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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, September 14, 2001

Let's just 'keep on keepin' on'

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

Every weekday morning for the last month they've cranked up at 8 o'clock sharp. There's a huge construction project just up the street, and I've spent many days cursing the crews and machinery, the noise that scares the cat, the work that shakes the windows.

Tuesday morning, they were at it again, digging, pounding, beeping as they backed up big trucks. On that morning, the annoyance was suddenly welcome. It was an odd comfort that though the world seemed to be coming apart at the seams, this crew showed up for work the same as any other day.

We've been told now from numerous quarters, from the leaders of our country to local mental health experts, to do just that, to get back to our routines. The goal of a terrorist attack is to disrupt the very fabric of our lives, we're told. Don't let them. Don't you let them.

In recent years, my favorite piece of advice has been a quote from that old Gladys Knight song about "keep on keepin' on." That's what they're telling us to do now, for our kids, for our own mental health, for the good of America, yes, even to spite those who orchestrated this attack.

But it's hard to know how much keepin' on is possible. It's hard to know how much is proper. What do you cancel and what do you keep? What's healthy?

The trash is getting picked up outside our homes, the mail carriers deliver whatever they have, road crews are digging up all the usual places. People are making business calls and making plans and going to lunch. It's comforting and, at the same time, it's strange, as though we're pretending things are the same when they're just not.

On Wednesday, as I buy a dozen manapua, the clerk asks me if I'm taking the box to a Neighbor Island. I don't know whether to be offended by her lapse or admire her ability to get back to normal. I just answer, "No."

Thursday morning, a passenger airplane swoops over Honolulu. The first thought is relief that the airport is open again. The second thought is much darker. It's so hard not to be afraid.

The realization seeps in that "getting back to normal" and "not letting them get to you" is a minute-to-minute thing. It's a battle we'll fight not once, but a thousand times. It's in the little decisions we make every day. It's forcing your brain to walk away from entertaining nightmarish thoughts.

It's also important to remind ourselves to let the people around us get back to their lives at their own speed, to not get mad at those who need more time than we do or be offended by others who seem relatively unaffected.

They make the "keep on keepin' on" sound easy, the experts who tell us to go to work, go to school, go shopping, go on. It isn't easy, but it is the best way we as individuals can fight back.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com