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Heart of Darkness Redux
September 19, 2001
by Jennifer Velasco-Cafagna

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I feel as if my synapses are sputtering like sparkler's you buy during an Independence Day sale. But no, I tell myself, I am all too much awake and witness to an unprecedented act of violence upon part of the United States.

My husband and I leave our clock radio on overnight to help us fall asleep, tuned to our local public radio station, KSMU. I was in bed, caught on the edge of awakening, when I heard Bob Edwards of NPR's Morning Edition say (in his usual mild mannered tone) that one of the World Trade Center tower's was on fire. I threw my blanket back, and ran straight out into our living room to see if my husband had the TV on.

He himself had just gotten up, and was making coffee in our kitchen as the images slowly became clear on the screen. I stood in front of our TV, not moving away to retrieve my glasses so I could sit down. I was frozen clutching my hands together and saying, "Are you watching? Do you see what is happening ?" Then the second tower just burst into flames before my eyes, also near the highest point on the tower. I know that something is happening that our country has not prepared for.

As the Today Show correspondents found out along with the rest of us watching, it was not bombs that exploded inside both towers, but two US airplanes that caused the carnage after they flew directly into them, just minutes apart. And as I am struggling with this reality, I hear the voice of their Pentagon reporter, Jim Miklaszewski, saying, "I don't want to alarm anyone" before telling us that the floor of the Pentagon just shook like a bomb went off. And then, there comes the shot of the smoking Pentagon, and the questions start; "Could it possibly have been a plane crash?" And yes, it was, and, oh no, all three planes had been hijacked.

I wasn't supposed to be home that Tuesday morning; but, because my boss had to take off that afternoon, I was scheduled to come in at 11:30 a.m. I went ahead and got ready for work, and was told by my husband after my shower that both WTC towers had collapsed upon themselves, and that a fourth plane that crashed outside of Pittsburgh as also most likely the work of terrorists.

I have visited both Manhattan and D.C., and have friends and family in both, so there was that close, uncomfortable worry for their welfare and safety (all have been accounted for since the attack). Not to mention that my husband and I still plan to fly to San Francisco in two weeks to attend his daughter's wedding. I find myself stunned and overwhelmed with emotion, as I continue to watch the images of person after person covered ins ash and debris from Manhattan, to the Pentagon smoldering, and the President unaccounted for.

I am numb. I want to say something that sounds like the right thing, that sounds like I have some grasp already on what I know will shape into a new war. I am a pacifist, a humanist, and an American. I want all options examined, and a peaceful resolution sought. I am not, however, naive enough to believe that the use of force will result in low casualties on any side that gets involved.

I couldn't sleep the night following the attack. It is now nearly a week since then, and I am sleeping, but I am not back in my normal routines.

The time has come for changes, including the way I conduct myself from day to day, and that has been slow going. And all I can think as I shut my TV off for the first time since last Tuesday are the words of Commander Kurtz from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the words he utters before he dies: "The horror, the horror."

 
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