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A Different Country, A Different Time
An Essay by NPR's Alex Chadwick

audio Listen to Alex Chadwick's commentary on the attack on America.

Alex Chadwick
Alex Chadwick

Wherever you are waking up this morning, you're in a different country, in a different time. This is a country without airplanes. They'll be restored soon, of course, but who knows when or if we'll again find the ease and expectations of normal American life. There is no more normal American life. Schools close, the mail doesn't get delivered, you wonder about family across the country -- wasn't someone going to be on a plane? The phones don't work, circuits busy. And then when a call comes in, the phone ringing sounds like an alarm going off.

We're in a different country this morning -- one where the national military headquarters building comes under attack. We're in a country with camouflage trucks parked at intersections of the capital city, and at federal sites in many other places, temporary guard posts, with pairs of soldiers on duty. We'll all be learning new roles in the new country, and discovering what we miss about the old ones -- especially this. We were safe. We are now not.

In many other parts of the world, the police and soldiers carry weapons that are terrifying simply to see, machine guns bristling with ammo clips. You get searched, questioned, detained maybe, and that is normal life that people accept because the possibility of something much worse -- a bomb, an attack -- seems real. We've had warnings here, we've seen simulations sometimes when part of a city somewhere would practice how to respond to a disaster. It never seemed real. Now it's real, and we dread learning just how real as New York begins to count its dead. We do know one casualty -- that reassuring sense of America the safe. We're in a different country.

But there is this -- we are all in it. We are all New Yorkers, all victims, all mourners, all vulnerable, all spent and tired and dazed this morning after hours huddled around the televisions and the radios. Here we are, waking up in a new country, and in a way we didn't imagine yesterday, wondering what could happen next.