown in a year and I can’t believe that deliberating about whether or not my plane is a good one to hijack and fly into things with is what travel has come to. I used to love flying. Especially flying cross country. I’d stare out the window (I always got a window seat) and watch the rolling eastern green hills pass into the rigid squares and rectangles that bespoke the Midwestern…

September 10th, 2002
More Guts Than Blood in Red Dragon

I once had a roommate who disapproved of me watching the X-Files. You know, because of all the murdering, and that creepy music. She would glide past the TV Sunday nights gently tsk-tsking, and recite a Bible verse, or at least part of one, about God “not giving us a spirit of fear” (Romans 8:15 ). Meaning that choosing to be afraid was wrong, even when only pretend, and for fun.
I guess I shouldn’t have seen Red Dragon then, what with its cannibalism and blood spatter. Actually, and good for it, this Silence of the Lambs “prequel” spares us the gratuitous violence as it tells that tale we’ve heard before: the haunted FBI agent tracks a cutely nicknamed serial killer, with help…

September 10th, 2002
You're Not Alone

During times of crisis, things can get overwhelming if you try to do it all yourself. At different times we’ve tried to remind one another of that.
Mike: Since my mom has been sick, I’ve been overwhelmed with hospital visits, calls to the doctor, hospital bureaucracy, and still trying to be a husband and maintain my job responsibilities. There have been a lot of obstacles to overcome, especially in trying to make sure my mom is getting the proper care that she needs. I have been running myself ragged.
Marion:… When Mike feels this way, I immediately remind him that I’m here to help. That he doesn’t need to do everything himself. I’ve made phone calls to try to alleviate some of the hospital

September 10th, 2002
You're Not Alone

During times of crisis, things can get overwhelming if you try to do it all yourself. At different times we’ve tried to remind one another of that.
Mike: Since my mom has been sick, I’ve been overwhelmed with hospital visits, calls to the doctor, hospital bureaucracy, and still trying to be a husband and maintain my job responsibilities. There have been a lot of obstacles to overcome, especially in trying to make sure my mom is getting the proper care that she needs. I have been running myself ragged.
Marion: When Mike feels this way, I immediately remind him that I’m here to help. That he doesn’t need to do everything himself. I’ve made phone calls to try to alleviate some of the hospital…

September 4th, 2002
Life at the Bottom of the Corporate Heap

A few weeks before she finished her pharmacy degree, my younger sister called to tell me she’d just been offered a job paying something like $60,000 a year. My mind sprouted dark, envious thoughts as she described the retirement plan and giant signing bonus, but I gritted my teeth and congratulated her. “Wow,” I said, trying not to choke, “good for you.”
That phone call left me depressed for months. I had logged just as many decent grades and years in university as my sister, more even. No high-paying career for me, though. Thanks to a combination of choice, chance, and a not-quite-planned baby, I hadn’t gotten any farther than the bottom of the corporate heap. I earned my living…

September 2nd, 2002
A Young Catholic Looking for Mercy

I’m a good Catholic. I go to Mass every week. I’m involved in my local parish. I oppose both capital punishment and abortion on demand. I’ve attended Catholic schools from kindergarten to graduate school. I’m young—just ten years out of college, and barely into my thirties. I am Catholic. I am young. And I’m divorced. Divorced. GULP. Kind of goes down like a horsepill, doesn’t it?
Very much like a pill, in fact. Bitter and chalky, difficult to swallow. Bitter the taste of anger and tears that had passed between my husband and I. Chalky, like the rubble that lay where a vibrant relationship once had stood. And so, so difficult to swallow the fact that I had failed to live out…

September 1st, 2002
Sounding Off As a Nation

Friday night, 7 p.m., Central time. I’m sitting in my favorite chair, anxiously staring at my radio, when those familiar words come through the air: ” From WBEZ Chicago?and Public Radio International ?it’s This American Life . I’m Ira Glass.”
Have you heard this show? I stumbled upon it accidentally, when surfing the far left end of the radio dial, and I have been laughing and musing ever since. Each week the show profiles regular Americans, just like you and me, and tells their stories. Okay, most of them are nothing like you or me (at least they’re not like me), but that doesn’t stop me from finding them fascinating.
Every TAL show has a theme and they offer several stories…

September 1st, 2002
Adventures in Office Romance (on the QT)

Approximately a year ago, I wrote a well-thought-out, carefully polished essay on the subject of dating a co-worker.
The entirety of it had been pulled directly from my ass. I can’t even remember the last time I was simultaneously employed and in a relationship. One destroyed my energy and the other never paid enough. (It’s a Catholic website. You figure out which is which.)
I came to Florida’s Kennedy Space Center for a job. Cast over my shoulder into the Ohio River back in Cincinnati was a marriage-bent relationship that was ended by the potential groom with an email. I wanted that beaten away by the ocean, the vastness of the Atlantic purging my heart, the salt water returning me to a self-contained…

September 1st, 2002
Lessons from Desolate Places

Empty, desolate and dry. Although these are the words most commonly thought of when describing the desert, they only tell a small portion of the story.
For much of the world the desert is a surreal place, conjuring images of a wasteland. At first glance, California desert locales—the Mojave, Death Valley, Joshua Tree —may seem empty or even void of interest, but upon closer examination they are anything but that. Although I might extol the beauty and grace of the desert, this would only be a distraction from its true purpose. Besides, rating beauty is a question of taste, and I would no more ask you to visit the desert in search of beauty then visit Antarctica in search of cold. Rather, it is emptiness and desolation…

August 30th, 2002
The Unexpected Joy of Parenthood

Their faces keep surfacing on the evening news, in snapshots pulled from fireplace mantels or the pages of the family album. These are photos never meant to be here, at the tragic center of a swirl of frightening images—police detectives, disbelieving neighbors, yellow-taped crime scenes. To my horror it goes on and on, the story beginning again every few days.
Another child vanished, snatched from the sidewalk or her bed or while walking to school. Mercifully I am only a bystander. I have little to do but shut off my television and pray, and turn to my belief that God is with those who suffer.
Once, stories of stolen children disturbed me. Now, two years into my unexpected motherhood, they have a cold, haunting…

August 26th, 2002
Americans Behaving Badly Out of Country

Our internet connection was out�a serious problem for the BustedHalo.com booth on site at World Youth Day (with the Pope) in Toronto, Canada.
So I hiked the hundred feet or so to the official Exhibition Office to chat with the woman in charge about what could be done. I waited while a journalist from the U.S. discussed with her how to get a television feed. She was originally from Quebec , and he was having a bit of trouble with her French-accented English. Unable to accept this confusion as a normal part of an international gathering, he mocked her accent (which I had no trouble with) and then lectured her on why he couldn’t understand her.
Several times in Toronto I wanted to hide my face, or at least my U.S. citizenship,…

August 17th, 2002
Lessons from Trash TV

“Anna Nicole Smith is busting out with a wild new reality sitcom. It’s the place where pop culture and cleavage converge, so tune in and stay abreast of Anna Nicole’s big adventures.”
– Program description from e! Channel Web site
Although the program description above says it all, there are really only two points to make about the new “hard-to-believe-this-is-really-someone’s-reality” show “Anna Nicole,” which premiered on the E! Channel recently, and received the network’s highest ratings. Ever.
Main Point Number One: we don’t have to watch it.
Well, actually, I DO have to watch it. How else would I be able to help my loyal…

August 17th, 2002
Corporate Scandal Calls Us Back to Our Ethical Roots

There’s a favorite story in my family that goes something like this…
My father-in-law, a Frenchman, had just arrived in Latin America. He made his way to the government offices in the capital to get his papers in order. Upon arriving he was met by a polite doorman who, noticing his accent, addressed him as “Monsieur.” My father-in-law explained his business in broken Spanish and asked for directions to the government offices he needed. The doorman smiled a benevolent smile and, looking around at the throngs of people standing in various lines, asked him, “Do you have about $100 in cash in your wallet, Monsieur?” “Yes, I do.” “Very well, follow me.”…

August 15th, 2002

Have you talked to your Mother today?
You might want to contact her.
She’s been waiting for you.
She loves you very much, and would like to know how your day went.
She will listen to tales of traffic snarls, snarling customers, and snarling bosses all day long if you let her. She wants to know if your lunch was soggy or if the new girl has smiled at you yet.
Your Mother will listen without interjecting the opinion that you really should get the toilet clean, get married, get a child. She loves you with or without these things.
She’s older than you are, and knows better, but waits quietly until asked for advice.
Your mother is aching to hold you, for this woman knows sorrow. She is never closer than when you are bleeding…

August 10th, 2002
Your Summer Romance Could Be Divine

Men and women of a certain age were simply unable to reach maturity without attending some social event that featured the soundtrack from the movie Grease, particularly that portion in which the phenomenon of the summer romantic fling is celebrated (or, more specifically, as the song goes: “Oh, those su-um-mer nigh-igh-ights…….”). This was John Travolta’s—and, quite possibly, America’s—finest hour.
I’m not precisely sure what it is about summer that makes us more apt to release our phone numbers to the opposite sex; perhaps we’re simply trying to avoid the loser status of the one-seat line at the roller coaster.
What I do know is that you can also…

August 1st, 2002
23 Defect at World Youth Day in Toronto - Right in Front of My Face

The Cuban exile now living in Canada told the Cubans at the World Youth Day celebrations in Toronto: “If there is any way I can help you at all, please let me know.”
Ismael Sambra spoke these words to a group of young adult Cubans at a picnic I attended during the pope�s visit there. I thought Sambra was just showing some northern hospitality.
I totally missed it. Actually he was offering passage on Toronto’s underground railroad for freedom-seeking Catholic Cubans. Political asylum. The picnic was July 27. On July 28, it was reported that some 23 of the 200 Cubans attending World Youth Day had defected.
Ismael Sambra, in interviews, said he was coordinating safe housing and legal aid for them…

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