Needles, dads and Gatorade

Readers respond to recent articles about fatherhood, new paradigms and knitting after Sept. 11.

Published November 30, 2001 8:00PM (EST)

Read "The Whole World in My Hands" by Dayna Macy.

As Ms. Macy has discovered, handcrafts give the crafter a sense of connection with permanent things. They are the antithesis of the virtual. They are reality. A hand-knit sweater isn't just a garment. It is a tangible expression of time, skill and love. The act of creating rejects nihilism and affirms life.

Some people consider handcrafts old-fashioned and irrelevant in today's world. They are wrong. Handcrafts are not nostalgia. They live. Pick any craft, do a quick search on Yahoo and you will find a thriving Internet crafting community making full use of modern technological resources while enjoying the timeless benefits of crafting. We take the chaos of raw material, bend it to our imagination's service and bring order out of chaos. A satisfaction in any time. Doubly satisfying in chaotic and troubled times.

-- Mary Beth Voelker, Handspinner, Knitter, Quilter, etc.

During this past summer my daughter Thea and I started a knitting group in the Bay Area. A few weeks ago, I assigned Rachella Sinclair to write an article for our site about the subject, "Crafting Through Crisis: Americans Rediscover the Home Crafts."

Her first paragraph:

"When San Francisco resident Valarie Arismendez was trapped in New York City after the September 11 terrorist attacks, it took five days of traveling to get home to California. On the last leg of the trip, while driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco, she stopped at a WalMart and called a friend to find out what size knitting needles would be good for a beginner. 'I just wanted to be at home, in my own space, doing something constructive I could focus on,' said Arismendez. She is not alone."

Obviously, the urge to take up a "home craft" has become at least a bicoastal phenomenon, if not national. Many knitting store owners we've talked to had moaned, until quite recently, that this was still the hobby of the older woman, in spite of the spate of stories we read a few years ago about celebrity knitters on movie sets and in New York City.

No longer.

-- Tam Gray, CEO, Founder, SeniorWomenWeb

Read "Not exactly fatherless" by Kevin J. Sweeney.

As a new father, getting the hang of this parenthood thing, I wanted to thank Kevin Sweeney for his insightful piece. Oftentimes we get so caught up planning the "perfect" upbringing for our own children that we forget (as the author so eloquently pointed out) that just being there for someone else's kid can make a world of difference in both lives.

-- A. Evonti' Anderson

This article was a tribute not only to Mr. Sweeney's cleverness and initiative in seeking out male role models on his own (and at such a young age, too!), but also to three kind men who gave of themselves to a fatherless little boy and helped make him the man he is now. What a beautiful read. Thank you for publishing it!

-- Melissa Cooper

I just wanted to thank you for publishing Kevin Sweeney's essay. My circumstances were almost exactly identical to Kevin's, except that I never made a conscious decision to seek out role models. Instead, they came to me -- through serendipity, mostly -- and I did get a chance to thank several of those gentlemen and ladies personally before they passed on.

I did make conscious mental notes as I grew up, as to the father I was going to be: I would (do) show up, and I would (do) listen, and I would (do) love my children unconditionally, for they are the truest manifestation of hope in the world and the need to pursue better tomorrows. When I first learned of the tragedies, my head and my heart at once thought and felt for all the children who would never again share in the warmth of a lost parent, and I was suddenly transported back 31 years to the moment I learned of my Dad's passing. Such news is devastating and never easy, but I gradually came to realize that I had to move on, and never lose hope.

I think one of the best things that we adult men and women can do now is try to listen to and love our children ("our" meaning our own, our families' and friends', and our communities') a little more by giving them the time they deserve. That is what they need most when they are young, and I'm convinced such an investment will pay huge dividends toward creating a just and caring world that I think we'd all like to live in. Succeeding generations of children raised with love, dignity, self-respect and hope would be the greatest repudiation to those who would seek to vanquish us, and it's up to us to make it happen in the here and now through quiet, individual effort. May God bless those families and children who lost moms and dads on Sept. 11, and may they find strength through similar role models such as those individuals vividly recalled by Kevin Sweeney.

-- Dana Hunt

Read "The Way We Thought We Were" by Brendan Cooney.

Cooney's post-disaster experiences are memories in search of an archetype -- the perfect selfless act of helping, the perfect thank you, the perfect act to restore a tiny bit of order in the face of chaos.

Every action any of us undertakes from today forward is informed by events and measured against the archetypes that we're inspired to build in our own minds. Cooney handed out water bottles to people who were doing the hardest work, then turned around and told us about it. He made a connection between me at my desk and the rescue worker at ground zero. Every action I take from today forward will in some way be informed by and measured against his actions and against Cooney's.

Yes, the rest of the world is still there. But we look at it against a different background and measure it with a different scale.

-- Roy L. Post

At first Brendan Cooney's essay about his experiences as a volunteer in New York says a great deal more about his own love for drama than his dedication to help those who were working at the World Trade Center. He placed himself in the position of soundboard for those police, firefighters and qualified volunteers to hear their tragic and horrific stories of the sights, sounds and smells of the WTC disaster site. He even successfully snuck onto the site, where he could risk his health for nothing other than his own curiosity.

Is it any wonder that going home to Boston would be a letdown? After all that time spent around the grand drama and horror of ground zero, how disappointing to see people going on with their lives. His disgust at people who are not glued to the television news, who may actually be trying to enjoy life again, seems less based on righteous indignation than his desire to remain frozen in the highly charged emotional atmosphere of the weeks immediately following the attacks.

Mr. Cooney seems to get some sort of emotional validation and comfort by being a "hero" handing out Gatorade and apparently has difficulty functioning outside of the drama he has come to cherish. This becomes abundantly clear when he states that "I consider returning to New York. Maybe it'll take an apartment in Tribeca and regular mingling with the workers for me to feel those new feelings on a daily basis." While Mr. Cooney has witnessed and experienced something that most of us will never really know, his apparent addiction to the drama of tragedy makes his criticism of how little we all have really changed a bit hollow. We have changed, just not in the way Mr. Cooney wanted us to.

-- Acacia Warwick

By Salon Staff

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