More Jackson County Opinions...

SEPTEMBER 11, 2002

By:Emil Beshara
The Jackson Herald
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

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By: Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
September 11, 2002

Adventures of The Wild Bunch
I didn’t call them “the wild bunch.” They did.
One member who was incapacitated and unable to go to their last outing called them “the old wild bunch.”
(Note from Virgil: I am not a reporter. I am a columnist. There is a world of difference. A reporter seeks the truth. He depends on reliable sources. If something seems a bit fishy, he checks and double checks until he gets it right. Just the thought of an inaccuracy in one of his stories is his worst nightmare. Not so with the columnist. He is a trusting soul. He just assumes that what his sources — reliable or unreliable — tell him is the truth. That’s the way it is with me. I am a columnist.)
When they are not on a mission, the wild bunch reconnoiters at Fred’s Diner located in the back of Crawford W. Long Pharmacy on the square in Jefferson.
Clara Banks runs the diner. I asked her what she calls the wild bunch, and as they left the premises on another rendezvous with destiny, she said “good riddance.”
You should have heard Clara trying to wiggle out of that one. “I didn’t mean that,” she cried.
Being a columnist and not a reporter, I believe her. Clara added, “These ladies add a little life to the diner each morning.”
Ladies? Absolutely! Just because they have been everywhere, seen everything and. . . .
I started to say “done everything,” but I don’t have to be an investigative reporter to know that ain’t so.
By their own admission, they are wild, but they are not unlady-like. Anyway, during the course of this interview at Fred’s Diner, I did not observe any improper behavior. (A stretching of the truth? Maybe.)
But while they have not done everything, on their latest reconnaissance into the rugged mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, they did one thing that nobody else — not even the FBI — has been able to do.
They spotted the fugitive-from-justice bomber.
Now, if I were a reporter, I would check that out. But being a columnist, I accept their story at face value and pass it on to you pretty much the way they related it to me.
Keep in mind that these ladies were still very excited, and while they have a chief spokeswoman, they all tend to talk at once, as ladies are wont to do sometimes.
Also, some of their statements were contradictory. It would take a reporter a lifetime to sort it all out. Old columnists don’t have that luxury.
The wild bunch was somewhat hesitant to talk to me. I can understand that. I’m sure you can, too.
I mean, here are four (sometimes five) ladies from a very small town in Jackson County, Ga. They own property. They pay taxes. They vote. They are law-abiding citizens. They attend church regularly. They are involved in the community, but try to keep a low profile.
The last thing in the world that they want to be involved in are the affairs of the fugitive-from-justice bomber, the FBI and the North Carolina Mountain Militia. They fear for their lives — and mine — because they are going public with their story in The Jackson Herald this week.
They asked that I not identify them at the present time. In strategy sessions at the diner, they may agree to come out of the closet at a later date.
Trust me, they were not looking for trouble when they journeyed to the mountains on July 21-24. They went in search of their first love: county courthouses in the middle of county seat towns. Courthouses in the middle of town seem to be an obsession with them. They fear that such historic edifices may soon be a thing of the past. They seemed very concerned — upset, really — over the courthouse in their hometown of Jefferson.
These traveling historians prefer the mountains because that is where they are most likely to find communities whose leaders know that in the middle of town is where the courthouse is supposed to be.
On their most recent excursion into the boonies, they found one right in the middle of Jonesborough (population 3,091), Washington County, Tenn. It was beautiful. Almost as beautiful as the one they hope to preserve in Jackson County, Ga.
This would have been the highlight of their day except for the fugitive-from-justice bomber sighting on their way back to North Carolina, where they were bivouacking.
Bivouacking (camping out) does not quite fit the lifestyle of the wild bunch, except when they are on maneuvers. For living, sleeping and dining, they stay at the really nice places.
On the foray in question they headquartered at an upscale condominium on Beech Mountain, said to be the highest peak in North Carolina.
This is a big ski area, and that is where they were staying — in the ski area — except when they were riding around looking for quaint old courthouses in the middle of quaint old towns.
It was late July — 90-plus degrees — and they were not making snow that day. The spokeswoman said they would have been making snow, but the generator was broke. (It was along about here that I began to doubt the veracity of the wild bunch.)
Unable to ski, they just drove around in the mountains. They wound up in Jonesborough, Tenn., admired the courthouse in the middle of town, and headed back to headquarters.
Like I said, this would have been the highlight of the trip, except for what happened on the way back to the ski lodge.
(To be continued. Stay tuned for the second exciting episode of The Adventures of the Wild Bunch.)
Virgil Adams is a former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.
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