9-11 Aftermath:All Planes Were Grounded. The Train was the preferred vehicle for stranded passengers. A few hours out of Chicago a suspected terrorist is removed by the Feds. Less than an hour later, a man who read “Soul Sword,” leads a delegation. They think there is another terrorist on board. They want me to stop him from acting. The drama begins again …

September 13, 2012 by · Comments Off on 9-11 Aftermath:All Planes Were Grounded. The Train was the preferred vehicle for stranded passengers. A few hours out of Chicago a suspected terrorist is removed by the Feds. Less than an hour later, a man who read “Soul Sword,” leads a delegation. They think there is another terrorist on board. They want me to stop him from acting. The drama begins again … 

Eleven years have passed since the tragedy of 9-11. Whether by design or coincidence we received a reminder that America is still a target. We lost our Ambassador, Chris Stevens, and three other officers of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi,Libya, through violence, and our embassy in Cairo is also being threatened. The violence began on the exact day of the Eleventh anniversary of the Twin Towers attack. Planned or spontaneous there is something haunting about the timing. The following article was written when I was reflecting on my own connection to 9-11. I was flying to California on a United Airlines jet as the first plane struck. To those of us in the air that day, the whole series of events are very personal. Any traveler could have been targeted, and not just in a plane. Terrorism is successful when it generates hatred and creates fear. We must guard against this.

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. Clearly 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 TV-10 News contact, Don Roberts, in Portsmouth, Virginia. Don told me the awful news. First, he recounted how a passenger jet had been hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center but then he paused, dramatically and 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. 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. After 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. Bozeman 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 exodus 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 once 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.

When I surrender to the presence and power of God in me I am lifted up above all my foes and all my obstacles. I believe that The Lord loves all mankind but I know that not everyone embraces that belief. We must always be vigilant and ready. Church is a training ground for warriors of a different mindset but warriors, nonetheless.

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 the people. New Yorkers represent every culture. When something happened of the 9-11 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, this time.

I entered my hotel room and turned on the television. There it 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 the death of sons and daugthers sealed in time. I felt the need to mingle with other passengers. I went downstairs to the lounge 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.

No one was a stranger that day. People freely expressed their fears and concernes. Some wanted to know when they could finish their journey but most of those who spoke wanted to understand the meaning of the attack. Were there more to come?

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 few 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.

The man hinted that he was C.I.A. To him, guns and bombs were the answer. However, the majority of the passengers were not ready to assume that America was under some united Arab attack. The whole event, suicide warriors, and all, seemed the work of a fanatical wing. Later news of more hijackings, more planes being forced down seemed to point to a group of individuals programmed to self-destruction. The conventional soldier is not trying to die on purpose. Certainly, we were facing a new kind of enemy, one with no conscience and no will to survive, an enemy who converts everyday means of travel into deadly weapons.  When a person does not value his or her  own life no one is safe. We would be in the hotel for days.  Air traffic remained grounded.  I remained in the hotel for five days. During that time,  I delivered a talk by telephone to a group lead by Reverend Bozeman. That group was separate from the church obligation.  My church program was delayed. I decided that it was time to move on.  I did not know that for me the brush with terrorism would come even closer.  I secured a train ticket to New York City by way of DC.

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 to New York City where the trauma was in full affect. However, it was familiar territory. I lived and went to school there for years, and it was a gateway to a spiritual retreat only hours away. The train was full to capacity. There were animated men near me talking. They were talking about the tragedy. One of the men recognized me. He was familiar with my book, Soul Sword: The Way and Mind of a Zen Warrior. He asked me about it.

We were somewhere miles outside of Washington when the train came to a sudden stop. We looked out of the window and saw police vehicles, official black cars and armed men. Soon the word came to us. A female passenger had spotted a Middle-Eastern man with a flight manual. The suspect was located and removed from the train in handcuffs. Imaginations were stirred. What was his plan? The train finally pulled off again.

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 later saw his companion. Fear spread through the train. The people were afraid that he would ignite a bomb and blow it up. Some of the men felt that the suspect would wait until the trained pulled into DC. Such was the thinking of the group. They wanted me to prevent possible disaster. The Soul Sword reader convinced the others that I could stop a possible terrorist. To their credit, all of the men said they would come with me.

I rose from my seat and walked with them toward the car of the suspected terrorist. Were they expecting me to kill him, beat him up …what? I saw the man and knew he was unarmed. There was a vacant seat beside him. 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.” This was a tense moment. On the word of the female passenger one suspect had been removed from the train in cuffs. Now I was sitting next to a man she believed was with him. Terrorists are not without skills of their own. I knew that I could be in a life and death struggle in a moment. I promoted life, not death, stopping power, not killing power. I was ready. If I had to stop him I would stop him. The other men took seats nearby. The Arab 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 the Arab man was allowed to leave with the rest of the passengers. The decision was made by general agreement. Everyone left their cars in a hurry. I rushed to make my own connection to New York.

As I walked through the darkened streets of Times Square in New York City, this image caught my attention. I knew I must take it home with me."]

After I knew the Towers were really gone, I really wanted to see them again. There was a hole in the sky now.

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.

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 where  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,only one was left, 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 my table. We were of different cultures. A new man joined us. When he realized that one of the group was Middle Eastern , he spake 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! We must not fall.