“We are still at war. AT WAR. WE ARE A COUNTRY AT WAR. This fact is not bold faced in daily life. But it is true. We are living in a warring state. Me, you, every American, and many others around the world. And today is my least favorite day of the year: the day I remember it.

This morning, I awoke warm in my bed, brushed my teeth and shat, walked with my lover to the cafe, ate a croissant and drank a coffee, walked home and began the day’s work, at my desk, by my window. The clouds that had been plaguing the summer started to break, and the sun shown. And then I heard the sound of death and became as mad and as scared as I had not been since this day a year ago.

When I last heard it, for the first time, I thought the ground was breaking under me. I cannot remember ever being so physically scared, so confused, so reduced to instinct before in my life. I felt inhuman. I felt naked. I panicked. I was waiting for the bus, on the way to work, and this gripped me, in public, in the world where I am confident and intentional, and made me less than I am in my worst nightmare, in the darkness of night, tucked weeping under the covers of my bed. And I still did not know what had happened.

I was telling my co-worker Stephan about the morning. How I had felt. How no one had reacted. They boarded the bus silently, listening to their ipods. What was it, this gripping, growling noise?

It’s the Blue Angels. It’s the air show. Sea Fair. Happens every summer. He paused. Its the sound you hear right before you die.

And I felt it was true. Part of me had died. I felt a force of anger as deep and startling as the jets’ roar. We thought it our right to have and use instruments of death and more than that, to celebrate them as if that was not their purpose at all.

Stephan, who was usually quiet, continued. I remember a number of years ago, I was walking down E. John, on the steep part of the hill. An older woman was walking slowly in front of me. Old in the old-fashioned, old-world sense. She had a scarf over her head, tied neatly under her chin. I could see her going to market, on a cobblestone street, and coming home again with neat packages from the butcher and greengrocer. Her face was as wrinkled as a wet lunch bag and her thick hands curled around the small grocery sack she carried. And then the sound. Before the earth could fully split, this woman dropped with an instinct so urgent she didn’t brace herself, she didn’t clutch her bag, but she covered her head under her arm and laid on the sidewalk while the three blue planes looped in formation and the oranges in her sack tumbled down the hill and into the traffic at the intersection below.

Stephan went to her, helped her up. She was bleeding in several places, she had dirt on her face and runs in her stockings and the only thing she said was “I remember.”


The rest of the day the planes flew overhead at 20 minute intervals. I cried every time. I could not help it. I felt trapped. I could not escape the splitting roar and the thought that ‘this is what death sounds like’ before the rumble and crash of a bomb dropping, of life ending or changing irreparably. And this is something we celebrate? Take our kids to see? A spectacle suitable for a family outing on a summer day? Norman Rockwell America?

We are creating ignorance. Taking violence and the ramifications of political decisions out of context. Fostering misguided dreams in little boys and girls so that we have soldiers in years to come. Creating a celebration so we can admire the technology, the power, and the speed of these planes separate from their purpose as weapons. The F/A-18 Strike Fighter Jet is an instrument of force, warfare, death and fear. We should not ignore the fact that we are at war; we should feel it as it truly is: painful.

As I write this, every twenty minutes they fly over head, ripping the world open. I refuse to call them angels. There is a man next to me in the coffee shop, who is wearing ear plugs. We are a country at war. If we celebrate the instruments with which we wage it, if we create wonder at power for its own sake, and if we continue to separate technology from the lives and the world that we are changing with it, or if we simply plug our ears and ignore it, we will be a country at war for a long time to come.

Lauren E. Maxey”

Originally posted on Slog here.