Once upon a time, a very, very long time ago...


What to think... What to say... Words fail, but just for a short while... The numbness gently recedes and the nerve endings awaken... I was thinking of my family, our family... My father came to this country in 1939, still a boy, innocent and wide-eyed, searching for his place in this life. And the life he found in this country was rich and bountiful.

Around every corner was something new and different. People of all shapes and sizes, of all the colors of the rainbow. And they all walked tall, proud of where they came from and thankful of where they now were.

As my father grew, his love and respect for America grew as well. He served his country and when his tour of duty ended he began a new detail, his rank was Father and his barracks would shift from Queens to Old Bridge.

And as he raised me, he taught me about duty and about honor and about respect. He taught me that this was the greatest country in the world, because they took him in when he had nowhere else to go, and then they gave him the chance to be whoever he wanted to be. They let him live where he wanted to live and work where he wanted to work and pray however he chose to pray.

As I became a man, I held on to this belief. It is core to my being. I am a proud American. And a proud Jew. I never hesitate to speak of my country or my religion. I would never waste the opportunity that my father gave me when he and his family braved untold horrors in the pursuit of freedom.

When September 11th came, I was filled with outrage at this attack on our freedom and our way of life. Did I (or anyone) think for a minute that this would have happened if the US government hadn’t supported a Jewish homeland in Israel? Would so many Americans have died in the US if its government had turned a blind eye to the plight of the Jewish people? I know that courage has its price, but what is the cost of freedom?

I was angry and frustrated and I wanted decisive action. As a Jew, I felt threatened. Persecution follows us, dogs us and doesn’t seem to let up, and now I’m not safe even in America. What am I supposed to feel? All these thoughts, these emotions overtook me and I sought refuge through prayer. I asked G-d for the same thing that I always ask for in times of crisis, I begged for wisdom. Please grant me the wisdom to understand how I feel, grant me the wisdom to make some sense out of this.

A few days later I was listening to NPR (National Public Radio) and I heard a very moving story. They were interviewing a man who had once lived in a foreign country where there was a lot of fighting and strife. He moved his family to America and set up a life for himself. He spoke of how he opened a dry cleaning business in New York and did very nicely. He sent his children to college and one of them, his oldest son, went on to become a stockbroker where he ended up in a very nice office in the World Trade Center.

The man then spoke of the morning of September 11th and of the phone call that came from his brother, asking if the son was all right. The man said “Of course.” And the brother said, “Turn on the television.” The man saw the devastation and immediately called his son. But there was no answer in the office and so the man waited and worried, thinking the unthinkable.


The radio interview continued with the man’s voice, as he told of being in the midst of dark desperation, his accent think, but his words still discernable. He choked up a bit and then continued, “As I was lost in my thoughts, lost in my prayers, who should walk in the door but my son… Alive and well…” and at that his voice trailed off…

And as I sat in my car listening to this, it occurred to me how much the man’s voice sounded like my own fathers voice, especially when he became overcome with emotion, his voice cracking and wet with tears. I was overcome with the similarity, of how this man could have been my father, a Polish Jew who escaped war to find peace in America. Except that the man on the radio was Palestinian. While I was in the midst of my own zealousness and passion for my people, both Americans and Jews, this story was a very gentle reminder from G-d that we are not that different from one another. I wish you peace. ~Stu Mark


Truly Blessed

The Mark Family is truly blessed. This week of terror passed over us like the shadow of death in Moses' day. We were protected by God and our own personal guardian angels.

Dave, Deneen, Crystal, Doug, Jason, Diana and Murray seemed to be closest to the World Trade Center last Tuesday when the war began. War. Haven't used that word in a long time.

Dave was frantic when he couldn't get in touch with Deneen, who works in downtown DC. She was stuck in traffic, trying to get home. Her cell phone, like so many then, couldn't get through to let him know she was alright.

Cheryl saw the twin towers burning from her 11th story office, according to Allen. I can't imagine what was going through her mind then. I've seen it reinacted over and over, but she saw it live.

Murray was stuck on the island overnight, on Trudy's birthday.

Sandy's husband, Jerry has been in Saudi Arabia this week. He made it to London and hopes to be home this Tuesday.

Donah, Joey and Rich on Long Island were shaken up, as were we all, but they are all fine.

Down here in Texas, we were doing the "Duck & Cover." Houston is third on the list of the Most Likely To Get Bombed." Our eyes were on the refineries. Most oil companies sent their workers home from their downtown offices. I stayed at the office. The kids stayed in school. I worried about family and what Robyn was being told and how she was feeling.

Tuesday nights, my daughters and I go to dinner together and talk. It was somber but I was reasured that Robyn is maturing and seeing the world for what it is... Not perfect.

Wednesday morning, I stumbled out of bed to the shower, where I do my thinking. I turned on the hot water, thought to myself, "It's Wednesday. What do I do on Wednesdays?" And then it hit me... Oh, yeah. We're at war. ~Val Mark

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