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  • Gary Bostwick

Tuesday's terror — tomorrow's burden of truth

Originally published in The Griffin on Sept. 14, 2001:

On Tuesday morning, I awoke around 9:10 a.m., disabling myself from having a hot shower to sharpen my senses. After trudging my way down the stairs to the kitchen for a steaming cup of coffee instead, my housemate Adam yelled from the living room, “Gary, the World Trade Center was attacked with two planes this morning... Get in here.”

I felt like I was watching an unnecessarily violent scene of an “Apocalypse Now”–type movie as I gazed at the footage on my static filled television. I was watching myself and the screen through a third-person perspective, like in a dream where the edges of your vision are dimmed with that peculiar fuzz.

And I was concerned that I didn't get the chance to take a shower. How ignorantly selfish we can be.

I jumped in my car and drove unusually slow down Linwood; in fact, I don't recall actually being behind the wheel. My day would be filled with seeing heavy hearts, worried faces, neverending and perpetually confusing newsreels. As the leaders in the Capitol whimpered “God Bless America,” I was thinking that God shat on America.

I’m a worry worm. I'm also a pacifist. I love the cultural diversity that spawns from this strange world, but I cannot at the moment tell you where I stand on this impetuous occurrence. Yeah, I know this is Viewpoints, but for this once I'm only going to make some points. Through so many clouds of smoke, puddles of tears that remember, flames of anger and consternation, and scores of stone and flesh it's nearly impossible to have a clear view.

I pray for peace and the guidance our leaders need to achieve it.

During President Bush's brief address to the nation Tuesday night, he somberly referred to America’s constant “resolve for peace and justice.” For some reason though, I cannot for a second believe that peace means the same thing to George W. as it does to me. Retaliation and revenge, exacting the equal and opposite punishment, and calling Tuesday's tragedy “acts of war” doesn’t sound too peaceful to me.

To be honest, I'm extremely nervous about all of this. Straightening out my heart and emotions seems impossible at the moment. My thoughts won’t stop running so quickly; I feel short of breath.

Nothing will ever bring back the lives of the innocent civilians who perished on 9/11, however, excessive pride will warrant that a much larger gravesite be prepared. I wholeheartedly and fully condemn the acts performed, yet I feel war must be avoided at all costs. My hatred tells me to wish the terrorists be tortured and killed. What would Jesus tell me?

How do we teach that killing is wrong if we then kill someone else?

I once saw a picture in The Plain Dealer of a man protesting an execution in Ohio, passionately raising his sign with the above question inscribed on it. I’ve never thought about war the same since that day.

Having seen so many war and action movies in my life, I’ve been somewhat desensitized to their violent portrayals. But nothing can possibly numb the feelings I am sharing right now with the entire United States.

In the past few days I’ve sat and stared blankly at many things. I’ve wondered if I could ever kill a man. I’ve wondered what torrential emotions went through the people on those planes, with their lives being stolen from them in the blink of an eye. My stomach has overturned at the thought of complete annihilation.

My mother called me Tuesday and was bawling her eyes out. They were red with fear and memories, tears shedding for the uncertainty of what is to come and the realization of what occurred. Her father never talked about the war. He swallowed his recollections with the alcohol that only listened and never asked questions.

People just aren't the same after they’ve seen and done the brutalities that fill war’s lungs.

Mothers, brothers, sons, daughters, fathers, children, friends, uncles and aunts, and more importantly, innocence, are all priceless things foolishly lost in the stained dirt of war. Maybe, like Hemingway’s Harold Krebs in “Soldier’s Home,” a person must lie to himself after war in order to deal with still existing. Perhaps witnessing so much death and misery makes one lose touch with the real value of human life.

Hemingway writes, “His town had heard too many atrocity stories to be thrilled by actualities. … A distaste for everything that had happened to him in the war set in because of the lies he had told.”

I don’t want to have to lie, do you?

I hope that the world’s leaders uphold the honesty and integrity that they claim is the foundation of all their respective countries. Chances are, though, that you’re being more honest with yourself right now than the leaders are for us. If only mothers had a say.

In Mario Morgan’s A Mutant Message Down Under, the Real People — primitive, wise, earth-conscious, intelligent, nature-dependent Aborigines from Australia — give the author a bit of insight about the gravity of war.

“’There is no morality in war,’ they said. ... ‘In your wars, thousands are killed in a few minutes. Perhaps it might be worth suggesting to your leaders that both parties in your war agree to five minutes of combat. Then let all the parents come to the battlefield and collect the pieces and parts of their children, take them home and mourn and bury them. After that is over, another five minutes of battle might or might not be agreed upon. It is difficult to make sense out of senselessness.’”

Maybe Bush should consider what it would feel like to receive his children in black body bags. American, Chinese, Islamic, Russian, British, Palestinian, Afghani and other peoples alike can either surrender to the cold grip of death or gently embrace the fragility of life. We all are truly brothers and sisters in some way or another; the chain of humanity links us together despite our differences.

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