I get a lot of e-mails. Not bragging, mind you, or complaining. Just stating a fact.
Some are from people whom I have offended with my Southern-fried remarks about life, liberty and the happiness of pursuit. Some are from folks who actually agree with most of what I have to say - a scary thought - and some are from folks who just want to share their memories or views on subjects I have broached. I am always happy to hear from everybody.
A lot of the e-mail I receive, as you might imagine, contains the pictures, urban legends, jokes and warnings that we all get. When an e-mail attachment starts making the rounds, you can bet your sweet bippie it will find its way to my screen sooner rather than later. If I got one e-mail, for example, showing Michael Vick walking Uga VI on a leash, I got a hundred.
Truth be known, I delete most of those types of e-mail - especially if I have to scroll through dozens and dozens of names of other recipients. Don't you just hate getting those? I mean, really y'all. If you are going to share a laugh with me or warn me against some scam being perpetrated or climb up on your soap box about this or that, at least send me my own e-mail.
Now I told you all that to tell you this.
When I opened my e-mail Thursday morning, I had an e-mail from Wheeler Davidson. Wheeler is an American icon in some circles. He is a retired colonel in the United States Army and served his country with distinction - in war time and in peace - for two decades. He is also a retired educator. We taught together at Clarkston High School in the early '80s and spent many hours together defending truth, justice and the American way.
Wheeler is also the "self-appointed, nonelected and can't be fired" chairman of the Oak Tree Tailgate Gang. He and I break bread and try to solve the world's problems together prior to Georgia football games several times a year.
If Wheeler sends me an e-mail, I open it. Period. The one I received Thursday made me drop everything I was doing. It made me mad, made me cry and then it made me mad again. It was a slideshow of about 50 previously unpublished photos of the attack on the World Trade Center. Can you believe it will have been six years Tuesday? It came as a stark reminder - one we all need.
I was also very excited Thursday to see that I had a message from Lowenstein, a delightful lady whom I met at a writer's conference on the Georgia coast last summer. Her name isn't really Lowenstein - it's Judy. But I think she was the model for Pat Conroy's "Prince of Tides" character. She is a psychoanalyst who was married to an arrogant so-and-so - just like in the novel. But Judy had the good sense to move to the South and now practices in Charleston, S.C., which happens to be Pat Conroy's old stomping grounds. Plus, her son is a Marine fighter pilot. If you know Conroy's work you will understand. If not, please take my word for the eeriness of these coincidences.
I suppose I should tell you one more thing about Lowenstein - or Judy. For many, many months after Sept. 11, 2001, Judy's job was to council New York City firefighters - men who had seen the whole world collapse around them. Men who had lost friends and family members. Men who stayed awake at nights wondering what more they could have done and wondering why they had survived while others hadn't.
That's a tough job, but somebody had to do it. Judy was that somebody, and I could tell from talking to her that she internalized a lot of the pain and grief of the people she tried to help. Those people, by the way, were lucky to have someone who cared as much as she did - and still does.
So now you know why I was so excited to get an e-mail from her, and would have opened it even if she wasn't drop-dead gorgeous - which she is.
But when I opened the e-mail, I saw that I wasn't the only recipient. In fact, there were hundreds of names on the list, and I almost deleted the message without scrolling through them to read it. But it was from Lowenstein, so I couldn't.
I'm glad I didn't. It was a simple request. Judy Heath, who knows as much as anyone about the terror and tragedy that struck this nation on Sept. 11, 2001, wants everyone who drives a car that day to turn their lights on - just to show our respect for the victims of that awful day and our unity as a nation. That's all. Drive with your lights on.
We can do that, can't we? Go ahead. Forward this message to everyone you know.
The Chairman will appreciate it. Lowenstein will appreciate it - and so will I.
Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.