I wrote the B1 Bomber piece in late 2002.
B1 bombers struck Ann Arbor today, attacking from the west. The rising clouds of dirt and houses became visible to me and the other drivers on M-14 as we approached the Curtis Road exit. I heard the explosions even above my stereo.
My daughter has a fever. She cries with fear.
My neighbor has begun throwing cigarette butts and bottle tops over the fence and into my backyard.
This week three thousand people were killed in the Congo. Whole families pulled out of their houses and hacked to death. The killers cut off their victims’ hands, the way the Belgians taught their Congolese slaves to do at the turn of the twentieth century. A child is being hacked to death with a machete. A machete cuts into the shoulder of a two-year-old girl and is now stuck in the bone. Does she look at the machete or at her killer?
I can imagine my neighbor lying dead at his curb where he has neatly placed his brown plastic garbage cans. When he turns with his lawn mower to face our house, I can imagine shooting him with a light rifle. I would shoot him in the chest and then watch for retaliation from his son. The Ann Arbor police would soon claim us all.
My daughter is walking with us in the neighborhood now, no longer content to ride in her stroller. She holds my hand. Yesterday, after making the big steps up to the porch, she saw an ant. Before she spoke about seeing the ant, she saw me step on it and quickly wipe it across the concrete with the toe of my basketball shoe. Today on our walk she stepped on three ants. O, we must teach our children not to step on ants!
The explanation for the bombing of Ann Arbor was played over most radio stations concurrent with the bombing itself. Driving toward the brown clouds at the end of the highway, I searched the dial for the Ann Arbor NPR station and found static. The Detroit NPR station came in clearly. A White House correspondent was summarizing the brief speech the president had just made and was politely answering the questions of a curious anchor. I do not know what to make of the fact that, while my senses were heightened by the sound of the bombs and the sight of the enormous plumes of particulates over the city where I live and where my wife and daughter were at that moment under attack from the world’s most powerful military, it was not until I noticed the absence of instrumental interludes in the radio’s coverage of the event that I felt cold fear.
As a matter of course my neighbor and I do not look each other in the eye. I drive past him and his mower staring intently at my own driveway, where I will negotiate a turn. After parking the car, I have tree limbs to inspect on my way to the door. A violet ivy is gaining purchase among the rye and bluegrass mix of my lawn. Furthermore, looking down at the grass allows me to review the weight of my day.