A month after the tragic event of September 11 2001, memorial services were held in the New-York and the Pentagon sites of the terrorist attacks, as well as in the homes of many that will never see their loved ones again.
While the services held simultaneously in both cities, American air bombers continued the bombardment of alleged terrorist camps as well as the airdrop of food supplies inside Afghanistan. Almost at that same time, the F.B.I. announced that there is a 100 percent possibility of another terrorist attack in America in the next few days.
The F.B.I. announcement, though incongruous against the sober and tranquil backdrop of the sites of the memorial services, came as a vaguely alarming warning that immediately sets- off the bell in the heads of Americans, especially relations and friends of those that were at that memorial service venue with still fresh but unpleasnat memeories of terror attacks.
President George Bush (who had earlier attended the Pentagon memorial service) later while having an unusual prime-time 45 minute session with Journalists in the ornate east room of the White-house also echoed the new fears but urged that Americans should not allow it overwhelm them. Speaking during the press conference he said:”The American people have to go about their business”.
The fact however is that Americans and indeed people of other nationalities living in different cities across America are afraid. We are all still locked in an inner struggle between our rational and usual way of life and strange but understandable propensity to yield to a dull but now constant fear and panic.
It seems almost impossible to go about business as usual as the president would want all of us and the rest of the world to do. It is becoming clearer that the best most residents of any American city can do at the moment is to live with the fear. This prompts the question of: How do you live with fear?
Senator John McCain in trying to proffer an answer to this question, which seemS to be on the lips of everyone argued that “The way you live with fear is that you just suppress it. It is there but it is controlled”. Perhaps true.
The reality of life in America today is that people are living with some kind of fear. People listen to the rendition of God Bless America on radio, they listen to the several reassurance from their President and the images of the successful raid on Afghanistan but are still afraid.
There are indeed several reasons to be afraid. Take for instance the peculair fact that the F.B.I. has successfully spread the virus of fear warning people to expect some kind of terrorist attack in the next few days without giving specifics as to what people should do or not do and as to what may be attacked, or when such an attack will come.
The images of bombs falling and exploding over Afghanistan do not seem to be really helpful for while some may brag about it and say “Yes!, We are finally kickin’ some ass” many are, however, concerned about a reprisal attack which may come in a few days as vaguely predicted by the F.B.I. or which may indeed be with us as it is not being officially acknowledged.
The now common presidential refrain to go about business as usual is becoming so ineffective given the unfolding reality of life in America. You can no longer travel as before in this country. Air, Train and Bus travel have changed dramatically with new arrival periods, conspicuous presence of gun totting soldiers at airports.
To be sure other seemingly mundane things as the meals on air flights and ripping-off of the envelopes of your mail have become things that you are now denied and have to do with extreme anxiety. The other day, a female air traveler was almost taken for a terrorist because the wire in her bra set off the new alarms at the airport.
Life in America has indeed become one in which most people just manage to live with not just the fears of what they have been told to expect but also the fears of what they see happening but which the government officials deny has nothing to do with the event of September 11, 2001.
With the confirmation in New York that another media worker is now infected with a skin form of the deadly disease, Anthrax, and the all new alert about the possibility of Anthrax being sent through mails that may originate from St Petersburg, Florida or elsewhere, many are now concerned not only about what officials are saying but also about the information the FBI may not be revealing.
It is fast becoming chic and fashionable to acquire a gas mask. Anti-biotics and such medications that could be useful in the event of bio-terrorist or confirmation of such , are now out-selling the American flags which people rushed to buy just weeks ago as a demonstration of their patriotism.
President Bush’s call on American children to donate a dollar each to a fund for the alleviation of he suffering of their Afghanistan mates and a similar call on them by Laura Bush , the President’s wife for them to read books now seem more like another kind of fear control measures.
Things will not just be the same for these American kids. Many of them may now not also be able to conveniently part with the dollar bill as President Bush wants them to do because things have changed and that dollar may have become so vital to their parents who have either been laid-off from their job or nursing the fears of unemployment as a result of the September 11 attacks.
True, America remains the super power of the world. True also that many still look up to this great country for a lot as recently made evident by the achievements of Americans that won the prestigious Nobel price.
The fact, however, remains that America is now a country where people live with a new fear which they are almost certain will not dissipate with the coming of the next day or the next bombardment of a certain site in Afghanistan. As America Strikes Back, an all new fear hightens.
*This piece was first published in The Anchor Newspaper of Nigeria.