Courage & Resolve

It’s been a week now as I write this, a difficult week for all Americans. A week in which we were attacked, a cowardly and senseless act of war committed against this great land and its people.

I’ve heard comparisons to Pearl Harbor sixty years ago, at least then we knew the face of the perpetrator. During the war of 1812 Buffalo and Newark were burned to the ground. On August 25, 1814 British troops burned Washington D. C. Contrary to what many believe, we Americans are not entirely unaccustomed to attack, it’s just been a long time. We rallied and continued on then, as we must now.
I think of the time troops came up the Hudson River and burned the Livingston home in Clermont. Seems Phillip Livingston affixed his signature to a document. He along with 56 others signed the Declaration of Independence pledging, “…with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” That simple necessary act of courage carried a price.

We witnessed horrific images via television, images that appeared to be computer generated special effects for movies, but this time it wasn’t Hollywood, this time the events and images were real. I looked into eyes everywhere and discovered blank distant focus, real shock the kind that dulls the brain to protect it from overload, from tragic, horrifying images, from of loss of life and freedom.

It was a week of heroes and heroism, of fate and irony, of selflessness and of life’s continuous desire for itself.

Tuesday evening, along with many others from this community, I attended a multi-denominational prayer service at the First Reformed Church on Green Street. Friday evening I lit a candle.

Saturday I attended Beauty and J.C. Watson’s 50th wedding anniversary. I watched as family and friends and neighbors gathered together for a common cause, to celebrate a landmark. I spoke with Beauty’s grandson, who only last month reenlisted in the National Guard Reserve. He was concerned, but his eyes were filled with courage and resolve. Food was abundant, enough to insure everyone went home well fed, cared for. I ate red beans and rice and collards and three pieces of Beauty’s fried chicken, she makes the best fried chicken that’s ever passed over these lips, and I also laughed for the first time in several days. It was good to laugh, inspiring to hear it from others. I was thankful for such a beautiful day.

That evening I attended a ‘Pot Luck’ dinner at Time and Space Limited. Pot Luck, has always been a midwestern event to me. It is the gathering together of people, everyone bringing a dish to pass, to share. Pot-Luck dinners are comforting and civilized. “Bring comfort food,” the invitation requested and everyone complied. Although Linda Mussmann is running for political office, there was nothing political about this event, just neighbors and friends assembling quietly to share life sustaining food and conversation. I lifted my voice with others singing, “God Bless America” and “Amazing Grace,” and it felt good, strengthening.

Later at the Basicila Industria, the old glue factory down at the waterfront, the Hudson Opera House Ball was to have taken place, but was canceled due to the week’s events, instead a vigil took place. Candles were handed out. A company of firemen assembled each carrying a burning, night illuminating torch. Hudson Fire Chief Pat Colwell spoke of the magnitude of loss, of courage, of struggle and sacrifice. Firemen ignited a large cauldron of wood. The crowd of nearly 600, comprised of every faith and race and walk of life in this county, stood awed as the fire painted orange the night sky. Quietly, everyone moved inside the cavernous brick structure and formed a massive circle. Flame from the cauldron fire was brought in and each candle lighted. Voices were again raised to the night; the gathering of fire and voices and prayer, of hope, sacrifice, grief and fear and renewed vitality.

Around the county our flag is displayed everywhere, affixed to buildings and poles, draped in store windows, even the rapid horizontal fluttering of flags attached to speeding automobiles.

We, the American people, are very much a family. Families most always have their own difficulties. Brothers and sisters argue and squabble among themselves, but woe to the individual outside the family who chooses to mess with your brother. We comprise such a family, made up of every origin, nationality, faith, race, or sexual preference, within our borders we are as diverse as the world itself; we are Americans. From the outside we may even appear to be weak because of our constant bickering. We are indeed a cynical lot and although we protest and complain about our country’s shortcomings and imperfections and too often take for granted what we have, still, deep within our hearts we possess that which is unique unto us alone; our fierce love of independence and our undying passion for freedom.

It is in the gathering together of family and friends and neighbors, it is there we will find the unbreakable strength, the resilience, the resolve and the courage to face the long and difficult days that lie ahead.

We’ll talk next time From The Road.

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