September 14, 2001

"Excuse me ma'am..."

That is how it starts, your entrance to the base. "Excuse me ma'am, could you please shut off your vehicle and step out?" You turn off the engine and clutch your identification card tightly in your hand as you step out of your vehicle. You are right to assume that you should just leave the driver's door open as you stand close by, not quite sure what you should be doing.

You look at the young soldier standing there in front of you..."Ma'am, could you please open all doors to your truck, as well as pop the hood and the rear hatch?" You comply as if you are a robot. You don't even know if you should respond. It's as if there isn't anything to say at this point. You aren't angry, you aren't feeling put out by the long wait to reach the base gate. You realize that these young soldiers are only doing their jobs.

You slowly walk around the truck, opening all the doors and the rear hatch. You briefly wonder if they notice that you have to look for the latch for the hood three times. You stand around for another few moments while your vehicle is searched. You see the exhausted looking soldier approach with the dog. You watch as the dog goes through your vehicle as well. You watch the soldiers look under your truck with mirrors. You wonder if you could possibly feel more helpless.

You are finally given the word that your vehicle is fine. You close all the doors and the hood. You climb back in your truck as the young soldier looks you in the eyes and says "Thank you ma'am, and have a nice day" You want to cry, because you can see in his eyes that he is thinking the same thing you are. That this isn't supposed to be happening again, especially not on our home soil. You smile as much as you can and whisper "No, thank you." as you prepare to drive off.

Later....

I'm home finally. I finally found a newspaper after going to four different newspaper machines. It is the first paper that I've seen since Tuesday at work. I couldn't bear to look at it while I was at work. I had to wait until I got home, and even then, I couldn't really look at the pictures since I had to leave to go teach class. The students didn't say one word about the attack. I don't know if they were just showing respect or didn't know what to say or just couldn't articulate what was in their heads. They were rather quiet and we went through our lesson quickly. Then we played Bingo and we all smiled for a little while. I wanted to hug them all on their way out of the classroom...hug them for letting me forget for a short time.

I should probably explain the first half of today's entry, shouldn't I? See, when the Gulf war broke out, we were living in Germany. We watched our friends leave for the middle east, not knowing when we would see them again. For about nine months, we lived with security measures just as described above. Every day. Every single time you drove on base. During the actual war, the chosen barrier was a tank instead of the more common concrete barriers. Imagine going through the above scenario every time you want to go to the grocery store. Every time you want to run to the store and grab a quart of milk. Run to the post office. I *DO* understand why the security measures are there. I understand why we must be ever vigilant against threats against the military and americans. What starts to grate on you is this....why are they still doing this? Do they know something that I don't know? How come there are drug/bomb dogs today and there wasn't yesterday? Was there another threat? Is there something that I should know? Something I should do? Your mind is literally torn in two between feeling very secure and utterly terrified. Now imagine living like that for nine months. Could you do it? If you think you could, do you think you would want to do it again?

I keep wondering how long this is going to go on, these extreme security measures. We have nine more months left here. I honestly don't know if I can make it that long, living like this. I want to be able to run errands without having to vacate my vehicle every time I run on base. I want to be able to go to work in the morning without the thought "What would happen if they found something under my truck?". I just want to feel like an American again instead of like one living in exile.

Posted by rowEn at 01:36 PM | Comments (2312)