Anxious days

“Mom, come! Come, Mom! Come, come with me!”  All day today, my little one has been following me around, taking my hand, leading me outside, to the playset, to the garden, to the places where he plays, asking me to play with him.  I am so tired, and achy, and more than a little anxious about tomorrow’s chemo, where I start a brand-new chemotherapy drug that I know so little about.  His grandparents are here to play with him, but today, he knows something’s up, and only Mom will do.

So I go with him, of course.  I haul my aching body over to his favorite places, to the swings, to the playset, and lie down near where he is playing, calling words of encouragement, and being available for hugs and kisses when the he bumps his head or needs a little extra love in his day.  This is what I do.  This is what I do best.  I love this little guy.  But still, some days I get tired, and achy, and more than a little anxious.

Perhaps I should stop reading the newspaper.  For it certainly doesn’t help that today is October 3, 2007.

Do you know the significance of today?  Do you remember?  Do you remember the fear and anxiety that the D.C. snipers brought to our area five years ago today?

I remember it like it was yesterday.  Just a few weeks after the first anniversary of 9-11, just a year after the anthrax attacks on federal buildings in D.C. (including mine), as the nation was gearing up to go to war, war came to us.  My little suburb, along with others across the D.C. area, was under attack.

Reports of the first gunshot victim were mixed in with other news of the day.  The next day, a second unusual killing — a woman slumped on a bench, with no apparent motive, struggle, or other information available.  Then, gunshots rang out at the Michael’s that I had been to the week before.  At the gas station where we filled up on the way out there.  At the grocery store.

Gunshots at the grocery store.

How wild was that?  As the news sunk in, the fear started to spread.  Many of us here in the suburbs began to bundle our errands, to conserve our gas, to stock up at the grocery store, and to not run out for “just a few things” if we didn’t really have to.  Some crouched behind their cars when they stopped for gas.  Some went in pairs, one to fill up and one to stand guard, to watch.  Some walked more quickly from the Metro through the parking lot, looking around, furiously searching the corners of the lots and the scraggly trees for anything suspicious.  But, in this case of stealth and sharpshooting, what was suspicious?

The only clue was the reported sighting of a white box truck at the Home Depot shooting.  Later, a similar truck would be reported at another of the shootings, but was it fact or coincidence?  No matter; it was all we had.

So we began to go about our errands again, but every sighting of a white box truck (hundreds! thousands!) caused a momentary panic in many of our hearts, an irrational fear, a tugging that maybe, just maybe we should change lanes or pull over or call someone — do something!

But there really wasn’t much that we could do.  A crazy man (or two?) was on the loose, and for a few weeks that October, we all lived in his sights.

I do not like to remember those days.  Those days when fear got the best of us, when fear and violence and a form of terrorism was brought home to our leafy neighborhoods where, a year or two earlier, we had felt safe.  Secure.  At home.  Suddenly, we were safe nowhere.  And the worst part was, we didn’t know where to go to be safe again.

My mind races now, with the perspective of five years since the snipers, six years since 9-11, and too many years of war.

This must be a tiny taste of what it must be like to live in Baghdad today.  Just a taste.  A terrifying, terrifying taste.

And so, when my son wakes up from his afternoon nap, I will hold him close, and play with him, and rejoice in the safety of our home and neighborhood.

My family is so lucky to be safe and together today.  I cannot imagine the anxious days that mothers in war-torn countries spend, trying desparately to keep their children safe.  My heart goes out to them today, and I weep.

16 Responses to Anxious days

  1. kerry says:

    I was living in the DC area at the time this all happened. I worked out of Dulles airport and remember being terrified to put gas in my car! That WAS a scary time.

  2. Linda L. says:

    It is all about keeping things in perspective, isn’t it! Keep writing! Too often, we forget!

  3. mumof4 says:

    good luck with tomorrow. I will keep fingers crossed. Ot press my thumbs as the Germans say.

  4. Monica says:

    Not to sound crass, but while that sniper thing was awful it never scared me so much that I altered my life in any way whatsoever. 5 million people in the metro area, what are the chances? It was very tragic, but the media induced fear was unnecessary and I didn’t want to live my life hiding under my bed.

  5. (((HUG)))

    (although I’m pretty sure that’s NOTHING on the great feeling that a hug from your little boy gives you)

    Thinking of you, and will be sending positive thoughts and strength your way tomorrow–

    Love CGF xo

  6. Colleen says:

    Thank you for reminding us. Wonderful post.

  7. Robin says:

    We had a period like that here (Israel) in the winter/spring of 2002. It seemed like every other day something was blowing up – several times just a mile or so away from where we where. People stopped going out, the city where no one stays home became the city where everyone stays home. It was the only time in 18 years of living here that I actually considered leaving.

    Thank god that horrible time ended, but the scars lingered on for a very long time. It’s only in the past few years that I can go out feeling relatively carefree again.

  8. clifford says:

    “just a year after the anthrax attacks on federal buildings in D.C. (including mine), as the nation was gearing up to go to war, war came to us. My little suburb, along with others across the D.C. area, was under attack.”

    Words like these aren’t spoken in public enough. Our nation is rapidly forgetting about the grave threat it faces from those wanting to kill as many of us as possible.

    Here’s to hoping your children never have to experience a 9/11 in their own lifetimes, YM.

  9. bon says:

    in a sense, we all live precarious lives, but often in such a state of grace that we’re unaware that bad and frightening things really are out there.

    i loved this post.

  10. canape says:

    You know, I would like to curl up in that hammock with you and talk about happy times on days like these.

  11. workoutmommy says:

    too often we forget about things like this and take life for granted. Thank you for reminding us. I too remember the sniper days and the fear around town, especially when getting gas.
    Good luck tomorrow. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  12. Gidge says:

    I had just given birth to my oldest – and I remember being home on Maternity leave and thinking what a rotten world I had just brought my child into.
    I wasn’t even IN DC.

  13. magnetobold says:

    I remember that time. Even here in Hicksville Australia we were wondering what the world was coming to.
    Think happy thoughts WM. You are fretting about tomorrow and letting your mind wander.

    Be with your boy. Use your energy to soak up his loveliness and banish those thoughts.

    Give yourself a squeeze and pretend it is from me. I will be thinking of you tomorrow and sending warm cuddles your way.

  14. yes, friends are telling me of stepping out of their tanks in a “succure location” just to hear and feel snipper fire above their head or too close for comfort. Our soldies and the citizens of Bagdad know of your fears. I hope someday they will be memories only the way yours have become although they are scary, anxiety triggering, front of your mind memories

  15. Gill says:

    It is all about perspective. Being South African, living in a country where crime too often affects people close to us, I have to keep on reminding myself how lucky I am that my family is intact and, for the time being, unaffected.

    Praying that your chemo goes well! {{hugs}}

  16. Ally says:

    I’m praying that your new chemo treatment goes well and does it’s job in your body.

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