Monday, September 12, 2011

The Day After

So I wasn’t allowed to say anything about this before, but now that it’s September 12 and not September 10, I think it’s fine. It’s fine, Department of Homeland Security, right? Hellooooo? Ms. Napolitano?

My husband, for those of you who don’t know or remember, is an ER doctor—as in, he chose the specialty one chooses when one likes—or is at least adept at—removing knives from peoples’ skulls and even less savory items from even less savory places. He’s all about adventure and adrenaline and variety, so it was no big surprise when he told me he was on an urban search & rescue team. I figured it was some sort of hobby until I learned that it’s Urban Search & Rescue—capitalized and run by FEMA (run by Homeland Security)—and that he was shipped across the county to help look for people—or bodies—immediately after 9/11.

Every so often right after a large-scale disaster—tsunamis, hurricanes, the like—he gets a call letting him know that his group (unit? infantry? division?) is on high-alert. Meaning he has to pack a bag and be able to hightail it to the designated military base with only a moment’s notice. I guess it’s called “being deployed,” but I prefer to think of it as “driving quickly to catch a plane” since that sounds considerably less militaristic.

In the four years we’ve been together, he’s only been put on deployment alert twice—somewhat surprising when you think of all the natural disasters that have been running roughshod all over the country and world of late. But I guess there are plenty of Urban Search & Rescue people to go around—unless you’re talking about something on the scale of the World Trade Centers collapsing due to an apparent act of war.

One time a lady came by our house to fit him with a gas-mask, but usually his desire to throw himself into harm’s way in the name of being useful is not something I think or worry about. Urban Search & Rescue gives his work and his life extra meaning and purpose, and isn’t it my job as his mate to support him in that sort of thing? I mean, it’s not like he’s playing Dungeons & Dragons or collecting stamps or something truly dangerous—to our marriage.

But when he got put on deployment notice mid-day on Friday, it felt a little different. Nothing had happened yet—no hurrinami—just the “credible” threat of a terrorist attack in New York or DC on Sunday. It felt all-too-reminiscent of the early days after 9/11—not wanting to live in fear, but not wanting to go somewhere or do something stupid. And just generally walking around thinking “What the fuck?”

As he packed his gear into his blue duffel bag—the same one he’s taken on every trip we’ve ever made—he said casually, “I don’t think we should go to the Mariner’s game on Sunday.”

I cited the weather forecast and said I did not ever want to go to a baseball game when it was 90 degrees out—even if I weren’t first-trimester nauseous-pregnant.

He nodded and zipped his duffel and then we both tried to ignore it for the rest of the weekend as we prayed (in a totally atheist way) and hoped that nothing bad would happen again—and please, please, nothing so bad that it would require the assistance of someone from Seattle.

Of course, the terrorist attack warnings turned out to be hyper-over-preparedness of the U.S. government combined with a large dose of good ol’ fear mongering. But in a weird way it felt good to be on alert all day—like our family was connected in some tiny way to the grief and fear of New York and DC. Like 10 years of war and 6,204 soldiers dead maybe wasn’t for nothing. Like the war on terror is real. Like our family, too, would sacrifice everything if need be.

“Good thing I upped my life insurance policy,” my husband mentioned over a plate of cookies Saturday night. I just bugged my eyes out at him, like, You die, and I will kill you. Not just because I’m pregnant, borderline unemployable, and easily frustrated by the antics of our almost-two-year-old. No, because I love him. Even more than I love America.

{Note: This piece also appears here on Open Salon.}

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