Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 22, 2004
I had expected to come, perform my task and be on my way back to Selma within 45 minutes.
An hour and a half later, I was still there.
The specter of 9/11 extended the time.
I arrived in Linden, some 50 miles from Selma at the Depot Museum at 7:00 p.m., precisely at the appointed time.
As I went through the cafeteria line, I filled my plate with catfish and field peas.
I took a touch of sweet potato casserole to “pass something sweet in my mouth.”
I joined the Marengo County Volunteer Firefighters in the meeting room to eat.
It was their Annual Dinner and check-distributing time.
The food was good.
As we ate, I talked with Representative Thomas Jackson and others.
We were through eating by 8:25 p.m.
“I should be leaving soon,” I thought.
Then issues of homeland security burst on this rural scene, propelled by the startling and tragic events known as 9/11.
The chair of the meeting, in his opening remarks, talked about homeland security.
If I recall correctly, they recently received a grant from the Homeland Security Agency to prepare against terrorism.
Security is the central purpose of volunteer firefighters.
However, this was the only one of the many firefighters meetings which I have attended over the years that security relating to terrorism was a dominant issue.
In rural areas, volunteer firefighters protect our homes by putting out destructive fires.
They protect our pocketbooks by helping reduce insurance rates. They protect our communities by cooperating with law enforcement to prevent crime.
They protect our health by working with Emergency Medical Services.
Most of all, they protect our lives by helping prevent and contain raging fires.
For many rural communities, volunteer firefighters are synonymous with security.
In addition, volunteer firefighters often spell the U-N-I-T-Y in community. Schools and churches used to center our rural communities.
So often now, it’s the firehouse.
On this occasion, very little was said about these important roles of volunteer firefighters.
It was “homeland security” that captured and held center stage.
The Red Cross was there.
They talked about blood, as usual, but they also talked about helping in the aftermath of fires.
They talked about helping with communication with our children at war in Iraq.
They talked about their role if a disaster such as 9/11 occurs in rural areas such as Marengo.
The specter of 9/11 is everywhere.
When the Red Cross finished about forty minutes later, I was anxious.
I was already beyond my projected time of departure.
I was ready to pass out the checks.
Then another presenter came.
Again the issue was security.
More specifically it concerned ID (Identification) cards.
Homeland security was mentioned time and time again.
When they finished it was nearly 8:30 p.m.
The specter of 9/11 involves not only non-profit organizations such as Volunteer Firefighters and the Red Cross; it involves for-profit corporations such as the manufacturers of ID cards.
Marengo County is a very rural county with a population of 22,539.
One would think that a terrorist attack here is highly unlikely.
Yet the potential profoundly impacts its people.
That’s the power of terrorism:
not knowing who or what or where or when.
Finally it was time to handout the checks.
These monies have been appropriated by the Legislature through the Alabama Forestry Commission for years.
Each Volunteer Fire Department in the state receives the same amount regardless of its size.
These funds are very much needed because volunteer firefighters, who give their time, effort and expertise, cannot function without the buildings, equipment and supplies, all of which cost money.
Representative Jackson and I divided the checks in roughly equal numbers.
We made brief remarks and then called the names of each of eleven Volunteer Fire Departments.
All were present except one.
As the chief or other representative came to receive the check, we shook each hand as we presented the check.
By the time we left, it was nearly 9:00 p.m. I had gone to Marengo to fellowship with volunteer firefighters and help distribute checks.
In the process, I learned how one event has changed our entire frame of reference, even in this rural county.
The specter of 9/11 is everywhere.
Now on to the Daily Diary.
Saturday -I worked at the office several hours before traveling to Auburn for a book signing.
I talked with Alabama New South Coalition President Barbara Pitts and Twenty First Century Youth leader Norma Jackson in between signings. I also talked with Senator Ted Little and his wife, Dora.
I talked to others as I signed books.
On the way back, I stopped in Montgomery briefly.
I returned to Selma to work into the night on Sketches and other matters.
Sunday -I did Radio Sunday School, Radio Education and Sunday Review.
I attended Sunday School and church services.
I had a book signing at our church after services.
I had a wonderful dinner with Reverend C. A. Lett, the pastor of our church, Faya Rose Toure, Rita Lett, Barbara Brown, Horace Brown, Dr. James Mitchell and Priscilla Mitchell.
Monday -I worked at the office on various issues, including Sketches.
I met with the following: Selma Mayor James Perkins, Jr.; economic development specialists Wayne Vardaman and George Alford; Reverend F. D. Reese; Tina Price; and others concerning the Civil Rights Trail and other highway development.
I also met with county commissioners Curtis Williams and Cornell Towns and Selma Mayor James Perkins, Jr. about governmental cooperation.
I worked into the night.
Tuesday -I worked on many issues.
I met with former Judge Dick Norton and others about a special project.
I talked with Senator Rodger Smitherman.
I traveled to Linden for the Marengo County Association of Volunteer Fire Departments’ Annual Dinner.
I made remarks and helped distribute checks.
I returned to Selma to work several hours.
Wednesday -I met with Lorraine Capers concerning Alabama New South Coalition and local elections.
I met with persons about budget related challenges.
I attended a Chamber of Commerce Committee meeting with Billy Atchison and others.
I talked with Senator Zeb Little.
I met with Dallas County Commissioner Roy Moore and a large group of citizens from the Plantersville area to secure water for their homes.
Thursday -I briefly attended a meeting on the 40th Anniversary of the Bridge Crossing Jubilee.
I handled numerous matters before giving greetings at the Perkins For Mayor Banquet in Selma.
I then drove to Biloxi, Mississippi for a financial conference.
Friday -I continued at the conference in Biloxi.
I called in to J. L. Chestnut’s Radio Program about my novel, Death of a Fat Man.
At the conference, I talked with legislative and other leaders about various political challenges.
EPILOGUE -Sometimes something happens that affect us in all kind of unanticipated ways.
Time limits, location and other factors are not boundaries.
9/11 was such an event.