passage
This story is fiction and is not intended to represent any reality other than empowering creativity, embedded loosely in Cherokee mythology, in the face of evil.  A 2001 version of the story earned a 3rd prize award from the International Ground Zero literature contest in 2002.  Every few years I tend to update/edit it a bit around September 11.  This is the first revision since Obama's POTUS tenure.

***

White hair cascading over his bare shoulders, he looked up to the Sun and bowed his head. He inched forward to a majestic oak and wrapped his arms as best as he could around its gnarly girth. Gulping, he uttered in an old tongue the emotion that his heart was sharing with the sheer, unrelenting calmness of a brother who had endured far more autumns than he could imagine. Tears welled up in his ancient eyes as he backed off.

His wife, and their little girl, seemed to wave at him, from the misty morning beyond.

Fighting the tears, he remembered his teachers and their matrilineal heritage. So he inhaled deeply, kneeled down, and with large callused hands, scooped up a handful of fertile black dirt. Slowly, the briefest of smiles flittering across his face, he raised the gritty content high. With soft sounds, he gently let the breeze take what he had. Much of the earth clumped down over his moist face and bare chest. Then he bowed and kissed the earth which he tenderly regarded as his true mother.

Behind his eyes, it seemed his beautiful wife and their ten-year old daughter, in their traditional dress, smiled gently at him, to then bow down and kiss the earth also, before the mist enveloped them in a brilliant light.

Letting out an old breath, he raised himself up to his proud height and walked down to the tiny lake, worming his way through the thick thorny underbrush. He entered the water and stopped when he was shoulder deep, then he submerged beneath the cool liquid and began swimming. His body felt the vibrancy of the supporting freshness until he encountered the muddy bottom rising up to greet him. This was like his birth-memory.

He surfaced... and walked to the shore on the other side. There he met a woman looking at him. Next to her stood another, and another. There were many people there, all looking on, all frozen into shock by this dripping, bare-chested bronze man with long hair suddenly before them. Some shook their heads, others whispered ridicule. Some were even afraid. All, though, forgot for a while the nauseating stink the air held.

He looked at them and briefly smiled. Striding strongly he walked through the confusion and out to Central Park West, where he took some keys out of a wet pocket to unlock a Mercedes. Soon the shiny green auto was lost in the chaos of Midtown.

The missing Twin Towers on the southern horizon brought the bitterness instantly back. But then he heard, as if from behind his ears, his daughter's soft voice as she had asked, "Daddy, I forgot my book-bag in the car. I gotta take those pictures for show-and-tell..."

It had been a hectic morning, with his daughter so excited about getting a free day to take pictures from on top of the world. He remembered how close he had come to not leaving the office way up on the North Tower. His wife had even begun suggesting how she could take the elevator down to the garage after the 10 O'clock meeting with the NAACP to coordinate the case against GW Bush, to get the bookbag with the camera.

"I'll run down and get it, Sweetie."

At just after a quarter to nine in the morning, a horrific whoomphing noise struck him square in the chest.

He gulped over the memory, and the tears began to flow again. Pulling over, he let his head fall to the steering wheel. His fists clenched and released around it. Finding it hard to breathe, he fumbled with unfamiliar buttons in the car. The radio turned on, and finally he heard a window whisk down. This was his wife's car. His own SUV was now among so many people's blood and ashes.

Something about the voice on the radio grated across his mind.  In a disturbing way, it seemed to purposely attempt to overshadow what was provoking his endless flow of tears.  Utsi Greataunt would have called it an uyaga, an evil determined destroy right and light.  An evil more horrible than what had killed his wife and their child, and thousands others. “Well, it was an amazing phone call. 40 Wall Street actually was the second tallest building in downtown Manhattan...” the voice grew ever more sinister.  He struggled in a fog of anger and grief to reach forward to shut the radio off as he heard, “...and now it’s the tallest.” He’d heard the tape before, from the TV news, when Trump had called in, after which his mind had suddenly filled with images from Grandfather's stories of fighting fascism on the European front.

About to scream, a white light seemed to briefly explode soundless within the car, and it was as though he felt his wife's gentle breath touch the nape of his neck. In the old language that they had shared intimately or on the reservation at a ceremonial, it was as if he heard: Please, no more anger, no more tears, my love. I am home. Home again! And our daughter? She has a special blessing for you, until you too are home again... Her sweet voice and presence trailed off as he heard the ancient sounds of his ancestors. Opening his eyes, a large white feather not there before graced the passenger seat. He looked around in the car and then saw the dream catcher hanging from the mirror, and almost burst into tears again. His mind filled with the image of his wife always tenderly touching it prior to turning the ignition key.

He brought the feather to his face, trying to understand... and a chill went up his spine. A single drop of blood from the quill fell, and in his mind the scent of his daughter permeated the feather. He knew what to do.

After weaving the feather into his wife's dream catcher, of which she'd one time joked, that's more of a hippie nouveau thing, he turned the car towards the GWB, and behind his nose could already smell the piny woods in the ancient foothills of North Carolina.

He flew south to his daughter... and home.

*

A young couple had lagged behind the dispersing crowd by the Central Park pond. Looking intently at each other to begin with, they softly walked into the water and very tenderly splashed one another. For a few moments they were like children, the sharp hurt of a terrorized city washed away.

When the large white bird emerged from the water, just like the near-naked grizzled man before, the couple simply stood, hand-in-hand, watching the swan-like, immense bird flutter its wings to shed water, to then take flight with several long and powerful wing-beats striking the pond's surface.

She flew south to her father... and home, loosing one one wing feather that gently danced in the wind towards a parked car below.

***

Among the Cherokee, a white swan-like bird represents the dawning of peace.

No single event since the assassination of JFK in 1963 has so profoundly impacted my heart as the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers. I was in the middle of a meeting in Copenhagen, on the afternoon of September 11, 2001, when someone interrupted our work, and we turned on the office TV just as the second tower was hit...

The image above is my own creation.  I took the photo of the swan in a Copenhagen park and integrated it with Creative Commons images and painted with an image processor.

avis

Bent Lorentzen

Bent Lorentzen

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