The Unauthorized Biography of Rosco P. Coltrane

When it's my moment in the sun, I won't forget that I am blessed, but every hero walks alone, thinking of more things to confess

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Location: Owensboro, Kentucky, United States


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Two Mornings In September, Four Years Apart

I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.

William Faulkner, failed poet, failed postmaster, and Nobel Prize winning writer

September 11, 2001

The night before, I was working out with a friend of mine. He told me about a member of our church who had passed away that day. He was relatively young and healthy. He had been working on a ladder, he had a heart attack, fell off the ladder and died. We talked a lot about life that night. About how in a matter of moments, the world and everything in it, can turn on it's axis...

The next morning, I was putting on my boots to go to work. I was going to walk up to my dad's shop. I was putting on my boots, watching the morning news and thinking about the day when the second plane hit. The news went from something that was a freak accident to we are under attack when the newscaster said "Oh my God, Oh my God!"

The day is now a blur, but if I remember right, it was pretty much a blur going through it as well.

I do remember going over to Kevin's house that afternoon when his two boys got home from school. He and his wife told me that the school hadn't mentioned anything to the children about what happened that morning. We both commented on the fact that just the night before we talked about how the world could change so quickly, but we were still unprepared.

Kevin and I took the boys, Isaac and Elijah, to play some frisbee. They argued, fought, screamed, and laughed because they still could. They still had the innocence of not knowing that the world was totally different. They were still absorbed in a child's dreams, a child's perspective. They didn't notice the quietness that eerily absorbed the afternoon. They didn't notice the people crying on television or walking down the street. All they cared about was their turn to catch, their turn to throw.

Kevin and Julieanne let me stick around when they told their boys about what had happened. I remember the questions in their eyes. I remember seeing the innocence wiped away from their smiles like a blackboard into a blank stare searching for words, thoughts and meanings. There were tears and hugs. I could tell they were scared, I could tell we all were.

September 11, 2005

I woke up late. I had set my alarm clock for 5:45 P.M. instead of 5:45 A.M. I had been up all night, sick to my stomach, from watching football all day and eating cheesesticks and drinking beer.

We got to Siloam Springs just in time for our orientation. We got little wristbands so that we could be let in and out. We learned not to call anyone "refugees" but as "neighbors and guest." We were told not to cry when we hear their stories and to smile as much as we can. And most importantly, be flexible and try and do whatever is needed.

We were bussed in to the campground. We were told to unload a truck and then not to unload a truck. Then the truck was going to move and then it wasn't going to move. There wasn't really a very good directive so I decided to make my own.

I walked up to a porch where there were a few people talking. I sat down and started to talk with a couple of old men. They said that the coffee was okay. We talked about football. We talked about how they are getting by. We read the paper. We talked about how they were rescued. We talked about church. We talked about women. We talked about how it was the fourth anniversary of September 11th. We talked about the campgrounds. We talked about how in the world we all managed to find ourselves in Arkansas.

I don't think any of us really could tell you how that happened.

But mostly I just listened. Their stories were amazing and sad. One man, who I could tell was really jonesing for a drink, told me that he hadn't heard from all his family. But he was going to keep hope that they were going to be okay. He said he had seen other people cry, but he hadn't yet. He didn't want to cry because he didn't know if he would be able to stop.

A bus pulled up to take a bunch of people to church. All the guys I was talking with were going to church, so we shook hands and they left.

Jason Lofton and one of the directors pulled up in a golf cart. The asked me if I would help them out. They said I was loud and that they needed me to ride on the golf cart and announce that there was going to be a church service at 11 and that around 10:30 there would be golf carts to come down and pick up the elderly and sick.

After a tour of the campgrounds of me yelling about the church service, I sat down with Jamie Farmer who was talking to a woman,who I will refer to as W, in hospital clothes. We talked for a long time. We listened to W's story. She worked at a hospital in New Orleans. She tried to stay as long as she could. She eventually found her way onto the interstate. She said it was so bad up there on the interstate. She said there was no water and people were very sick. She said that there were no bathrooms, but she didn't have to go because the Lord blessed her and held her bladder. She said she saw a man shot because he wouldn't give up his vehicle.

W told us of her daughter, who she has been separated from for quite some time now. Not because of the hurricane, but because of different opinions, anger, and bitterness. She was hoping that her daughter would call her soon.

W also told Jamie and me about how she was looking for a job up here in Arkansas now. We told her that we would help her out as much as we could.

It was almost time for church, when Jamie and I prayed with W. W had an amazing prayer. She prayed very simply, "Lord, I don't know what I should pray for, but I know I am blessed."

W gave us her phone number and I have since talked to W on the phone a few times. She told me tonight that she has an interview with a hospital on Thursday and on Friday is going to meet someone with the Housing Authority.

Hopefully, when I talk to W tomorrow she will have some good news for me. Because Ol' Bill was right about us mortals, the human soul and spirit will prevail. Even though sometimes it doesn't feel like it.

It just took me four years to figure it out.


Blogger Drew Caperton said...

You are an increbidle writer, Lafe. You should really start taking these posts, compiling and sorting them out, and write a book out of it.

This blog is one of my favorites to read because your storytelling ability, even in written form, is absolutely captivating.

So, how 'bout them Saints!

8:15 AM  

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