I kept looking at the flashing colors and growing grey. I suddenly felt like someone had spun a dial and the soundtrack of my life was in French. It was familiar sounding but unintelligible. They kept replaying it, hoping the next time it would end different.
The baby forgotten on the floor, crawled over the tower of fresh folded laundry toppling it as he moved on his mission to create chaos.
An urgent voice reminded me I had responsibilities. The baby cried unanswered in the rubble of toys. I scoop the baby in my arms and watch the second plane strike. I couldn’t look away as I stared at the screen unseeing.
I stood in the mayhem, holding the phone unaware it was in my hand. My husband was in Atlanta. The dead airspace crossed the distance as we clung to each other.
Twenty years of orders and ironing creases had not prepared me for this. The knowing was deep in the recesses of my belly. They would call him back; crucial to the mission, critically undermanned and completely screwed.
His voice told me he had to go. Suddenly unbalanced, I dropped the phone.
All I could hear was the pounding of my blood in my ears and something in the distance. The baby was crying. I take comfort in his warm breath against my cheek as the broadcast marched on. This all looked so familiar but wrong, a well-known play on the wrong stage. Palestine. Haifa. Yemen. Barcelona. Not here. Never.
“I’m ok,” I mumbled looking blankly at the phone I don’t remember answering. She was leaving her office. She was in the tallest building in Norfolk. There were rumors. I tell her to leave. Now. Quick. “Call me when you are safe,” hearing the lie in my voice.
“Man up for God sake. Pull yourself together,” the nooks of my brain chide me. I heave the baby to my hip and move through the house.
Whimpering pulled my attention toward the highchair. The phone slides down my chest as it slithered into my kitchen unwelcomed. Fear winds itself up my calf like smoke, rising in my belly. Silence. The skies over my house were silent. The absence of jet noise was a scream in a horror flick. The background music of a decade had stopped. I grabbed the baby and went to the street. Vacant of purpose yet filled with frantic movement, It felt apocalyptic.
I looked up and saw him. He took the baby and swept me against his chest. “They are gonna pay for this.” He whispered dark in my ear.
Gone was the lawn mowing Marine. The hand of a warrior, powerful, dangerous, guides me towards the porch, passing the baby to his wife.
“Michael?” she whispered. A paragraph of question hangs unanswered as we watch him climb into his jeep.
Fear in my bones told me I would never be warm again. I felt the gnawing hole of loss for something so constant it was cellular. That thing so quintessential American, I relish its absence abroad.
Today, we remain a nation at war.
Today, Facebook will be filled with contrite saying imploring you to not forget- as if that were a luxury afforded those plagued by memories living in the darkness, seeping out to bring them to their knees.
Today, we question the value of the check we cashed. We look at the consequence of emotions run amuck. Residual damage of broken dreams, the aftermath of a three day bender- blurred, dirty and too much to manage. This wasn’t the plan. These old men with broken souls staring blind parasites in young bodies. What role do we play in the healing of warriors?
Today, That day’s battle cry that rang across our land now bounces hollow against the wind- a thready wisp of the passion it once held.
Today, the silence is deafening.
Today, acknowledge the sacrifices necessary to keep this very fragile experiment we call democracy alive. Today- have the conversation about what role you play in the aftermath of war and the healing of warriors.
Today, just a minute- between your Latte and your Youtube search, your trip to the mall and your bottled water, as you fill your tank with gas or scan your filled fridge- send a prayer of thanks for the being born in a country that has such bounty, such blessing and such potential to believe that anything is possible -is possible.
Today, I can’t forget that deafening silence. Nor do I want to; the deeds unsung risk being forgotten.
Tell your children. Tell you friends. Tell yourself. Today.