It's 4:55am in Sydney, and I've been up all night. It’s September 12 (Australian time), the day that the war started.
I had gone to bed at around 10.00pm exhausted, and the phone woke me up at 1am. That’s never a good feeling, as it usually means that something is wrong. This time, it was a friend from London calling to ask me for a mutual friend's phone number in NY. I growled at him to look at what time it was...and he said "Oh, my god. You don't know, do you?" I was instantly awake.
Moments after hanging up with him, my mother rang to re-assure me about relatives that were in DC (I had no idea) and to talk to me through her tears. She was afraid, and I heard it in her voice. She said she’s never felt like America was under attack before...that America could be at war on her own soil. I could hear my stepfather in the background, making comforting noises.
I moved to Australia almost two years ago. I love it, and I intend to continue living here.
Today, I have never felt so alone and so far from home. Even though the news of the attack is the only thing on the television station from every nation, ...no one here quite understands. They're Aussies, and they are sympathetic, outraged, even shocked. They are good people, with good hearts. But they aren't Americans. They don't feel it inside. They don’t worry that friends and family are dead, dying, or maybe at risk in the next attack. It’s shock they feel, but shock at such a heinous crime. Not also the shock and outrage of having your entire heritage, way of life, and sense of safety destroyed. Not the shock of being at war. Americans have no idea what it feels like to be threatened at home.
Or should I say….”had” no idea.
I have never, ever...in 35 years...heard fear in my mother's voice. Anger, yes. Stress, yes. Concern, yes. My mother is a strong woman, who has faced personal loss of an immense degree…and I’ve heard a lot of things in her voice…but never fear.
I hate it. I don't use that word lightly ...but I hate it. My mother is afraid.
I am more angry than I have ever been in my entire life. I am actually surprised and a little afraid of what I hear in my heart this morning. I don’t entertain thoughts of destruction or restitution lightly…but the image of the dancing and singing Palestinian children celebrating the death of 20,000 or more Americans made me want to spit. How could a nation of any sort teach its children such callous disregard for human life? What value can such a place add the world? We’ve certainly just seen some of the value it can take out of it.
And I want to take it back. What a horrible, powerful, and galvanizing feeling that is.
It has taken me a few hours, but I'm now assured that all of the friends and family (that I know were at risk) of are safe. I know of losses, but all are friends of friends, or co-workers of friends. My personal worries have abated, and all I have left in my heart is sorrow and sympathy for those that have lost loved ones....
...and hate for whoever did this. They killed innocent people. They destroyed a trust and comfort that will be decades in the rebuilding. They took away the security that many felt while living in a free society. They have taken a cowardly approach to a problem that existed only in their small, hate-driven, theologically clouded minds. Whoever did this did something inexcusably profane to the world as we know it and to America as she used to be.
And they made my mother afraid. How can I forgive that?
Born the son of a circus monkey, Jack had to overcome the stigma of having an address south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Struggling against all odds, he finally got his HS diploma from some guy on the corner, and proceeded to attend NC State University, where his records are now the "running joke" in the admissions office. In February of 2000, he moved to Sydney, Australia, to pursue a writing career full-time. Jack currently has a husband but no wife, no children, and a dog with great fashion sense.
ABOUT JACK BRADLEY
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
9.17.01 @ 9:31a
I'm Jack's sister and I have never been more touched by an article that he's written. It is strange for him to be half way around the world at a time like this. I want to be able to give him a hug! I have also never seen him express such stong emotions about these issues. I guess the terrorists not only awoke the nation as a "sleeping giant" but also awoke the "sleeping giant" in us all. God Bless America and all whose lives have been changed forever by this horrific event.
9.17.01 @ 6:37p
I am the Mom of Jack Bradley and Gina Childress...
I love you both and am so proud of your words. GOD BLESS AMERICA!
9.17.01 @ 8:41p
You all make me want to hug everyone I've ever met.
What wonderful people there are in the world.
9.17.01 @ 11:19p
That's all. Just that, and thank you.
9.20.01 @ 10:07a
Thank you. Leave it to Jack to crystallize something like this so well that I read it twice.
9.20.01 @ 1:28p
It was all quite quite unreal, but not, I would have to admit, entirely surprising. sigh