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A Thought for Today

We are no longer members of countries, but citizens of the universe.


This is not an anniversary anyone wants to commemorate but it can’t be allowed to pass unnoticed and of course it won’t. By the days end all of us will be numbed by the TV replays of the towers collapsing into dirt and dregs and dust, the memories of where we were and what we were doing when the news reached us of those twin giants falling, the Pentagon aflame and finally the coda to that terrible day in an otherwise green field in Pennsylvania will come back to us stronger than ever.

For the last month or so I’ve been holding on to a letter that my friend Larry Baillie sent me after his visit to ‘The Site’ as it’s called by the firefighters, policemen and rescue workers who have labored over it these past ninety-one days: These bleak heart-breaking blocks of twisted metal, pulverized plaster and cement have become better known by New Yorkers and the rest of the world as Ground Zero.

Larry is in every way a man’s man, a steelworker and builder by profession and a single parent who wants the best for the son he’s been raising by himself. He has a practical, not without sentiment, approach to life that other men appreciate and a romantic streak that seems irresistible to women of every age.

His letter, like so many I’ve received since 9/11, is one I can’t seem to let go of and have had great difficulty trying to answer. Looking at it again it doesn’t really require an answer and knowing Larry he doesn’t expect one. I do want to let all of you read it though. It is yet another account of the aftermath of September 11th – a date none of us can or should forget.


Dear Rod: I flew to New York on Thursday, (November 1st) to spend the weekend in a city filled with so many fond memories for me, and to see at first hand, the destruction of September 11th.

Early Friday morning, we turned west onto Rector Street from Broadway; walked past Trinity Church, and went up one of the side streets, (I think Greenwich or Washington) and suddenly, that all too familiar scene of the catastrophe appeared in front of me. I was stunned! The images that I had seen so often on television hadn't adequately prepared me for the enormity of this moment.

Where those two beautiful towers had once stood so majestically, now nothing but immense piles of ruins and total destruction. My heart was breaking as I stared at what religious fanaticism and perverted hatred had wrought. Those innocent lives lost; their families, the city and the many nations left to mourn their sons and daughters; all that promise gone in an instant. Such a terrible, terrible waste. This was devastation on a monumental scale: totally incomprehensible.

The twin towers were a striking example of the engineering wonders that man and technology are capable of accomplishing. The unbelievable scene that I was staring at in abject horror, is also an example of what men are capable of accomplishing. It somehow made me feel guilty, terribly saddened, and I wept. The burly young Ironworker who accompanied me to the wasted landscape of Ground Zero, told me that he had wept many times since he had first arrived here; and this from a guy probably not often given to displaying emotion.

I recalled my first visit to the World Trade Center construction site in early 1970, when I worked on the Uris Building at Broadway and 50th Street. My first weekend in the city, I caught the subway to lower Manhattan to see what all the excitement was about. The north tower was rising quickly, and the south tower was emerging out of the excavation. I was overwhelmed at the magnitude of what was being built at that site; I still am.

The World Trade Center complex was just a collection of buildings, but to the thousands of people who worked there, to the tourists who visited them, and to the people of New York City, they meant so much more than that. They were a symbol of the greatness of a nation and of a city.

Buildings can, with time, be replaced. Lost lives, along with their dreams and aspirations, are gone forever. Disrupted lives, immense grief, and broken hearts, may, also with time, eventually heal. The memories of that horrifying event, and its aftermath, will slowly fade, but must never be forgotten. We need these memories to remind us to be ever vigilant against the monstrous violence that can be launched against peaceful, unsuspecting, innocent people, by evil men and the rogue nations that sponsor them.

I'm at home now Rod, and I know that what I saw in New York will continue to haunt me, perhaps forever. Still, I'm relieved that I visited the site to say goodbye. I can't say that I feel any better, but perhaps now I can begin to put it to rest. Take care, Larry


Michael Cline and Tom Truhe have become close friends to Edward and myself in a very short but important time for each of us. They too visited New York recently to see first hand the results of 9/11 and came back with vivid stories of what they saw and felt about Ground Zero / The Site. Tom is a dentist and teacher and Michael an actor-writer and until recently both called New York home so they’ve been deeply affected by the loss of a place they knew and loved.

Mike told me:

“I spoke with a girl I know who lives near The Trade Center and she said something to the effect that the biggest difference now is that there is sunlight in the neighborhood. It was just a remark,” he went on, “not meant to be profound or ironic.”

Well, Michael, sometimes the most offhand comments are the most profound, ironic and in this case hopeful words.

Michael Cline, second from left, with members of a New York Engine Co. that lost nearly a third of its force. Photo by Tom Truhe

A Little Sunlight

A little sunlight
where there has been none,
a bit more understanding
when some is needed.

A hand, an arm, a touch
none of these are much
but they are all and more
to the dark place
        the misunderstood
and the hand and arm
that needs the like touch
never had, or long missed.

While you’re celebrating Old Blue Eyes' birthday tomorrow join
Webmaster Ken for his weekly This One Does it For Me feature.

RM 12/11/2001 12:10 AM Previously unpublished

notable birthdays Bess Armstrong o Hector Berlioz o Ron Carey o Teri Garr o David Gates o Lynda Day George o Tom Hayden o Jermaine Jackson o Fiorello LaGuardia o Brenda Lee o Jean Marias o Victor McLaglen o Donna Mills o Rita Moreno o Carlo Ponti o Alexander Solzhenitsyn o Rider Strong o Jean-Louis Trintignant
Rod's random thoughts Most wars are the wreckage of diplomacy.

No peace is ever perfect and no war is ever won.

If we kept Christmas every day apologies would be unnecessary.


Can I be of any help
with your suitcase
         or your trunk?
can I stack the wood
against the door?
If your head’s too heavy
let it fall against my arm.

Have you packages of love
that need untying
and then tying up?
Let me first unfold your smile
and fold it to my own.

A beginning.

Then if you have further wants
let me know if I can help.

-from "The Carols of Christmas," 1971

© 1968, 1971, 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
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