Saturday, July 07, 2007

Like An Axe Slicing Into A Birthday Cake

Now maybe this is just me, but I have always felt faintly worried about the comparative lack of news coverage about Al-Qaeda's attack on the Pentagon. I got into my car that day, turned on the radio, clueless that anything was wrong, and all I could get on every station was the same man's voice saying words I am not going to forget any time soon: "It's hard to describe the destruction I'm seeing here today at the Pentagon..." Then I arrived at work and found the whole staff in the meeting room, staring in horror at the Twin Towers on television. They all swayed in their seats as the skyscrapers telescoped themselves into heaps of dust.

Later that day, a photographer came out to the agency to take a group picture for the paper. I saved mine and put it in a frame. Everyone else looks shellshocked, but I'm perched on a rock beaming as if I'd just won the lottery. I thought for sure the ICBMs were going to start flying that day; by the end of the week I would be a radioactive charcoal statue. It was an incredible gift from the gods, a mainline jolt of pure Chaos. Except it never happened.

From then on, for a solid week, almost all you heard about was the World Trade Center, the firemen, Rudy Guiliani, the people who jumped out the windows from the top floors, the shocked public, talk-show hosts bursting into tears on the air...My question was, What about the Pentagon? What's going on over there?

All I saw in all the time after that was a single interview with a tight-lipped woman who was holding herself together until she officially got the news that her husband was dead, and she said she really already knew, because where else had he been for the past two days, but...she was going to wait to hear.

Oh, and I saw the footage that went with the voice I'd heard on the radio; it was a man named Michael with his hair all frizzed up on one side and his tie cranked around, as if he'd been mugged in a dark alley by the Grim Reaper and had barely gotten away. I remember something else he said in that footage. He compared the plane crashing into the Pentagon to "an axe slicing into a birthday cake." Guy's got a way with words.

That five-sided shape is not just a handy symbol of the illusion that everything is in order. It is also the nerve center of the country's military operations, which is the true, literal SOURCE of this country's illusion that everything is in order. I understand completely why they avoided going into detail about the names of the Pentagon dead, or the exact amount of damage Al-Qaeda did. National security, and all that happy horseshit. But not knowing how bad it was has serious drawbacks for me, the girl who can't abide an unanswered question. That is my personal pentagonal hangup. I feel like things are under control if every question is answered. Dumb, huh?


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