This evening I called an old boyfriend with whom I lost contact after moving to California in 1996. While I spent all day Thursday in tears, on Friday I didn't cry until I heard that Pakistan had cleared us to use their country as a military base. Two thoughts struck me simultaneously: we're really doing it; and, those poor people, who've been through so much already, and now here we come.
And then next thought was of Adam, my boyfriend from 1989 to 1991. He's one of the sweetest men I've ever known. He'd spent 5 years in the Marines after high school, and we met at Indiana University while I was a grad student and he was there to get his college education. He was in Army ROTC at the time, and destined for the Reserves. His company was one of the first to prepare to ship out to Kuwait due to their particular specialty which I won't mention; but due to shortage of equipment, he reappeared after a short stay at Fort Knox. He'd seen combat before. I was terrified, and he was raring to go do his job.
So on the news when they said they were shipping out, Adam's careful reminder to me resurfaced in my brain: "If you ever need to find me, call your state senator. He'll know where I am."
I didn't even have to go that far, as it turned out. I tried one old number, but got a fax machine. The other number I had didn't look related, and I remembered having called some number once but hearing that it was disconnected or something like that, which was how I'd lost touch in the first place. I tried it anyway, and when a woman answered I asked hopelessly for Adam, and was stunned to hear her say "Hang on... Adam!"
It made me feel so much better to hear his voice. He was just as he always was: happy, excited, and quite matter-of-fact about what he was about to do. I asked him about Pakistan, said that I had felt sure they were going to tell us 'no', expressed my sympathy for them. But he responded to the first point by saying that when the US makes a request like that, the country really needs to say 'yes'; and to the second point, by saying that it's in their interest too, to have us there.
I said that as soon as I heard the news, I started worrying about him. He said that he is very good at what he does. I said I know, and he thanked me.
I'm glad I got the chance to talk to him and tell him that I love him. Knowing someone in the armed forces makes it painfully clear that, for any given person, this could be your last conversation with him. Just one of the awful things we witnessed in the last few days: those last cell phone calls from the planes and the World Trade Center. But Adam will be back, because he's good at what he does.
Adam is ready to go, ready to fight, and ready to die if necessary. But he isn't hateful, vengeful, or even violent, and he certainly doesn't intend to die. When I crumpled at the news of his leaving for Kuwait, he said in a mock serious tone, "I'm going to die. But not in Kuwait." I often marveled that someone like Adam could ever have ended up in the Marines; aside from the square jaw and buzz haircut, there were no other signs of the warrior. His overt attitude is one of protection. That's how he sees his job, and it is his kind that rises, as he always has and always will, to the top to command others. He knows why we fight, and it is people like him who act as a buffer against people who enter the forces because they'd like to kill something or get revenge.
Unexpected Effects I don't believe that the perpetrators expected the World Trade Center to collapse. I think they got lucky, and they were just as surprised as we were, that it fell. I think they only expected to take out a couple of floors and a few hundred people.
I've been overcome by the show of support; I mentioned Britain's support yesterday. Today, more expressions of support were coming in from Europe. As an American, I find this a little surprising. We're always the bigger, stronger sibling, supplying but never getting foreign aid, but reaping lots and lots of scorn. I don't think I've ever had the experience of foreign sympathy for my country. My surprise makes it all the more moving.
But today, it really started to hit me what a completely moronic thing this was for the perpetrators to do. I guess the words World Trade Center didn't really mean anything to them. They thought they were taking a little stab at the United States, by taking out a couple hundred people and a bit of a building. What they did instead was take out thousands of people from all over the world. They may as well have sent the planes into Embassy Row in Washington, D.C. If they'd destroyed something that was only of concern to Americans, they'd have been much better off. As it is, they've ruined everything for themselves. I don't think Bin Laden is doing a victory dance. I think he's having his lower officials tortured for their stupidity and kicking himself as he looks down the barrel of every loaded gun in the world.
And realizing this, it was all the more moving and meaningful that sympathetic people in other countries were waving our flags, not their own; singing our anthem, not their own. Some lost hundreds of people, but they're crying for us. I just want to say thanks for thinking of us and recognizing our loss while you suffer your own.