In The Bleak Midwinter


. . . Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world? No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee...                       
~~John Donne (1572-1631)
To be, or not to be,--that is the question:--
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?--To die,--to sleep,--
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to,--'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die,--to sleep;--
To sleep! perchance to dream:--ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
     ~~Shakespeare: Hamlet Act III, Scene 1

Where were you . . . . .?

We all have memories of very tragic days and exactly where we were and what we were doing at the time.  Three in particular stand out in my memory.
JOHN F. KENNEDY assassination. I was 21 years old and had just started my first job in Miami, Florida at the Parkinson Institute.  It was a Friday afternoon and we all just wandered around the building staring at each other in disbelief.  At last, I had thought, John Kennedy was a president I could believe in, and my hopes seemed shattered.  After an hour or so, we all went home.  Living alone at the time, I turned on the TV and just sat there sad, depressed, and in denial that all this was happening. On TV, every aspect was being covered non-stop -- viewing in the Capitol rotunda, the funeral cortege, the riderless horse, and Arlington.  Three and a half days of continuous coverage until the eternal flame was lit on Monday.  To this day, every time I hear Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings and Pachabel’s Canon in D, I think about this time.
Space Shuttle Challenger explosion on January 28, 1986.  I was in Chapel Hill on the campus of the University of North Carolina getting ready to interview for a job.  I was wandering through a student union building when the televisions got my attention.  Again, I was stunned.

Nine/Eleven.  Working for Nicolet Biomedical/Viasys Neurocare at the time, I was in Washington, DC.  Living in Wilmington, NC, I usually flew to Dulles, but for some reason I just kept procrastinating booking my flight until it was only a couple of days before I was to go and then I knew that the ticket price would be exorbitant for my employer, so I decided to drive.  Arrived at my motel on the north side of the beltway on September 8, and then was up early for a sleep system demonstration just to the north in Frederick, Maryland at 9:00 AM.  When the sales rep and I arrived at the doctor's office, the doctor was not in yet, so the rep and I were out front getting the equipment out of the van and deciding how we were going to get it up the steps, because there was no ramp.  The radio in my car was on and I heard that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center Towers in NYC.  I remember thinking that it was probably a small plane that had accidentally flown into the tower similar to the incident years earlier when a small plane had flown into the Empire State Building.  Then the doctor's secretary called out to us to come hear about the disaster.  She had a small TV on her desk and was watching it, and then it was when I found out that it was a huge jet that had hit the WTC tower.  The physician soon arrived, but he was preoccupied because he knew a stock broker that worked in the towers.  I think we did a cursory demo of the sleep equipment, but no one was too interested.  We had another appointment that afternoon in Wheaton, MD which was postponed until the next day.  Instead we drove to the reps home and watched the TV for the rest of the day as we saw the towers collapse. I seemed to be alone on the highway driving south back toward Washington as there had been a mass exodus of the DC area earlier after the Pentagon was hit by another plane. That night I watched Peter Jennings non-stop on TV about the day's tragedies. Another appointment at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda the next day also fell through.  We went to the appointment in Wheaton, were annoyed that the doctors had not set aside time for us to show the equipment, but none of the patients showed up for their appointments anyway, so the doctors were available to us.  It really did not matter because everyone was too preoccupied, and I don't think we made any sales that week.  Nicolet employees and consultants were stranded everywhere because all aviation had been shut down.  I, too, would have been stranded if I had not driven to Washington in my Volvo.  Just so glad to get out of the area and down to my farm.