Monthly Archives: July 2011

Aruba, Natalee Holloway, Bad Hair, and Photos

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After landing in Aruba, we were engulfed by humidity, but cooled by a steady breeze from the prevailing trade winds. Most people would recoil to the sultry heat, but I welcomed the rich moisture which vaporizes on our skin back in Colorado. After arriving at our hotel, I sauntered through the open-air lobby to check out the grounds and was struck by the intensity of vibrant color from the coconut palms, flowering bushes, and azure blue ocean water. It was set off by the bleached white coral sandy beach. And yes the pool had a swim up bar. I knew it would be a great vacation.

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Since our room had not been cleaned, the hotel offered a complimentary lunch on their lush outdoor patio. My family and I sat down and noticed we were not alone. Several iguanas sunned themselves on the tiled floor. One large one captured our attention with its prehistoric scales, talons and spikey doo. He wasn’t the only one in the room with an interesting headdress. My husband said he watched my hair grow by the minute as I sipped my Balashi beer. He used his hands and said, “It has gotten bigger and bigger and bigger!” It had been relatively flat when I last checked back in Boulder. Now every hair seemed to dance. Each fine strand found a new way to curl, not in a movie star wavy way, but in a frizzy, “for God’s sakes put a hat on” way.

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As my hair grew larger, my lines on my face grew smaller. Always a trade-off. “If only I could encapsulate the island air to refresh my skin later,” I sighed.

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The colors of the island hit me like a blind person seeing for the first time. Our first sunset was Maxfield Parrish-esque. I snapped away, desperate to capture the contrast. I gasped when I saw the time was only 7:10! Back in Boulder, the sun sets at 8:30 this time of year. Bummer! We went to dinner after dark every night.

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We quickly learned that the people who were native to the island, as well as the Dutch that govern it, are some of the friendliest I have ever met. A pretty blonde waitress from Holland cleared up a mystery for me. Dutch, Holland, and the Netherlands are all in the same. Duh! I must have been sick that day. With a lilting voice and a smile on her face she asked, “Is this your first trip to Aruba?” She pulled out a map and circled all the points of interest. The island is only 10 miles long, but we rented a car to go out and explore.

 I am not sure where the people were from that always got on the elevator without making eye contact, but when they exited said, “Goodbye!” It never ceased to bring a smile to our faces.

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As we drove the winding roads out to the east side of the island, we noticed the saguaro cactus thriving in big forests. They have a Haystack Mountain like we do in Boulder, but theirs is all covered with enormous cacti giving it a thorny appearance.

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The entrance into the National Park with warning 

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Sorry Kelly! 

Once we reached the eastern coast, it became obvious why we had been told, “Surfing here is suicidal!” The island is surrounded by rock and coral reefs. The leeward side is too calm and the windy side had tremendous waves, but tremendous rocks as well. I could see my son gaze longingly at the enormous swells, but we only found a few reckless boogey boarders.

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Mystery castle 

An ancient looking castle ruin looked out over the eastern sea. When we asked about its history, no one knew anything about it. “Seriously?” This cracked us up since it was one of the most extraordinary landmarks in Aruba. We found out later when the Spanish discovered it, they felt it was the most worthless island in the area, so none of its history was preserved. They actually named it, “Useless Island.” Now Aruba is touted as having the highest occupancy rate in the Caribbean. It has one of the most advanced desalination plants, an oil refinery, its own brewery, (Balashi Beer), and a pretty substantial aloe export business. The population of the island has grown because of the constant increase in job opportunities. It is home to 80 different nationalities and four languages. Lucky for us everyone spoke English. After arriving home, my research found that historians speculate the ruins are from a pirate castle. How cool is that!

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Wishing rocks 

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A natural bridge 

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The dog cemetary 

We did not see one homeless or begging person during our stay. Security patrolled constantly and we pondered if it was a result of the Natalee Holloway case or if they had always been vigilant. Either way, we felt extremely safe the entire visit.

We did ask a waiter native to the country what it was like when Natalee went missing in 2005.  He said, “It was crazy here!” He told us a conspiracy theory we had never heard before. He believed her mother, Beth, arrived on the island too quickly and must have known something beforehand. The prime minister gave everyone three days off with pay to search for Natalee. They found evidence, but it disappeared when the FBI arrived and took over the case. The bar where she partied was across the harbor from our hotel and one half block from Parliament. Beth went to the spa several times after she arrived and the islanders were appalled at her laissez-faire attitude for someone whose daughter was missing. He believed Beth committed insurance fraud and helped Natalee cover up an incestuous pregnancy. “What?” He felt her body would have washed up on shore on the leeward side or nearby Venezuela on the windy side. He is convinced that she will be found alive someday. I didn’t want to argue, but that really didn’t add up in the light of Joran van der Sloot’s recent confession to another murder and imprisonment. It was an entertaining story and it was probably not the only theory on the island.

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The last couple days we spent snorkeling. We went on a catamaran where the bar opened at 9:00 AM and they served sandwiches as we pulled away from shore! To think that I worried as a child about the 30 minute rule. We started with a dive to see a German ship wreck from WWII. While protecting their island, the Dutch threatened to blow up the ship. Fearful that the Dutch would learn of their weaponry and latest surveillance techniques, the Germans sunk their own ship and came to shore without injury. The body of it was rusted and had made a home for barnacles and other living creatures. Its mast was still intact and poked upwards towards the surface. From there we sailed to two other locations along the shore line where multitudes of colorful fish swam without any fear of us. They served a gourmet lunch that makes my mouth water as I think about it again.

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The emcee liked our family and asked Danny to help take down the main sail and Courtney to take down the jib. I took note of his shaved head and wondered if he once had hair like mine. He made us special drinks afterward. Mine was so full of alcohol I took a few sips before “accidentally” tossing it overboard.

“Will you be coming back next year?” he asked.

“Maybe,” I lied knowing we always go someplace new.

“Make sure you bring your daughter with you again. She’s beautiful.”

That kind of freaked me out since he looked like he was at least thirty-years-old!

I caught a glimpse of my hair in the mirror as we left. It found a new way to stand on end with all the evaporated salt that left it sticky and straw-like. I had transformed into Pippy Longstocking without the braids. I spent $130 on it before I left. What a waste!

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We really enjoyed the trip and now that I am home, I put away the magnifying mirror. I don’t think I can manage the shock of seeing my wrinkles re-appear. I am happy to say although I am no longer relaxed, my hair is. It is always a trade-off…

Leepin Lizard! With a little help from his friend…
6th photo by K. Lindau, the rest by S. Lindau

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Mirrored Vengeance

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“Be careful of the woodwork!” Kathryn directed the moving men who lugged the heavily carved dresser up the stairs of her honeymooning daughter Allison and son-in-law Derrick’s house in San Francisco.  Once in place, across from the entry of the newlywed’s bedroom, they fastened the ornate mirror to the top of the dresser. Kathryn looked at her reflection in the diamond dust and brought her hand up to her mouth. “I wonder who sent this. What an usual wedding gift.” She looked at the stains on either side of the top drawer and made a mental note to try to have it repaired. She reached down to graze a manicured finger over the teeth of one of the carved heads which flanked the drawer and yelled, “Ouch! Why, I think it bit me!” Kathryn looked back at the mirrored dresser with a shiver.

The moving men laughed. “Yah, right!”

Two weeks later, Allison and Derrick arrived home in San Francisco. “I am going to check around the house and make sure everything is okay. Why don’t you lie down and I will order Chinese.” The three week honeymoon cruise left Allison empty inside.  What had she done? She wished she could wake up from this nightmare. She kept going over it in her head and felt too terrified to share the memory with anyone.

Her engagement to Derrick had been logical. He was handsome in a very Nordic way and a successful lawyer. He fit all the criteria she had made for the perfect mate except for one thing. He had hardly touched her. Allison thought of his old-fashioned sensibilities as cute, but as time went on, it had become frustrating.

A month before the wedding, Allison’s girlfriends called wanting her to get together with them to catch up. What started out as a simple girl’s night out soon escalated in a full out binge. After several rounds of cosmopolitans, she began to dance. She caught the eye of a dark dangerous looking man. She boldly grabbed him by the hand and the two of them danced. She had never felt this deep sexual attraction before and the dancing soon spiraled into an erotic grind and she could hardly control herself.

It was as if a different person emerged that night and took hold of Allison’s body. At that moment, she wanted and needed him more than anyone and the alcohol removed all inhibitions. Derrick was lost in the dark shadows of her mind, as she ditched her girlfriends and pulled him out of the bar. They barely made it into her nearby apartment before they stripped off their clothes, never making it to the bed.

She awoke on the floor, squinting against the blaring sun that streaked across her clothes scattered about the room. “What did I do?” The impact of regret hit her at the same time as the pounding headache that threatened to split her head in two. She reached over to her blouse and slipped it back on.

“Here. Drink this lovely lady.”

She gasped as she looked at the bare feet of the gorgeous man she had met last night working her way up slowly. In this light he looked older.

“Oh my God! What did I do?”

Tony reached out to help her off the floor and on to the couch.

The horror of what she had done slowly made its way to the cognitive part of her banging head and she began to shake.

He set down the coffee cup and began stoking her hair. “We had a great time. Nothing to be ashamed of.”

“I am engaged to be married next month!”

“What?”

“Last night was a mistake. You need to go. Now!” She stormed over to the door.

“Hey! You couldn’t keep your hands off me,” Tony said knitting his brow and stepped towards her.

Allison stepped back not sure of what to do if he got violent. Her cell phone was in her purse across the room.

Then his eyes softened and he tried to embrace her.

She pushed him away. “Just go. Please.”

“You’ll change your mind.”

Tony reached over to kiss her and she turned her head. “I’ll call you.” He walked out the door and she locked it behind him.

Allison fell on the couch and sobbed until her girlfriends began calling wanting all the details about the night. She told them she got sick and Tony had walked her home.

This began a nightmare that went on until the wedding. Tony called her non-stop. She felt stalked, but because of the infidelity, she couldn’t tell a soul. She began staying at Derrick’s house in his spare bedroom. She would be moving in with him after the wedding anyway.

Finally, they were married and Allison took the first deep breath in weeks.

It was the first night on the cruise and Allison and Derrick had just finished their lobster dinner in the main dining room. Derrick didn’t feel well so they walked up to the ship’s deck.

“I think I’ll go back to the room. Do you mind?” Derrick asked. They had planned to go dancing afterward.

“No. Go right ahead. I think I might stay out here and enjoy the fresh air.”

As she stared at the moon’s reflection on the water, she heard a familiar voice behind her.

“Did you miss me?”

Allison gasped and whipped her head around and saw Tony dressed in a black tuxedo. “What are you doing here?”

 “You don’t love him. You love me.” Tony pulled her close and she could smell alcohol on his breath.

“You’re hurting me!” Allison tried to rush past him but he staggered towards her and grabbed her arm.

“Stop!” They struggled and Allison used her leg for leverage. With all her strength she pushed him away. He tripped over her, wheeling around just as the ship hit a swell, lost his balance, and fell over the railing into the black ocean below.

She saw his head bob twice and then disappear with a rolling wave.

“Help! Help me!” Allison screamed, but no one responded. She seemed to turn to stone as she stared out into the ocean. It seemed like hours before Allison staggered back to the room.

For the rest of the honeymoon, Allison’s secrets weighed her down as if Tony still held her tightly in his grip.

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After a quiet trip back to San Francisco, Allison felt relieved to be home.

When she reached the top of the stairs, she was struck by her own reflection in the mirrored dresser. Her mother had told her of its mysterious arrival. Unblinking, it drew her into the room. Something about it attracted and repelled her. She stepped into the bedroom and the diamond dust luster began to glow from an unknown source. A cold sweat broke out all over her body and she shuddered with dread.

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Allison stared into the mirror and it began replaying the events of the last month in its refection. As the images progressed, they became projected in front of her. She stepped back appalled at what she saw. She gazed at the image of Tony and her dancing at the bar and later having sex at the apartment. “No!” she murmured, shaking her head. Then she saw herself struggle with him, sending him over the edge into the sea. She did nothing to save him. Allison screamed, “No! No! No!” She continued backing up towards the stairway and her heel caught the top step. She tumbled down, breaking her neck in the fall.

“That should do it!”

The moving men tied off the last rope in the van and slammed the door. Under the packing blankets the mirror began to glow. It sifted through all the reflections it had collected over the last 150 years held within the diamonds. The carvings began to writhe. Blood trickled down the front of the bureau out of the mouths of the carved gargoyles.

 All photos by S. Lindau

The photo of the reflection is in an original diamond dust mirror!

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Not in My Neighborhood!

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I could hardly contain my excitement as my family drove  down the steep hill entering Lake Wingra Park’s one-way road along the shoreline. It was always difficult to find a parking space on a Sunday, but somehow we always managed. We entered the Henry Vilas Zoo under a canopy of mature trees. The musky scent of animals struck me along with a lightened heart in anticipation.

We always started with the lions, working our way past the rhinos, the incredibly long spotted necked giraffes, and then would stop to say hello to Winky the elephant. We would saunter on to the seals and the monkey house. I would giggle with my sister at the pink bottoms of the orangutans.  As we wound our way towards the bear’s outdoor exhibit, I would sprint up to my favorite animals in the zoo. The prairie dogs were contained in a free standing circular upright structure. Their silly antics would keep me occupied while everyone else was ready to move on to the bears. These very social mammals would pop their heads up out of their holes and with a comedic twist would check to see what their neighbors were up to. I imagined the conversations they were having.

“Oh! There you are!”

“Oh! Look! There’s cousin Clyde!

Once they were out of their burrow, they would stand up on their hind legs with their short forelegs dangling, and would make high pitched barking sounds. Sometimes they would appear to kiss each other. From their whiskers to their little brown tipped tails they would twitch with a zest for life that made me smile from ear to ear. I would walk around the display several times before one of my parents would lead me away.

 

Many years later after moving to Boulder, Colorado, I detected movement along the road while driving down Foothills Parkway.  I suddenly recognized a familiar head poking up through the ground.  You can imagine my delight and amazement when reuniting with my little prairie dog friends. Nothing made me happier than strolling or biking by their little burrows in the ground with their cute little faces popping up to greet me. It seemed as though we had encroached on their prairie and they had adapted well to these urban conditions.

I became so crestfallen upon learning these oversized rodents are such a nuisance. They can carry sylvatic and bubonic plague through the fleas that live in their heavy coat and ruin property with their burrowing.  Their contact with curious family pets could result in spreading the fatal disease. I quickly became aware of the netted fencing along property lines including baseball diamonds, farmer’s fields, and golf courses. Because these mammals are very social, they will not burrow where the view of their colony could be obstructed. This somewhat deters their burrowing, but doesn’t prevent a new family of them from entering the property to start a new underground “town.”

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When we first moved to our new neighborhood, I would take a hike with my children to watch the prairie dogs in a nearby open space. Just like me, my children enjoyed watching their quirky behavior from a distance. I have never been in any fear of them since it is not in their nature to attack. They are mild mannered creatures unless cornered. I learned that it is the sentinels that stand on their hind legs and bark out warnings to the rest of their clan.

However, a few years ago I shrank in horror when I spotted one running across the road into my neighbor’s yard a couple doors down from my house. Since we owned a Bichon Frise, I worried about her being out in the yard, attacking one of them, and then contracting the plague.  A few weeks later, the few active burrows at my neighborhood’s entry became quiet and it was rumored that the prairie dogs had been illegally poisoned. I breathed a sigh of guilt-ridden relief.

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Boulder residents and land owners are fed up with the black-tailed prairie dogs, but they are currently on the endangered list and have to be moved rather than eradicated. They do this by flooding their burrows with water blasted from fire hoses and then catching them on the other side of their long tunnels with nets. The big problem arises in where to relocate them.

This week, residents of Gunbarrel, a Boulder bedroom community, won the debate preventing prairie dogs from being transported to a nearby open space. The neighbors feared when the animal clan grew they would spread out into the surrounding neighborhoods. The Division of Parks and Wildlife ruled against Boulder’s application for relocation and with the residents of Gunbarrel, so the final location of these prairie dogs remains up in the air.

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On July 7th’s, the Boulder Daily Camera newspaper cited a warning that a town of prairie dogs in South Boulder had been diagnosed with the bubonic plague. Neighbors walking on a nearby path were alarmed when seeing several dead prairie dogs. They notified authorities who tested the animals and identified the cause of death.

Since the 1800’s, the prairie dog’s population has been reduced by 98% because of loss of habitat. They were almost wiped out at one time when ranchers poisoned them, believing they competed with grazing animals for grasses. However, they have been found to eat very little. Over 170 other animals rely on the prairie dog’s existence. Since the black-footed ferret’s main diet is of prairie dogs, their numbers have diminished as well. They too are now on the endangered species list.

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After living out West for 23 years, I have gone through a wide range of emotions over my furry friends. Yet when I rode my bike last week and saw a familiar face pop up out of the ground surrounded by open space, I couldn’t help but smile.

http://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/northamerica/facts/fact-pdog.cfm

First photo by Wikimedia Commons, the rest by  S. Lindau

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In Case You Missed It! Photo and Video Essay

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I remember piling into the family car and driving to the Henry Vilas Zoo to watch the fireworks. People from all over Madison would search the park grounds for a patch of grass with an unobstructed view free of tree branches. As it became dark, we would anticipate the boom of a blank which would be fired off to silence the crowd and start the display. Finally one would soar overhead and explode into a myriad of blazing color. “Ooh. Ah!” the crowd would exclaim.

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The echoing of blasts from pyrotechnics were not the only sounds heard. Howler monkeys would chime in with their cries.  Camels, bison, and emus would join in the choir of discontented howls. Winky the elephant would trumpet out his confusion. Disgruntled peacock’s hoots would pierce the night. Then the lions would begin to roar and join in the choir of restless and distressed animals.

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The finale would come when several rockets were lit by hand and sent up all at once. The crowd would cheer in amazement. Tired, but happy, we would stumble back to the car and drive home. The zoo animals would quiet down, relieved the deafening sounds had ceased

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Years later, the zookeepers spoke out about the displays and how it stressed out the caged animals. Eventually, the fireworks were moved to the neighborhood parks located throughout Madison.

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This year we drove down to Folsom Field on CU’s campus for the fireworks display. They are now computerized and timed to music. Crowds soon filled the stadium. There would be no obstructed views in here. After a wonderful and heartfelt sing-a-long including “This Land is Your Land,” and concluding with, “The Star Spangled Banner,” the show was ready to begin. My family and I speculated on where they were going to be shot from. I was amazed to see they all were blasted from small boxes set on the north end zone bleachers.

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What a fantastic display! I wanted to share my photos and video of the finale. No animals were stressed out in this presentation. Well, maybe a few neighborhood dogs and cats.

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I love the special effects feature of my camera.

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 It was fun to play with color that seemed to be drawn on the sky. I will have to wait until next year to experiment again!

Watch the finale!

All photos and video by S. Lindau 

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And Our Flag was Still There!

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I had smiled and hugged my kids, then sent them out the door to school on September 11th. What happened while I cleaned up the cereal bowls still brings me to tears today. Alone in my kitchen while watching the Today Show on a small television, I witnessed mass destruction broadcast live. When the second plane crashed into the tower, my heart became gripped in a kind of terror I had never felt before. Speculation soon became reality that we had been attacked.

My immediate family along with my parents had been inside the World Trade Center only a few weeks before. My son Kelly must have had an intuitive sense about The Twin Towers. As soon as we arrived in New York City, he would frequently ask, “How far are the Twin Towers from here?” This was the first stop before a European vacation and we only had two full days to show my parents around, but because of Kelly, we taxied down to the financial district.

My husband and I had owned a toy and school supply business and had traveled to New York City for Toy Fair many times. I had never been all that interested in the Wall Street area and had only traveled down there once.

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After taking many pictures of The Statue of Liberty, the six of us traipsed the couple blocks to the Towers. We had wanted to take a tour of The Top of the World and hoped to get a bite to eat in their top floor restaurant. We had heard about the breathtaking views of the city and ocean. As we entered the cool cream granite tiled building, we were taken by the high ceilings and natural light. We gazed in disappointment at the line for the tour that wove up the massive stairway and around the second floor, imagining it went on for floors above us. With so little time to see everything in the City, we opted for a main floor explore. When we saw a sign for gifts and shops under the building we walked down the stairs to take a peek. A number of stalls were set up with independent vendors selling trinkets to tourists. My daughter Courtney and I had begun to collect silver and gold charms so we were enthralled by one of the displays of thousands of them. The salesman was young and had a thick head of black curly hair. He smiled broadly at us and asked many questions. After a wonderful and friendly exchange, we settled on an apple charm.

My family and I climbed the stairs and entered the blinding sunlight. We stopped and bought a few items from the vendors selling leather goods and socks on the sidewalk. I am always amazed at how warm some New Yorkers are. The general feeling on the street had changed a lot from the original stereotype I witnessed many years before.

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Weeks later, alone in my kitchen, the memory of the people I met that day in the Twin Towers came back to me. No one heard my screams when the second tower tumbled to the ground. My heart wrenched for the unsuspecting workers who came to put in their hours making cheerful conversation with other tourists and for all who did business in the offices above. All these years later, just writing this brings tears to my eyes.

So many emotions rose from my heart that day. Sadness for the loss of all the wonderful people who died, but intense anger for the terrorists that changed so much for us in this country in one horrific day.

After sobbing for hours I rose from my chair and stormed down the basement stairs looking for our cache of American flags. We had just sold our wholesale business, but had sold flags along with many other sundry items for years. I found the electrostatic flags and pressed one on my car window. I went back down the stairs and dug through cardboard boxes until I found a couple of small flags. I stuck them into the remaining flowers planted in the cement pots outside at the front entry. I smiled when I found our 4×8 flag. It still hung on a wooden pole from the last Boy Scout meeting. I took it off the pole and jerry-rigged the string through the grommets and hung it lengthwise on the front door.

I held my breath along with many other Americans, praying for no other heinous attacks. Every time I heard the theme music which plays for breaking news during television interruptions, my heart would race. I had to turn off the TV every time it repeated the video of the collapse of the buildings. This was the only time in my life, when depression took hold of me. I knew why I was going through this rough period and allowed myself the time to grieve along with the nation. I think part of the reason it hit me so hard was experiencing the death of so many, live on TV, alone with no one to talk to until later in the day. It took me months before I could go to a sports arena or shopping mall without fear.

By the 4th of July, I sensed the strength of comradery as a nation which had put aside differences to come together like never before in my memory. When the Star Spangled Banner blared at the end of the concert we attended, we heard the very first shouts of, “AND OUR FLAG WAS STILL THERE!” Those words came to life in a way I had never thought of before. We would endure. I smiled and shivers ran up my spine. I was never prouder of our country or of being an American. I stood with my husband, two children, and fellow Americans as tears ran down my cheeks.

All Photos by S. Lindau

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