PROCESSING 09/11/2001

By Lauren Merryfield

We are still in shock. I’m not very hungry which is highly unusual. Jim and I have had even weirder hours than usual, because we seem to have the radio and/or tv on, waiting for the next bits of news.

I couldn’t go anywhere for two days except to the doctor, and that was only because I had such a painful bladder infection that I had to go (in more than one sense).

I’ve been on the phone more than usual with family and friends from home; not many people from here. One shining light in all of this scary stuff is that my daughter and I talked on the phone for probably two hours last night. We’ve actually called instead of emailing. Some of our feelings are hard to put in words.

We’re having trouble concentrating. Jim is trying to get back to job-hunting and even went to a job fair today. I haven’t done a thing on home business since Tuesday some time and then it was probably to drown out what was going on so I could tell myself it was just a looooooong movie.

I keep thinking I’ll wake up, when actually I’ve had very little sleep. Jim took me out to supper tonight and I slept a little in the car. I was shocked at how many people were at the restaurant and how we had to wait for twenty-five minutes because there were so many. I was hungry and not hungry. I was in a hurry to get food and didn’t mind that much waiting for quite a while. I wanted people around but wanted to be alone. I was somewhat confused!

It was so quiet yesterday morning that it seemed like we’d had a ton of snow and kids would get off from school and workers could sleep in and wasn’t that cozy? I felt safe here at home in the trees with Jim and our feline threesome. Only a couple planes went over and Jim said they were probably surveillance but that didn’t really register. I went into a cocoon mode for me. But I felt the fear and hurt of the people who were directly stricken. But there was that separation. I had the luxury of feeling safe right here and being able to take my time processing.

Then there was anger about the stupidity of these “barbaric creeps,” who were terrible people because they did terrible things. Who cared about how right they thought they were and how heroic they were considered to be in their culture. How dare they do a live video game on our soil? I would have felt much the same way if it had been a movie, but then it would have had an end and I would have been relieved.

But it went on and on, hour after hour. Well then, if it’s for real, then find out who they were and kill the rest of the you-know-whats. Kill the ones who are here and those in other countries. Hunt them down and brand them like they were disease-carrying bees and vaporize them. And we’d live happily ever after. And I could sleep. And I would know my daughter was all right.

I don’t have a gun but I have knives, scissors, keys, tools, crochet hooks and darning needles. I have poisonous cleaning products–I have all kinds of weapons I could personally use. And I have my long white cane! I have more than one of them!

But I’ve never really seriously thought of my cane as a weapon except when I’m being harassed at an airport if I don’t give it up or suddenly find myself surrounded by airport personnel who are going to, one way or another, wand me, with no choice, whether the beep happens or not. I stick out like a sore thumb and I’m carrying a potential weapon and it has to be x-rayed and the rest of me would be x-rayed, too, if they had a room to shove me into to get the job done.

Such an untrustworthy, dangerous person I am! I’m not really blind. I’m posing as a blind person because that is the last kind of person one would suspect as a terrorist.

And I put on this skin-colored suit and blow it up so I look above-average in weight and make sure my feet look swollen and do an expertly abnormal gait so I appear totally vulnerable.

So, if I’ve gone to all this trouble to hide my real, macho identity as a male terrorist, why do they seek me out, almost every time; assuming that I am exactly that. How many times I’ve wanted to pluck out my plastic eyes to prove to them that I really am a totally blind woman, no pretense; and not even an angry thought until I experience just another of many perpetrations of harassment. When I am angered enough to swing my cane around and lecture them big-time, then here comes Mr. hot-shot security guard, grabbing me by the arm, loudly professing his authority, blah, blah, blah, as others are held up on going through security. They’re probably impatiently thinking “Come on! lady! just let ’em have your cane. Let ’em frisk you. It won’t hurt you. It’s for your own good…” as they walk through, unfrisked, unstopped, unharassed.

So I wrote the letter I’ve been intending to write for three years at least. Sea-Tac is one of the worst as far as being custodial, patronizing, and demeaning goes. And guess what? It was published in the Everett paper. I wonder if it meant anything to anyone since they’re not walking in my shoes and it’s too inconvenient and painful to do that!!!

Numbness sets in. I hear all these talk show dudes, mostly guys, say “revenge!” “Let’s get ’em back!” “Why are we waiting so long?” etc. So are some of our own people any less barbaric than “whoever it was that did this atrocity?” Isn’t war an ancient way to effect change? Are we really going into this new millennium as if it were the year 201 rather than 2001? Isn’t there a better, kinder, more reasonable means to give us back the protection we thought we had all this time and to get the harmful people away from us or somehow make them ineffective in traditional warfare? That’s about as popular as revenge isn’t. Just listen to some of our own countryfolk on the talk shows. Thank goodness that isn’t the full representation of us all.

I talk to my daughter for two hours. How can we have the same God? How is it that they think they’ve gone to the gods and we think they’ve gone to the dogs? And yet our dogs and cats would never have done these warsome acts.

How can she quell her impending prejudice, after growing up with me, learning the negative consequences of prejudice at an early age? Yet she feels the guilt of panic on her way to the laundry room in her basement apartment building as she passes by a door which emanates foreign, Arabic-sounding language?

I flimsily tell her not to worry so much about having her beliefs about others tested. Just believe in yourself; stand up for yourself and you’ll be okay. Hollow words! Those people in NY and DC were probably feeling just dandy about themselves, exuding confidence and look what happened to them! Hypocrisy from her mom? Is that sort of like the hypocrisy she’s feeling inside? If she feels it, why wouldn’t mom feel it, too? Oh!!! flashing light of disappointing understanding!

“I think I’ll watch Mighty Ducks tonight; then maybe I won’t be so scared,” she says. Mom remembers the innocence of Mr. Rogers days and taking her to “The Little Mermaid,” and “101 Dalmatians.” Sure Saddam Hussein had threatened us all and we’d talked about it briefly when she was young but she couldn’t remember that. But she remembered the Mighty Ducks. She hadn’t taken a shower since she turned her TV on Tuesday morning, assuming she was watching scary scenes in a more adult movie.

She was afraid to separate herself from her TV or radio. Something else really bad might happen while she was in there! This from a young woman who would take several showers a day if she was of a mind to.

And those noises! Planes circling above her so low she could see flood lights. Our “selected resident, Dubya!,” oops, Mr. President, had been in Omaha that day. One of her friends had seen Air Force One and it looked “cool.” So why was she feeling spooked out when she was being watched–protected? And she lives alone with her kitten, 20 years old, nearly 2000 miles from mom. She and mom don’t like to fly anyway and that’s the last thing we could do now. So will we ever see each other again, we both wonder but don’t dare verbalize??

There was a certain comfort in those two hours. Hanging up meant back to the news reports. But what a blessing it was for the time it lasted–mom and daughter comforting each other; trying to figure things out; giving our opinions and questionings in a safe place! Did all this horror have to happen for this blessing to come about? What have we been doing to ourselves and each other?

I am still in the processing mode, but in the last three days, something truly special has been happening–some of us have been loving each other!!!!

Lauren has written about cats since she was in grade-school. She is a member of the Cat Writers’ Association and has contributed human and animal-interest articles to several publications.