Image provided by: University of Oregon Libraries; Eugene, OR
About The North Coast times-eagle. (Wheeler, Oregon) 1971-2007 | View Entire Issue (Jan. 1, 2007)
LIFE WHERE 9/11 IS 24/7
showing were yours. If there is edible food on the shelves, black
market war profiteers could make it so expensive you couldn’t
Imagine your dollars being worth little anyway. Imagine
sorting through your possessions to see what you can barter or
sell to put food on the table. Sorry, the Bank of America ATMs
don’t work anymore. Snipers might have the boxes in their cross
You can’t even go to church on the weekend to pray it
will all stop. The bell tower on that cute little church is an obvious
aiming point by others who don’t like your particular choice of
religion. Bingo. Or, once you get to church, you may discover
your priest or pastor was killed. Hey, once zealots start believing
they have the only true religion and are the only ones worthy of
being saved, it becomes much easier to contemplate eliminating
the “menace” of other sects by eliminating their practitioners.
Or worse yet, you might hear your own preacher in his
finery preaching about how the (Catholics)(Lutherans)(Mormons)
(insert whatever congregation is down the lane) are plotting
against you and how they are going to Hell anyway. Praise your
version of the Lord and pass the ammunition with the collection
plate, so to speak. Sort of “Do unto others before they do unto
you.” Besides, there is always the excuse available that “They
started it first."
Some in the Middle East are interpreting the Koran
wording to allow bombing of others. And a distressing percent
age of them seem to be trained “ordained" religious leaders.
What's that you say? You believe only the leaders of Muslim
religion variants ever say such horrific things or encourage or
justify killings. You don’t think “our” Christian churches would
ever be a party to such “un-Christian” behavior as killing
“heretics.” Read some history books and wonder if Joan of Arc
or Oliver Cromwell or Richard the Lionhearted, Christians all,
would agree. We have well known and apparently admired TV
evangelists who advocate assassinations; and I will bet they
were standing near a copy of the Ten Commandments when
they said it, and probably clutching a Bible too.
If attending church is dangerous, then what about a
Regal movie theater for escape? The Rotary Club luncheon
perhaps? The Astoria public library to quietly read a magazine?
Hanging out on the beach? Forget it. Crowds equal opportunity
for the guy (or girl) to punctuate a religious or political statement.
You are forced to wonder, for example, if the “beer belly” brood
ing over there at the end of the bar in the local McMenamin's
is really just fat or has a row of dynamite strapped around the
Should you send your children to school? Schools are
targeted and so are the principals and teachers for what they
teach or for even daring to teach — period. Certainly no Friday
night football. No basketball tournament. Well, what about home
schooling, you say? Okay. What books? Do you have them
already? Don’t expect UPS to deliver new ones. And, what
lessons? Can you personally teach your kids fractions, let alone
It’s not much fun staying at home either. No heat in
the winter. Worse, no air-conditioning in the summer, and even
Astoria on the coast hit 103 degrees last year. We are fortunate
in the Pacific Northwest: temperatures rarely get above 110 even
east of the Cascades. At the same time no electricity also means
no power from PP&L for the refrigerator to store food, assuming
you have any. Of course, no gas from Northwest Natural Gas
means little is available to cook it anyway. Does that Coleman
Camper in the attic still work? You better hope so. This can be
going on not for hours or days, but months and years.
There is probably no water to cook with, at least not
clean water, water you can count on without thinking as we do
now. That faithful faucet can become now merely an ornament
on the sink. Maybe you will still be drinking “mineral water," but
you probably won’t like the minerals in it, let alone the nasty bugs
that are no longer filtered out at the water treatment plant. Those
and the pipelines and conduits supplying your water are also
targets of opportunity.
Maybe you have a well or a nearby stream. Great,
assuming no one else covets it. Your great-grandparents used
to dig wells and divert streams. Can you? Of course, that still
does not solve the issue of what is in the water. Can you test it
in any way other than your lower gastrointestinal tract? Boiling is
a good idea as you recall from your Boy or Girl Scout Handbook,
but you are probably reduced to doing so at a wood fire since the
gas and electricity no longer function. Keep in mind, you have to
depend on others to keep those utilities working. And they have
the same problems you do.
By the way, got an axe or saw and a means to sharpen
them if no gas or electricity? That wood doesn’t cut itself. It is
long hard work, even if you do have cutting tools. There is one
bright spot. You would have more free time to do the necessary
things you now have to do since you no longer go out for fun.
The toilet is probably not working, not with either the
sewer lines being blown up or the sewage treatment plant itself.
Easy to destroy. Hard to repair.
SUPPOSE OUR FAR WEST WAS LIKE THE MIDDLE EAST
BY CHARLES A. HILLESTAD
Can the average American fully comprehend what it is like to live through something like
the Balkan ethnic cleansings of a few years ago, the Lebanon eruptions every decade or so, or
Iraq almost anytime? I doubt it.
I’m not talking about the temporary disasters like Katrina or even man made ones like the
World Trade Center, bad though they were. I am talking about trying to imagine something that
grinds on for years on end where depression and desperation has largely obliterated even hope
The problem is that in our lack of imagination, we can end up causing such events or
ignoring them. Worse, despite our fortuitous circumstances, resources and geography, we
may not be totally immune to such madness ourselves. As the polarization of elections, the
abandonment of compromise, the demonization of opponents and the apparent growing belief
over the past 20 years that the end justifies any means is starting to suggest, we could
“ balkanize” ourselves.
For the last 50 years, relatively few Americans have ever
experienced anything like 9/11 firsthand. A few million or so were
close enough to ground zero in New York to smell and hear it as
it happened. A few thousand in Oklahoma City lived sufficiently
near to the federal building to have their windows blown out
when Timothy McVey decided to show how Americans can be
good at terrorism too. A few hundred were in the Colorado and
Oregon high schools when kids went on random shooting
sprees. A few dozen have been unfortunate enough to witness
bombings of abortion clinics or hear the supersonic crack of a
serial sniper's bullet. Terrifying terrorism events each and every
one, but in this country at least, they are noteworthy for their
rarity in both time and distance.
Granted, they were life disrupting events as well as life
ending for some. They scared and scarred TV spectators far and
near as well as the unwilling participants. At the same time, for
the most part, other than the lost loved ones and the traumatic
stress syndrome, “everything" was not changed. For the most
part, any change was only a few days or weeks or months in
duration except for comparatively minor aspects of daily life such
as taking off shoes in airport lines. The anguish no doubt is still
there undiminished for many, but not all, not even for all those
present at the scene when it happened. Frankly, an observer
from another planet would be hard-pressed to see much physical
difference in the daily conduct of life on our West Coast before
and after those events. People still go to the malls, stand in
line at movies, attend concerts, open their front doors to total
strangers and do not have bomb shelters or buried supplies.
If you count in the ghettos of L A. and other big cities
where gangs and drive-by shootings are more frequent, there is
some permanent change in how locals wake up each morning. In
those more permanently risky places, many do wonder whether
they will be lucky enough to survive the day. Nevertheless, most
folks don’t live in ghettos. The blood and bandages, the debris
and dead children are far away
Suppose we were not so lucky. You have all seen the
destruction in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine and Israel.
It’s all over TV. Even if you don’t watch the news, it’s on the front
pages of newspapers and the covers of magazines. You have
even seen it, or what it looks like, on the big screen. Hollywood
is pretty good at picturing the trauma. But, have any of us who
were born here in idyllic Oregon and never went ourselves where
the bullets and bombs were flying ever really thought about it
except in the abstract?
Now is the time. The events-pictures on nightly news,
may have been unspeakable acts, but we do need to speak
about them. So, here is a mental exercise: think about the
unthinkable in concrete terms, re a /concrete Imagine what is
happening “over there" occupying instead the very concrete
laid down in your own U S. Post Office zip code. Forget for the
moment what Hollywood star is sleeping with whom. Picture
what is happening in the Middle East happening to you and
yours where you could see outside your front door.
For instance, imagine if you were afraid to go to the
ironically titled Safeway for food because someone may
detonate a bomb next to you in the checkout line. Imagine your
nearest Target in the target sights of a military jet. Still want to
shop there? Do you want to play “Russian Roulette” every time
you step through revolving doors at the market?
Imagine armed guards frisking you at the doorways of
Albertson’s which would now be windowless, boarded up and
have huge concrete barriers out front so that no truck bomber
can crash through the glass entries. Even if you are able to shop
without interference, there might not be any food because of
blockades or bombed-out roads and airports or fearful farmers
not working the fields or hoarding by suppliers. Imagine the
mighty Fred Meyer grocery chain with endless rows upon rows
of empty shelves. Imagine the blemished or even rotting apples.
Imagine the moldy rutabaga never making it to the dumpster.
Imagine harvesting dandelion leaves from your lawn because
you need them in your salad. Imagine a growling of the stomach
that seldom stops. Imagine those pictures of children with ribs
So, get used to the stink. And not just how your own
body or the communal outhouse or slit trench smells. Wait until
you learn what the smell of dead bodies is like after they spend
a few weeks crushed under a collapsed building. It’s something
your nostrils will never forget. Same for the cloying smell of
burned bodies. Have you ever seen a dead body, let alone
smelled one. How about thousands?
Well, there is always watching “Desperate Housewives”
on the telly, right? Wrong. There are desperate housewives
aplenty, but not on TV. No KMUN-FM or OPB radio either.
Towers get targeted. And what news arrives tends to be propa
ganda for somebody. Maybe there are some shortwave broad
casts available to those who bought hand-cranked radios before
it all went to hell. Another bright spot: at least your arms will have
something to do even if you don't.
Probably there is no mail. The post carrier’s motto of
neither “rain nor shine nor gloom of night" deterring their rounds
doesn’t seem to contemplate improvised explosive devices
(lEDs), nor snipers nor suspicious homeowners. Newspapers?
Maybe — if someone still has a working mimeograph machine,
News will be forced to travel at the speed of rumors and
will be about as accurate. There are few, if any, reporters show
ing up in your neighborhood anyway. Reporters these days don’t
seem to care as much for combat zones as they used to back in
Walter Cronkite's days. Maybe it’s because they end up dead
No telephones. Sure, your landline always worked even
if the power went out. But they don’t work if the lines are down or
the central station demolished and the repairmen shot. Back to