I tossed and turned the entire way back. My eyelids drooped; my long legs rammed into the seat in front of me. My head bobbed back and forth as sleep almost enveloped me, nothing to support me in the aisle seat I occupied. I woke with a start as the plane forcefully met the runway at SFO. I slowly coaxed myself back to consciousness as the aircraft taxied to the gate.
The man in the row behind me was excited. He was making staccato little noises, engaging his fellow rowmates. Click, click, click. “Oh, my god. No. No.” I tilted my head back to peer at him through the tiny crack between my aisle seat and the middle seat occupied by an elderly woman. He had a Blackberry in his hands, anxiously reading something on the screen. My first thought was that he shouldn’t be using a device that could possibly interfere with the navigation systems. I have an innate fear that someone will be using his cell phone or radio as we’re taxiing to the gate, a signal will be misinterpreted by the pilots, and the plane will turn around and take off for Kalamazoo. Irrational? Yes. But my fear nonetheless.
I was intrigued by this maverick. This person who had no consideration for the rules of safe air travel. This older gentleman in his pin striped shirt and bow tie with his pomaded hair. I eavesdropped on his conversation. No, his monologue.
“This is huge. Huge, I tell you. Do you realize how huge this is? We are at war. War. War, I say. This is momentous. Historical. Years from now people will ask you where you were when the war broke out. History. You will never forget this.” The two others in his row had that anxious look on their faces, that look of being trapped and not knowing when an opportunity for escape would arise.
At that point I realized what had happened as I fought sleep during the 3 1/2 hour trip from Minneapolis.
Bush had done it. War had begun.
I guess I knew it would happen. I mean, come on. The ultimatum Bush gave Hussein was a farce. What leader would voluntarily leave his country? No true leader would. Now more than just my eyelids were heavy. I thought of all the people whose lives would be forever changed by this decision. The men and women in the armed forces, from all countries involved. The families of those fighting in the war. The citizen casualties. The families of the POWs that will be captured, never knowing if their loved ones are alive, dead, or tortured.
As the taxi drove into San Francisco I heard the newscasts over the radio, blurred by my own thoughts. I saw the skyline of the city I’ve called home for so many years. The lights of the TransAmerica tower glistening, the Bay Bridge sparkling in the distance. I envisioned this city, my home, the recipient of an attack. The missiles exploding, the tanks barreling down Market Street, the windows of buildings sending shards of glass shattered from shock waves. Irrational? Maybe. But my fear nonetheless.
This morning I turned the news on while getting ready for work. Something I hardly ever do. The first story was live from Kuwait City. The city where I lived after graduating from college. The city where I taught at the International School, taught eager fifth graders from Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, Egypt, Australia, and the US. The city just recovering from the Gulf War, still recovering live mines from the ocean, swept out by the tides then back in, stranded on the beaches. The city where, two years after the Gulf War ended they finally began replanting the palm trees. They finally were bringing life back into a country so long ravaged by death.
The story detailed the missile attacks in northern Kuwait. I thought back, 10 years ago, to the students and their families. The families who had suffered such loss during the Iraqi invasion. Families in which fathers, husbands, uncles, brothers, were still unaccounted. I wondered how many of those same families will be grieving losses at the end of this war. I wondered how many families here will be grieving losses at the end of this war. Irrational? No. My fear nonetheless.