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Spiritual Flight: Airborne on 9-11

September 10, 2011 by · 0 

Eleven years have passed since the roaring engines of four jet airliners gave way to nation-rattling explosions which pierced our hearts and souls A few Middle Eastern men committed to bringing terror to our shores high-jacked the planes to become their chosen weapons for jihad. What happened after that is seared into the American psyche.

9-10: The Day Before The Memorial ...hope. On the day before the tenth anniversary of 9-11 I found myself surrounded by objects of beauty created by Arab craftsmen and artisans. The establishment was hidden away on a backstreet of Hamburg, Germany, behind warehouses and building supplies. One would not expect anything of interest to be found amid such drab buildings, improved only by coloful graffiti here and there. Yet, a short drive down a dirt road and the scene suddenly became promising. The grounds reflected design, purpose. My guide and host noted my surprise as I marvelled at exquisite yard furniture displayed outside of an intriguing building. Only when I was inside did I get a hint of the treasures to be found. I was in Le Marrakesh.

The ceiling, the floors, the shelves, every conceivable space was alive with color and wondrous shapes … lamps, hanging. The rooms shimmered, glittered, sparkled and glowed, each piece demanding attention … holding attention. Le Marrakesh demanded that we be made aware, that we remember, it is an Oriental establishment. The word, Orient, does not just belong to Japan, China or India, The tales of Arabian Nights, of flying carpets and caravans speak of a time when the very word, Orient, brought to mind Morroco and Casablanca ...exotic region comes to mind. Just beyond the feast for the eyes, exotica to fill the belly of a room, there is Le Marrakesh the restaurant … fine dining, succulent food and elegant service , in a warehouse. One does not expect Curried Lamb in a place hidden by storage rooms and warehouses but sometimes we must look beyond the surface, explore beyond the thin layers of general perception to find the jewel.

The jewel is worth looking for. Within every people, within every culture, there is a dazzling jewel of the soul. Each and every person may not reflect its light but it is there. It is no accident that Sabine Kleftogiannis of Zen BodyMind Works, a Soul Sword administrator, invited me to visit Le Marrakesh as I privately contemplated 9-11. Being where such creativity was displayed, I felt the light of the jewel. We cannot forget that light as we remember one of the darkest days, not only in American History but for humanity, itself.>/p>

SPIRITUAL FLIGHT: On The Morning of 9-11 I was on a United Flight to California...

I was in a deep sleep. The plane was forgotten, everything was forgotten ...then it happened. As clearly as in person or in a movie theater I heard a powerful explosion and saw a plane burst into flame as it crasheds into a building. I immediately woke up and looked around me. I expected to see fire but there was no sign of trouble. I longed to hear a news report but there was nothing. It did not take long, however, before the signs appeared that there had been bad news.  We landed in  Chicago. I noticed that not a single television set was on ... no radio either. There was a communications  blackout.  A former Journalist, I called my WAVY-10 News contact, Don Roberts, in Portsmouth, Virginia. Don told me some disturbing news. First, he recounted how a passenger jet had been hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center but then he paused, dramatically added said that another jet had hit the other tower.

“Where are you?” He asked. I told  him that I was at O'Hare International Airport. And suddenly, the news became very personal.

"We think the terroists could be targeting all the major hubs. Keep good notes," he advised like a true professional. Could the airport, itself, explode??  No one knew. By now cell phones were ringing everywhere. Passengers were getting news from family and friends. There was the air of eminent danger but no panic.

My connecting flight was delayed. Ater many attempts to re-book, I came to realize that it was cancelled. I would not make it to East Bay Church. I had been invited to speak at three services. Associate minister, Andriette Bozeman had invited me on behalf of Senior Pastor, Dr. Eloise D.Oliver and the congregation, which numbered in the thousands. It also included such familiar personalities as actor Danny Glover and Star Wars' George Lucas. Boyeman had been a ministerial student of mine, a reader of Soul Sword , and and active participant in one of my seminars. I was looking forward to sharing my Dharma in such an environment.

The news filtered to the passengers that all flights were cancelled indefinitely. The airlines would give us discount vouchers but they would not pay for the hotels outright. There was an exodust from the airport. People were baffled, fearful but most of all they knew nothing official. No one had gotten a full report. Thanks fo my news contact I knew that terroist attacked the  heart of New York City, its towering symbols. I knew they were Middle Eastern, and that the terror was just beginning.

I lived in New York City.  I could see the Twin Towers from the mock terrace of my efficiency apartment at the Woodstock on West 43rd Street. Though I had long ago returned to my native Virginia, one never forgets the rhythm of The City after living there for awhile. I felt the lost personally, of the symbol and people. New Yorkers were representative of every culture. When something happened of this magnitude, every culture was affected.

I caught a shuttle to my hotel. It was a somber ride but the mood of he people would change in only a matter of hours. I did not forget why I  was on the flight. I needed to contact Reverend Bozeman of East Bay Church. Spirit bridges all divisions, life, death. In times of tragedy we need to embrace that which is  of The Spirit, not withdraw. I have never seen so many people leaving a structure before. It was like a massive fire drill but people make jokes during fire drills. They know they are not in any real danger. No one was laughing.

I entered my hotel room and turned on the television. There is was. The tragic scene was being played over and over again. Each time, the pain penetrated me, as it did when the ill-fated space shuttle, Columbia, exploded live before our eyes. It was not just news, it was a chronicle of th e death of sons and daugthers sealed in time. I felt the need to mingle with other passengers. I went downstairs to the longue and found that it was peopled by refugees from the skies. It seemed that all of us had come from O' Hare. The news dominated the media.

One man spoke in veiled tones. He spoke of terrorists and counter-terroism but more than that he spoke about revenge. He wanted Arabs, in general to feel the sting. I spoke against that trend of thought. I reminded the speaker the acts of the fear did not imply the feelings and Philosophy of the many. History reflects  nefarious deeds orchestrated by a  fragment of the population. When we taint all with same assessment we increase the possibility, the likelihood that we will turn others against us.<(p>

The train station is crowded with people seeking a way home. I am told that there would be no train available for Virginia for a week. The choice I have, the closest to the East Coast goes to New York City by way of Washington, DC, When God chooses you He controls your destiny. I had no thought of going through imagine myself going to New York City where the trauma was in full affect, soon, however, I was moving through the countryside. There were an animated bunch of men around me. They were talking about the tragedy. One of the men was familiar with my book, Soul Sword: The Way and Mind of a Zen Warrior. He spoke to me about it.

We were somewhere outside of Washington when the train came to a sudden stopping. We looked out of the window and saw police vehicles, official black cars and armed men. Soon the word came back to us. A woman had spotted a Middle-Eastern man with a flight manual. The suspect was taken off the train in handcuffs. Imaginations were stirred. What was his plan? The train finally pulled off again.<(p>

About a half-hour after the terrorist scare, the man who had read Soul Sword came to me and said, “”We need you.”  The woman who spotted the other suspect saw his companion. Fear spread through the train. The people were afraid that he would ignite a bomb and blow up the train. The men wanted me to prevent it.

I rose from my seat and walked with them. Were they expecting me to kill him, beat him up …what? I saw the man and knew he was unarmed. I sat next to him. “I do not know your story. I do not know if what the people fear is true. I do know that for your protection and everyone’s I will be with you everywhere you go for the rest of the trip. If you do as I say, I will protect you from the madness, if you give me a reason, I will be your enemy.” The other men took seats nearby. The man was quiet. He did nothing to disturb the balance.  We continued to Washington without incident.  As he had no incriminating evidence or weapons of any kind he was allowed to leave with the rest of the passengers. Everyone left the cars in a hurry. I rushed to make my connection to New York.

Hearing that I was stranded in Chicago my supporters in Amherst,  Massachusettes, sent a donation and invited me to come there and teach. They were members of  A Course in Miracles community lead by Karen Plavin, I would spend the night in New York, then continue by bus to Amherst.<(p>

The Amherst bus would not leave until daylight. That night, five days after death struck repeatedly from the skies I walked the once familiar streets of New York. People moved about in a daze. Policemen were talkative and helpful. I looked toward the skyline were the Twin Towers had been. My soul was in anguish. I would not go and look at the smothering ashes. I knew there were bodies there, the remains of sons and daughters. Their families were suffering. What could I add by staring? I sent my prayers from  I stood. I talked to the grieving people who walked to and from Times Square …and then I saw it, a street vendor had a picture of the towers, one, and I purchased it.

Hungry, I went into a restaurant. Once again, people were friendly. No one wanted to sit alone, so several men joined me. We were of different cultures. A new man joined. He attacked the nationality of one of the others, speaking in harsh, threatening tones. I demanded that he leave the table at once. We had no room for hate. He left, and the peace was restored.

I spent my final hours before the bus was to leave walking through Manhattan until the sun rose. I wondered how Americans would respond to this tragedy over the long run. Would we become reactionaries, paranoiac. Terrorists are fear-mongers. When we respond in fear they win. Fear weakens the spirit. I walked back toward the bus preparing for another Spiritual mission. The Spirit heals. No terror is stronger than the Divine Spirit. I lay no claim to being more than an ordinary man but  I bear witness to the extraordinary power of  The Spirit. I have no other message. I stand on that. If Americans would stand on our own credo …”One nation under God,” no enemy could breach our shores or shake us. Since that does not seem to be happening …you stand!

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