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September 11, 2006


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Chris Hoofnagle

Whoa! Glad you didn't have time!

I was flying into DCA at the time, on the redeye from CA! They diverted us to Dulles. Glad they didn't shoot us down!

ricky J. Fico

It was September 11 when God Himself, came down and saved me. It was a drastic measure, but one necessary to prevent me from walking into the mighty Pacific without looking back. It was my way, the only way.

Oh, beautiful Kauai, my heaven on earth! It would be there where I'd take my last glass of wine, my final shot of scotch and my last breath. I had planned it so well, I thought. I had booked a flight from Chicago to arrive Kauai on September 12, 1992 - the day before my final birthday - September 13. I wanted to perform my "dead man walking" on my birthday. You all know the story, "Leaving Las Vegas," right?

That is the movie where the character played by Nicolas Cage goes to Las Vegas to drink himself to death. Well, I was "Leaving Kauai" and why, you may ask. Because I had grown tired of witnessing all the pain and suffering in this world, the cruelty, the disregard for each other. Also, I had enough of my own struggles, the constant battles fighting my alcoholism, the harsh memories of finding my father dead after he had died about three days before I had gone to visit him. I also had enough of the past, my past where every turn seemed to take me to another dead end.

But something happened, something so powerful that I was stopped from performimg my final dance upon the shorelines of Kauai. I must believe, this time, it took God Himself to stop me.

On the evening of September 11, 1992 I was sitting in Tony's Tavern, downing my scotch when the news broke. A fierce hurricane had hit Kauai head on. Half drunk, I thought maybe I was not really hearing right . Through the smoke and the haze I focused on the television as much as my half-drunkenness would allow. Projected to me on the blurry screen were the twisted palm trees, the over-turned homes, the upended boats. I recognized what once was the idyllic shoreline of Poipu, now in twisted disarray. Now what am I going to do? All ports would surely be closed now, I thought.

I immediately went to the phone booth and called United Airlines. It was confirmed. My flight tomorrow to Kauai was cancelled. Now what? I went back to my stool, and with tears running down my cheeks, I faced the truth. Revealed to me on that blurry television screen before me was the reality. "You are needed here on Earth"

I took the last gulp of my drink and left the tavern and walked to the neighborhood park, where I sat and thought. I came to the realization what had really happened. A 911 call had gone out, "This is an emergency." This time it was God Himself who answered the call. And my life was spared. I was stopped from going to Kauai to kill myself. This was a new beginning. I was reborn and finally I was able to quit the drinking, and with a new zest for life, I began the process of healing.

For the next year I had sat down every morning and relived my life through writing. I relived the pain, the tears, the sometime laughter and put it all down, black on white. It was my catharsis. Finally, I was freed from the chains that had bound me all my adult life. And I was finally able to forgive. Hurricane Iniki, I am sorry for your destruction. But I am forever grateful to you for saving my life . . .

And then, September 11, 2001! I was intent on celebrating the anniversary of my rebirth. I hopped in my car and was on my way to breakfast, when the news broke through the song I was listening to, "Silent Lucidity." At first, I thought it was a practical joke, reminding me of Orson Welle's Halloween trick, "We're being invaded by Martians" which ultimately caused pandemonium and mass hysteria throughout the land.

I quickly turned to another radio station. Same thing. This can’t be happening, there’s no way. This has to be some kind of cruel joke. Another Station: "Both World Trade Center Buildings are on fire!" I kept driving, my heart pounding, the palms of my hands gripping the steering wheel, trying desperately to retain control. "A passenger jet had slammed into the Pentagon." No, this can’t be real!

I turned on another station. "News just in from Pennsylvania - a plane had crashed in a field." What the hell is going on? Is this the end of the world? I arrived at the restaurant, and with my own two eyes, witnessed on their television, the horrific events. I really had not the stomach for egg omelets or pancakes. Not now. "Miss Waitress, just bring me a large glass of cranberry juice."

I sat and slowly drank the juice, tears falling down my cheeks. Patrons all around, also staring intently at the television in disbelief, their own faces reddened from sadness. I knew I had to get home. Pass McCarran International airport I drove. There was not a plane in the sky, neither coming in nor taking off. All was quiet now except the beating of my heart. Many questions arose and struck hard at my conscience but still I drove on, aiming for home.

Ricky J. Fico

ricky J. Fico

Something I wrote not so long ago: "I cannot carry the world on my shoulders but on my shoulders it is my world that must carry me."

Ricky J. Fico

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