Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What were you doing when...?

I enjoy reading the blog, "Views from a Coffeehouse" by my blog-friend Cosmos. He recently posted a meme from his friend Ali re: what were you doing when? And while I have been on the other side of the Atlantic during most of these events, I thought it would be fun to give it a try. So... here goes.

PRINCESS DIANA'S DEATH: 31st August 1997
I was beginning my first full years as Senior Minister of Rincon Church in Tucson, AZ when Diana died. I remember picking up the NY Times before church that morning and glancing at the headlines but I was in such a fuss to be successful at that church that I didn't take in the fullness of the event until later that day. As I watched the tube and saw the outpouring of grief and loss it began to hit me how important this spunky princess was to so many. Curiously, I had just finished reading a reflection between Brother Roger of Taize and Mother Teresa a few days before this and had begun to incorporate the use of "namaste" into our worship gathering time. Clearly, this young and insecure woman helped some of us see and reverence the "divine in one another."

I was pastor of an inner city church in Cleveland, OH when this happened. I had just become politically active with a group of African American reformists - the Rev. Eugene Ward of Greater Love Missionary Baptist Church - had recruited me (a white guy) as one of the first few white guys to support an upstart Black politician: Michael R. White. I brought Mike into worship - which freaked out a lot of my parishioners - and when he won (which was a great surprise) he invited me to have a major role during his inaugural ceremonies. Eventually this relationship matured into my being a part of his plan to renew the Cleveland Public Schools where I was elected twice to serve as the vice-president of an inter-racial reform slate. It was a blast... and I was glad to see Maggie go, too!

ATTACK ON THE TWIN TOWERS – 11th September 2001
Still in Tucson, AZ - having love troubles and a mid-life crises! My sister, in Washington, DC, called me early that morning (3 hour time difference) and through her tears told me to turn on the TV where we watched the horror in real time! Then it hit me that our daughter, Jesse, had just begun teaching in NYC earlier that week; as I tried to recall the subway route from her Brooklyn apartment to her school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan... it hit me that she would have to cross the river and change trains about where the World Trade Center was. I madly started phoning her and eventually she got through to me to say that she had gone in early that day to get her classroom ready and she was safe and alright. She slept with friends in Manhattan for a few days until she could get back home to Brooklyn! We held worship in grief and fear that night... and it changed my life - and relationship - forever (for the better!)

I was riding the bus home from 6th grade in Sudbury, Massachusetts when a girl at the back of the bus listening to a transistor radio shouted out that the president had been killed. The whole bus became silent as we listened to the radio - and then walked home from our stop in stunned horror and fear. A few days later, as the Americans grieved and mourned with a national funeral, I had just come home from church and was hanging out with a friend when we watched Jack Ruby shoot Roy Oswald. It felt like the world was ending...

(going to have to pass on the July World Cup victory option for obvious reasons...) Let's see who else might opt into this: I will pass it on to Di and don E.


Cosmo said...

Glad you piked up on this! Interesting little insights - especially the Cleveland connection.

I lived and worked in Collinwood/Euclid and Rocky River a few years back. I really liked living in Cleveland (Mike White was still mayor) and would happily live their again.

RJ said...

What brought you to Cleveland, my man? It was a great place to be and our daughters were raised there so we have very fond memories of the town. Hope all is well in your part of the world.

Cosmo said...

Sorry to take so long to get back to you!

Here's a brief history of part of my life:

While studying Film & TV at college in England, I spent a summer working at a Salvation Army summer camp in California. Met a girl from Ohio. Fell in love. Cut out of college early and moved stateside for a one year internship with a Presby church in Euclid (and living in an appartment on E156th). I ended up staying six years and getting married! (After my one year with Presbys I did youth work with The Salvation Army in Cleveland).

By the way, I loved the link to the SNL cowbell sketch. I'm off to visit it again now while I think about it!

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