washington post, 09.13.01, tastes like clay, tastes like dust

Is this relief I’m feeling? I sit disgusted that I am wiping my brow and thanking God, thanking someone, thanking something. I am shaking with relief and a strange kind of inappropriate giddiness. My loved ones are okay. The only people affected by this were acquaintances. Spouses of parent’s friends, distant coworkers I’d never met. Thank god they were the only ones killed, the only ones hurt or missing. It was just them. The named, but faceless.

Are these Faceless in my thoughts, my desperate prayers? Yes. Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t have organized prayers. I don’t even usually pray, but I have a kind of mantra going now. I keep repeating disjointed things that make no sense. The only formal things I remember from long-ago Confirmation classes are the Lords prayer, John 3:16. Those are useless.

I’m still in fear, yes. But my fear doesn’t have much to do with waking to F15s instead of my alarm clock (this is what happens when Dulles airport is your backyard.) My fear is much more selfish. My younger brother, my cousins, my boyfriend. (he works for CBS they hadn’t really sent him yet no no he’s not there two planes at the trade center only one hit Pentagon another on it’s way he’s not there yet he’s safe okay okay okay okay why aren’t phones working he’s not there he’s okay okay okay okay cell phone okay where okay is okay he where where where call me okay okay he’s okay I’m okay)

I do think about the military. I think about the customers that come into my staff meetings, I stand and salute. I think about my father, who still can’t talk about what he saw in Viet Nam.

I think about my friend Nick, who joined the Marines at age 18 because he had nothing better to do. Am I proud of him? I think so. Maybe. I do know the US military has turned him into a racist; a suspicious, ignorant person. I am proud of him, but I do not respect him. God, isn’t that awful to say. But not all are like him. I see the leaders from the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I respect these men, I am in awe. I put my faith in them, with their uniforms and towering presence. Gen. Henry Shelton looks like he would be able to protect the East Coast with a Bic pen. I might not respect Nick, but I respect Henry. And, that is wrong. I am selfish. I will say it now- I don’t want to go to war. There is enough war in this world without America getting into one. Does this make me an anti-Patriot, and enemy of the state? Nope, it just makes me selfish. I’ll take being labeled that.

Will the men in my life, especially Nick, have to fight some unknown enemy? Where is Nick, anyway? I haven’t head from him in a long time. I am worried.

Please stop sending me “Proud to be an American” emails, national prayer forwards. Send me ideas. Send me plots, send me smart plans the government might not have thought of. Send me charity numbers and places where I can give blood and volunteer organizations and victims lists. Lists I’ll scour as I bite my fingernails bloody, chant my mantras.

Do I know the US has killed many innocent people through our own military actions in the past? Yes.

If these men were smart enough to pull off such a horrible, evil act within our own country, the United States should be smart enough to figure out who and where responsible parties are. And instead of starting a war (the whole country has been forced into Kick-Ass mode too quickly, that’s asking for disaster), our leaders first must THINK.

All of America wants to punish these bad men, these sick and evil “suicide bombers.” The unfortunate part is, these were not suicide missions. They were missions that were carried out in the name of what these people feel is holy and just. Punishment will not work, because for these extremists, dying like this is exactly what they want to have happen. They honestly believe it puts them in better with their God. How can you effectively punish someone with a mindset such as this? You can’t punish them through violence or death. And that is a huge problem in itself- what will make them suffer as America has? Who knows.

I graduated with a girl named Stephanie, a design major with me who moved to NYC to work in publishing in Manhattan. I never talked to her again after graduation, and now I wonder where she is. Or Kiersten, my friend from high school trying to graduate from NYU. Or Sal, my old roommates’ dad, who works in Manhattan and doesn’t move as fast as he did in younger years.

I get panicked phone calls, anxious emails from distant relatives and friends. They know who I work for, what I do. I am a contractor, I have secret clearances, I work for certain military projects. I am family from DC. I am a target. I am not really, but they don’t know this. My cell battery is dead. They don’t know where I am.

I do know there was 25 of my coworkers in the Pentagon when the plane hit. I do know one of my coworkers was on Flight 77, he is on the victim list this morning. Did I know him? No.

My friends with darker skin, my coworkers with Muslim names. Will they be attacked by useless rednecks, hell bent on violence, no matter who is on the receiving end? There are no truly native Americans. We all hail from some other culture, some other time. And yet cabdrivers around DC didn’t show up for work yesterday. There are three men lying in NYC hospitals, beaten for no reason except for their appearance. I fear this most of all. I fear the interments of Japanese-Americans from WWII. History repeats itself. I’ve always hated that cliché.

Its a beautiful day outside, the sun is shining. People are back in the office, laughing tin the hallways. But everything is tentative, even the laughs are dark.

I have a weird taste in my mouth, like elementary school chalk, or potter’s clay. I don’t really know why.

George Bush, try to think of something, anything more comforting than “… walked through the shadow of the valley of death.” Your country deserved much more.

The backdrops of my dreams are the white mountains of Vancouver.

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