LETTERS FROM MY
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A Thought for Today
Death is not our final hour; we have
God’s word on that.
One week ago today all of our
lives were changed forever. While there is no joy in commemorating the
anniversary, each of us should celebrate our brothers and sisters who left
us that day, whether we knew them or not. As I write this, just before
midnight, the combined toll of those dead and missing in Pennsylvania, New
York and Washington D.C. has reached 5,889. The missing and known dead
include citizens from 62 countries in addition to the United States. Time
and again I return to the words of John Donne for comfort.
“No man is an island, entire of its self; every man is a piece of the
Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a Promontory were, as well as if a Manor of thy
friends or of thine own were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am
involved in mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell
tolls; it tolls for thee.”
-from “Devotions Upon
Emergent Occasions XVII”
Still using island as a
metaphor, Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote, “There are no islands any more.”
I feel blessed to have so many friends who took time out this past week to
call me and to write letters of concern and commiseration; this awful
week, this confused and alarming time when each of us needed all the
friends we could get and all the love we could muster for one another.
Ken was the first to call and he wasn’t ringing from down the block but
from distant South Africa. All week he wrote me words meant to cheer and
they did. I heard from Wade, Charlie, Bob, Jean and Melinda and so many
more. As always Jay’s compendium of my work made selecting material for
the Flight Plan easier than I deserve.
Jim Pierson had a mutual friend call and let me know they were both all
right and that he had checked out of the Trade Center Marriott before the
terror began. Then he sent an e-mail that pretty well sums up how friends
feel about each other.
Dear Rod: I was finally able to get out of Newark
airport yesterday morning and am now in Chicago. I am finding it close to
impossible to focus on getting work done and I know you must feel the
The show of patriotism is incredible with flags on the light poles,
automobiles and store windows. It is amazing how tragedy brings unity in a
I read your recent flight plans over the weekend and I am so sorry to hear
about the losses you have suffered directly. I imagine one of the friends
you lost was Anthony Perkins' widow, whom David Kennedy was also friends
with. The editor of the Petula show lost a friend who had been trying to
assist victims at the site.
I am expecting to be here until Friday night and hope to get home at that
time. I plan to give blood in the meantime. I'm also changing one of the
charity auctions from the Dark Shadows Festival last month to a WTC relief
fund. It is so unreal to see video footage of that event and my Belafonte
interview in the hotel that no longer exists, sandwiched between the two
I know it is going to be a long, long healing process and there is much
uncertainty and suffering ahead. But I am grateful for friends such as you
to make the journey more meaningful. Love, Jim
Here are some other e-mails that arrived
After hearing the news Tuesday I wanted to do something to help and since
I have O+ blood I decided to go give blood. The line was long but everyone
was there for the same reason to help, to do something. The line went
around the building, the blood center being in a strip mall--it was to get
much longer as the day wore on. We all talked about how quiet it was. I
live west of O'Hare and there's always background noise of planes flying
But something amazing was taking place there in line, people waiting
started helping pass out info on giving blood, then
water, juice, cookies. People got out of line and went over to the grocery
store nearby and brought back cookies and bagels. Shortly restaurants in
the area started bring over food, French toast, cinnamon rolls. even
pizza! Then boxes of juice and bananas showed up. probably from the
grocery store--they later gave ice too.
A woman in front of me had her 2 daughters with her and they started
collecting trash and passing things out. Once inside I saw these 2 girls
sitting patiently drawing. one drew the Trade Center with black and orange
smoke pouring out the top. then a few minutes later she drew a huge pink
I can't think of a better place to have been. I was there 6 hours and
there were old and young there and everyone wanting to help in some way.
It's an amazing country with some pretty amazing citizens! Susan
Dear Susan, Thanks for sharing your experience in the ‘blood line.’ Given
the chance people are always better than we expect them to be. These past
few days’ experiences like yours have been reported from all over the
nation and around the globe. It’s a beautiful world full of extraordinary
people and it will always need the love and protection we give it.
I loved your letter and the way you described this small but important
event was as good as being there. Luv, Rod
your site most days, smile at what you have written, take comfort in your
words, rejoice in the reminder that you give that the World is wonderful
and I am alive, blessed with a family who love & appreciate me. The World
is lovely? It was until yesterday. I knew of the events as they happened -
thanks to the marvels of technology & mobile phones. I came home &
switched on TV and could not believe what I saw - surely this was a Die
Hard movie? It wasn't.
I can think of no better place to send my deepest condolences to the
American people than by writing to you - you extend beyond nations, yet
are truly an American. I'm not. Last year I went to New York - it has to
be the most beautiful city in the World. I went onto the roof of the South
Tower - I was on top of the world and it was magical. My husband wasn't
with me, so a few weeks ago I booked to come back to New York because I
wanted my husband to experience the absolute thrill of being on top of the
World ...now it doesn't exist.
I know my feelings and my condolences doesn't change these dreadful
events, I am crying as I write this - but I just wanted to let you know
that I care. I don't know what else to say - words just aren't enough.
Dear Emily, Having visited The World Trade Center you know how busy,
vibrant and alive it was. I found it very much like a city and in fact it
was a microcosm of the metropolis that makes up New York. The views from
the observation deck on top and the Windows of the World restaurant were
spectacular. You could find anything and everything in the shopping mall
that made up the lower concourse and the bustle of the main lobby had a
romance and excitement about it like no other place I’ve been. It seemed
as if everyone coming in and out of the building was on his or her way to
somewhere. Even the tourists didn’t loiter.
A few blocks away the riverfront had green expansive parks that were as
much a part of the center as the buildings themselves. Transportation to
and from the center was fast and easy since both subway and commuter train
took you right to the buildings.
Thousands of people worked happily, industriously and safely at the Trade
Center. If you were from out of town and doing quick business at the
complex there were decent hotels and lodging across the street or around
the corner. Despite being located downtown near the financial center it
was still a short taxi ride to the theatre district and Forty-Second
Street and a healthy walk to The Village.
To think that this giant marvel of planning, architecture and building is
now a tomb for thousands of people like you and me is more than heart
wrenching, it is numbing. So much life, talent, love and humanity gone in
an instant. No, Emily, there are not enough words or even emotions to
express how we feel but your words and those of the other letter writers
today help all of us. Luv, Rod
THEY DONE TO MY CITY?
hours pass I go in and out of so many emotions, shock was first then
disbelief fear anger sadness and then back all over again. What have they
done to my city? Our great city, the most famous skyline in the world.
All the innocent people, the emails from friends telling me of the burn
victims, the Wall street men in suits dropping to their knees crying, the
brave firefighters not hesitating to rush on in, all the stories that
continue to flood our lives, and will continue, sadden me so much. It is
somewhat of a surprise to have these waves of emotions come over me, I
thought doing something other than watching TV. would help but it doesn’t.
This is nowhere near over.
I don’t think even living in New York almost 19 years has made that much
difference in how I’m dealing with this. As in any tragedy, I believe
there are positive things to learn and tremendous growth if we try to find
the lesson in what God is trying to help us with, as a society,
individual, whatever. And this lesson is so obvious; God is constantly
trying to show us that intolerance, hatred, bigotry, judgment of others,
is a big no-no.
And when it comes in the name of religion, as it has so often in the pasta
lesson of love is what is needed to be learned. Severe fundamentalists in
ANY religion or group will do nothing but contribute to the fear and
division in any society, they are missing the point of gods love for all
and inclusion of all. It’s that simple!
PLEASE don’t hide the truth of what is really the root of this disaster to
any of your children or friends, family etc. That is the only way we will
heal. Love Mike Cline
Dear Mike, As transplanted New Yorkers and my new friends you and
Tom were among the first people I thought of while I was watching the
terrible events unfold on Tuesday morning. Your heartfelt letter pretty
much says it all.
As for “the fundamentalists” inside and outside of this great country,
they get the fundamentals wrong every time.
Fundamental to life and everything that goes with it is live and let live.
The right to live and breathe in this world is basic and not limited to
those who feel anyone who believes differently than they do is somehow a
lesser human being. I’ll be devoting an entire Flight Plan to one such
fundamentalist / bigot who couldn’t wait to blame Tuesday’s tragedy on his
usual list of scapegoats.
I agree with you about not shielding children from bad news, as I
indicated last week this is a perfect time to help youngsters come to
terms with their anxieties and fears. Luv, Rod
suggestions are right on. I pray that they are kept close to the heart
with long-term memory. Not just for the moment. We should have and we
should. Only one of those can become a promise from now on. I hope my
local sheriff and fire stations aren't too shocked when I take my four
boys down there to give them a hug. Bets (Betsy)
Dear Bets, It’s comforting to see how many hugs and heartfelt thanks
police and firemen have been getting during the past week. No one works
harder, cares more and puts their lives on the line more often than these
very public servants. And, let us never forget that 403 firefighters are
dead or missing in the Trade Center debris. Luv, Rod
Rod, Today's SPTL was so difficult to read - the tears didn't let the
words thru to these old but sad eyes. Thank you for your being here for
all of us, and for your words of hope and action. Knowing you for all
these years, who you are, what you stand for, how you feel, what you
believe makes your message so much more potent.
After talking to you this afternoon, and knowing you and Edward are ok, we
wanted to write and tell you how much we appreciate your work and your
friendship. Your world is so big, your influence so dynamic, your words so
poetic and calming, please know that we, and millions of your readers, are
greatly comforted by our ability to reach out to you daily. Richard,
Anita, Neal, Beth and family :)
Dear Richard, Anita, Neal and Beth, Space is space even on The Net and if
I’m going to take up some of it I can think of no better motive than to
offer comfort when it’s needed, friendship when it’s wanted and love when
it might be missing. I consider those who visit here often part of my
extended family. I’m here for you and them. Luv, Rod
Spirit, My words seem so insignificant in comparison and I want to say,
"your writing touches my heart in its most sacred places". You are
delightful by the very clarity of your verse.
As I searched today for a poem by you... ".... as I watch you walk away
..." I came to your website and felt grateful and blessed. You have been,
for years, my favorite. Wishing you love and peace on this day of
Dear Maggie, Thanks, but don’t give me that much credit, without an
audience I wouldn’t exist. Luv, Rod
In the year of
the new century and nine months,
From the sky will come a great King of Terror...
The sky will burn at forty-five degrees.
Fire approaches the great new city...
In the city of York there will be a great collapse,
Two twin brothers torn apart by chaos while the
fortress falls, the great leader will succumb.
The third big war will begin when the big city is burning.
the first year of the new century and September is the 9th month. New York
is located at the 45 degree Latitude. Interesting and chilling.
I, like you Rod, am antiwar. I'm an Army brat and spent my share of time
living overseas. In the mid-sixties when we were living in Wurzburg,
Germany, the country still bore visible scares of war in the form of
portions of buildings bombed in W.W.II left standing. As Americans we have
riches to rebuild and erase the visible signs of attacks on our country.
The psychological damage will eventually heal or die as those of us who
have witnessed this great tragedy cross over.
Let us all pray that God, by whatever name you know Him, will guide us and
our leadership in our efforts to understand and respond to this act
brought against the most noble country ever. While we sort this out,
remember to fly your flag proudly, hug your family and friends and voice
your feelings for them, shake the hand of your neighbor instead of waving
to him, and commit to doing every
And to you, Rod: Thank you for your website and giving us a place to go
every day to connect with friends we may never meet. You have created a
wonderful community for us, and we appreciate both the site and the gift
of personal communication with you and each other. Ann Martin
Dear Ann, Mae West said it best, “I’ve yet to hear a man wake up in the
morning and say, “I’ve just had a great war.” Like it or not we are at war
and, alas, at some disadvantage since we don’t know who the enemy is or
where to find them.
I fear it will be a long war but I hope it’s more about preventing
something like this from happening again than it is about punishment.
As for the so-called thoughts of Nostradamus being interesting and
chilling, alas the old boy is dragged out more often to make rear
projections than our jumbo TV sets. That particular prediction wasn’t in
my “Collected Works of the Devine Mr. N” but I’m sure it will make it into
the revised editions. Wouldn’t it be great if the folks who pass this
bilge along just once cited chapter, page and verse?
Freedom is a precious commodity, Ann, and as much as I deplore all the
wars that have been fought for it I admire them more than I do the
thousands of others that have been waged under the banner of religion. The
way I see it, Freedom is a principle and a right, religion is a chosen
preference. I can’t
see praying to any God of vengeance. But, yes, like you I’m anti-war.
Thank God for you. Luv, Rod
IN GODS NAME
and Edward, What can I say? I was on my way back from Melbourne and in
transit in Singapore when I saw crowds of people around a TV screen.
I couldn't believe what I was seeing! My favourite city being struck at
its core. I first of all thought it was a movie and then, when I realized
that this was reality, I just felt sick. I have to tell you, it took
considerable courage to get on the plane to carry on my journey but I'm
I just had to write to you and Edward, telling you that you, in
particular, and your country are constantly in my thoughts. I grieve, I
mourn and I have a terrible anger. I cannot pray. Religion has been the
root of nearly all the wars and atrocities
throughout the century - and I cannot believe in a God who allows such
atrocities to be carried out in his name. My heart is full with sorrow and
for love for you. Sue
Dear Sue, Edward and I both cried many tears on Tuesday and every day
since. Thanks for the comfort you gave us by thinking of us.
Because someone says they are doing such and such “in God’s name” doesn’t
make it so. Some folks find the books of The Bible as plastic and pliable
as the works of Nostradamous. True the bible says “an eye for an eye” but
isn’t that cancelled out by “thou shalt not kill?”
If God decided one day to favor me with a visitation and during our little
chat he suggested I grab a gun and shoot somebody, I’d skip the gun and
find another God. Luv, Rod
I am 60
years old, and I have always found solace in your poetry and music; what
can you offer me for this latest horror? Bob
Dear Bob, here’s a meditation and two prayers from “An Outstretched Hand,”
I hope they help. Luv, Rod
The Long Run
Once I thought I’d die at
fifty. I had no reason for thinking so, merely that I would have spent the
hours allotted to me and it would be time for me to move through the
distance to whatever waits when we are separated from life. Now I know
that I will not go easy. I enjoy too much the sparring, the skirmishes,
and the long runs that only life affords.
Prayer Before Sleep
Lord, let me live another
night, another hour, another minute, that I might try to make up for
transgressions, known and unknown, which I have brought about within the
day just past. Forgive me, Lord, and help protect me from myself. Help me.
For, with Your help, sleep - even that final one - will come easy.
Prayer at Morning
Good morning, God, and thank
you for another restful night. Help me achieve these goals I’ve set for
this new day, so that I will have justified this extra time on earth.
Today is Jimmie Rodgers’ 68th
A special surprise party was
held for him on Saturday night in Branson, which I had planned to attend.
After discussing it at length with my family, I decided not to take the
flight that would have gotten me there on Friday. My apologies Jimmie and
my eternal love for being a good friend and the first artist to record so
many of my songs including “The World I Used to Know,” “You Pass Me By,”
“Someplace Green,” “Another Country,” “Doesn’t Anybody Know My Name,” “Bon
Soir, Mademoiselle” and so many others.
Most of all, happy, happy
birthday and many more.
And to Jews everywhere, a blessed Rosh Hashanah. Sleep warm.
RM 9/17/2001 Previously
Details of Rod's next
appearance can be obtained by following the link below.
Your Troubles Away" - the music of Jerry Herman