Banks County Opinions...

SEPTEMBER 11, 2002


By: Angela Gary
The Banks County News
September 11, 2002

Music helps us cope
Whether it’s gospel, country, rock and roll, blues and jazz or classical, music has always helped people cope with difficult issues they are dealing with.
It might be a hymn about gathering strength from above or a rollicking country tune with an upbeat tempo. Whatever the lyrics, if the song makes you stronger or makes you forget about your problems for a while, the song is a success.
The shocking terrorists attacks last year on Sept. 11, 2001, led to journalists, songwriters and just about everyone in between offering commentary on the situation in the world.
One of the most moving songs about that tragic time is “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning” by country star Alan Jackson. Jackson wrote this song one sleepless night when the weight of the world was heavy on his shoulders.
The haunting beginning of the song: “Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day,” always brings tears to my eyes. I first heard it on a country music awards show that Alan performed it on. Since then, I’ve seen him sing it live in Nashville and heard it countless times on the radio and CD players. Every time, it makes my heart turn cold and warm tears run down my face. He captured the mood of that time for me and thousands of others so well.
Alan wrote that he’s a “singer of simple songs” and not a “real political man.” That may be the case, but he is in touch with the emotions so many are dealing with...”Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer...And look at yourself and what really matters.” Yes, Alan, I did and I will continue to do so.
Toby Keith’s song, “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue,” was much more controversial that Alan Jackson’s. However, it also summed up the angry feelings many Americans had and still have. Toby wrote this song one night when he was battling emotions about the terroristic attacks and losing his father, a veteran who was “patriotic ‘til the day he died.”
Keith has been criticized for this song but that hasn’t bothered him. As he said at a concert in Atlanta this past Friday night, he got all of the endorsement he needed from the many military men and women who stood and cheered with their fists raised high in the air when he performed for them in bases in some of the most dangerous parts of the world.
Before releasing this song, Toby traveled to bases to entertain the troops. This song was one that was a favorite wherever he went. If it gave our men and women the morale boost they needed, who can dare to criticize it for being too controversial. One high-ranking military official encouraged Toby to release the song to the public.
One of the lyrics, while not the most controversial, states: “This big dog will fight when you rattle his cage and you’ll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A...” I’m sorry to tell all of the critics, but it’s this fighting spirit that has led this country through many wars and hard times. Toby Keith isn’t the only one who feels that way and those who don’t agree, don’t have to listen to the song.
Songwriters and performers like Alan Jackson and Toby Keith aren’t the heroes of Sept. 11. The heroes are the firefighters, emergency workers, families who dealt with loss, military and others who dealt first-hand with this tragedy. However, I thank these two men for making us reflect on this tragic time and keep it close to our hearts and minds.
Angela Gary is associate editor of The Jackson Herald and editor of The Banks County News. She can be reached at


By: Shar Porier
he Banks County News
September 11, 2002

Letter to a friend
My dear friend,
I appreciate your kindness and thoughtfulness. Thank you so much for telling me about your Mom. You’re right, it’s so hard living away from family. We’re both fortunate to have loving and caring sisters. I know I would be lost without mine. She has been there for Mom so long. And, like your Sis, she does it without hesitation or resentment or any of the negative aspects of dealing with an aging mother who remembers more about her childhood than ours.
Mary’s developed this incredible strength through all this. It’s quite remarkable, considering how timid and shy she used to be. She was so tiny, just 4’11”. Dad nicknamed her “Mouse.”
She did not do well in school. She was always behind everybody. She thought, and we thought, she was a “slow learner.”
From Day 1 in school, she spelled everything backwards. (Dyslexia had not been “discovered” at that time.) Even her name. She’d get the answer right, but since some of it was written backwards, the teacher would mark it wrong. She was the butt of a lot of jokes. In the seventh grade, the school nurse discovered she was partially deaf in one ear! Can you imagine—going all that time wondering what was going on, thinking something must be wrong with you? That you were “slow.”
After she graduated high school, she went into this shell and was very introverted. It took a wonderful young man — a 6’3” young man — who worked hard to earn her love and respect, to crack that shell and bring her back to life. They’ve been together now for 28 years.
She went from the “Mouse” to the “Mouse That Roared.” She’s learned to use her reasoning abilities and has found she is not wanting in intelligence or common sense. Dyslexia was just a modest hurdle, that once understood, she cleared with ease.
Seeing how far she has come has been one of the most precious gifts I’ve received in this life. I’m more than proud of her; I’m in awe of her.
As for Mom, I treasure every moment I get to spend with her. I’m happy to accompany her on her trips in the time machine. I get a glimpse of what she was like as a young girl. By listening to her tell me things she would never have admitted if she had stayed “Mom,” I get to see how much alike we are in ways I never realized.
I have so much fun with her. With every giggle, new memories are born. I don’t know how much time we’ll have together, but that isn’t what matters. It’s making the best of every second we do have, like you said.
Even when it comes to changing her diapers and cleaning her up as she once did me. And, believe me, when one has no mothering skills like me, it’s a real hoot. I got stuck in the diaper sticky-stuff one night and we laughed so hard, her nurse, Pat, came in to see what we were up to. She rescued me from the grip of the “diaper from hell.” Pat laughingly suggested I stay with my current job and leave the diaper-changing to the professionals. A few minutes later, she brought us ice cream and we three sat together, chatting away like old buddies.
I know Mom is in good hands and that’s a great comfort. She’s even happy to be where she is. When I first got to town Thursday, I dropped in on her and she was so happy to see me. We both got a little teary-eyed. I asked her how she was doing, and instead her usual reply of “Fine,” she looked up at me. Struggling to find the words, she blurted, “I felt like I was going under the ground. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. You know?”
“I know, Mom, we didn’t either. We have been so worried about you. Do you still feel that way?”
“No, I don’t,” she said with surprising resolve.
“Are you happy here, Mom?”
She nodded “Yes!” excitedly. And her eyes, her beautiful brown eyes, told far more than words could. In them, I saw no fear. I looked into them amazed. The turmoil, loneliness, and anxiety that had lurked just under the surface awaiting an opportune time to confound her mind and her will were gone. Not just from her eyes, but from her heart.
I can’t begin to explain or describe what a startling revelation that was. Was it just the normal progression of the illness? Or had Grace embraced her and led her to sanctuary, to a place where she could find peace? I prefer thinking the latter.
Though my mind was telling me to be objective and be prepared for the inevitable trials that may lie ahead for her, my heart had taken a deep draught of her triumph. It gave me strength. And I, too, found peace.
Shar Porier is a reporter for The Banks County News. Her emial address is:

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