Click on the Stanyan logo to subscribe to the McKuen Mailing List

A Thought for Today

Fail and you may be hammered, succeed and you might be vilified, but don’t try and you’ll have to avoid mirrors all your life.


Three weeks ago today the world changed for all of us. I wish I could tell you I’m beginning to feel better and that I believe the same goes for you. I am not yet in recovery and I don’t believe you are having any easier time than I am getting back to normal. What is normal? Surely the word will need a new definition. I haven’t one and I don’t know when I will.

I have had a lot of mail in the past twenty days and hearing different viewpoints on the same tragedy has helped me try to sort things out. Maybe by sharing it with you I’ll get even more feedback and even better, perhaps my mail will contribute to your ideas.

Some of the communiqués I’ve received have been thoughtful, more than a few very wise and thankfully there were some that made me grin. Here’s a sampling.

To begin on a somewhat light note, a thought: For young people tired of the bar scene and those who haven’t bothered taking up line dancing, here’s an unusual way of meeting like minded singles.

Last year my nephew Keith turned 20 and decided to choose the military as a career. During basic training he had the good fortune to meet and become enamored with another ‘grunt’ in his unit named Nichole. Love blossomed and compounding their good fortune they were sent overseas to Germany to serve together at the same post. If you’re saying to yourself, “Gee, my basic training wasn’t like that,” you’re probably right.

This week to bring her friends up to date on what is transpiring in her new life in the Army and with Keith, Nichole sent her friends and family the following open letter. I loved the heartfelt patriotism in her letter and most of all her unselfish love for her friends and her country, apparent in every paragraph.


To all of my friends and loved ones~

I've received many e-mails from all of you expressing your concern. I'm writing to put you minds and hearts at ease. I'm doing great actually, despite the turmoil our country, which I hold so dear to my heart is enduring.

For those of you who don't know, I'm stationed in Ansbach, Germany proudly serving in the US Army. I work with the PATRIOT missile system in Air Defense Artillery. My unit is preparing to deploy to Kuwait for a 6-month tour, which begins October 12th. I'm lucky to have the love of my life here with me.
Keith is from Massachusetts and be comforted to know that he takes care of me, and I take care of him. The soldiers in my unit are great people and although I get homesick, I'm having the time of my life and enjoying Europe.

When I first joined the Army, I did it mainly to help put myself through college. Back when I was in BASIC training, I did a lot of thinking. Especially during those moonlit road marches which lasted for hours. Know that you were all my inspiration. If you are receiving this E-mail, then you touched my life in such a way that helped me to keep going when I thought I couldn't go any further. I can remember one day when I questioned myself. I asked, "Why did I leave the people I love most, a home I loved and a life I loved to go through all of this?" It was only a short moment before I answered my own question.

I am here because I love you all so very much. I cannot imagine an America where women are victims of polygamy, rape, and are forced to use prostitution as a means of life. It hurts me to imagine those women being my mother, my sisters, or my friends. I cannot bear the thought of my father and brother working 18-hour days only to feed a hungry family scraps. I can't think of a world where families cannot have more than two children by law, forcing them to kill unborn babies-babies who could grow to find a cure for cancer, AIDS, or Muscular Dystrophy. It hurts me to think of an America where children are forced to drop out of grade school so that they can work for their families and train for war. And I am disgusted by any nation where people kill those with different beliefs and call their hatred intentions of their god.

I joined the Army because I love all of you so much that I couldn’t bear the thought of my country ever becoming like that. Although I am only one person, I am proud to be a defender of the greatest nation this world has ever seen. I will fight until death to keep it that way for all of you. The Stars and Stripes were not born over night. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into this country and I'll be damned if there is a single person in this entire world who thinks they can get away with trying to take our freedom from us.

I will fight for our country, for those who have courageously fought in our past, but most of all; I'll fight to keep our nation great for all of you. I'll gladly give my life so that you will still enjoy the scents of mom's apple pie; so that you can still watch an afternoon baseball game on a lazy Sunday, and so that our children will walk to school with freshly sharpened #2 pencils in their back packs, and innocence in their smiles. No one will take that away from us.

Although I miss you all so dearly, know that our hearts are united. Right now, our beloved nation weeps, but our hearts will hold us together and justice will be served. Not by a hatred so deep, not even by war. But by a much greater Power. He will carry us and help us in our time of need. I am not afraid for He is with me always.

Please continue to pray. Not for me, but for those who truly suffer. Pray for the victims, pray for their loved ones, and pray for the rescue workers. We will get through this and we will come out on top. There is not a doubt in my mind of that. I ask you all to e-mail me whenever possible. I'll still have Internet access in Kuwait and somehow all of you give me a strength that I can't quite describe. I can only thank you.

I love you and miss you all! Most sincerely, PFC Nichole A. Robinson


This was forwarded by Ralph Jones

Let us deploy our troops. Let our diplomats seek broad international agreement. Let our soldiers advance first, to clear the field of violence. Then let us unleash our most powerful weapons! Let us lay down roads where none has ever been.
Let us dig wells of clean water where people can safely drink.

Let our armies build hospitals and schools. Let our warriors teach hygiene and mathematics. Let our doctors inoculate against disease, and our soldiers battle malnutrition.

Let us scour the Earth clean of terrorism through the merciless application of knowledge, compassion, hope, and tolerance.
Terrorism is the weapon of the desperate and hopeless, the brutally blinded, and the deliberately blind. And we can defeat terrorism. We, America, have the power to do so if we are not ourselves blinded by vengeance, anger, and fear: we hold the light of Liberty.

So let us unleash our weapons of mass construction, even as we deploy our gunships and missiles to defend our endeavors. Let us carry the battle into the tent cities of the Palestinians and the arid crags of Afghanistan, the doctor and the engineer shoulder to shoulder with the UN peacekeeper and the U.S. soldier. Let us hurl homes at homelessness, unleash law upon lawlessness, and let justice roll down like a mighty river and wash away the unjust. We have an opportunity, now laid so grievously before us, to start and win a war with our most powerful and uniquely American weapons: love, opportunity, education, and hope.

England and Israel teach us that the battle against terrorism takes decades. Let the next generation all over the world say to the terrorist recruiters, "Why would we want to harm America, who inoculates our children, houses our poor, champions justice and feeds our hungry?" Only then shall we have defeated terrorism. So let us arm our soldiers and mourn our dead, and take up both the pen as well as the gun. Let us fix a steel-eyed gaze on the true costs and the real efforts involved, let us gird ourselves against our inevitable losses and unavoidable setbacks. Let us join with all people in all nations who worship in truth and love, and let us set forth on this, the true, final World War. Let us incessantly, relentlessly wage Peace.

Bob Alberti First Universalist Church of Minneapolis, MN.


Nicky Williams sent me a copy of two letters with the following explanation:

Phyllis and Orlando Rodriguez's son Greg is one of the Trade Center victims. They have asked that people share and distribute copies of these letters as widely as possible.

To The New York Times

Our son Greg is among the many missing from the World
Trade Center attack. Since we first heard the news, we have shared moments of grief, comfort, hope, despair, fond memories with his wife, the two families, our friends and neighbors, his loving colleagues at Cantor Fitzgerald / ESpeed, and all the grieving families that daily meet at the Pierre Hotel.

We see our hurt and anger reflected among everybody we
meet. We cannot pay attention to the daily flow of news about this disaster. But we read enough of the news to sense that our government is heading in the direction of violent revenge, with the prospect of sons, daughters, parents, friends in distant lands dying, suffering, and nursing further grievances against us. It is not the way to go. It will not avenge our son's death. Not in our son's name.

Our son died a victim of an inhuman ideology. Our actions should not serve the same purpose. Let us grieve. Let us reflect and pray. Let us think about a rational response that brings real peace and justice to our world. But let us not as a nation add to the inhumanity of our times.

To The White House

Dear President Bush,

Our son is one of the victims of Tuesday's attack on the World Trade Center. We read about your response in the last few days and about the resolutions from both Houses, giving you undefined power to respond to the terror attacks.

Your response to this attach does not make us feel better about our son's death. It makes us feel worse. It makes us feel that our government is using our son's memory as a justification to cause suffering for other sons and parents in other lands.

It is not the first time that a person in your position has been given unlimited power and came to regret it. This is not the time for empty gestures to make us feel better. It is not the time to act like bullies. We urge you to think about how our government can develop peaceful, rational solutions to terrorism, solutions that do not sink us to the inhuman level of terrorists.


Phyllis and Orlando Rodriguez


Dear Rod, I have to say that the last week and a half have been quite a shock to the whole world; not just America, but everyone who values life and freedom. I couldn't bear to watch the broadcasts; my boys watched cartoon videos .We enjoyed a lovely sunny spring day here. In the meantime my thoughts were with the lives lost and the future implications of the terrorists actions.

In the next few days I emailed my American friends to see how they were coping. Most were rather shocked and appreciated my mail. Our hope, my husband and myself, is that this will not lead into a world war and that peace will continue on this wonderful planet of ours while our children grow tall.

Our sympathies are with you and your country at this time.
Thank you for your wonderful words which both inspire and comfort us both. We need old friends to help us grow old
and new friends to help us stay young. All the very best, Debbie & Jim Sweeney


Dear Rod: The President has asked that we unite for a common cause. The hard line (Taliban) Islamic people can not stand nudity, and consider it a sin to see a naked woman that is not their wife.

Tonight at 7:00, all women should run out of their house naked to help weed out the terrorists. The United States appreciates your efforts, and applauds you.

God bless America
tara Scofield


Ann Meade wants to strike where it really hurts.

TO: The Talaban and Their Supporters

FROM: Male members of earth who have more than one [green] tooth, aren't spooked by a flush toilet and aren't trying to return to the good ol’ days in the 6th Century BC

DEMAND: Give up Bin Laden and all other terrorist gangs by noon today.

THREAT: Or we will capture all of your females --- and send them to college!


Dear Rod: Like everybody, my eyes are crying, my eyes saw things I hope they never see again. My heart, loves and thoughts go out to all my brothers and sisters in the whole world. Let us do our best to educate them and say to our children: 'they (the killers) have still so much to learn. But we cannot hate those who are innocent for this.

My heart cries with all those involved. No matter what color, religion. Holland cries with you for what is happened to
your country. My deepest love and sympathy Elly van os, Holland


Humor in 7/11? I didn't think it could be any tasteful way… you be the judge: Richard Kegler.

Dear Rich: I loved it.


“We expected eternal paradise for this,” say Suicide Bombers

JAHANNEM, OUTER DARKNESS—The hijackers who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon expressed confusion and surprise Monday to find themselves in the lowest plane of Na'ar, Islam's Hell.

"I was promised I would spend eternity in Paradise, being fed honeyed cakes by 67 virgins in a tree-lined garden, if only I would fly the airplane into one of the Twin Towers," said Mohammed Atta, one of the hijackers of American Airlines Flight 11, between attempts to vomit up the wasps, hornets, and live coals infesting his stomach. "But instead, I am fed the boiling feces of traitors by malicious, laughing Ifrit. Is this to be my reward for destroying the enemies of my faith?"

The rest of Atta's words turned to raw-throated shrieks, as a tusked, asp-tongued demon burst his eyeballs and drank the fluid that ran down his face.

According to Hell sources, the 19 eternally damned terrorists have struggled to understand why they have been subjected to soul-withering, infernal torture ever since their Sept. 11 arrival.

"There was a tumultuous conflagration of burning steel and fuel at our gates, and from it stepped forth these hijackers, the blessed name of the Lord already turning to molten brass on their accursed lips," said Iblis The Thrice-Damned, the cacodemon charged with conscripting new arrivals into the ranks of the forgotten. "Indeed, I do not know what they were expecting, but they certainly didn't seem prepared to be skewered from eye socket to bunghole and then placed on a spit so that their flesh could be roasted by the searing gale of flatus which issues forth from the haunches of Asmoday."

"Which is strange when you consider the evil with which they ended their lives and those of so many others," added Iblis, absentmindedly twisting the limbs of hijacker Abdul Aziz Alomari into unspeakably obscene shapes.

"I was told that these Americans were enemies of the one true religion, and that Heaven would be my reward for my noble sacrifice," said Alomari, moments before his jaw was sheared away by faceless homunculi. "But now I am forced to suckle from the 16 poisoned leathern teats of Gophahmet, Whore of Betrayal, until I burst from an unwholesome engorgement of curdled bile. This must be some sort of terrible mistake."

Exacerbating the terrorists' tortures, which include being hollowed out and used as prophylactics by thorn-cocked Gulbuth The Rampant, is the fact that they will be forced to endure such suffering in sight of the Paradise they were expecting.

"It might actually be the most painful thing we can do, to show these murderers the untold pleasures that would have awaited them in Paradise, if only they had lived pious lives," said Praxitas, Duke of Those Willingly Led Astray. "I mean, it's tough enough being forced through a wire screen by the callused palms of Halcorym and then having your entrails wound onto a stick and fed to the toothless, foul-breathed swine of Gehenna. But to endure that while watching the righteous drink from a river of wine? That can't be fun."

Underworld officials said they have not yet decided on a permanent punishment for the terrorists.

"Eventually, we'll settle on an eternal and unending task for them," said Lord Androalphus, High Praetor of Excruciations. "But for now, everyone down here wants a crack at them. The legions of fang-wombed hags will take their pleasure on their shattered carcasses for most of this afternoon. Tomorrow, their flesh will be melted from their bones like wax in the burning embrace of the Mother of Cowards. The day after that, they'll be sodomized by the Fallen and their bowels shredded by a demonic ejaculate of burning sand. Then, on Sunday, Satan gets them all day. I can't even imagine what he's got cooked up for them.

©2001 Onion Inc., All Right Reserved


U.S. Vows To Defeat Whoever It Is We're At War With »
American Life Turns Into Bad Jerry Bruckheimer Movie »
Not Knowing What Else To Do, Woman Bakes American-Flag Cake »God Angrily Clarifies 'Don't Kill' Rule » How To Talk To Your Child About It »

Thanks again for this, Richard. The Onion is one of the best sites on The Web for humor.

Here’s the link to The Onion site:


The site below is well worth the trip. The link to it was sent to me by Sister Mark Sandy who writes:

“Friends sent me this website address. It is a collection of photos from all over the world of the grief and support expressed for the tragedy here in the US. You can scroll through the 4 pages easily. It is really something special". Sister Mark


Dear Rod: It is up to each of us to commit ourselves in doing everything possible to make this country one community united in love. Embrace your neighbor as family and recognize our
differences as assets not liabilities. This country is a blending of these differences and every nationality and ethnicity has contributed its strengths to this blending that works so well for all of us.

I agree with you, Rod, "Freedom is a principle and a right, religion is a chosen preference." While this statement is true of our great Nation, it is not necessarily true of every country. As Americans we need to remain aware of this truth, too, and educate ourselves accordingly. The ideology of this enemy we are at war with is a mystery to many of us, not because information isn't readily available, but because until last Tuesday his war didn't really seem to affect us. This war began and continues on foreign soil and has now spread to our own soil. I, too, hope this war will be more about preventing such events in the future than it is about punishment, but I will support my government in whatever war it wages. As you said, “The price of Freedom is, always has been, and will continue to be a very high price.”

Unfortunately, this enemy will continue his fight on his terms and will continue to do so under the banner of religion. It must be our resolve to fight our battles on our own terms, while remaining ever conscious that the enemy's banner of religion is as real, legit and noble to him as our banner of Freedom is to us.

Again, Rod, thank you for this forum and the chance to communicate with all those friends I may never meet anywhere but here. Ann


Dolores Cooper writes:

The following info was passed along to me by a friend: By now everyone has been hearing the death toll rise and reports of the destruction from the terrorist attacks on the US. These were deplorable acts that we will never forget. But now is a time to look at the other side of the numbers coming out of New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

The sad but somewhat uplifting side that the mainstream media has not reported yet - the SURVIVAL rates and some positive news about the attacks.

The Buildings

*The World Trade Center -
The twin towers of the World Trade Center were places
of employment for some 50,000 people. With the missing list of just over 5,000 people, that means 90% of the people targeted survived the attack. A 90% on a test is an 'A.'

* The Pentagon -
Some 23,000 people were the target of a third plane aimed at the Pentagon. The latest count shows that only 123 lost their lives. That is an amazing 99.5% survival rate. in addition, the plane seems to have come in too low, too early to affect a large portion of the building. On top of that, the section that was hit was the first of five sections to undergo renovations that would help protect the Pentagon from terrorist attacks. It had
recently completed straightening and blastproofing, saving untold lives. This attack was sad, but a statistical failure.

The Planes

* American Airlines Flight 77
This Boeing 757 that was flown into the outside of the
Pentagon could have carried up to 289 people, yet only 64 were aboard. Luckily 78% of the seats were empty.

* American Airlines Flight 11
This Boeing 767 could have had up to 351 people aboard, but only carried 92. Thankfully 74% of the seats were unfilled.

* United Airlines Flight 175
Another Boeing 767 that could have seated 351 people
only had 65 people on board. Fortunately it was 81% empty.

* United Airlines Flight 93
This Boeing 757 was one of the most uplifting stories yet. The smallest flight to be hijacked with only 45 people aboard out
of a possible 289 had 84% of its capacity unused. Yet these people stood up to the attackers and thwarted a fourth attempted destruction of a national landmark, saving untold numbers of lives in the process.

In Summary: Out of potentially 74,280 Americans directly targeted by these inept cowards, 93% survived or avoided the attacks. That's a higher survival rate than heart attacks, breast cancer, kidney transplants and liver transplant - all common, survivable illnesses.

The Hijacked planes were mostly empty, the Pentagon was hit at it's strongest point, the overwhelming majority of people in the World Trade Center buildings escaped, and a handful of passengers gave the ultimate sacrifice to save even more lives.


“If you look at this war as an astrological phenomenon it isn’t going to be a total eclipse.” -Mark Thompson / CNN Reliable Sources. 9/29/01

Er Mark, what’s your sign?

Know I’m thinking about all of you. Hang in there and remember this is your forum as much as it is mine. Webmaster Ken joins us from South Africa tomorrow with his weekly feature This one Does It For Me. Sleep warm.

RM 10/1/2001 Previously unpublished

Details of Rod's next appearance can be obtained by following the link below.

"Tap Your Troubles Away" - the music of Jerry Herman

notable birthdays Bud Abbott o Lorraine Bracco o Clay Felker o Peter Frankel o Mahatma Gandhi o Graham Greene o Moses Gunn o Paul von Hindenburg o Donna Karan o Groucho Marx o George “Spanky” McFarland o Don McLean o Rex Reed o Wallace Stevens o Sting o Tiffany o Maury Wills
Rod's random thoughts Know yourself and be successful.

I’m in a hurry; I have no time to hate. But I have all the hours in the seasons left to me to give to love.

If life is what we make it, some of us are poor architects.

for Chen Sam

How fragile are the dreams
              that cross and meet
and make up love.
As need is but a plain name for desire
so too the lies that lovers use in conquest
should be held to light,
cost and consequence not pushed aside.
Whenever love comes calling in the night
                                 truth bends a little.
That is to be expected.
Love is a non-exclusive instrument.
It is a savings bank,
interest computed and compounded
high above the principal.
It is a place to gather
where lover and beloved
                      never come as equals.
And yet the body at its widest
is no wider than the brain that drives it.

Who is the truthful lover,
                        how can we know ?
Supposing we pass over that one
who seems like all the rest,
          but only comes by once ?
In doing so we forfeit life
and its best feature, laughter.

How is Aphrodite now and where is she?
And if she called us each by name
would we discern her voice
in crowded room and reverie ?
The questions pile.
The answers run down through the distance
                  like a world unwinding.

In love there is no training ground,
only happy accidents.

-from “Suspension Bridge,” 1984

© 1984, 1988, 1999, 2001 by Stanyan Music Group & Rod McKuen. All Rights Reserved
Birthday research by Wade Alexander o Poetry from the collection of Jay Hagan o Coordinated by Melinda Smith
Want to comment on today's Flight Plan?
Send e-mail to Rod McKuen or post a message at the Rod McKuen Message Center
home page   today's flight plan   flight plan archives   search this site   site map