Jim Bittermann, reporting from Paris, said the French media were calling the blast a “Black Swan Event,” a moment that changes the course of history.
The images on YouTube were unearthly. One showed a dark gray hurricane sweeping over the taller buildings along Wisconsin Avenue, shredding their upper stories. William thought it was actually the tornadoes set off by the bomb. There were several short films showing a large gray wave rolling toward the camera. I thought of sandstorms in the Sahara. There was even a sharp, steady video shot at the moment of detonation. The camera seemed locked down. William thought the perpetrators shot it. There were videos of bedraggled people marching in lines, a mass migration up 16th Street, away from the District, heading toward Silver Spring where I live. What would we to do with these throngs of refugees, feed them, charge their cell phones, provide shelter? The images reminded me of World War II survivors fleeing Paris. The thought that we might join them sent me to the bathroom, my stomach clenching from fear. The toilet would not flush. No shower. No water.
I told myself help was coming. I listened for the sirens, but they had drifted off. What is worse than abandonment?
Silver Spring is near to the heart of the District, and William and I stayed outdoors too long that day. The exposure cost William his hair at first, and then induced some serious blood-flux sickness. His glands began to swell that evening, and we found fistfuls of his hair on his pillow the next morning. His illness just grew worse.
Somehow I had been spared. My hair grew faster and thicker, more lustrous, and a richer more shining shade of amber. I felt pleasantly self conscious and lucky, but suffered survivors guilt. My figure changed as well; I became more ample, more bosomy.
Today, four months later, in the spring of 2010, my daughter Olive survives from hour-to-hour. She is frequently listless, too exhausted to play. She continues to receive regular blood transfusions.
William is gone. Sligo Creek Park near our home faces a golf course, which has been turned into a graveyard. Gravesites were marked by crude crosses and keepsakes. Linda’s name was painted on a brick and left atop her last place on Earth. William’s shoes showed his resting place, a pair of black leather cap-toe lace-ups, part of the K Street uniform. He got a brick as well, in case the shoes were needed.
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