You May Already
Be a Victim
kids could be shot. The Mall might blow up. You're powdered with anthrax.
First class anthrax arrives in newsrooms. The US Postal Service says
to watch out for mail that's handwritten, lopsided or lumpy in appearance.
In early September I picked fresh sage from my home in New Mexico and
sent it to a news staffer in New York, with a note: crush the sage between
your fingers. My package arrived after 9/11 lopsided, lumpy and suspicious.
It triggered a security alert.
The Postal Service says, don't handle a letter or package that you suspect
is contaminated. I don't want to think about this. I'd rather think
At Canon Air Force Base in New Mexico, something dripped from a suspicious
package. The investigation revealed tamales.
In the North Valley of Albuquerque, a police helicopter dropped down
to make a sudden stop in a parking lot. It was a donut run to Krispy
Kreme. The incident gave the locals something different to talk about.
Late in October the first two American soldiers were killed in Pakistan
and the morning shows were interested. I flew to Cheyenne, Wyoming,
to book a live interview with the family of one of the dead Army Rangers.
I took a carry-on bag and a nasty I consider a "purse." Both
bags were hand checked by a security guard who confiscated my manicure
I was one of two passengers selected at the gate for another search.
"What's happening," asked the other woman whose name was drawn,
"this is my first time."
An airlines agent went through absolutely everything, trying every zipper
and zip-lock. I thanked her, feeling vaguely patriotic, then rushed
on the plane, feeling vaguely apologetic.
I changed planes in Denver, climbing into a dark little tube lined with
20 seats. "I hate commuter flights," I cheerfully told the
passenger across from me. "I've never been on one this small,"
he said. "We'll bounce," I predicted. A windstorm nearly tossed
us out of our tights as my travel buddy grabbed the seat in front of
him and managed a smile. It was only turbulence.
On the terra firma of Cheyenne, I took the road past East High School
to visit to the family of Ranger Jonn Edmunds. His Mom and Dad were
home with his teenage brother, kid sister and some cousins. His young
widow was enroute. They were holding up under unspeakable grief. I asked
them whether they'd speak their sorrow on national television.
They said they'd think it over. As I left, Donn Edmunds, a three-tour
veteran of Vietnam, told me, "hug your kids."
I waited. That afternoon powder was found in a mailroom at the Wyoming
Army National Guard. It was not anthrax.
I waited some more. People in Cheyenne are friendly. There are parking
spaces that aren't metered. The tap water tastes really good, and even
the pawnshops are family-run and kind of gentle. The edge of town drops
off quickly, yielding to wind-tormented ranch land.
The day before the funeral of twenty-year-old Army Ranger Specialist
Jonn Edmunds, his mother Mary and his widow Anne did our live interview
on Good Morning America by satellite uplink from Wyoming. Donn was there
to watch and reassure with his steady presence. Mary brought Jonn's
cub scout picture. Anne read the last note he left on the fridge before
he shipped out.
I offered condolences and thanks, and headed home.
The airlines agents in Cheyenne did gate security. The woman who issued
my boarding pass and checked my ID later inspected my carry-on items.
She said she didn't mind doing the security work. I asked her about
looking through personal items. "I really don't see them,"
she said, "there are certain things I'm looking for."
We had a go-around on our approach to Albuquerque. The pilot pulled
up on final, not terribly sharply, and turned. "There's nothing
wrong with the plane," he told us. Just a light aircraft in the
wrong place. It wasn't scary. It was just a missed approach.
I went home and hugged my kids.