Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Blame Doug

Retrospective

20 years ago:

When was that? 1986? Dear Lord. Single mother, precocious child who brought the Feds to my doorstep when he researched nukes and located a supposedly ‘secret’ missile base. Had 4-star generals, FBI, CIA – you name it bugging me. Seems The Kid had also decided that year to change his name, so he broke into the public school’s mainframe computer system, was honest enough not to bother changing his grades, but changed his middle name because he no longer liked his father or being named for him. All without my knowledge.

So…day #1, I get report cards for a child I don’t ‘know’. Rest of the week is a blur, but I do remember That General getting his stars and stripes in a twist, telling the boy (and yes this was the language he used) that he had some nerve, and no matter which government he worked for, they weren’t telling him shit, so stop pretending to be an elementary kid. The general said he wasn’t stupid—no American elementary student had a vocabulary to pen a letter like that and the resources to find them. Anybody see a little movie called “War Games”???

That’s when he phoned the Pentagon and God knows who else and said ‘Sic your guys on this bastard, whoever he is.’ [And this is what he called my boy when he wrote chewing him out.] They thought my son was pretty dangerous because he’d had the brass kajones to leave his return address on the envelope. I have yet to see a politician warning someone of or calling his shots, much less anyone involved in espionage - ha - especially if he's in grade school – that’s a Babe Ruth trick, not one for their ilk.

10 years ago:

A little over ten years ago, I moved out of my comfort zone from a small university town to a big bad city, gave up teaching college English for more adventurous work like repoing cars and collecting bills. Within months of my moving, Tim McVeigh bombed the Federal Building, and I happened to be downtown (was unhurt) and stayed there a few hours – set up the sheriffs' command post with a nurse while ‘The Kid’ (who was with me that day) worked triage and became ‘the errand boy’ for the General in charge of the post…which included FEMA, FBI, and others. Seems we were destined to become linked with Feds in one capacity or another. [Hmm...come to think of it, The Kid's first scholarship offers came from the CIA and West Point.] April 1996 was the 1-yr-anniversary of the bombing. We avoided the place while others went downtown to greet President Clinton, Billy Graham, and other dignitaries.

There are other photos if you wish to revist the tragedy at this link: http://www.okcbombing.org/okcphoto_gallery.htm. It took me about 2-3 years before I could go back downtown and another 2-3 before I could visit Ground Zero. Some of the police officers, county sheriffs and firemen committed suicide afterwards. It was probably 7 years before my son could even talk about what had happened...the things he'd witnessed.

As for how we wound up working the site...if you were already there, you either got carried out or you carried out, you went to the hospital, accepted counseling, or if you were okay you sucked it up and stayed to make sure those after you had what they needed. For what it's worth, few left. The crime rate was down 52% for the next 2 weeks, and even the homeless were pushing grocery carts of bottled water and sandwiches to the workers who trickled in hour by hour. OKC completely re-set the standard for FEMA response time and getting things under control quickly. I didn't relish being there, but it was unthinkable to even consider leaving.

By 11 am or so, I'd ordered and received latrines, food, beverages. [By the way, the first to offer help was Sonic Corporation - they're the ones who first sent food and drink AND helped me order the latrnies and toilet paper. Wal-Mart sent anything we asked for - flashlights, batteries, rain gear, you name it. So say what you will about big businesses, those were the first to help, and nobody we called turned us down. Literally hundreds of donations poured in within the first four hours. People lined up to donate blood. All I did was set things up, receive what came in, and send others out to deliver it all.]

By noon we had county mounties patrolling the area and just prior to that we'd received word that there were no survivors at Ground Zero, so the rest of the day was spent assembling, dispensing, battling the rain, and ignoring what was around us and within us just to get done what was needed.

I didn't visit Ground Zero, which was about 4 blocks south of me, until one of the military came up and told me to take a break...deliver coffee, rain gear and batteries, anything to get me to leave my post for a few minutes. It was like Beirut...didn't even realize where I was until I heard a creaking noise above me--shards of cement walls hanging by cables--and looked down at my feet. I was standing on about six inches of debris where a paved street had once been, and there was a 2-yr-old's show wedged between two enormous cement slabs of the wall, suspended in time like a tornado had lodged it there. I'd been standing where the day care center had been.

Think son and I got home around two in the morning. Maybe 10 yrs after the bombing we talked about that day, and come to find out it was that one shoe that had done us both in...he'd seen it as well. Scraps of children's drawings, torn clothing, other things you don't want to know about...hanging from the remnants of the building, and that was the sight that was unmoveable, unchanging, until workers cleared the entire street.

5 years ago:

My 2” thick oak garage door collapsed on me – broke my neck in 3 places and gave me fluid on the brain. Couldn’t work, became agoraphobic, and I was pretty much pissed off at God in particular and everyone else in general. Rough time until my son came to me and said look…you can’t work so you’re moving in with me, and when I’m at work, I want you sitting as long as you can, writing. I don’t care if you sell, and I don’t care what you write, but I want you writing.
That was 50+ confessions and a few magazine articles ago, plus the 9 books I mentioned. I don’t do a lot of things right, but somehow I think The Kid turned out okay.

I got online at that time, became involved in online writers’ groups, and the rest…is history. No, I'm not bitter - it was meant to be. Yes, I'm doing okay now. I just have memory problems and get dizzy if I forget and bend from the waist. Walk with a cane at times to keep me from toppling. But...I'm lucky. I've seen worse. If this was what was going on in April, it would only be another five months before 9/11.

1 year ago:

HA. One year ago this month I’d fired my agent and set forth to sell everything she’d sat on. Have sold 9 books on my own as of this month as opposed to zero with her. Sometimes revenge isn’t sweet but it’s mighty productive. Ok, it’s sweet, too. Oooh, the first mainstream debuts next month about 3 weeks after another Lyn Cash erotic romance (ack - next week?)...time flies.

I also had to make a decision…I hadn’t flown since the head injury, and I had a writers’ conference coming up that I wanted to attend. There was no way I could take Amtrak at $3500 roundtrip (not to mention a week getting there and a week getting home). I’d taken Amtrak to Dallas for a conference the previous year, but this one was to be held in Reno. Should I bail on my friends or risk flying against doctors’ orders? I decided I was much better and that my head could stand the cabin pressure if the plane was large enough. Haven’t regretted it since.

1 month ago:

I’d just returned from DC, buried one of my oldest and dearest friends, and was in a funk. Saw a house being cleaned out while walking, went inside, inquired, brought The Kid in to look at it. We moved within a few days; The Kid’s girlfriend moved in with us as well; I heard from a NY publisher that they’re considering a book of mine; and I caught a rotten cold or something that has hung in like it’s a clingy best friend that doesn’t want to leave me. I also discovered Blue Bell Ice-Cream, Banana Split, to be precise. [DO check out their recipes if you visit their website!]

Yesterday:

Took a cab to go get groceries, got everything squared away and had just sat down when the weather got nasty. Couple of tornadoes later, we were all safe. Spoke briefly with my dad and told Poppa we were fine. Watched television for an hour (“24”, my favorite nighttime show – Keifer rules!). Then the 3 of us watched Nicole Kidman and Will Farrell in “Bewitched” and I wrote a bit while The Kid read The Da Vinci Code and The Girl went to bed.

The Real Yesterday:

Okay, so I wrote this then shelved it and came back to it, so another day has passed. YESTERDAY...I made a speciality dish of mine that we call Mama's King Ranch Chicken. Lightly grease a rectangular cake pan. Layer the following: corn chips (Doritos), chopped onion to taste, Campbell's Chicken Corn Chowder (w cans of Cream of Mushroom soup work well, too), chunks of pre-cooked chicken breast, Rotel tomatoes (drained), can of corn, slices of Velveeta cheese (we mix in some sharp cheddar), chunks of chicken. Repeat until mixture almost tops the pan. Bake 350 degrees F in oven for about 45 min to 55 min - trick is to heat thoroughly, not burn. Let cool, slice (or scoop if it's so warm that it's a tad runny). Eat. This also serves up well cold.

The Kid's Girlfriend went to cash one of her payroll checks and then to shoe shop. She brought home a new treat for me: Diet Dr Pepper with berries & crème. M-m-m. Was like drinking a chocolate truffle without the diabetic's sugar hangover or the calories.

Think we'll keep her. She really fits in well - lol.

Tomorrow:

I’m baking blueberry muffins with double the blueberries, doing some housework, sucking up my fears and digging into a WIP I’ve neglected. Also joining KOD (the romantic suspense chapter of Romance Writers of Amerida). KOD = Kiss of Death, and they have marvelous programs at the national conference, plus a Death By Chocolate party. If we can get the particulars straightened out all will be well, but their website has been screwy for a while.

Tomorrow evening (okay - tonight) I’m watching “Top Chef” then maybe a movie…”In Her Shoes” (I’m having chick flick withdrawal). If time and weather permit, I’m also planting some herbs, veggies, and flowers. We had temps of 99 degrees F' last week, down to 40-something last night, so maybe we’re in the clear for planting. Guess I’ll find out.

In the next minute I am tagging . . .

Kris (hey, paybacks are a bitch), Ann, Christine, Cece, Rinda, Tanya, Janet, and whoever feels left out. Post your snipes at me here and your Meme on your own blog so I can see it against your colors, your background, and hassle you at your place.

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21 Comments:

At 11:05 AM, Blogger Kris Starr said...

Heifer.

*snort*

Oh, all right. I'll get on it one of these minutes...

 
At 11:07 AM, Blogger Kris Starr said...

ps. Oooo! Diet Dr.Pepper with Berries & Creme???

We NEVER get these flavours up here in Canuckland. Colour me pea-green. :)

 
At 11:28 AM, Blogger Ann Wesley Hardin said...

That was a life-changing event, Suns. Not to take anything away from you, cuz you did a dayum fine job, but I'm sure it helped shape your son into the fine man he is today.

My webmaster lives in NYC and his biggest client was Cantor Fitzgerald. He had an office on their floor and was trying to make a business call to them (from his home Uptown) when 9/11 went down. When he couldn't get through he turned on the TV and that's how he learned all his co-workers were dead or dying.

He and his wife (one of my best friends) opened their apartment to people who couldn't get home that night and swiped dust off their windowsill for weeks after.

Last year I wanted to take my girls to ground zero. My webmaster had never been back there, and we told him he didn't have to come. But he did. The eeriest part was being down there in the sun. Since the Towers had been erected, that whole area had been literally in their shadow. Now, it was sunny again.

It made for a strange metaphor in my head.

Anyway, didn't mean to clog your comments *gg* This retrospective is cool. I'll do mine later in the week.

Love ya!

 
At 11:33 AM, Blogger Lyn Cash said...

Kris, I thought of YOU when she brought that pop home - ROFL.

Ann, loved your post just now. You didn't take anything away from my blog. I think in retrospect (which this is all about anyway) that things like this are universal. I know where these tragedies occurred - sure, but it's the human bond, the shared feelings that unite us all.

I don't think I really and truly dealt with the OKC tragedy until 9/11. It was like reliving it, even though I was thousands of miles away. Can't imagine how eerie that must've been to stand in sunlight on the spot where that happened.

Thanks for sharing that.

 
At 12:19 PM, Blogger Ann Wesley Hardin said...

Okay, you keep editing this post and it shows up as new on my bloglines. Will ya quit it? *gg*

Seriously, that shoe would've done me in too. Tragedies like this are awful enough without children being involved.

Even though I didn't lose anyone I loved to 9/11, my brother flew for American Airlines. I often wonder if he didn't die three years before in order to be spared that ordeal. I'll never know but fate does work in mysterious ways.

And yes, these things are universal. No matter where they happen, or who is involved, the whole world rocks from the distress.

I'll never forget the day after 9/11 when Queen Elizabeth had the National Anthem played at the palace instead of "God Save The Queen". That one, small symbolic act sucker punched me.

Hmmmm. What's my point? I dunno *g* Just sharing, I guess.

 
At 9:23 PM, Blogger Rinda Elliott said...

---Okay, you keep editing this post and it shows up as new on my bloglines. Will ya quit it? *gg*---

First, what does this mean? Is there a way to see when new posts on favorite blogs come up? Instead of visiting each one every day? Oh, please tell me it is so...

Lyn, uh thanks for the tag. It may take a couple of days because I just got the second writing challenge topic. This one is a doozy like the Norse Gods one.

Also heard back on yesterday's test, but I'll email you. :)

You never, ever told me about your son's childhood escapades-- I can't believe they didn't come up at the writing sleepovers! He cracks me up. But he's also very, very wonderful.

I also didn't know about all the work you did at the bombing. This was before we started really hanging out, I think.

Well, this all makes the book sales that much more exciting, doesn't it?

Hugs!

 
At 1:16 AM, Blogger Sam said...

Loved this story - read it like it was a best seller on an airplane - you should keep going with it.
Your son sounds terrific - and funny, and sweet. And so bright. My God. Scary bright.
Dr. Pepper with berries and cream? I'd like a daughter in law who brought me some of that...

LOL

 
At 4:53 AM, Blogger Ann Wesley Hardin said...

Rinda, yes! Miracles can happen. I subscribe to:

http://bloglines.com

It lets you know when all your favorite blogs are updated. Lemme tell you, it saved me hours of compulsive clicking every day. I love it!

 
At 10:30 AM, Blogger Madeline Hill said...

Hi! Enjoyed this story! Thanks for visiting my blog and "talking" to me. Hard to get people inspired enough to comment on my blog-- but I assume some of my psychic and writing friends enjoy reading my morning drivel..I enjoy your comments!

Soon as I can get help from my kiddo I will be adding some links and pictures.. your site is great!

 
At 10:49 AM, Blogger Rinda Elliott said...

Ann, you may just be my new best friend. (g) Off to check it out!

 
At 1:11 PM, Blogger Lyn Cash said...

Must check out that link, Ann - THANKS for posting it!

And thanks Maddie - I love your site!

My biggest problem with the Feds when The Kid found that missile site wasn't so much that he'd done it but that when the Feds asked about a MAN named JRC living in the house, I had no clue who they meant. Then we figured out it had to be my son - and they saw he really was just an elementary school student. But for a while it was pretty hairy being investigated.

To top it all off, my mother's deceased father was investigated shortly after by the FBI. Seems one of the nurses at the hospital 'stole' his identity information and gave it to her drug-runner boyfriend. So supposedly (to the FBI) my 80-some-year-old white grandfather was not only a Black man in his 30's, but also an outlaw.

Yes, that's going in a book - lol. My mom is a bit snooty and took offense, but I cracked up. G'Pa would have loved it - dead and still raising hell.

Anyway, I'm sure the family has a pretty thick file with the Feds by now. Thanks to a small child and an old dead man.

 
At 12:16 AM, Blogger Heather said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 12:24 AM, Blogger Heather said...

Hi Lyn!

Thanks for visiting my blog, and the nice comments you left. And yes, I am the former "Dungeon" mistress. ;-D

I enjoyed reading your retrospectives on 1986 and 1996. Your son sounds like he was quite a kid, who has grown into a wonderful young man.

The memory most vividly associated in my mind with 1986 is the shuttle explosion. Tenth grade English... I'd had a sort of uneasy feeling all day and when the principal came over the PA to make the anouncement, I knew before he began that something terrible had happened with the shuttle. Very unsettling - though it did result in my choice of speech topics (space program disasters) and an A to boot (public speaking was never my forte).

OKC...was at work talking with a federal auditor.

9/11...was en route to work with a co-worker, stopped at a traffic light when we heard the news. We didn't quite know if it was real at first, and literally raced into the office when we got there to turn the TV on. I remember feeling...bereft...and wondering how we were going to make it through the work day, it was so surreal. And I was glad that my dying father had no concept of what had happened.

Interesting, too, that it's been five years since your neck injury and six since mine. In my case, someone fell on me from behind while at a show here in town. I've been uneasy with "arena" seating -- with people's feet being level with my neck -- ever since and realize how lucky I was, even with chronic pain and migraines a couple times a month now. Having my neck snapped at an ice show isn't how I want to go. It does make you wary of your surroundings, doesn't it?

Sorry to ramble! :-\

BTW, love the Socrates quote from "Real Genius"! ,-)

 
At 3:22 AM, Blogger Lyn Cash said...

ack - I had forgotten how similar some of our circumstances, Heather. *WAVES* I thought that was you! - lol. Thanks for visiting - I enjoy your posts. And do you know, you are the only person who has even mentioned that quote?! - too funny. The Dungeon Mistress. ah, yes...

 
At 5:00 PM, Blogger Amie Stuart said...

Aw shite!

I'm glad you're okay and I was really touched. Thanks for sharing your experiences with the bombing =)

you rock!

I'm curious...does anyone think they can go see United 93? Ok maybe I should take that to my blog.......

 
At 11:25 AM, Anonymous Carla said...

Sunny-shine. You made me all weepy and not in a pitying way - a proud way. You SO rock, as does The Kid. Sounds like The Girl might be following in all of your footsteps, too.

I knew something, but not even a quarter of the whole story. Now that I do...I'm damned honored to have you call me friend.

We share too much in some areas (mental and physical). It gives me chills.

Love you,
Carla

 
At 11:44 AM, Blogger Lyn Cash said...

Cece, thanks for visiting. Responded on your site - don't think I'll go to the theater but will probably buy the DVD - maybe by then I cnn sit through it.

Carla, it is ALWAYS great to see you about. But hey - I didn't do anything, really - the real heroes were the men and women at Ground Zero. Want to know something really, really scary? When we were sitting in our OSHA gear, waiting, they came out and told us 'no survivors' that they could tell. We split up into factions - some went south towards Ground Zero - the one nurse and I stayed and looked at the empty lot across from us and decided that we'd set up the Sheriff's command post there.

Most of us had stethoscopes since we'd had some form of medical training (I was nobody - a pre-med drop out) - the nurse to my left was a pretty blonde who decided to go to Ground Zero. She was the only rescue worker killed that day.

As for proud to have ME as a friend - hey, I only have terrific friends. *grin* SO back atcha. Thanks for posting.

 
At 9:21 PM, Blogger Merry said...

OKC - my sister called me, barely able to speak and then I had to watch the news. My ex-brother-in-law is an OK cop. He was friends with the two FBI agents. I've been to the Memorial and the Reflection Pool and put my handprint on the wall.

9/11 - We'd moved to Texas just the week before. We'd stayed up late to unpack boxes and when Gerrie called, I was groggy with sleep. She told me to "go watch the news, it was horrible." She was upset...I rushed in amidst my husband wanting to know what was happening and stood there with the phone to my ear and watched...I forgot she was on the phone...

That day, EVERYONE I loved called me. And I called our friend who worked in the Pentagon...by the grace of God, he'd planned to go to work late that day...

I still can't watch when they do newscasts going back to those scenes. I just...can't.

And since that time, I can no longer enter stadiums or tall buildings.

 
At 10:21 PM, Blogger Lyn Cash said...

Oh, Mer, with a military husband, an OKC cop brother-in-law, etc...this had to be hard on you. Totally understand about the stadiums and tall buildings.

One of my FBI friends had a get-together at his house a few months after the bombinb - all I remember is that it was really cold weather. Anyway, he survived - didn't go in to work that day (9th floor office). And he wanted to take our temperatures on issues. Seems one of them dealt with McVeigh being transported for trail to Colorado so it would be 'more fair' and less likely someone would kill him here. But...the Okies were good. Not so much as one attempt that I know of. We were still pretty glad they tried him out of our state. It was hard on victims' families, but easier on the 'state', if that makes any sense.

I'm such a doofus - I thought this movie tonight on A&E was something at the theaters. But...TKG/aka my new DD wanted to see it but not alone, so we watched the film: Flight 93. They did it well.

 
At 8:55 PM, Anonymous Doug Hoffman said...

Yeah, I know, I'm late to the game. What a group of stories! You've definitely had some major earthquakes in your life.

I especially liked your 20 yrs-ago story . . . ever think of fictionalizing it?

 
At 11:03 PM, Blogger Lyn Cash said...

hm, Doug...now there's a thought...of course, nobody would believe it wasn't fiction - lol - so that just might work...

thinking...

 

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