A new novel about a baby boomer’s spiritual post-9/11 lessons illustrates that even after the worst tragedies, love, faith, hope and charity survive.
SoulsCode: The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center had a profound impact not only on the world at large, but also on individuals in a solitary way. Some of those individuals have tried to make sense of the tragedy through art. Call it a diamond in the rough or the calm after the storm, but author Ronald Louis Peterson has found spiritual enlightenment through 9/11.
A novel published on paperback in February, 2011, “A TIME TO… — A Baby Boomer’s Spiritual Adventures Heal 9/11’s Wounds” is dedicated to families who lost loved ones on 9/11, and to those who have called NYC home. Peterson was inspired to write about 9/11 in a very personal way because, he says, “that’s the way most people experienced it.” A New Yorker by birth, Peterson weaves the Twin Towers tragedy around flashbacks of the characters’ lives from the 1950s to the millennium.
The excerpt below takes place when the main character, Al, was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia during the 70s. Al has a strained relationship with God. He is angry about a high school tragedy involving his friend Tommy, who killed a gang rival in Al’s defence and is spending the rest of his life in jail – all because of a misunderstanding that was partly Al’s own fault.
Now, as a young adult, Al is in the bewildering position of being called upon to heal Serranen, a sick peasant farmer, who was being treated for pneumonia at a shelter for famine victims. Al hears this from Berhanu, an Ethiopian colleague at the shelter…
Ronald Louis Peterson writes: “The land he had farmed was owned by a prince. Serranen’s family had worked that land for many generations for the same royal family. The prince had decided to sell his land to another royal family because he needed the money to continue living his privileged life. Harvests had been bad in recent years, and then this draught put him in debt. The new land owner had his own farmers, so he told Serranen to leave. But where could he go when all he knew was farming and he didn’t know anyone with land who could put him to work?
Al listened intently as Berhanu spoke, grimacing at times.
“He and his family were walking for two days, looking for work, when some thieves took the few things they owned, including all their food. In the fight, Serranen broke his foot. The next day, their son wandered off into the wilderness to find food for his family. He returned a few hours later with a sack of berries,” Berhanu said ominously. “He had eaten his fill before filling the sack for his family. But by the time he had returned, he had become very sick. His mother rushed to him when she saw him struggling to walk and breathe. Within a few hours, he was dead.
…Later, a truck headed to the shelter picks up Serranen and his wife and daughter. The little girl, Almaz, believes her and her mother’s prayers have been answered and that the man at the shelter, the first white person she’s ever seen, is an angel. That man happens to be Al…
“I can’t do this. How can I help him when I feel the same way about God? I don’t blame Serranen for feeling as he does” Al told Berhanu.
…Eventually a voice in Al’s head tells him God didn’t cause those bad things in his past. Al argues with the voice in his head: God didn’t prevent them, either. After a few moments of reflection he remembers something a wise man once said about the bitterness Al carries around. Suddenly humbled, he covers his eyes with his hands, bows his head and wipes away a tear…
“I will do everything I can to help Serranen live,” Al said just as an idea came to mind. “Tsehye is a landowner. Perhaps Serranen can work for him.”
“What will you do?”
“I will try to be in spirit the angel Almaz thought God had sent to save them. I hope to show Serranen that God is with him to help restore his faith and his health. And I hope to move on with my life and not be held back anymore by a mistake I had made years ago,” Al whispered.
Ronald Louis Peterson is an author, award-winning broadcast journalist who has worked as a public relations executive and a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia. He lives in Westland, Michigan. A TIME TO… is available at www.ronaldlouispeterson.blogspot.com.
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