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Thursday, September 20, 2001

The despair overwhelmed me for awhile today. I mean, I got to a point where all I could think of was that we were going to do something that would cause somebody else to do something worse, and it would keep getting worse until all those post-apocalyptic movies turn out to be true. You know, the ones where small tribes of randomly assembled humans wander the planet looking for the last uncontaminated apple orchard. The ones where thugs and looters control the cities and the rest of us huddle in huts on the beach. The ones where the sky is green or yellow or brown.

For a long time I couldn't get past it. I'd look at the birds pecking at the ground in my garden and apologize to them. I'm sorry we're about to ruin all this, I'd say. I'm sorry we can't keep evil people from doing evil things, and the harder we try the worse it'll get. I'm sorry we're sending warships into faraway gulfs and seas, although I don't have any inside information about what they're doing there.

At one point I found myself huddled on the stairway landing, unable to move. It took me a few minutes before I got back to work, thinking even as I was doing it, "What's the use?" After all, people were at work last Tuesday, thousands of them, and in minutes they were gone. Somewhere in one of those buildings or on one of those planes could have been the one person who had the answer.

But I got back to work, bad attitude and all. I'm 52 years old. The Boss is ten years older, and the company's entire existence depends on him. I gave him a little of my "what's the use" attitude over the phone today, and he gave me a pep talk. If necessary he'll use all of his savings to keep the company running, he told me. We're doing our part by working hard and keeping the money flowing in our little portion of the economy, he said.

That didn't quite keep me from staring vacantly at the gray-blue sky from time to time. I kept thinking about the president's speech tonight. I need for him to give me something to hang some hope on. I need him to talk to me (yes, me) without the incendiary rhetoric. I'm already worn out with the threats; by now I want to hear some promises.


It hit me, I think, as I was waking up to the radio and heard more bad news. It wasn't the massive layoffs by the airlines, although that's bad enough. It's that the hotels in San Francisco are laying off a third of their employees, because nobody's going anywhere any more. That's when it finally crystallized for me how far and wide the results of what's happened and what's about to happen have already spread. And this is just Day Ten. We could have years of this ahead of us.

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