September 26, 2001
JAHANNEM, OUTER DARKNESS—The hijackers who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon expressed confusion and surprise Monday to find themselves in the lowest plane of Na'ar, Islam's Hell.
"I was promised I would spend eternity in Paradise, being fed honeyed cakes by 67 virgins in a tree-lined garden, if only I would fly the airplane into one of the Twin Towers," said Mohammed Atta, one of the hijackers of American Airlines Flight 11, between attempts to vomit up the wasps, hornets, and live coals infesting his stomach. "But instead, I am fed the boiling feces of traitors by malicious, laughing Ifrit. Is this to be my reward for destroying the enemies of my faith?"
The rest of Atta's words turned to raw-throated shrieks, as a tusked, asp-tongued demon burst his eyeballs and drank the fluid that ran down his face.
According to Hell sources, the 19 eternally damned terrorists have struggled to understand why they have been subjected to soul-withering, infernal torture ever since their Sept. 11 arrival.
"There was a tumultuous conflagration of burning steel and fuel at our gates, and from it stepped forth these hijackers, the blessed name of the Lord already turning to molten brass on their accursed lips," said Iblis The Thrice-Damned, the cacodemon charged with conscripting new arrivals into the ranks of the forgotten. "Indeed, I do not know what they were expecting, but they certainly didn't seem prepared to be skewered from eye socket to bunghole and then placed on a spit so that their flesh could be roasted by the searing gale of flatus which issues forth from the haunches of Asmoday."
"Which is strange when you consider the evil with which they ended their lives and those of so many others," added Iblis, absentmindedly twisting the limbs of hijacker Abdul Aziz Alomari into unspeakably obscene shapes.
"I was told that these Americans were enemies of the one true religion, and that Heaven would be my reward for my noble sacrifice," said Alomari, moments before his jaw was sheared away by faceless homunculi. "But now I am forced to suckle from the 16 poisoned leathern teats of Gophahmet, Whore of Betrayal, until I burst from an unwholesome engorgement of curdled bile. This must be some sort of terrible mistake."
Exacerbating the terrorists' tortures, which include being hollowed out and used as prophylactics by thorn-cocked Gulbuth The Rampant, is the fact that they will be forced to endure such suffering in sight of the Paradise they were expecting.
"It might actually be the most painful thing we can do, to show these murderers the untold pleasures that would have awaited them in Paradise, if only they had lived pious lives," said Praxitas, Duke of Those Willingly Led Astray. "I mean, it's tough enough being forced through a wire screen by the callused palms of Halcorym and then having your entrails wound onto a stick and fed to the toothless, foul-breathed swine of Gehenna. But to endure that while watching the righteous drink from a river of wine? That can't be fun."
Underworld officials said they have not yet decided on a permanent punishment for the terrorists.
"Eventually, we'll settle on an eternal and unending task for them," said Lord Androalphus, High Praetor of Excruciations. "But for now, everyone down here wants a crack at them. The legions of fang-wombed hags will take their pleasure on their shattered carcasses for most of this afternoon. Tomorrow, their flesh will be melted from their bones like wax in the burning embrace of the Mother of Cowards. The day after that, they'll be sodomized by the Fallen and their bowels shredded by a demonic ejaculate of burning sand. Then, on Sunday, Satan gets them all day. I can't even imagine what he's got cooked up for them."
September 26, 2001
In a televised address to the American people Tuesday, a determined President Bush vowed that the U.S. would defeat "whoever exactly it is we're at war with here."
"America's enemy, be it Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, a multinational coalition of terrorist organizations, any of a rogue's gallery of violent Islamic fringe groups, or an entirely different, non-Islamic aggressor we've never even heard of ... be warned," Bush said during an 11-minute speech from the Oval Office. "The United States is preparing to strike, directly and decisively, against you, whoever you are, just as soon as we have a rough idea of your identity and a reasonably decent estimate as to where your base is located."
Bush is acting with the full support of Congress, which on Sept. 14 authorized him to use any necessary force against the undetermined attackers. According to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), the congressional move enables the president to declare war, "to the extent that war can realistically be declared on, like, maybe three or four Egyptian guys, an Algerian, and this other guy who kind of looks Lebanese but could be Syrian. Or whoever else it might have been. Because it might not have been them."
In addition to those responsible for the Sept. 11 attack, the U.S. is determined to exact revenge upon any nation found to have harbored the perpetrators.
"Should we determine that a nation has been giving refuge to this fiend—or fiends, as the case may be—we will effectively be at war with that nation," Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) said. "Then again, what if we declared war on Afghanistan and they didn't send anyone to fight us? It's plausible that we could declare war on them, but they wouldn't go to war with us, since they weren't the ones who actually attacked us. Who would our soldiers even shoot?"
U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), one of Congress' decorated war veterans, tried to steel the nation for the possibility of a long and confusing conflict.
"America faces a long road ahead," McCain said. "We do not yet know the nature of 21st-century warfare. We do not yet know how to fight this sort of fight. And I'll be damned if one of us has an inkling who we will be fighting against. With any luck, they've got uniforms of some sort."
"Christ," McCain continued, "what if the terrorists' base of operation turns out to be Detroit? Would we declare war on the state of Michigan? I suppose we'd have to."
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said the war against terrorism will be different from any previous model of modern warfare.
"We were lucky enough at Pearl Harbor to be the victim of a craven sneak attack from an aggressor with the decency to attack military targets, use their own damn planes, and clearly mark those planes with their national insignia so that we knew who they were," Rumsfeld said. "Since the 21st-century breed of coward is not affording us any such luxury, we are forced to fritter away time searching hither and yon for him in the manner of a global easter-egg hunt."
"America is up to that challenge," Rumsfeld added.
On Monday, the House of Representatives voted 428-2 to form an intelligence-gathering task force dedicated to "rooting out every scrap of information that can possibly be gleaned" concerning the attackers.
"When this task force's investigation is complete, America will know this guy's mother's favorite flavor of ice cream," U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX) said. "We will also know who he is."
Gramm said that the U.S. has already learned a great deal about the details of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and that a rough psychological profile of its mastermind has been constructed.
"For example, we know that the mastermind has the approximate personality of a terrorist," Gramm said. "Also, he is senseless. New data is emerging all the time."
Standing in opposition to Bush and Congress is a small but growing anti-war movement. During the president's speech Tuesday, two dozen demonstrators gathered outside the White House, chanting and waving placards bearing such slogans as "U.S. Out Of Somewhere" and "No Blood For Whatever These Murderous Animals Hope To Acquire."
Attorney General John Ashcroft urged Americans to "come together at such a difficult and unprecedented time in our nation's history."
"Make no mistake, we are facing a grave evil," Ashcroft said. "This was a horrific crime, the likes of which our nation has never seen. But this crime will not go unpunished, mark my words. To whoever did this, wherever you are, I say to you : Justice will be served, swiftly and hopefully."
Flanked by Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld, President Bush pledges to "exact revenge, just as soon as we know who we're exacting revenge against and where they are."
NEWS IN  BRIEF
U.S. Urges Bin Laden To Form Nation It Can Attack
Speaking via closed-circuit television from the Oval Office Monday, President Bush made a direct plea to Osama bin Laden to form a nation the U.S. can attack.
"Whether you take over an existing nation like Afghanistan or create a new breakaway republic called, say, Osamastan, the important thing is that you establish an identifiable nation-state with an army, a capital, and clearly defined borders," Bush said. "Maybe you could also sign some quick treaties to definitively establish who your allies are." The president then pledged $600 million to bin Laden for the construction of a state-of-the-art defense headquarters that the U.S. can bomb.
September 26, 2001
Responding to recent events on Earth, God, the omniscient creator-deity worshipped by billions of followers of various faiths for more than 6,000 years, angrily clarified His longtime stance against humans killing each other Monday.
"Look, I don't know, maybe I haven't made myself completely clear, so for the record, here it is again," said the Lord, His divine face betraying visible emotion during a press conference near the site of the fallen Twin Towers. "Somehow, people keep coming up with the idea that I want them to kill their neighbor. Well, I don't. And to be honest, I'm really getting sick and tired of it. Get it straight. Not only do I not want anybody to kill anyone, but I specifically commanded you not to, in really simple terms that anybody ought to be able to understand."
Worshipped by Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike, God said His name has been invoked countless times over the centuries as a reason to kill in what He called "an unending cycle of violence."
"I don't care how holy somebody claims to be," God said. "If a person tells you it's My will that they kill someone, they're wrong. Got it? I don't care what religion you are, or who you think your enemy is, here it is one more time : No killing, in My name or anyone else's, ever again."
The press conference came as a surprise to humankind, as God rarely intervenes in earthly affairs. As a matter of longstanding policy, He has traditionally left the task of interpreting His message and divine will to clerics, rabbis, priests, imams, and Biblical scholars. Theologians and laymen alike have been given the task of pondering His ineffable mysteries, deciding for themselves what to do as a matter of faith. His decision to manifest on the material plane was motivated by the deep sense of shock, outrage, and sorrow He felt over the Sept. 11 violence carried out in His name, and over its dire potential ramifications around the globe.
"I tried to put it in the simplest possible terms for you people, so you'd get it straight, because I thought it was pretty important," said God, called Yahweh and Allah respectively in the Judaic and Muslim traditions. "I guess I figured I'd left no real room for confusion after putting it in a four-word sentence with one-syllable words, on the tablets I gave to Moses. How much more clear can I get?"
"But somehow, it all gets twisted around and, next thing you know, somebody's spouting off some nonsense about, 'God says I have to kill this guy, God wants me to kill that guy, it's God's will,'" God continued. "It's not God's will, all right? News flash : 'God's will' equals 'Don't murder people.'"
Worse yet, many of the worst violators claim that their actions are justified by passages in the Bible, Torah, and Qur'an.
"To be honest, there's some contradictory stuff in there, okay?" God said. "So I can see how it could be pretty misleading. I admit it—My bad. I did My best to inspire them, but a lot of imperfect human agents have misinterpreted My message over the millennia. Frankly, much of the material that got in there is dogmatic, doctrinal bullshit. I turn My head for a second and, suddenly, all this stuff about homosexuality gets into Leviticus, and everybody thinks it's God's will to kill gays. It absolutely drives Me up the wall."
God praised the overwhelming majority of His Muslim followers as "wonderful, pious people," calling the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks rare exceptions.
"This whole medieval concept of the jihad, or holy war, had all but vanished from the Muslim world in, like, the 10th century, and with good reason," God said. "There's no such thing as a holy war, only unholy ones. The vast majority of Muslims in this world reject the murderous actions of these radical extremists, just like the vast majority of Christians in America are pissed off over those two bigots on The 700 Club."
Continued God, "Read the book : 'Allah is kind, Allah is beautiful, Allah is merciful.' It goes on and on that way, page after page. But, no, some assholes have to come along and revive this stupid holy-war crap just to further their own hateful agenda. So now, everybody thinks Muslims are all murderous barbarians. Thanks, Taliban : 1,000 years of pan-Islamic cultural progress down the drain."
God stressed that His remarks were not directed exclusively at Islamic extremists, but rather at anyone whose ideological zealotry overrides his or her ability to comprehend the core message of all world religions.
"I don't care what faith you are, everybody's been making this same mistake since the dawn of time," God said. "The Muslims massacre the Hindus, the Hindus massacre the Muslims. The Buddhists , everybody massacres the Buddhists. The Jews, don't even get me started on the hardline, right-wing, Meir Kahane-loving Israeli nationalists, man. And the Christians? You people believe in a Messiah who says, 'Turn the other cheek,' but you've been killing everybody you can get your hands on since the Crusades."
Growing increasingly wrathful, God continued: "Can't you people see? What are you, morons? There are a ton of different religious traditions out there, and different cultures worship Me in different ways. But the basic message is always the same : Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Shintoism ... every religious belief system under the sun, they all say you're supposed to love your neighbors, folks! It's not that hard a concept to grasp."
"Why would you think I'd want anything else? Humans don't need religion or God as an excuse to kill each other—you've been doing that without any help from Me since you were freaking apes!" God said. "The whole point of believing in God is to have a higher standard of behavior. How obvious can you get?"
"I'm talking to all of you, here!" continued God, His voice rising to a shout. "Do you hear Me? I don't want you to kill anybody. I'm against it, across the board. How many times do I have to say it? Don't kill each other anymore — ever! I'm fucking serious!"
Upon completing His outburst, God fell silent, standing quietly at the podium for several moments. Then, witnesses reported, God's shoulders began to shake, and He wept.
September 26, 2001
Were this an ordinary Tuesday night, Wendy Vance would return home from her receptionist job at a Springfield chiropractor's office and spend the evening engaged in any number of empty, meaningless diversions : watching old, taped episodes of Friends, browsing the new issue of Cosmopolitan, or driving to Center Square Mall to browse for shoes.
Tonight, however, the 29-year-old is unable to bring herself to turn on the TV or even half-heartedly flip through the new Pottery Barn catalog. Instead, she has decided to visit her grandmother in nearby Mountain Grove.
"If none of this had happened, right now I'd probably be watching that stupid Journey VH1 Behind The Music episode for the 40,000th time. Or talking to my friend Kerri about the Gap skirt I want," said Vance, holding her grandmother's frail, time-worn hand. "Now, all I can think about is how precious life is, and how important it is to spend quality time with the people who matter to you, because everything could change in an instant."
Added Vance : "I just want my regular life back."
Vance is not alone. Shaken by the tragic events of Sept. 11, people across the nation have abandoned such inconsequential concerns as the Gary Condit scandal and Britney Spears' skimpy outfit at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards. No longer are they talking about shark attacks or what's-his-name, that Little Leaguer who was too old to play. Instead, they're focusing on the truly important things in life : friends, family, and being good to one another.
How long can it go on like this?
Three weeks after the horrific attacks that claimed more than 6,000 lives, many Americans are wondering when their priorities will finally be in the wrong place again. Some are wondering if their priorities will ever be in the wrong place again.
"In the aftermath of this horrible tragedy, people find themselves cruelly preoccupied with the happiness and well-being of their loved ones, unconcerned with such stupid bullshit as the new Anne Heche biography or Michael Jackson's dramatic comeback bid," said Dr. Meredith Laufenberg, a psychologist and family therapist at UCLA Medical Center. "Who knows how long it will be before things are back to normal? "
Reading a book to his 7-year-old nephew, Adrian Mauer of Chicago echoed Vance's longing for banality.
"I don't even know what happened at the Daytime Emmys, much less the Latin Grammys," Mauer said. "How could these monsters do this to us? Is nothing sacred? It makes me want to enlist in the Marines and slash bin Laden's fucking throat from ear to ear."
According to Laufenberg, Mauer's anger is a natural response to the current situation.
"Across America, there is a profound sense of grief for the victims of this tragedy," Laufenberg said. "But there is also a profound desire to inflict great pain upon its perpetrators, to make them pay for taking away our ability to get way, way too into the McDonald's Monopoly game."
Even as America's television networks slowly return to regular programming, the vital issues of our pre-Sept. 11 lives are relegated to the background.
"If Access Hollywood would just go back to blathering about Julia Roberts' surprise platinum-blonde makeover and Brad Pitt's new dog and a bunch of other crap that doesn't matter in the least, I'd know everything is right with my world," said Shelley Orr, a Stockton, CA, data-entry clerk. "Oh, my God, what's going on with the whole car-phone controversy? Are they going to ban them? I haven't even thought about it in weeks."
Laufenberg and other therapists are seeing countless cases of Sudden-Reality Shock Syndrome (SRSS), a disorder affecting those suddenly and violently re-grounded in the real world. Crisis and grief-counseling centers across the nation are offering therapy groups for those who need to discuss their newfound inability to care about mass-market crapola.
According to Iris Huffman, emergency-services director at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, the key to enjoying vapidity again is to extract oneself from the hard realities of the world very slowly.
"The instinct is to immediately throw yourself back into your regular daily routine, but this isn't always best," Huffman said. "Allow yourself time for a gradual return to the petty, shallow, meaningless little life you led before this horrible tragedy. I'm telling my patients : Don't go see Zoolander until you know you're actually ready."
According to Georgetown University history professor Timothy Schuitt, our interest in stupid bullshit is what makes America great.
"The United States is a free country, a strong country, a prosperous country," Schuitt said. "Many veterans gave their lives so we would have the right to focus our attention and energies on the DVD release of Joe Dirt, the latest web-browsing cell phones and how-low-can-you-go hip-hugging jeans. It is a sign of our collective strength as a nation that we genuinely give a shit about the latest developments in the Cruise-Cruz romance. When Mariah Carey's latest breakdown is once again treated as front-page news, that is the day the healing will have truly begun."
While Schuitt says he is optimistic that Americans will one day obsess over stupid bullshit like they used to, others are not so confident.
"This is a life-changing, society-altering catastrophe of the first magnitude, on par with a Pearl Harbor or Great Depression," said noted historian and author David Halberstam. "The sad truth is, this country may never go back to caring about pointless, inane trifles as we once did."
Where have you gone, J. Lo? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
October 10, 2001
Ari Fleischer urges Americans to keep their mouths shut.
Responding to the threats facing America's free democratic system, White House officials called upon Americans to stop exercising their democratic freedoms Monday.
"In this time of national crisis, a time when our most cherished freedoms are threatened, all Americans—not just outspoken talk-show hosts like Bill Maher—must watch what they say," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters. "Now more than ever, if we want to protect democracy for future generations, it is vital that nobody speak out about the issues of the day."
"We must all do our patriotic duty to protect our country's great ideals," Fleischer continued, "and we have to be careful about what opinions we express if we are to defend our Constitution, a sacred document behind which all Americans must stand united as one."
Fleischer's sentiments echoed those of many executive-branch officials, who, in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, have called for broad-based limitations on civil liberties—and urged all patriotic, freedom-loving citizens to support those restrictions—in defense of the American way of life.
"We live in a land governed by plurality of opinion in an open electorate, but we are now under siege by adherents of a fundamentalist, totalitarian belief system that tolerates no dissent," Attorney General John Ashcroft said. "Our most basic American values are threatened by an enemy opposed to everything for which our flag stands. That is why I call upon all Americans to submit to wiretaps, e-mail monitoring, and racial profiling. Now is not the time to allow simplistic, romantic notions of 'civil liberties' and 'equal protection under the law' to get in the way of our battle with the enemies of freedom."
In the past, Ashcroft said, efforts by federal agencies to restrict personal freedoms were "severely hampered" by such factors as the judicial system, the Bill Of Rights, and "government by the people." Since the attacks, however, some such limitations have been waived, finally giving the CIA, FBI, Pentagon, and White House the greater powers they need to defend freedom.
U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who advocated permitting the CIA to engage in various illegal activities during a recent Tonight Show With Jay Leno appearance, stressed the importance of not merely submitting to freedom-curtailment policies, but also blindly agreeing with them.
"Now is not the time for such divisive, destructive things as dialogue and debate," McCain said. "Now is not the time for, 'My opinion is just as valid as yours,' and 'What are my country's leaders doing and why?' and 'I have a question, Mr. President.' Now is the time for one thing and one thing only : The defense of the American democratic ideal. Any and all who disagree with this directive, or who have different ideas about how it should be accomplished, should learn to shut their mouths."
As the U.S. prepares to mobilize forces against Afghanistan, the military is seeking strong limitations on the press. According to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, such a Constitution-flouting move would not be unprecedented, citing the suspension of habeas corpus in the Civil War and the order to round up 110,000 Japanese-Americans in detention camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
"Remember, under the oppressive Taliban regime, people live in constant fear of an oppressive order to which all must submit," Rumsfeld said. "Under their system, it is illegal to practice a different religion or support a different political system. It is against the law for women to work or leave their homes without their faces covered. There is no freedom of speech, press, or assembly, as dissent of any kind is not tolerated. It is even forbidden to smile or laugh in public, and all who fail to unquestioningly obey are punished with reprisals of brutal violence. We must not allow such a regime to threaten our great democracy . We must stand for something better than that."
"It is therefore urgent," Rumsfeld continued, "that all Americans be quiet, stop asking questions, accept the orders of authorities, and let us get on with the important work of defending liberty, so that America can continue to be a beacon of freedom to all the world."
January 30, 2002
WASHINGTON, DC — Calling the theological giant's stranglehold on the religion industry "blatantly anti-competitive," a U.S. district judge ruled Monday that God is in violation of anti-monopoly laws and ordered Him to be broken up into several less powerful deities.
"The evidence introduced in this trial has convinced me that the deity known as God has willfully and actively thwarted competition from other deities and demigods, promoting His worship with such unfair scare tactics as threatening non-believers with eternal damnation," wrote District Judge Charles Elliot Schofield in his decision. "In the process, He has carved out for Himself an illegal monotheopoly."
The suit, brought against God by the Justice Department on behalf of a coalition of "lesser deities" and polytheistic mortals, alleged that He violated antitrust laws by claiming in the Holy Bible that He was the sole creator of the universe, and by strictly prohibiting the worship of what He termed "false idols."
"God clearly commands that there shall be no other gods before Him, and He frequently employs the phrase 'I AM the Lord' to intimidate potential deserters," prosecuting attorney Geoffrey Albert said. "God uses other questionable strongarm tactics to secure and maintain humanity's devotion, demanding, among other things, that people sanctify their firstborn to Him and obtain circumcisions as a show of faith. There have also been documented examples of Him smiting those caught worshipping graven images."
Attorneys for God did not deny such charges. They did, however, note that God offers followers "unbeatable incentives" in return for their loyalty, including eternal salvation , protection from harm, and "fruitfulness."
"God was the first to approach the Jewish people with a 'covenant' contract that guaranteed they would be the most favored in His eyes, and He handed down standards of morality, cleanliness and personal conduct that exceeded anything else practiced at the time," lead defense attorney Patrick Childers said. "He readily admits to being a 'jealous' God, not because He is threatened by the prospect of competition from other gods, but because He is utterly convinced of the righteousness of His cause and that He is the best choice for mortals. Many of these so-called gods could care less if somebody bears false witness or covets thy neighbor's wife. Our client, on the other hand, is truly a 'People's God.'"
In the end, however, God was unable to convince Schofield that He did not deliberately create a marketplace hostile to rival deities. God's attorneys attempted to convince the judge of His openness to rivals, pointing to His longtime participation in the "Holy Trinity," but the effort failed when Schofield determined that Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are "more God subsidiaries than competitors."
To comply with federal antitrust statutes, God will be required to divide Himself into a pantheon of specialized gods, each representing a force of nature or a specific human custom, occupation, or state of mind.
"There will most likely be a sun god, a moon god, sea god and rain god," said religion-industry watcher Catherine Bailey. "Then there will be some second-tier deities, like a god of wine, a goddess of the harvest, and perhaps a few who symbolize human love and/or blacksmithing."
Leading theologians are applauding the God breakup, saying that it will usher in a new era of greater worshipping options, increased efficiency and more personalized service.
"God's prayer-response system has been plagued by massive, chronic backlogs, and many prayers have gone unanswered in the process," said Gene Suozzi, a Phoenix-area Wiccan. "With polytheism, you pray to the deity specifically devoted to your concern. If you wish to have children, you pray to the fertility goddess. If you want to do well on an exam, you pray to the god of wisdom, and so on. This decentralization will result in more individualized service and swifter response times."
Other religious experts are not so confident that the breakup is for the best, pointing to the chaotic nature of polytheistic worship and noting that multiple gods demand an elaborate regimen of devotion that today's average worshipper may find arduous and inconvenient.
"If people want a world in which they must lay burnt offerings before an earthenware household god to ensure that their car will start on a cold winter morning, I suppose they can have it," said Father Thomas Reinholdt, theology professor at Chicago's Loyola University. "What's more, lesser deities are infamous for their mercurial nature. They often meddle directly in diplomatic affairs, abduct comely young mortal women for their concubines, and are not above demanding an infant or two for sacrifice. Monotheism, for all its faults, at least means convenience, stability, and a consistent moral code."
One deity who is welcoming the verdict is the ancient Greek god Zeus, who described himself as "jubilant" and "absolutely vindicated."
"For thousands of years, I've been screaming that this third-rate sky deity ripped me off wholesale," said Zeus, speaking from his Mt. Olympus residence. "Every good idea He ever had He took from me: Who first created men in his own image? Who punished mankind for its sins? Who lived eternally up in the clouds? And the whole fearsome, patriarchal, white-beard, thunderbolt thing? I was doing that eons before this two-bit hustler started horning in on the action ."
Lawyers for God say they plan to appeal Schofield's ruling and are prepared to go all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.
"This decision is a crushing blow to God worshippers everywhere, and we refuse to submit to a breakup until every possible avenue of argument is pursued," Childers said. "I have every confidence that God will ultimately win, as He and His lawyers are all-powerful."
September 4, 2002
Americans will sort through emotions ranging from anger to grief, pain, and a profound sense of loss. But while the day will surely be difficult to endure, it remains unclear which television network will rise to the occasion, with its sensitive, cathartic anniversary coverage helping us decide what to feel while bringing a sense of closure to our national period of mourning.
Will it be a major network like CBS that heals us, salving our wounds with its around-the-clock, Dan Rather-hosted coverage? Or will it be a cable channel like CNN, its crack team of veteran telejournalists guiding us to a place of rebirth and renewal as only a 24-hour news network can? Or will it be a surprise young upstart like MTV, speaking to our hearts in a way foreign to its stodgier counterparts?
"When we're doing our jobs right, we're not merely reporting the news; we're helping viewers cope with the grief and pain in their lives," ABC News president David Westin said. "That is one of the central purposes of any newsgathering organization, and never will that be clearer than on Sept. 11."
"Now more than ever, we are a nation undivided," Fox News Channel senior producer Tom Bird said. "From the simple farm houses dotting the Iowa countryside to the condominium complexes of Los Angeles to the rustic cabins of Cape Cod, on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks, Americans will be huddled in front of their TV sets to assuage their grief and testify to their patriotism. And Fox News Channel will be right there with a shoulder to cry on."
All told, an estimated 800 hours of Sept. 11 retrospectives, memorials, and clips packages will air on more than 50 channels, including TNN, ESPN, and Oxygen. An estimated 200 million Americans are expected to tune in to at least some portion of the day's programming.
Diane Blauvelt, whose husband Nathan died in the attack on the Pentagon, said she looks forward to the all-day coverage.
The McCardell family of Akron, OH, works through its lingering pain over Sept. 11.
"It's been an incredibly hard year for me," Blauvelt said. "At times, I didn't think I could endure the grief. But I kept telling myself, 'Diane, just hang on until this coming Sept. 11, and the networks will make it all better.' That's the only thing that got me through."
Added Blauvelt : "I can't tell you how healing it will be to once again see that footage of the smoldering Pentagon where my Nathan died."
"We as a nation need to experience some sort of closure," said Marcy McGinnis, CBS senior vice-president of news coverage. "And no one needs that more than the people who lost loved ones on Sept. 11. They will never forget what happened, but they need to move on and feel whole again. They need the sort of tasteful tribute montage set to Bruce Springsteen's 'Empty Sky' that we've got planned at CBS."
"How are we to memorialize an event of such unspeakably horrific proportions?" Fox News senior producer Jeff Kent asked. "How can we eulogize those whose deaths we can scarcely comprehend? Well, Fox is giving it a shot with the two-hour special The Day America Changed. I think you're going to like what you see."
In what may be the most touching display of caring, ABC News anchor Peter Jennings will host a question-and-answer session for children.
"Just imagine how confusing this all must be for the children," Westin said. "Thank goodness Peter will be there for them, from 3 to 4 p.m. EST."
Lawrence Crouch, a media-studies professor at Syracuse University, said the Sept. 11 anniversary coverage will stand as a shining example of the healing power of television.
"Will the answer to the nation's woes come in the form of a CNN special memorializing that tragic day? Or a Katie Couric interview with an emotional Rudy Giuliani, live from Ground Zero?" Crouch asked. "Are our hours of personal reflection better spent ruminating on the fate of those lost by watching an interview with a firefighter's widow, or by celebrating our living heroes with a rousing musical salute? It's a toss-up, but my money is on NBC's Concert For America. I understand they have Alan Jackson on board."
According to NBC News senior producer Alan Koslow, TV news plays a vital role in Americans' lives.
"In the past, someone like Walter Cronkite merely informed. But in this day and age, Tom [Brokaw] and his fellow news anchors do so much more," Koslow said. "They function as parent, friend, teacher, social worker, grief counselor and spiritual advisor. That's a lot of pressure considering they also have ratings to think about."
"Some people ask how a bunch of network executives can decide whether America should continue to mourn or get back to regular life," Koslow continued. "Well, it's very complicated and involves a lot of research and data the average person would never understand."
One of those average people, Chicago-area homemaker Adrienne Coffey, said she knows exactly where she will be at 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11.
"I want to share the day with others who are feeling what I'm feeling," Coffey said. "I'm going to be right there in front of the TV."
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