256 Words

Suffer the Little Children

James D. Wright

I squeezed my little girl's hand as the television blared across the airport lobby, "AMERICA IS UNDER ATTACK!" Our travel plans dissolved in the flames boiling upwards from the twin towers in New York, looking for all the world like the burning tips of gargantuan matches. Shock finally relented to parental instinct. I knelt in front of Marsha, hugging her and kissing her cheek. But her eyes were empty, as if any emotion would have been trivial when the whole world was burning down.

Experts said to process what happened with our children. Tell them they are safe, that those responsible will get what they deserve. God knows I tried, stumbling over my words as I knelt by her bedside. How do you explain something like this? Better to let her talk. But Marsha's stoicism did not waver. "They hate us, Daddy. They did it because they hate us. I don't know what else you want me to say." Neither did I. How had those monsters robbed my baby of her heart?

We eventually retaliated, but the enemy fought back, and America soon had all she could stomach of revenge. Marsha resumed the ostensibly carefree life of a child, though she hardly spoke. One night, as CNN reported on the escalation of the war, we watched a little olive-skinned Afghan girl peering up at the sky, the flames from burning buildings reflected in her expressionless eyes. And my daughter melted against me, tears streaming down her cheeks like the coming of rain to a desperate land.

Copyright ©2001 James D. Wright. All Rights Reserved.

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October, 2001
Issue #66

256 Words