In 2001, I started writing weekly columns for the local newspaper in Salem, Arkansas and I also started teaching computer courses at Ozarka College in Melbourne, Arkansas. The year turned out to be a year of surprises, especially in September as I was beginning my college teaching gig.
The following is a recap of my life in 2001 (from a column I wrote in December of 2001).
JANUARY: The Presidential election was so close it was still being debated during the inauguration. The Democrats had presented us with a man from Tennessee who had the charisma of a hickory tree and falsely claimed he had invented the Internet. The Republicans countered with the only man in Texas who had no personality and managed to get through life with a vocabulary of about 85 words. In the end, the voters did the best they could to make sure neither one of them won – they made it a tie. After much political wrangling and a close examination of dimpled chads, one of them won anyway.
FEBRUARY: My fourth novel was published. After years of writing and a ton of rejection letters, all four of my novels were now in print. For a long time, I wondered if it would ever happen. While they aren’t on any best-seller list (yet), I’m genuinely surprised I actually managed to pull it off.
MARCH: I began writing a weekly newspaper column for THE NEWS in Salem. Surprise #1 -- they actually published it. Surprise #2 – they continue to publish it. Surprise #3 – I never ran out of things to say.
APRIL: Doing my federal taxes cost me about 10 hours of lost time and gave me a massive headache. The surprise was that I managed to get through it without having to consult a tax accountant or a clinical psychologist.
MAY: It rained quite a bit and everything turned green, including several fuzzy items on the lower shelf of my refrigerator. The surprise came when one of the fuzzy green items in my refrigerator sprouted legs and began to move. I think it was either a cucumber or some guacamole dip. I shot it twice and threw it in the woods.
JUNE: The chiggers made their annual pilgrimage to my country estate. While this wasn’t a big surprise, they were a bit more organized this year. They posted a schedule of my daily activities and set up a buffet line near my back porch.
JULY: It was a dull, hot month. The surprise was that it turned out to be the only month without a surprise.
AUGUST: After more than 30 years as a computer programmer and consultant, I accepted a position as a college instructor. This may not be a surprise to the rest of the world, but it was a big surprise to me.
SEPTEMBER: A bunch of crazed terrorists surprised the whole world when they attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon without warning or regard for human life. Apparently, these malicious jerks had this overwhelming desire that every man on the planet wear a towel on their head and keep their women indoors at all times. They were led by a man named Osama who has five wives and a brain the size of a walnut. Of course I’m just guessing, but I assume anyone with five wives must have a brain the size of a walnut.
OCTOBER: A disgruntled, trigger-happy neighbor shot and killed my dog. It was a stunning surprise since I had never been forewarned that my dog was causing a problem. The second surprise came when the shooter denied knowing it was my dog even though he had dumped the carcass over onto my side of the fence.
NOVEMBER: My father fell off a ladder and landed on his head. He chose to do this on a day my mother was out of town and we were under a tornado watch. I drove him down to an emergency room in Batesville, during one of the most violent thunderstorms in recent memory, where 21 staples were inserted into the back of his head. While this accident was not so unusual, the surprise was that he is now more coherent than before.
DECEMBER: The stock market recovered to previous levels that had existed prior to the September terrorist attack. My ex-wife paid $600 for a cat with a terminal illness. A band of thugs in Afghanistan were hiding in caves like a pack of cornered rats. I’ve been approached to do a computer programming contract for a firm in Memphis. Miami and Nebraska are headed for the Rose Bowl. My new dog threw up in my shoe. Surprises come in all forms, including chunky liquids.
At least I survived another year. At my age, this is always a surprise.
On September 11 of 2001, a group of terrorists leveled the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and destroyed a portion of the Pentagon Building in Washington, DC. Whatever their motivation might have been, it was strong enough for them to give up their lives in the process.
Thousands of innocent people perished simply because crazed madmen wanted to make a point. It’s difficult to put into words but suffice it to say that this heinous act of inhumanity has reminded the entire world once again that evil still exists in the dark corners of humanity.
It’s a mistake, however, to call it an act of cowardice.
It takes great courage, and an enormous amount of disregard for human life, to give up your life for a cause you deeply believe in. Plus, it’s obvious that a great deal of planning and coordination went into it. That’s what makes fanatics like this so dangerous.
The other thing that makes them so dangerous is that they are clearly deranged.
These narrow-minded bigots believe they are the good guys and are willing to kill anyone who disagrees with them to prove it. Apparently, they want everyone on this planet to be just like them or dead.
Destroying buildings and killing innocent people is not a very good way to sway public opinion to your cause, therefore it must be assumed that these imbeciles wish to destroy us.
Basically, war has been declared on the United States by a bunch of zealous scumbags who don’t even have enough courage to crawl out from under a rock and announce their intentions.
All of our military might is useless against a small pocket of unknown terrorists who strike without warning and are willing to die for their cause.
This entire operation could have been planned and carried out by less than 20 people. In all probability, less than 100 people were involved.
America is a work in progress -- we are far from perfect, having numerous internal struggles taking place continuously. But in a time of crisis, we as a nation pull together, determined not to allow the senseless acts of others to affect our way of life.
This country was founded on a set of noble ideals and is a beacon of freedom in a world littered with countries controlled by tyrants.
We believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
We believe in government of the people, by the people and for the people.
We will not allow the insanity of others to alter our course.
The character of America can be seen in those who lined up, for as long as six hours in some places, to give blood and in the rescue workers on the scene who worked frantically to help the injured victims. A nation of caring souls will never be brought to its knees by acts of cruelty.
If the terrorists thought they would upset us, they probably succeeded.
If they thought we would suffer, it will be short-lived.
If they thought they would divide this nation, they were sadly mistaken.
If they thought we would bow to their demands, they were living in a fantasy world.
If they thought they would get away with it, I suspect every last one of them will soon be turned into vapor and the ground they’re standing on will become an instant parking lot.
If they thought some good would come out of it, it definitely will because they’ll be occupying a bench in a far corner of Hell, next to the boiler, scratching their wooden heads, wondering what they did to deserve such a fate.
Hell will be a little more crowded but the world will be a better place.
Quote for the Day -- "There can never be surprises in logic." Ludwig Wittgenstein
Bret Burquest is the author of 9 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and sometimes even surprises himself.