personal best on this--my tenth consecutive climb--and the cortisone shot in my left hip, administered on June 11, the day domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh was put to death by lethal injection, seemed to have turned the tide in my debilitating battle with arthritis.
Although Dr. Johnson warned me not to celebrate until after three months had passed. Thus I anxiously looked forward to September 11, hoping it would come quickly and go painlessly.
My Amherst Bulletin monthly column that last Friday in August, published a day before the Mt Washington Road Race, was a patriotic pitch for continuing to fly 29 small American flags in the downtown. As columns go it pretty much wrote itself, as words flow easily when defending true beliefs.
Amherst's Veterans Agent had purchased the commemorative flags that summer with Town Meeting approved tax monies. But, this being Amherst, the usual gang of left-wing zealots were appalled that Amherst would dare to resemble an All American small town right out of a Rockwell illustration, even if only for special occasions.
Town Manager Barry Del Castilho had reacted to the brewing controversy in typical bureaucratic fashion by placing on the Select Board agenda a public discussion for when and how long the flags could fly. After all, the five-member Select Board is in charge of "public ways" and even though the lightpoles acting as flagpoles were privately owned by Western Mass Electric, they were set in town property.
Since the Select Board did not meet around Labor Day the next available night for this routine Amherst drama to play out was September 10, the 'Eve of Destruction'.
That evening, after a spirited two hour discussion, the board decided to keep the flags down and to allow them up on only 6 annual occasions. The next morning, after watching those shimmering towers disappear in an enormous cloud of smoke and debris, a familiar throb returned to my left hip. A double dose of pain on the day I had hoped for no surprises.
UMass professor Jennie Traschen provided the best known sound bite (dubbed the "Ill-timed quote of the century" by the Wall Street Journal) from that still innocent long ago evening in Amherst Town Hall, when real world realities were already bearing down on Ivory Tower illusions: "Actually, what the flag stands for is a symbol of terrorism and death and fear and destruction and repression."
Ten years distant I would edit Ms. Traschen's incendiary words ever so slightly: "Actually, what terrorism stands for is death and fear and destruction and repression." And it requires our constant vigilance.
(Now at age 56 with both hips and one knee fashioned from titanium--the same material as my bike frame--all working together perfectly, I've envisioned ascending Mt Washington one last time before that final fade to black, but not coming close to my 1:32 finish ten years ago. Last weekend, however, at the 39th annual Mt Washington Hill Climb, Ned Overend won the race with an almost record time of 55:03. He did it on his 57th birthday. So who knows, my personal best from a decade ago may yet fall.)