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Still "Wishing you a pleasant day and a higher GPA" since 1995!
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So, you may be wondering to yourself as you stare at the screen, "Why nine?" The answer, of course, is that is comes after eight. I first started this page way back in 1995, while attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Most of that code is gone now, although some of it survived into later versions. I still have up now most of three previous editions: Version Five, Version Seven, and Version Eight. Version Eight was endorsed by Jeffrey Lin; I continue to display his endorsement banner here on Version Nine.

What's going on here?

Today is Monday, 31 December 2001. I don't really think of 31 December as the last day of the year, usually; the last day of my year is 17 August. It's a habit of spending most of my life in academic settings that I feel the new year begins in August. Still, this year is different, and those differences will be with us for all time, I think. So I want to take some time today, the last day of this calendar year, to recap and review a year that, while I would prefer to just forget it, I know I never will.
When the new year started, I was in Ohio, or maybe Indiana. I was on my way home from Columbus, where I had gone to see my favorite professional sports team, the mighty New Jersey Devils, defeat the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets. The trip to Columbus was one from which I didn't really want to return; I had too much to face back in Illinois. Three days later, on Thursday, 04 January 2001, I resigned my teaching position at West Aurora High School. While it brought my immediate problems to an end of sorts, and it prevented me from causing my students any more problems, it did not remove the experiences from my mind or the minds of the students and colleagues I left behind. I don't know what to say about any of them. My experiences at West Aurora haunt me today, and have haunted me all through this year. There just is not another verb for it. I wish I could get rid of that, but I know I never will.
I feel like I lost the first half of 2001 after that. I know I never went back to West, of course, nor did I see any other high school events. I missed Rachel Karos's senior season as Naperville North's shortstop; I can never get that back. I missed two DuPage Valley teams advancing to the sectional finals in softball, and I missed my cousin Janine's trip with the Morris Redskins to the IHSA State Bowling Finals, at which West Aurora (with my former mentor teacher as their head coach) placed second. I can never get any of that back. It hurts me very much to know that I missed out on so many things because of my reactions to my untenable situation at West, including the DVC Math Contest (at West) and ICTM State, the first time I'd missed that since before I enrolled at Naperville North. Of course, I did a fair amount of damage to students at West, too, and that bothers me no less than any of the other fallout from the end of last year.
I don't mean to say that everything that happened in 2001 was bad. In April I went to Philadelphia with my grandmother to visit her sister. I took the opportunity to make a day trip to New York City, and after seven hours in North America's largest city, I went back across the Hudson to New Jersey. There I fulfilled a dream I had had for thirteen years, a dream I never really thought I could reach: I saw the New Jersey Devils play at home in East Rutherford. It was the second game of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against Toronto, and Randy McKay's game-winner at 5:31 of overtime erased the Maple Leafs' three-goal third-period comeback and evened the series at one game apiece.
In February, after puttering around looking for some information about Square One Television, I ran into a couple people online who were fellow Square One fans. If there is a reason I would not want to throw 2001 away, that is it. I had the pleasure of meeting both of those people in July, a second trip to New York that was five days of wonder. Two Tony Award-winning shows on Broadway (One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, which I'd seen last December at Lewis, and The Producers, the greatest Tony Award winner in history), another show on Long Island, tourist wanderings through Manhattan and Brooklyn (and a traversal on the Staten Island Ferry), a bagel at H&H Bagels, and an ice cream cone from Zabar's combined for a wondrous, surreal experience; then on the last night we went to Madison Square Garden and did it all over again.
Then came August. I saw Alabama and Chicago play at the Illinois State Fair, and I got hailed on on my birthday at a miniature golf course. We had to get my father's truck fixed at the Dodge dealer, then we had to get my sister's purple car fixed at the same dealer. It was okay, I guess. I mean, well, it wasn't a terribly exciting month, but in comparison to what happened next, it wasn't too bad.
I think it's fair to say that September 2001 will go down as the worst month in the history of my family. My grandfather was shuttling between a nursing home and three hospitals that first week, and my grandmother went to the orthopedist on the 5th but couldn't get the brace off her broken arm. Then on 08 September I got a call which is still on the caller ID in my room; my father's cell phone calling me at 05:59 that Saturday morning. "Hello?" "Hi." "Hi, Dad. What's up?" "You doing anything today?" "I don't know. Why?" "Well, I'm standing out here in the street watching my house burn down, and I may need some help later hauling some stuff out of it, if you're available." The fire, ranked that day as the greatest family emergency since the 1976 tornado, was the first of three great disasters in September. Three days later the world saw the face of disaster, and in another six days it struck our family again, as my grandmother was taken to the hospital with a heart attack. Thursday night, while the President of the United States was addressing a joint session of Congress, almost my entire family was in the MICCU waiting room at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn visiting my grandmother the night before her quintuple bypass surgery.
I don't know what to say about the rest of the year. As the local unemployed family member, I was able to be the ferryman for my grandparents to most of their doctor's appointments the rest of the year. I did get to see my cousin Corynn on the 2nd of December, which made me happy. At the same time, though, I haven't been employed all year, and I haven't seen or heard from my friend Mara all year, the latter of which is the first time in nine years.
So I can't say I've enjoyed this year. As I watch the last hour of 2001 slip away, I don't lament its passing. I wish I had made more of some of it, but I just hope now that 2002 will be a happier year.
Jason Elliot Benda -- 23:01 31Dec01

Please note: The following text was written on Tuesday, 11 September 2001, a date which will go down as one of the bleakest ever in the history of our great nation, the United States of America.

Of course I have to write today. Writing is an important part of the healing process, the process of overcoming whatever it is that one has to overcome. I know my best friend would agree with that, but she earned an English degree. She told me once that she writes, although what she writes is not for others to consume. I know my favorite columnist at the Chicago Tribune would agree with me. I think her column even runs tomorrow, in the space in Section 2 she shares with Eric Zorn (and now Dawn Turner Trice on Mondays). But she writes for a living. More importantly than either Mara Hutt-Tiwald or Mary Schmich agreeing with me, though, I know from experience, from Jack Lemmon's death in June and Dale Earnhardt's death on the track in February, that writing can be cathartic, even if unintentionally.

Of course I need to start with my lousy week, but I need to talk about today, too. Last week is as much a nominee for the worst week of my life as this day is a nominee for the worst day in American history. Years from now, just as people remember where they were on 7 December 1941 (I wasn't born yet), 22 November 1963 (I still wasn't born yet), and 28 January 1986 (I was at home sick watching a tape of the Bears' Super Bowl victory from two days earlier), they will remember this date: 11 September 2001. But more on that later.

Last Sunday, the day before Labor Day, I was supposed to meet a friend of mine and some friends of his over at his house around 17:00. My friend didn't show up until an hour later, then spent most of his time there btrying very obviously to get one of his other friends alone with him. He finally succeeded in getting her to agree to leave about halfway through a movie we were all watching, so we all missed the rest of Star Trek: Insurrection.

Monday was the holiday. I spent much of it on the computer; it was half-price day at NeoPets. I decided to skip out on those members of my family who went to watch the parade in Lemont; I've never been one for parades.

Tuesday was "Take Your Grandmother To The Cardiologist Day", so I did. Then after I got home, my aunt (her daughter) from Seattle called and proceeded to bully me into agreeing to take my grandmother's car in to have it looked at. I don't really need to go into all the details, mostly because I don't feel like reliving them. Suffice it to say that my aunt has it in her head that my grandmother's comfort and happiness is less important than my grandmother's money, which my aunt has somehow decided is hers. She also always believes that her opinion is the only one, and three-count-'em-three converstaions with my mother that evening did nothing to change that. So now my grandmother is upset because her one daughter is mad at her, and is threatening to give up driving to keep peace in the family.

Wednesday was "Take Your Grandmother To The Orthopedist Day", so I did, but with the other one. First I talked to my mother, and I learned that my aunt made the underhanded, back-stabbing move of making an end run around us and going to my grandmother's financial adviser, who is paid to look after my grandmother's best interests and whom my grandmother trusts, and tell him what to say to my grandmother. So clearly everyone (except my aunt) is now more upset, and she doesn't care. Then I take my grandmother to the orthopedist, who is running two hours late. Meanwhile my grandmother calls her son, who tells her that my grandfather is back in the ER at Little Company of Mary. (Oh, I didn't tell you about that, did I? Well, I guess they took him in over the weekend to the ER at Good Samaritan, then Good Sam transferred him to Christ, but Christ was full, so they shipped him to LCM. Tuesday morning they sent him to the nursing home in Palos where he's been five times now recuperating from this 'n' that. Well, Wednesday apparently he stepped on his catheter tube and pulled it at least partway out, initiating some bleeding. So they sent him back from whence he'd most recently come, LCM.) So after my grandmother saw the orthopedist, who told her her broken arm is not healed yet and that's why it hurts and keep the brace on and come back in another four weeks, we wen't back to Lemont, met my uncle, then all three of us trucked out to Evergreen Park. My grandfather had been there about four hours by then and was still waiting to be seen; it was a very busy ER. Finally he pulled the catheter all the way out, then the ER doc recatheterized him. (For those of you who aren't sure you read that right, yes, they stuck a rather sizeable and sharp tube back up his urethra into his bladder. Males can feel free to wince in pain now; females, we don't want to hear it.) Then back to Palos for my grandfather, where I had to pull a diaper out from under him (I really didn't want to have to see that catheter, either).

Thursday was "Who Hasn't Been To The Doctor Yet?" day. My great-grandmother decided she was starved for attention, so she went to the doctor. SHe had a bladder infection (no surprise there), so they prescried her some antibiotics, on which she managed to OD on Saturday, which sent her to the ER at Good Sam. Of course, by Saturday she'd been upstaged badly, so she still didn't get all the attention.

Friday was almost a day of rest. The problem was that I didn't get home until almost midnight and didn't get to sleep until after 01:00, then had to wake up at 06:00 to take my grandmother's car to Joliet. There the guy replaced the rear brake shoes, rear axle seals, and two belts, and also scrubbed a rust spot off the oil pan and painted over it. I had to run back to Naperville in my father's wife's van to get a check from my grandmother to pay for the car, which was the fourth vehicle I had driven in 48 hours and further made my right ankle and foot very sore. Finally I got home around 16:00. I went over to a friend's house about 17:30, and we played a couple new games, which I won. Then we went for a high school football game between Riverside-Brookfield (the Tribune's #12 team and home of the Z-Force zero-back offense, which uses a quarterback and five wide receivers) and Lemont. We got there 20 minutes before game time, taking I-355 all the way because of an accident investigation at 87th and Lemont in Woodridge (which turned out to involve an airplane). The three-level parking deck at the school was full, and Officer Duerkoop thought my suggestion was good that I park down at my grandparents' house, which we did. There were a lot of visiting fans there, and they were treated to a 41-13 win for Otto Zeman's Bulldogs over the host Injuns. Still, the Injuns put on a clinic on how to beat R-B, and I think R-B will lose a game before the end of the regular season. I did get to see my cousin Nikki there (she's a flag woman), and she explained to me why there was somebody in the band being moved about like a chess piece with no instrument (he's blind and has difficulty playing and marching at the same time so the director took his instrument away). Then we went and fetched food at Wendy's in Naperville, where they gave me a #6 Combo and forgot the sandwich. I left my friend's house after losing a different new game at about 2:20, and quickly went to sleep, looking forward to a long rest when....

*RING* *RING* *RING* Flip on the light. My big clock that sets itself by a radio signal from the Atomic Clock in Fort Collins says "5:59". Who on earth ... "Hello?" "Hi." "Um, hi Dad." "What're you doing today?" "Uh, I don't know. Why, what's up?" "Well, I'm standing here in the street watching my house burn down and I may need some help later hauling some stuff out if you could stop by."

How do you respond to that? As my uncle would point out later, "You don't. You just show up." So Saturday became the day my father's house burned. I got down there about 6:30; my uncle the fire lieutenant (from Wheaton) had just arrived. I can't really describe what happened after that, so I won't try. A ComEd three-phase line had dropped all three phases, and one phase landed on my father's gas meter, blowing it up. The gas shot straight up the side of the house, lighting the north wall and the roof structure on fire. We had a full-scale response from my family, with all my father's siblings who don't live in Texas putting in appearances, as well as my two adult stepsisters and six of my ten cousins. It was declared the worst disaster in the Benda family since the 13 June 1976 tornado that struck Lemont. But like the tornado, no one in the family was injured; my father was the only one home, and he got himself and the dogs out just fine. Even the hamsters, who were in the living room on the first floor during the entire fire, were none the worse for wear, although the female was drenched. The first floor suffered negligible fire damage, but the second floor was in large part a lost cause. The house will be uninhabitable for a long time to come, and it just all is not good. I still have a sore throat from Saturday, and I've been down there every day since. I did leave at one point and go with my uncle to haul a load to his house in Naperville; another uncle picked me and the trailer up and we stopped at my Naperville house, then went to see my great-grandmother at Good Sam, then went to Sam's, then saw my grandfather in Palos (we were the only visitors he had that day, and I got to explain to him where everyone else had been: "Your oldest son had a house fire this morning."). I got some mail from a friend of mine that I'd been expecting, so I called her and chatted for about 20 minutes, which was a welcome break in the day. Still, it was a real downer of a day, and the capper to my horrendous week.

So we're sifting through the burned-out messes upstairs, and talking every day with the landlord and this adjuster and that insurance guy and ComEd blah-blah-blah. Last night we went to the laundromat after hours and salvaged a lot of clothes in the six hours we were there. I was too tired to actually go home, so I slept in the van.

My father told me first, since I had no radio on, about what was happening. A hijacked airliner crashed into One World Trade Center. Okay, that's bad. Then a while later, another plane rammed into Two World Trade Center. I didn't know what to think any more.

I wasn't leaving the van. I told my father I felt safe in the van; I don't think he fully understood why. (He usually reads stuff I post here eventually, so he'll know why when he reads it.) It wasn't that I was afraid an outside attack would come near me, but I was worried about an inside attack. I've always said that I could never commit suicide, and the reason is that I'm too rational. I may get very depressed, but I'm too rational. I had suicide training at West, and it was really kind of frightening how many things in that awareness workshop I could see in my own life. So I guess I've become adept at catching warning flags. This morning I had the unpleasant realization as the news, filtered through my father just as the Challenger disaster had been in 1986, reached me that I didn't feel like I wanted to live in this world any more. POW! Red flag! I knew at that moment, while part of my mind was sinking into the greatest moment of depression I've ever seen in myself, that I needed to protect myself. It was kind of like being split into two people: as Self thought about ways to stop, Alter Self worked on protection strategies. My lead protection strategy was to simply stay put; I was fairly certain I couldn't harm myself in the van, or if I could find a way to, I could also find a way to stop myself. It was anti-depression training applied in a unique situation (may we all hope that this morning is a unique situation for all time), and it worked. It would take a very big reason to get me out of the van, I declared to myself against my struggling depression, and in the end it did. I finally emerged about 11:00, announcing that I had to go use the toilet (which did survive the fire in usable fashion, although the whole room and roof above it is trashed).

He said that the south tower collapsed onto itself.

I never saw the World Trade Center towers, at least not up close. When my friend and I were in Manhattan in July, we didn't bother to go up the towers. It's one of those things that you errantly think you can do another time, like not saying hello to a math teacher when stopping by your old high school on a Monday in November. You think you'll be back, and it'll still be there, like it's been for the last 30 years. Of course, they're just not there anymore. That was where we first came in to New York, my friend and I, aboard a PATH train from Newark. We then met the southern terminus of the MTA's E train, in the station called World Trade Center. I can still see the sign in the station; I wonder if I have a picture of it. *flips through pictures from trip* No, but I do have a picture from the Staten Island Ferry of the Lower Manhattan skyline. It just isn't the same now, is it? I wonder if that E train station is still there, or the PATH station. I have my doubts.

He also said another plane crashed into the Pentagon.

What was the date, oh man, what was the date in The Turner Diaries? Turner was the suicide pilot, he dropped a nuke on the Pentagon at the end of the book, oh, what was that date? I think it was 9 September. What's the date today? It's Tuesday, right? Hmm ... 11 September. My inclination was still that this was a domestic operation, and it's mostly because of the Pentagon. That's a domestic target to me, not a foreign one. Of course, then the WTC doesn't make sense. It's a foreign target, as was demonstrated eight years ago. God only knows why.

Seven World Trade Center collapsed, we heard that on the radio. I still didn't want to be alone; under ANY circumstances, I didn't want to be alone. The President came on early, about a half-hour earlier than predicted. I was reminded of Bill Pullman, the President in Independence Day, who insisted on staying in Washington. I was also reminded of another President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as I listened to Bush speak. I imagined listening to Roosevelt in the '40s, just as millions did, as he tried to calm his nation, yet rally them together against the enemy. Tonight I listened to the President. He tried to calm his nation. He also tried to rally them together with assurances that the enemy would be found and punished for this atrocious act of war against the United States. I was reminded too of another President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who in 1962 said "any missile launched from Cuba against any target in the Western Hemisphere shall be viewed as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States". Of course, I've seen the tape of Kennedy saying that, on television. FDR used the radio to send his message to the American people, and tonight I listened to Bush do the same thing.

My neighbors are sitting outside watching the sky. I never talk to them, and they don't bother me. I know what they're doing isn't unusual for them, except for what they're specifically doing now, watching for aircraft moving through the night sky, knowing that any they see (and they saw one just as I got home) has to be a United States military plane.

I still haven't seen the pictures. I know that when the dawn comes, I'll see the reality, much as it was in 1986. The Challenger explosion was made more real to me when I picked up Wednesday morning's paper. The Chicago Tribune had altered their usual format that day, and the headline "Challenger exploded" cut the full width of the page. I can still see that headline in my mind; for me, that was the moment it became real. I have not so much as seen a television all day long; everything we've heard has been from the radio. I'm not connected to the Internet as I write this; I won't go to and check the damage there. I've set myself up for the realization to hit tomorrow morning, when I will walk out into my driveway and pick up the blue bag, the bag with the Chicago Tribune's blue masthead inside, atop yet another reality-maker, another image-burner, another Wednesday morning paper.

Finished at 23:44 on Tuesday, 11 September 2001.

Yes, Jason Elliot Benda's Home Page is all new in its ninth incarnation. Not only did I rewrite all the HTML from scratch (well, except for a couple tables on one page that took me eight hours to do last time), I even supplied new images. Here's a quick guide to what I've put into number nine:
A brand new FAQ! Have any questions? Maybe I thought of them first! Come look and see.
The Audio Philes return! My pages of song lyrics, or at least what I think they are.
The Athletics Pages have been resurfaced. Look here for news from high school, college, and professional sports, from the West Aurora Blackhawks to the New Jersey Devils.
"What's On My Mind" is back, showing that the contents of my mind do, at least occasionally, change.
Useful Stuff, Useful Stuff. Links to all sorts of, well, useful stuff. Check out the newly-enhanced Transport Pages!
Useless Stuff, Useless Stuff. Links to all sorts of, well, less useful stuff. (Of course, the useless stuff is more fun than the useful stuff.)
The Sports Cliché Quiz, the most popular page from JEBHP 8. (Not yet redone for JEBHP 9.)
Who's behind the 8-ball? They're a few new scans!
Counters, counters everywhere! I figured since I can use counters, I might as well. See how many people have been accessing each area of the site when you go there yourself. All counters were reset 09:58 05Feb01, when I did an overhaul of the directory structure here on JEBHP 9. Also, since I do all the work on JEBHP 9 locally on my own computer, I do not affect the counters by working on the pages. Also returning to JEBHP for the ninth edition is my tradition of page footers to help navigation and information, with a twist. On every page native to JEBHP 9, click on the 9 ball at the bottom to jump back to the front page (this page here). Have a bone to pick with me? Just click on the bone in the footer to send me an e-mail message. Want to send an anonymous comment? Click on "HIDE ME! HIDE ME!" for an anonymous comment form; I'll still get to read it, but I can only wonder who said it.
Got a bone to pick? Click the bone to mail me directly, or "HIDE ME! HIDE ME!" to let me know incognito.
Lost? Click the magic 9 ball to go back to the front page of JEBHP 9.
This page last modified 23:03 31Dec01.