There is a credible threat to our safety in the DC area this weekend -- as well as in New York, of course. It is specific and measurable, the news says, but no one knows what it is.
It was weird and jarring news, as usual, but I felt more silly that I hadn't really tied the date to what was surely going to be a warning like this.
Credible. Documented or just believable? Where is it? Don't know. Who is producing it? No idea. What to do about it? Meh. Will I die on the Metro if I take it into the city to meet my friends for brunch? Will a stadium or a museum blow up? Car bombs? More mass vehicular murder? Who knows?
It's different to live here now, sure. The craziness started the day that Peter Jennings -- the person who I bizarrely came to look to over a period of years to narrate every event of note in my life, who is now, also, sadly, dead -- talked us through. We woke up early or were awoken with crazy news. We were there in that day and then it ended and nothing was ever the same.
The year after, we had weeks where we had to point out white trucks driven by killers, picking off our fellow citizens, one by one. We zig-zagged to the gas pumps and into grocery stores.
We learned over and over what we should already know, I guess -- that life is precarious, that every minute you're alive and not dead is a miracle, really. That you never know. That you should hug your loved ones and tell them, for sure, that you love them, so much that it makes them sick.
Because what if it's them in that building or on that Metro train or walking down that street when the bomb goes off or the plane crashes or the gas asphyxiates? Did you say it enough? Can you say it enough without driving people crazy? (I say no. I say that what we know is enough, that it's part of us. That if it's shown? You don't so much need to go on and on and on. That it just is. People have told me they loved me and bailed. That's all. It isn't always what it seems, or sounds like.)
The signs on the highway say "See something, say something." They tell me to report suspicious behavior. What in the hell am I looking for that's out of the ordinary on a suburban DC highway? A car afire? A person acting crazy?
That's normal, here. That's normal pretty much anywhere. I'm 99.5 percent sure that I will never call that number.
I wonder how many of us in this notoriously transient area have been here for more than a decade. I wonder where our roots are. I wonder what we saw on tv, who we knew, where we were, if we could see the smoke, what we did, if we learned to navigate the orange barriers then or more recently.
I don't know what matters in this context.
I knelt down in yoga after a week break last night. I let the feeling wash over me, the things that happened, my unwillingness to think about them, my sense of having no claim to grief, and yet a stark memory of blowing off a new job a decade ago after I woke up to screams that THE PENTAGON WAS ON FIRE AND SO WAS NEW YORK to sit on my parents' couch and watch planes fly into buildings over and over again, like a movie that wasn't a movie.
I listened to commentators' voices break. I decided that the job I had signed up for wasn't for me, that if a plane flew into that building I would have definitely been in the wrong place. I went back to my bookstore. I missed the boy I loved who was gone who came back a few months later and then left again. I felt a teeny, tiny fraction of all that it was. I still know it was tiny, and yet it felt (still feels) like a lot.
The only comfort I ever found in George W. Bush came in the days after 9/11. The only sense I had of him as a leader was at that time, and the phrase I crazily clung to was to "go about my business." I did it. I spent my paltry dollars and walked the streets. But then again, what was the alternative? My city, in spite of the damage done to a critical spot where people gave their lives for all of us, essentially, was intact. Roads weren't closed. We weren't, probably thanks to Todd Beamer and the Let's Roll Crew, bless their souls, gutted on our edge or in our center, like New York. Thousands weren't lost, their papers and limbs and auras floating over the landscape.
Not directly, anyway. It's not like we didn't feel them from a distance.
The percentages and numbers suck. Incalculable, all of it.
Everyone went about his or her business. There was no new normal. There was just new, and recycled, and the best anybody could do.
The people who died and who have died since deserved better. They deserve the best we can do.
Tomorrow I have good things, in a previously attacked city. I have many friends to see, some of my favorite people in the world, and a drink or two waiting. I hear I'll see the sun shine.
I hope that nothing bad happens to anyone in New York or D.C. or in any place around our country. I hope it's a day of reverence for everyone -- EVERYONE -- who has lost his or her life for absolutely no reason.
And although this is probably selfish, I really hope that no one condescends to tell me never to forget, because how could I?
I think of our troops, dead and alive, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in New York, and at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, every day. I also think of every innocent civilian caught in the crossfire of these wars, thousands of miles away. None of it makes any sense to me, still, or at all.