Friday, September 10, 2004

Memories of September 11, 2001

Two days prior to September 11, 2001, I stood next to the woman I loved under a stand of 250-year-old Oak trees on her little ranch in the foothills of the Sierra. In a respite from an otherwise furnace-like end-of-summer heat wave, we enjoyed a mild day for celebrating our marriage in the company of our friends. Because we had met camping at a Medieval wedding a few years earlier, we had invited our friends from the historical recreation group to come in costume and bring their tents and pavilions to stay overnight and extend the party into the next day. As it turned out, even some of my wife’s friends from the fire department (she’s a professional firefighter) came in costume, ready for silliness.

The day was spent in happy conversations, dancing, music, games for the kids, tours to show the guests the new lambs and calf, and the rescued ponies. Some of the guests had driven hundreds of miles, and stayed overnight in tents and a couple of camper vans.

The next day, we all relaxed, enjoyed left-over tidbits, desserts, champagne and wine and soda pops. The last of the guests left that evening, except for my brother and sister, who were due to fly back to Virginia five days later. We dragged a couple of big tents to just outside the front door, with mattresses and coolers, and several of us stayed up very late, watching the brilliant stars wheel slowly overhead, punctuated by occasional meteors. My sister stayed outside to sleep that night.

In the morning, my wife and I awoke before my sister, and I went outside to wake her, while my wife and HER sister started clearing a space for us to have some coffee and breakfast. I had been sitting in the tent chatting with my sister for a while when my wife opened the front door and said, “You’d better come inside and look at the tv. There is some terrible shit going on.”

We all gathered in front of the set--- my wife’s father, sister, her two sons, my brother and sister--- held in thrall as the second jet’s fuel blossomed from the tower and rained death onto the streets and people below.

We watched for about an hour, switching among several networks. One thing that struck us all was the speed with which the mainstream networks imposed their branded dilution on the raw information, creating logos and montages of images. They may have been truthful in themselves, but seemed INSTANTLY to be intended to mask and filter the essential story, which was the atrocity by our enemies.

I remember that we discussed right then our sense that the networks were behaving true to their reflexive instincts, refusing to let us simply see the events without their interpretation, framing, and carefully selected musical soundtrack. It seemed the most blatant example of the networks straining to tell us how we should feel about things, AND reminding us that THEY were the source to turn to to FIND OUT how we should feel about unfolding events.

After some time passed a few of us got up and went outside for a breather.

As we stood outside, a sudden windstorm rose from the valley. For fifteen minutes, it sundered the placid remnants of the wedding party; it tumbled the sunshades and blew tables and chairs across the tarmac, and sent one empty dome tent bounding over the deer fence onto the neighbor’s meadow. We watched dumbstruck.

Then suddenly, the wind died and everything was calm again.

In my fifty years on this planet I’ve never seen a windstorm come up from a calm day, fling chaos all around, and then disappear like that. I’m sure it was a natural phenomenon, but the timing seemed a portent of things to come.

As wonderful as the response of many people has been--- the setting aside of differences finally understood as the trivialities they are--- there are still vast crowds of unconscious ones. It puts me in mind of the flock of Canada geese that wintered on the small lake which lay in the hollow of the bowl where my wife’s ranch nestled. Every morning several hundred geese would begin a discussion, rising gradually in volume until it was a honking cacophony that could be heard several miles away. Individuals would skid across the water in tussles and tiffs, in miniature territorial battles or macho displays of bluster, cheered on or derided by the onlookers.

And because of the civilized laws of our land, no hunter was allowed to approach them. They were safe, fat, devoid of concern.

Safe... because of the artifice of a civilization that wishes them well, and is willing to spend treasure to prevent their slaughter, and to punish any who violate their protection...

I don’t suppose those geese have ever stopped for an instant to consider the fragility of their situation.


Blogger krakatoa said...

Very moving Dave.

Geese. Yeah. That's a perfect allegory.

12:41 AM  

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