Hominy & Hash
WE WILL NOW RESUME OUR REGULAR PROGRAMMING
by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St, Simons Island, Ga.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- As I recall, not long after 12 o'clock no= on, Central time, the word BULLETIN interrupted Bozo the Clown and W= alter Cronkite announced that President Kennedy was shot in Dallas, Texas. =
No further details available; he was followed by an announcement that we w= ould nowresume our regular program, already in progress.
I can still see Ringmaster, Mr. Ned, looking ashen, staring off cam= era to a monitor, or a director or perhaps even a cue card, but not looking= out into the living rooms where thousands of Chicago's children sat cross-= legged on the floor in front of the television screen waiting to yell "Hi!"= to their famous television friend, Bozo the Clown.
Instantly, though, we were returned to Walter Cronkite, struggling = to gain his composure, wiping his nose and tears from his eyes so he could = continue with the announcement that our President was dead. We did not res= ume our regular program. Anything that was in progress that sunny afternoo= n did not resume. Ever.
We have transitional phrases to take us from one place to anotheref= fortlessly. We don't even hear them. They're "working" words, like thetr= ansitional and, er, umm, ah, and so forth. Flight attendants take us froma= n interim landing to immediate take-off by saying "Ladies and Gentlemen,our= ground time here will be brief." That means, don't get up, don'tdeplane, = just keep doing what you're doing.
Although I never paid attention to the words before, I find deepmea= ning now. People are beginning to say we must get back to normal afterthe = terrorist attack September 11, 2001. What's normal? As an analogy, let me remind you of the photographs we've seen of a = corporate family, or movie stars assembled for a 25-year portrait. There a= re no captions to identify those smiling faces in the group, but inside the= publication on, say, page three, you'll find a key -- white silhouettes of= the people with identifying numbers and names listed numerically on a side= bar.
Those white outlines in a black and white illustration don't come n= ear resembling the colorful people posing on the cover. How could they?The= y're the absence of people. You must thumb through the pages, back and for= th, to put a face with a name and then read further to discover who they we= re and what they did, and learn exactly why they're pictured here.
There are 3,400 more silhouettes whited out while the colorful pict= ures identifying the vanished are tacked to billboards and telephone poles.= No visitations, no wakes, no funerals, just ashes to ashes and dust to du= st. They will not be resuming their regular program, no longer in progress= .
We're all behaving exactly as I would expect. We mourn, we rise to= the challenges, we support our heroes, we feel heroic ourselves because we= 're Americans. We live in the land of the free and the home of the brave..= . haven't we always said so?
Yet, deep down there's a numbness that won't go away. I sing littl= e ditties of no consequence: Harry Belafonte's "Hey Mr. Tally-mon, tally m= e bananas," and not realize hearing Taliban a hundred times a day takes its= toll on my consciousness. Lines of poems run through my cluttered mindlea= ding me to another time, another place, when Casey was at bat:
"Oh! = somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright; The band is play= ing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light. And somewhere men are laugh= ing, and somewhere children shout; But there is no joy in Mudville -- migh= ty Casey has Struck Out." (E.L.Thayer, 1888)
And, eventually, that sunshine in this favored land will not remind= us of 9:00 a.m. one Tuesday morning in New York. But life will not have re= turned to normal. I used to be fearless. I could sit on a subway in New Y= ork, have it jolt to a stop, fill with smoke, and not cause panic."They'll = take care of it; they'll tell us what to do."
And, I never concerned myself with product tampering after the Tyleno= l tragedy. "No one would dare do that again. They'd have to suffer the co= nsequences," we'd say to each other reassuringly.
Yet, yesterday, I shopped and I was afraid.
I cAN see how easy it would be to "tamper" with our lives, not one at= a time with cyanide, but with readily available products of destruction fo= isted upon us -- any of us -- without the perpetrators fearing reprisals. = These terrorists are willing to die. That's the most powerful weapon their= leaders have.
I see what they have done. I can't believe it. I know what theyca= n still do, and I don't want to believe it. I see New York where the most = powerful tourist attraction has been energy. Now, it's been drained. = In an effort to go for "normal," I look for things that haven't changed. = Well, we still have the long shadow of the evening sun, I thought while dr= iving home. At the moment when the sun blinds us and we strain to see beyon= d the rays for what lies hidden, it used to be fear the light would turn re= d. Now I can't be sure what lies beyond the rays and I don't know what I'm= afraid of. Is this "fear of fear itself?" A month ago, President Bush's agenda was education and healthcare, m= ine was a baby-sitting trip to Phoenix. One moment in time was freeze-fram= ed while a different course was designed, rather like shifting gears. Are = we to remain on this course until we can unpause the frame andresume what w= e were doing? Not this time. There is no going back. We will never be th= e way we were -- trusting, free.
So, we will not resume our regular programming, and, Ladies andGent= lemen, I can only pray our ground time here will not be very brief.