Dead People Don't Need Blood

I saw that first plane hit the towers that morning before going to work. On a plume of smoke. Just one plane, and I assumed it was small, like an accident, I thought, and felt badly for the pilot, and anyone else who might have been hurt. Accidents happen, though, and I didn't think much more about it as I drove to work. I got to work though, there had been another. And now we knew it couldn't have been an accident. But what was going on? I sat in the General Assembly buildings. With internet, but in 2001, with everyone's eyes glued to the news sites, the websites took forever to load. I tried streaming radio, and that didn't work, either. 

The rumors exploded. So many of us had spouses, other family, friends, who were in DC. We heard about the Pentagon next. And then rumors about the White House, the Old Post Office, Congress. "My husband works there. I can't get in contact with him." Annapolis isn't DC, of course, but we have the Naval Academy. The towers collapsed. Unimaginable. We were evacuated. to go home. We walked down Rowe out to the Naval Academy stadium we parked. A mile or so. Talking to each other in dampened voices. remember so much silence that day. The most silent of all was the absence of planes overhead.

Years later, the one recurring dream I have about 9/11 being bombed during this walk back to the car. We were out in the open. Defenseless from whatever might be above. Until 9/11, I had never died in my dreams. 

Usual 30 minute ride home was over two hours. Cell phones weren't working. My family was OK. At home or headed home. I stopped for gas near Fort Meade. There were huge lines at gas stations. A guy in a uniform was at the pump across from me. He looked dazed. I can't remember what I said to him, but he told me he had been teaching at Naval that day. His usual assignment was the Pentagon. He wondered aloud about his friends and coworkers there. home, in Columbia, we sat in shock at the images on the news. What do you do when it feels like the entire nation is under attack?

We went to the Red Cross to donate blood. We couldn't think of anything else to do. got there about 2pm. The line was hundreds long. Wrapped around the parking lot. We went to do something. And that removed from the That seems impossible today, having no access to live streamed news. Every so often one of the Red Cross workers would come out and give updates. Or people in line repeated what their family and friends told them on the phone. 5,000 dead. 10,000? Wild rumors, many unknowns. blood bank closed at 6pm, later than its normal hours. "Go home," they said "We have enough blood." We got home around 7 or 8. Turned on the TV. What we saw there made us realize how foolish we had been. The thousands we thought we might help with our meager gestures of a blood donation? All dead. And dead people don't need blood.

We were not at Ground Zero. We were not one of the thousands of Americans in danger. But we had felt that visceral need to do something, to help somehow. To help our fellow Americans. I loathe war. But I immediately understood thousands who enlisted then. To do something. To help. Even, to avenge. I had never considered myself particularly patriotic. I certainly wasn't a nationalist. Everyone has inherent dignity and worth, and human rights must transcend and cultures. But the patriotism of the aftermath was the purest I ever seen and felt. It wasn't anti-anyone. It was pro-us. was short-lived. Our unity disappeared as factions grew. Different claim their version of patriotism as the only one. And we fight with other now, even in the face of our new common enemy. COVID. Where is the united need to help one another? Dead people don't need blood. But we need to help anyway. Dead people don't need masks or vaccinations, either. But this is one way we really can help one another. We can truly help. is the patriotism of us? US. The United States.


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