So Low,
So Subterranean,
So Inhuman
Victor Gijsbers

From: "Victor Gijsbers"
To: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Sent: September 12, 2001 7:13 AM
Subject: Re: A Beacon for Survivors (Heroic Stories)

What can one feel? I don't know if it's normal or abnormal, but I can't feel sadness for people I know absolutely nothing about. I would be extremely sad if I knew anyone there, or even if I read some biographical sketch of some victim, I think. But knowing absolutely nothing about any victim at all, I can't feel sadness.

What I do feel is mainly disgust, intense disgust, and apprehension. Disgust that anyone could be so low, so subterranean, so inhuman as to want this to happen. Apprehension, because this situation has the potential to change the world in a big way. With Bush as president, the US will hit back -- and not subtly. Will there be war? Will the Western economy collapse? I surely hope not, but you never know.

Greetings,
Victor

PS.

Do you know who Tim McVeigh is?

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Victor Gijsbers"
Subject: Re: A Beacon for Survivors (Heroic Stories)
Date: September 11, 2001 9:46 PM

Feeling for the people? I haven't even got there, yet. I will, I promise, but I am too numb right now from the major panic attack I am still experiencing. If the past is any indication, I will feel for the people and will do so to the point where my feelings for the victims and for our country will surely become a major disruption of my life. As Thomas Paine noted (and as is true for me), "Nature has not been kind enough to me to blunt my feelings."
 

That's probably what's eating me the most at this moment, that I -- we all -- now must absorb a very big change. What was left of the world's innocence is now lost forever. For a long time, anyway.

At first I was afraid to even let the cats out, because I wasn't sure what was even happening. Not having a television, I merely saw some photos on the internet and had no idea of the scope of this thing; for all I knew for about an hour, this could have been happening all over. Now that I know, things are a lot better for me -- but I still don't have it in me to let the cats out by themselves (I don't know how I'll be ten minutes from now; I am almost constantly trembling, physically shaking, and crying). So, I go out and give them each walks one-by-one.

I wrote and sent these dispatches both to derive comfort from our readers and to give comfort wherever I could (as insignificant at my comforting may have been for some). At the moment, two Internet friends and the readers who are currently online are all I have, besides that I've called my Father a few times. There is nobody here, physically, that I can hold or even look in the eyes.

My long-term fears are as follows:

1. That this is just the beginning
2. Unrest
3. Economic collapse
4. Desire for retaliation gets out of hand

I now realize that I have only (1) and (4) to fear, as this is not enough to collapse the nation's economy and the collapse of the economy is what it would take to spark unrest after enduring a tragedy of this calibre. If anything, war usually only strengthens our economy.

I am very shaken.

My conscious mind knows that things will be okay, even though none of us will ever be the same. Countless lives are torn apart and will never come back to reality. Hundreds of thousands of people will never completely heal from what this has done to their immediate families. However, there is a part of my mind that I do not control, and that part is issuing forth a tremendous amount of what I can only describe as pain. It is not pain, but that's how I am categorizing it in order to cope with it.

I took a few sips off a Guinness, and that seems to be helping this "pain." It's just that I don't know how to process these feelings and my condition, and that one part of my brain is really giving me some grief behind it.
 

[Several days later]:

Do you know who Tim McVeigh is?

Timothy McVeigh was executed a few months ago for masterminding and executing the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, several years ago. Until this week, the Oklahoma bombing had been the most vicious terrorist attack on our soil to date. McVeigh was a Right-Wing militia enthusiast, and was, at one time, a loyal U.S. Soldier who loved his country and thought he was doing his country a service. I denounced his execution because, as evil as he was, his opinions are something that we need to listen to if we ever expect to learn enough to put the brakes on this madness. I am against the death penalty anyway for several reasons, but for this reason in particular I opposed his execution.

The Washington Post has an interesting chronology of the events; you can get a picture of what happened in a matter of a few minutes, since you were a child when this occurred. Also, KWTV (Oklahoma City) has a great photo showing the damage from this explosion, which tore out about half the building.

When this happened, I only had a radio, and I heard about a bombing. I'd seen bombings before and didn't think much of it except the radio commentators were absolutely frantic. So I logged on to the Internet and saw the scene you see in this picture. I must say that I about fainted when I saw this picture. I had never even imagined destruction such as this! I was unable to function for several days after this attack. Fortunately, some very gruelling therapy that I have put myself through since then has, I think, enabled me to function as well as I have this time around. I still do not respond to these things like an able-bodied person, not by any stretch, but the amount of time I lose and the degree of my reaction has been greatly reduced.

For several days, Arabs were suspected and many Arab-Americans suffered bigotry. This is why I was not quick to conclude that Arabs were responsible for this week's bombings until we had some hard facts showing that the terrorists were, indeed Muslim extremists.

As far as infamy, McVeigh has surpassed even Charles Manson, about whom you and I discussed privately a few weeks ago -- although the name Charles Manson will long symbolize the criminal who would terrify a nation by killing innocent people ruthlessly, in cold blood, for no reason, and then write song lyrics with the victims' blood afterwards. As Manson once said, "I'd kill you and it would be like going to the drug store." That he was able to brainwash youngsters into doing his dirty work for him is what's so utterly scary about him -- he didn't do this stuff himself, the others did it for him.

The "Son of Sam" is another famous killer who stalked and shot heterosexual lovers in the streets of New York during the mid-1970s, seemingly out of jealousy. His case is interesting because he unsuccessfully pleaded "insanity" but later admitted that he had faked insanity even while still on the loose. He would write cryptic letters to the media claiming that "Sam" told him to do it, and "Sam" turned out to be a neighbor's barking dog. But he now says that was all a lie. Who is in a position to know?

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule

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