Sackcloth and Ashes

By Cappy Hall Rearick, NSNC Member

On the eleventh morning of this month, we Americans will turn off our alarm clocks, get out of bed, put on the coffee, do our morning rituals and at some point perhaps glance at a calendar.

That is when we will remember exactly where we were when we learned of the terrorists’ attacks nine years ago. We will then experience, just as we did for eight previous years, the same sickening feelings in our bellies, the fears, the helplessness, and unbridled anger. It has been a very long nine years.

That day made such a profound change, whether needed or not, in every one of our lives. Every day since has made us look at life differently than we ever did before. Nothing will ever again be the same for any of us. How then, can we deal with the effects of 9/11 as it pertains to us on a personal level in 2010?

The following is my story.

After the attack in 2001 someone asked me, “How can you write a humor column after those horrible things that just happened?”

Actually, I hadn’t had one creative thought since the attacks months before. Fortunately for me (and my editor), I had tucked away six upcoming columns during an August streak of manic productivity.
But I was not alone. Many of my writer friends were struggling with the same affliction, writer’s block some called it. I was simply paralyzed. Mystery writer Ed McBain reported that he expected to throw away most of what he had been able to get down on paper since that dreadful day. His admission gave me a somewhat better comprehension of the national grief attacking us all at that time.
National grief is something many Americans have never experienced. I was only a baby when Pearl Harbor was attacked, a young mother when JFK was assassinated, and middle-aged at the time of the shuttle explosion. As saddened as America was at those times, nothing can compare to the magnitude of the national grief, the sackcloth and ashes worn by every one of us since September 11, 2001.
Maya Angelou said, “Now is the time for thinking Americans to think.” We have done that. We have thought of little else. We have run the gamut of emotion, from shock and disbelief to vengeful hatred. Who among us was not touched by the incredible burden placed on a newly elected President?

He told us to go back out into the world and live courageously. He said we must pick up the pieces and continue to go to our jobs, take vacations, go back to school, and go to church. We must hold our heads up high, he said, and be grateful that there were not more victims when the Towers were struck.
As appalled and saddened as I was for such a long time after the tragedy, I knew in my heart that it would not be healthy to wallow in grief indefinitely. CNN’s constant coverage of America’s New War did nothing to comfort me. It frightened me; it threatened to paralyze me.
Eventually, I realized that laughter was what was long overdue, that laughter, even in the midst of our mourning, was what we needed. The time had come for us to put grins on our faces again. We owed it to the innocent souls who had died on September 11, 2001.
So as we approach yet another anniversary of our nation’s tragedy, I am asking myself this question: can it be that laughter is the medicine that will finally heal our brokenhearted country? Maybe not, but it got me thinking.

So here’s what I propose. I will do my part if you will do yours. I will sit at my keyboard day after day and week after week, writing good humor and sometimes iffy, but always with the sincere hope that you, my loyal readers, will start to look on the bright side of things again so that your smiles and your laughter will once more light up our world the way it use to do. It’s worth a shot, don’t you think?

To every thing there is a season,
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time of war, and a time of peace.

Cappy Hall Rearick is an NSNC member and past president of the Southeastern Writers Association. She is the author of five successful columns, is a popular public speaker, and has authored a a number of books. She lives in St. Simons Island, GA. For more information, visit her website at

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