whimper and sob
I was asked the other day to recall what I remembered (felt?) about having heard the news on the day that Jack Kennedy was gunned down in Dallas, and on the day that the Towers fell. (I just recently brushed across an old reference to embodiment and somatics.)
I suspect that the reason I was asked is not uncommon, being part of another’s attempt to make sense of their own shock and anger…. to maintain some sense of comparative sanity in a world which appears to have gone dense and inert. Much has been said and written by cadres of clinicians who specialize in pychology or some related, distant, disconnected field of the humanities, as if a single person could come to some kind of clarity by reading treatises. We make sense of the world by looking around at our peers, our family and our community and seeing how they react, how they saw the event, what they thought then and think now.
Such was the case that crisp Friday afternoon in New England, and for the rest of the weekend. I had been sent away to a prep school by a father who’d had the same kind of experience and thought it best that I get a good education, and so I was enrolled in a rural, non-denominational prep school founded by Protestant evangelist Dwight Lyman Moody who viewed Christian religious education as an essential objective of his schools.
Boarding School Review.com says today that students study, work, sleep, play, eat and everything in between, together. When I was there, we mandatorily ate together (mostly in silence, speaking only when spoken to by a ‘master’ at the table), went to mandatory chapel together, studied alone, worked our mandatory three hours a week at some communal duty, and slept in a dorm room with one other roommate.
I was at Mount Hermon (before it merged with the Northfield School for Girls) because Choate, Exeter, Phillips Andover and Deerfield wouldn’t have anything to do with me, and soon enough the same would be said for Mount Hermon, where I flopped around like a fish on the beach. They bussed the girls across the river for the football games so we would remember that indeed there were females in the world but in 1964 only the Beatles on the jukebox in the Student Union gave us any introduction to cross-gender social interaction.
I didn’t belong there, I didn’t want to be there, they didn’t want me there, and there I was… walking across the edge of the iconic football field to a classroom building long since burned down, sensing some hubub in the communal astral field. The news from Dallas raced from building to building, from mouth to mind, and then there we were, assembled for French class: the Czeckslovakian teacher who’d fled Europe informed us of the death of the President in a tearful and passionate, heartfelt way that became a lecture in freedom, not a lesson in French. By the time we’d left the class to walk on to geometry class, the bells in the Memorial Chapel had been rung 43 times, riveting shut the coffin lid of the Republic. Each student had been left alone to ponder the meaning. Students had no access to radio or TV. And with the exception of that genuine outburst by Monsieur Slovak, I don’t recall any adult saying anything.
I lived in one of the very small dorms where I could be under the watchful eye of a houseparent, along with the other 13 boys, two freshman, eight other sophomores, two juniors, and a senior house monitor who went on to a career in management and leadership. (If I heard them, I’ve since forgotten any insights he might have had that weekend, nor have I ever read any of his books.) My roomate was an obviously very entitled (spoiled) brat from within the rich boating and commuting communities of Wall Street and a place called Darien. I recall attempting to make hard cider on the radiators, and playing hall hockey with wadded, adhesive-taped balls of paper and the mops provided to use in dusting the floors. The hallway never had dust, but did gain some strange marks on the walls near the tops of the stairs at either end. Score!
The student residents were gathered in the living room of David C. Burnham and his wife at North Farmhouse, across the street from the barns noted in “Farragut’s Theorem” and above the plateau where the lacrosse coach parked his bouncing VW microbus when he had a date. We residents were clustered with a small handful of faculty types there in the living room to watch TV; we caught our first glimpse of “I am just a patsy” as he was transferred from his temporary holding cell to a more secure location.
I remember the hushed tones, the unintelligble murmurings, the separation that occurred almost instantaneously as the faculty and all campus elders disconnected from their youthful charges into tight groupings of two and three in which they discussed the events of the weekend. I don’t recall any attempts to integrate any understandings, insights, questions, or projections for the students. I recall watching the funeral among a group of people who said almost literally nothing except an occasional sotto voce utterance of a whimper or a sob. In my little world, everyone sat alone in stunned and respectful silence, in shock and awe
I moved on, with little thought, returning (blessedly) to a more humane public high school filled with richer and more varied and vibrant human interaction. I had been in jeopardy of being thrown out of the boarding school for poor grades and recalcitrant behavior, having served not one but two of their infamous “six-and-eighteens” (eighteen hours of hard labor and six weeks confined to campus). The first was for failing to observe the proper decorum of the West Hall experience of dinner; I did wear the coat and tie, but the tie had been hastily tied and tucked under the collar of a turtleneck sweater, and the sport coat did little to cover the cut-off jean shorts I had been wearing to practice catching and tossing a lacrosse ball. The President had been shot dead and I scrubbed the dirty pots and pans in the kitchen on six successive Saturday afternoons. The second offense was for cheating on an exam; under the pressure of competition for grades and not wanting to let down my father, who had attended the higher-ranking Phillips Exeter, I wrote down a clue and cue on my hand and then used that hand to turn in the exam book. Doh! The President’s brain was missing and I got to scrub out the char from the walls of the campus heating plant boilers. I got more heat than anyone from the Secret Service.
I thrived more readily in public school, despite (or perhaps because of) disruptive attempts to make learning more fun and participatory, and I slid into my safety school, the big state “U”, where my psych 101 class had more students than my entire high school. Once again I was a small rainbow trout flitting around down near the pebbles and sand of a campus crammed with people looking to avoid the draft. I enrolled in the Bay State Special Forces, did weekends in the woods and at nearby Fort Devens, learned how to assemble an M-1 in the dark and disassemble a bridge with explosives. I roomed with a conscientious objector, covered the Dow protests as a budding journalist, and “witnessed” the PTSD-inducing murders of King, Kennedy and the events of Chicago. I studied Presidential politics with a massive multi-player classroom simulation, took History of Film three times until the professor finally agreed to pass me, got married, worked my way through school as an ambulance attendant (they didn’t have EMT’s then), and popped out of the experience 12 credits short of graduation yet a whole lot wiser. I got the 12 credits and a career in emergency medical services systems development and eventually became very focused on mass casualty incident management, or what needs to happen when the sudden victims outnumber the responders and the resources by a factor of ten, or a hundred, or a thousand.
In the interim, in the gaps between the all-encompassing foci of jobs, a new marriage, and kids, I managed to catch up on the literature and research into what is now called “state crimes against democracy”. I can recall my 14-year-old son wondering why I was so consumed with reading about the events of Dealey Plaza, of wondering why it was that two very popular anti-war candidates were murdered at the doorways to their successful emergence. But I put those concerns aside as work and the adolescence of my own kids consumed virtually all my excess energy.
By the year 2000, the kids were in college, I was unemployed and yet had developed a very strong interest in emergency management. Having “graduated” from EMS and mass casualty incident management and training, the next logical progression seemed to be emergency management, incident management systems and training, and the larger picture of what a society does in the face of disaster. I had taken a proposal I’d developed for the use of simulation gaming as a tool for learning and the development of planning dialogue. I’d originally conceived it as a dispatcher for an urban ambulance conglomerate in the Pioneer Valley who refused to send his entire fleet to Boston for the crash of a Delta jet at Logan. I nurtured this interest as a hobby through the years I organized major medical symposia in trauma management, a venture into media-based continuting medical education, a brief return to regional administration of an EMS system for 28 cities and towns, and the Malden Mills proof-of-concept.
I’d polished the proposal and re-burnished it every few years, shopping it to successive cycles of national leadership, publishing an article in a national publication, and corrresponding with people in the US Army, the White House, the National League of Cities, relevant international associations, anyone whose name and address I could glean from the library. I’d read about the work done by the United States Army in training and doctrine (TRADOC) that led directly to the successful outcome in 73 Easting, a potential I’d grasped intuitively, having played countless rounds of tabletop recreations of Napoleonic-era battles, the Avalon Hill game of 1776 and three different versions of the Battle of the Bulge, an event that involved half a million men and their military machinery and logistics over an area of 2,500 square miles. The latter game I played out in solo fashion over forty times, once by the calendar with a move every six hours. In the latter years, the game was semi-permanently installed in my basement office; I kept records, wrote orders for each move, kept AAR’s, and assembled a doctrinal understanding for both sides of the conflict. I read everything I could get my hands on about the battle, and studied military strategy and tactics at a very high (if auto-diactic) level. If someone could learn something moving little pieces of printed cardboard cutouts, I rreasoned, then they could learn something about how to react to the seemingly-sudden events of disaster if the mapboard were computerized. No such technology existed, thoguh I was just beginning to learn about this phenomenon called interactive videodisc.
Apparently a few software engineers at Bolt Beranek and Newman, working off DOD and DARPA initiatives, thought the same thing, though they had big computers wired into high-tech simulated tanks. Their work was top secret, or so they thought, as did the CIA, who called me one day wanting to know how I knew enough to write knowledgeably about it in that propsal I’d forwarded over-the-transom to an army base in Texas. [I gave them the page number, author, publisher and ISBN number for the book in which I’d read about it.]
Time went on and my interest did not abate. I watched and read the news projecting and predicting some future horrendous terror attack in or near New York City. By this time, I’d trained fire service and EMS crews, and had been writing about situation assessment, the TADMUS research, the OODA loop, and had put together an e-book on performance psychology. By this time, my daughter was living and working in and around Queens as a student, having risen to the top of the NCAA D-1 fast-pitch softball world. [#2 slugger in the nation as a 5’7” catcher from the East Coast]. I’d been busy attending what workships and seminars I could find in the field of emergency management. And I discovered that the primary expert involved in emergency management for the city of New York was someone named Jerome Hauer. I hadn’t done a lot of reading in deep politics et alia for years, and so I sent Mr. Hauer a copy of my proposal. Soon enough Mr. Hauer was on the news, and then too his brand-spanking-new $13 million crisis center on the 23rd floor at 7 World Trade Center.
I hadn’t gotten much interest in my ideas or my proposal and so I simply watched the news gradually unfold. I saw it coming. I don’t think I’m unusual in saying that. It’s been said by others that “the system was blinking red”, and they were the very people who were supposed to be responsible for management of the disastrous event. It appears that they could accurately predict and forecast the event because they planned it. They embodied the prodrome of that disaster.
But I was naive. Or pre-occupied. It might be said that I was a victim, as suggested by Dr. Leonard Marcus, a victim of my own “silo thinking”. I was awoken on the morning of 9/11/01 when I snapped on my laptop and read the e-mail from my daughter.
I’d like to tell you that I was able to suspend judgment and think critically when I snapped on my TV. But I was in shock and awe, mesmerized, like so many, by the power of the modern-day news medium to see across the distances (as promised in the very word tele-vision) and become consumed (became a consumer of) the narrative tale. I knew I was watching history unfolding. Here — as they knew— was the Kennedy assassination seen live from every angle; now at last I could follow the events more closely and didn’t have to rely on being cast alone into a corner. But the dastardly culprits had advanced their game more rapidly and effectively than I had my own. This was a choregraphed event, not live reporting. My instant reaction was to think about the needed societal coordination and interaction to be able to respond to hundreds and hundreds of injured people; my concerns were for the first responders. When it became all too obvious that there was no meaningful response necessary, I shut down.
Like every one else, I had gulped down as much as I could, but I shut it off and began to question within days; the questions had no answers, and my daughter soon had a new gig; she was a top-level amateur in pursuit of more, and I was a rookie all over again, this time as an umpire in a single-ump system for adolescent players. It was an opportunity for me to apply my own lessons in performance psychology to the role as game arbiter, manager of a fair and competitive learning experience. I thrived; she thrived; my son was already rapidly climing the ladder of his chosen business career. The questions eventually caught up with me in good time as I transitioned some of my energy into an effort to elect someone other than a Bush and landed in the pumpkin patch of a political discussion board where I was prompted by the news and op-eds of the day, and the encouragement and support of a virtual friend, whose online avatar was the gif of WTC7 disappearing into the ground.
Originally I did not and could not see the cracks in the charade of 9/11; my consumption was managed for me by the mainstream media with the help of the perps. In time, and with the help and questions of many, I learned to look more deeply, to ask more thoroughly, to argue more effectively, and to be persistent in my insistence that something was amiss. I do not claim to be a leading 9/11 spokesperson or researcher, though I did my work and discovered an occasional nugget that no one else had seen. I was unemployed, and I had the time and interest to do more reading than the average person.
I’m still learning. I’m still posting what I see and find. I signed on formally a long time ago. I am a registered Truther. I’m by no means an expert in every little nuance. And I did enough homework to know that the real questions and the real answers have nothing to do with planes, thermite or Muslims with boxcutters.
I learned a long time ago, sometime around Thanksgiving in 1963, that you cannot accept at face value what your community and national leaders tell you are the facts. They are at best timid, at worst complicit.
When you watch your world accept — without more than a whimper and a sob — the repeated coups of open assassination and wholesale murder, then the lessons are clear. Torture and extra-judicial murder and genocide are easy to accept when the best and the brightest are discovered to have been complicitly silent.
We make sense of the world by looking around at our peers, our family and our community and seeing how they react, how they saw the event, what they thought then and think now, and then by talking about it.
Since 1963, no one (save for the obvious courageous handful) has jump-started any dialogue; now you’re not even allowed to talk about it without the threats of loss of work, status, freedom or life.
And Northfield Mount Hermon graduated Valerie Jarrett.
There should be hundreds doing life in prison without parole, or “six and eighteen” for eternity.
But they were probably the ones who were silent in 1963.
Source of featured image:
http://www.nmhschool.org/parent-update/all/all [Go ahead and see what it was about]