On Edge, Feeling Helpless

Today was very quiet out at O’Hare, literally. I make my living from airport noise, and O’Hare was completely silent. It was spooky.

After work, I headed downtown to try to donate blood at Northwestern Hospital. However, so many people were standing in line, also to donate blood, that people were being turned away due to lack of capacity. Chicagoans are stunned, and Chicagoans want to help.

So I drove around downtown a little bit just to see what’s up. It was busier than yesterday, but still more quiet than normal. In some ways it was business as usual, but there were differences. There was a massive police presence, with at least 2-3 cops on most downtown intersections. Illegally parked cars were being aggressively towed.

And the flags. American flags are appearing all over the city, thousands of them. Large and small. Sometime yesterday, two young Hispanic men quietly walked to an overpass above the Kennedy Expressway, and hung a giant Stars and Stripes from the guardrail. This is America at its finest.

Driving down Michigan Avenue in front of the Tribune Tower, there is a construction barricade in the median. A large hand-written sign was taped to the barricade: “STILL UNITED!”

I had always been fascinated with World War II, and have tried to imagine what it must have been like on that day we found out that we had been attacked at Pearl Harbor. From what I know, it was a cold and snowy day in my hometown of Cincinnati when it happened. Cold, gray and snowy seemed appropriate for the occasion.

Today, however, was a beautiful day in Chicago. Not a cloud in the sky, and perfect temperatures. It feels very weird. I came around a bend on the Kennedy Expressway, and our beautiful skyline opened up in front of me, blazing bright gold in the setting sun. I looked at the Sears Tower and Hancock Center and thought: It could have been us. I still get a shiver everytime I hear a police siren of fire truck. I want to break down and cry, but right now I can’t seem to get it out. Right now I feel more numb than anything else. I’m sure the numbness will pass. I want to be there in New York helping out, doing something, but I can’t. I feel helpless.

I have a large collection of old newspapers in a drawer in my closet. It includes papers from Lincoln’s assassination, World War I, the Pearl Harbor attack, World War II, V-E Day, V-J Day, JFK’s assassination, the Moon Landing, Nixon’s resignation, and the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

I added a couple more papers to the drawer today, the Tribune, Sun-Times, and NY Times. The Sun-Times front page screamed “OUTRAGE”.

I hope to add another Sun-Times to that drawer soon, one that screams “VICTORY!”

(originally posted on the SubTalk forum at nycsubway.org)

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