Sunday, September 11, 2011

2011 The September Note

In honor of those who were lost, those who love them, those who help and those who care.    In my second desk drawer, there’s a folded piece of notebook paper. It’s wrinkled, creased from one too many times where I missed the old fold line and there’s even a stain on the lower left corner where I smeared blood from a hang nail once. Anybody want to guess what number two on my “No-Good-Very-Bad-Things” list is?

Bullies ….
    On Friday I flipped over to one of the few news feeds I still read and caught this headline:
  “The Twitter account for NBC News was hacked Friday evening, and a series of alarmist tweets about a fake terrorist attack at Ground Zero were posted. The breach came just days before the tenth anniversary of Sept. 11th, at a time of heightened concern about the possibility of another attack.” (

    The story goes on to list what these morons posted. Best of all, the hackers even added the convenience of a hash tag to these made up bits of fear mongering. #groundzeroattacked. I swear I’m not making this crap up. Click the link and read it for yourself if you need to be extra angry today.

    Thankfully someone got on the ball with this because the response to shut it down came in ten minutes later. Here’s what they did:
    “The response from NBC was quick. Less than ten minutes after the first fake tweet, Vivian Schiller, Chief Digital Officer for NBC News and MSNBC tweeted "Ignore tweets from @nbcnews till further notice. We've been hacked. Do not retweet." (
    For those of you familiar with how twitter works, you understand that ten minutes to shut this down did some extreme damage in the raising folks fear levels department. For those not doing the twitter, let’s break it down.
NBCNEWS on twitter is listed as having 129,170 followers. Now let’s consider if all those folks decided to retweet that false message in the 9 minutes before they shut it down and what that might mean for the survivors of September 11th.
    The average time it takes for most people on twitter to retweet something is around 30 seconds. So, if every one of their followers retweeted these fake messages at 30 seconds, the message would’ve been delivered to 258,340 twitter accounts, at 1 minute 516,680. By a minute and 30 seconds, the retweet numbers would’ve hit 1,033,360.
    Guess what folks, even if NBC culled it at 9 minutes and 30 seconds of retweeting, that’s a heck of a lot of crazy blasting its way to every cell phone and laptop in America. I’m not even figuring in other countries here. Now I know what you might be thinking, Katie, you ain’t good with math so stick with the writing thing. You’d be right about the math part, but that’s not the point.
    Afterwards, the group "The Script Kiddies" took responsibility for the hack. Always the responsible news organization, NBC issued this statement:
    "The NBC News twitter account was hacked late this afternoon and as a result, false reports of a plane attack on ground zero were sent to @NBCNews followers. We are working with Twitter to correct the situation and sincerely apologize for the scare that could have been caused by such a reckless and irresponsible act."
p.s. that’s the real name of the group but I marked them out because on my list they’re a big smelly pile of number two. For this bit of childish, idiotic, hateful, need-a-smack-upside-the-head bit of stupidity; I genuinely hope these people get a front row seat to a smack down real soon. Want to know why, other than the obvious reasons? They’re BULLIES, trying to scare folks that have been living in fear for ten years now.
    And I already told you how I feel about a bully.
    Maybe I should explain why bullies are number two on my list. I have two boys, my oldest is twelve and he’s had to deal with bullies every school year since he turned six years old. He handled them pretty well year after year, or so I thought. Finally he reached fifth grade and something in the bullying structure changed.
    Just before Christmas vacation of fifth grade my son began to come home with red whelps on his arms. This is after he’d had every pencil I’d bought him stolen multiple times, items stolen out of his back pack, been called horrible names etc. etc. Real bully stuff you know.
    I held his arm. “Did you tell your teacher?”
    “Yes mom.”
   “What did she do?”
   He frowned, “nothing.”
    *volcano exploded inside Katie’s brain*
   We had this same discussion two more times that week. All the while, I’m calling the school, visiting principals etc. Yet, it keeps happening … in the classroom … and nothing is done about it.
    I lay in bed several nights in a row seething, stewing and at times so furious I couldn’t breathe. During that semester, my son’s grades had dropped. He’d become despondent and listless. Now, I knew why. I felt powerless, angry and full of fear for my child.
    Two days before Christmas vacation I picked him up from school and he held his arm out to me as soon as he shut the door. Angry red marks and purple hematomas had blossomed on his forearms.
    I slammed on brakes and nearly dismantled the entire exit line strategy that afternoon. The closest teacher knocked on my window and waved frantically for me to move forward as I stared at the marks. I’m not sure what saved her from me shooting the bird; I did give her a murderous glare though.
    “Did you tell your teacher?” I asked and pressed the gas pedal harder than I really should have.
    “No because she won’t do anything about it.”
    Something inside me finally broke. The camel with a straw on his back, whatever you want to call it, all my desire to follow the same old rules disintegrated. 
    My kid sat silent in his seat all the way home while I plotted and burned inside.
    “I think we need to try something different,” I told him.
    Bright blue eyes appraised me from across the car.  “What do you mean?”
    “Ignoring the situation isn’t working.” I opened the door and got out of the car at home. “Maybe it’s time we tried to fix this a different way.”
    He only stared, said nothing and wore a wrinkled frown between his eyes.
    I really looked at him and finally got it. My kid had given up on everyone, including ME, sticking up for him. The realization made me sick.
    We sat down at the kitchen table to start homework and I watched him. My heart hurt. At last, I decided what we’d do to fix the bully situation. 
    Squaring my shoulders, I stared him in the eyes. “We’re gonna do something about this bully. The pinching junk isn’t going to happen another day. Do you believe me?”
    He shook his head no. “I’ve tried. Nobody will make him stop.”
    “You’ll make him,” I said.
    “I think I’ve been wrong about the way I’ve told you to handle problem kids for years.” Pausing, I waited for him to process that. “I should’ve never told you to not get in a fight at school. So here’s the plan. Tomorrow, if this kid lays one pinkie finger on you, pushes you, hits you, pokes you … basically, if his flesh touches yours for any other reason than an accidental bump in line or something, I want you to beat the living shit out of him.”   
And yes, I said it just that way.
    His eyes bugged out for a second … but then … he gave me that look. The one that said he still didn’t believe me. It broke my heart.
    “Are you serious?” He sounded just like his dad when he said it.
    “I’m as serious as a heart attack. If he touches you, I want you to grab him by the front of his shirt, throw him to the ground, sit on him and punch him right in his nose. Then I want you to punch him in both his eyes and in the mouth and bust his lip. Knock his teeth out. Then I want you to keep punching him until someone pulls you off. Till the day he dies, I want him to remember the last day he picked on you because you beat him so badly.” 
    “I’ll get expelled.”
    “I don’t care. I’ll home school you if that’s what it takes.”
    “So you want me to get in a fight at school?” He looked very confused.
    “Nope,” I answered. “I want you to fight back. Tomorrow morning, I’ll get dressed and sit by the phone. If you get in a fight, you have the principal call me. After that, I’m going to get my notebook with all the dates and information about this situation, get in the car and drive straight to the Hernando police station to find a cop to bring with me to the school.”
    His eyes got big as marbles.
    “The cop won’t be for you.”
    “Oh,” he said. Then, he smiled. Something changed then, I don’t have a name for it to this day. A flicker of something swam back up to the surface of his eyes as we sat there.
    “So I have your permission to beat up a kid at school. And, you won’t care if I get kicked out of school for fighting.”
    “Not if you’re sticking up for yourself to the kid who’s been terrorizing you for weeks. I’ll be up at that school as soon as you call to ream every teacher and principal who has something to say about it a new one for letting it go on.” Touching his arm, I held his gaze to be sure he heard me say the most important part. “I’m sorry, this is my fault. I took your power away by telling you the most important thing was to stay out of trouble. It’s not. The most important thing is that you go to school and aren’t afraid. You have the right to sit in your desk and concentrate on your work without fear of being physically hurt by a classmate. I told you not to fight because I felt like the system tied my hands with rules. I’m responsible for not fixing this sooner and I’m sorry.”
    And that was the God’s truth.
    He sat there doodling on his paper for a long time. Then he looked up at me, “Well okay.”
    Later that night, I told my husband about our new strategy. Like a true male redneck, he was all for the ass kicking part.
    Right about now, I bet you’re wondering what in the world this has to do with remembering what happened on this day ten years ago. I guess the main reason is I loathe bullies and any instance of unfair treatment with a burning passion, always have. But my personal situation, taught me another piece of why I won’t tolerate bullies. I’m big on not being under someone else’s control. All we Wood kids are resistant to that and we get it honest.
    This hack into the NBCNEWS account is a perfect example of how the survivors haven’t been allowed to regain their control. Fear still rules New York City, Washington and anyone who has to fly on 9/11 every September. TSA agents are swiping grandmother’s butt cracks for bombs and nekked x-raying people for the love of God. If that’s not propagating fear I don’t know what is.
    Bullies aren’t about anything but stealing power from others. And has there EVER been a bigger example of that than the attacks on September 11th?  An extremist group crashes planes and kills innocents for a cause so old and convoluted they can’t actually explain why they did it where anyone can understand it. That’s the actions of humans who’ve lost all control. Terrorist live in a waste land, under dictators … no control. They see American’s living free, both girls and boys going to school then to college when their own children can’t … they’ve no control. Fear is an ever-present monster at the door over there and they want Americans to feel the same way every September. Thanks to idiot groups like kiddies-who-need-to-have-the-sense-knocked-back-into-them, September 11th still has the power to bully survivors ten years later.  
    I dropped my kid off at school that following Monday morning then went home, sat on the couch and held my cell phone on my lap. Around 11:30 a.m. the phone rang. Big cleansing breath first, I answered.
    The assistant principal on the other end of the line was all in a flitter. He proceeded to tell me what a strange morning he’d had, like I frickin’ cared. Two minutes into the conversation, I wanted to beat him up.
     After leaving me at the car, my kid had marched himself into the main office and plopped himself into a leather chair. He then explained to the assistant principal that he’d been bullied by a kid in his class for weeks and demanded that the principal make it stop. That’s an exact quote to, my kid demanded.
    After the bully visited the office that morning, he never bothered my son again. To this day, we haven’t had another instance of bullies.
    My son did something that morning which surprised even me. He made the choice to take his control back in a non-violent way. His parents had given him permission to crack heads, but at 11 years old, he made a decision most adults can’t. He marched into that school and took back all the control he’d lost in six years of bullies with a grin. 
     As I reflect on the beautiful blue sky I remember from September 11th ten years ago, and how nothing in America has been the same since. I’ll hang my flag up. Watch the specials on television and cry and say a prayer for the families who lost someone they love to nothing more than a group of bullies. But, for this year most of all, my wish for the survivors is that they’ve found a way to take back control and let go of some of the lingering fear that it might happen again.    
 For my part, I'll never forget the people who were lost, never forget the untold number of hero’s from that day and what they did, but most of all, never forget the courage it takes for those left behind to face their fears every day wearing 9/11 scars on their hearts.

Till then,



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