Anarchistic musings from a SE Alaska harbor
By Ed Sasser email@example.com
Eddy's Chuck, Alaska*
The harbor has fewer folks living in it this month. There are at least two reasons for that. One, of course, is the normal reason: that autumn is upon us. The other is a terrifyingly abnormal reason: that we are at war.
Like the rest of America, the population of Eddy’s Chuck awakened the morning of September 11 to a new world. When I rolled out of a hotel bed in Anchorage at 5 AM that day my biggest concern was whether the bilge pump on my boat was operational in my absence. I turned on ABC news to the chilling realization that the “breaking news” was beyond ghastly. I called my boss to let her in on the events.
“You are kidding,” was her immediate reply. Now, I kid about almost anything but would never joke about something like this. Besides, such a joke call so early in the day would have been a career decision. Like millions of Americans, we were dazed by the news. We were also stuck far from home waiting for an airport to open.
Nearly all of the standby passengers with whom I was waiting were considerate, patient and understanding. Some, no doubt, were merely numb. One in my standby line was rude, obstreperous and self-centered. Several of us were giving knowing looks to one another as he ranted about his inconvenience. His personal brand of suffering seemed to require priority over that of the rest of us. There were knowing looks and raised eyebrows among those of us circling him. Finally, I turned to quietly remind him that this wasn’t the worst line we could be standing in, that our inconvenience of camping in standby lines was minor compared to the terror of standing in a line at the New York Armory with a picture of a loved on held up for news cameras. I hadn’t intended for others to overhear and we were both embarrassed when the Sept 12th line and the Sept 13th line erupted into clapping.
Several days later I finally got to the boat, pulled normal maintenance and checked my voicemail messages on the mainland. One of them left me with a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach, a feeling I’ve had several times since receiving my draft notice for the Army in 1969. I had the feeling when the Arco Anchorage went aground in Puget Sound, once each during Dessert Shield and Dessert Storm and, of course, when Joe Hazelwood hit the reef with the Exxon Valdez. What was the feeling? It was the feeling that I had better look around for those old uniforms and some shaving equipment. Yes. I had been called out of reserve retirement; recalled into active duty in the Coast Guard. Ten days after the terrorist attack, I was in uniform and on station. Disbelief all around. Few in Eddy’s Chuck were aware that this guy with hair down to his ear lobes and a very full beard had any affiliation with the military.
As it turns out, I was surprised as well. No, I wasn’t surprised that Gary Condit and the Sharks had suddenly disappeared. I was surprised by the number of folks in Eddy’s Chuck who were also disappearing. Stan was recalled. I had known of his spook background but unknown to me he was still an MP in the inactive reserve. Two of the young bucks who used to do my heavy lifting volunteered for enlistment. Something I have never done for active duty, having been drafted into the army prior to joining the CG Reserves. Belgo left for the East coast to be with his sister whose husband had worked on the 82nd floor of the North Tower. Elaine was packing a “go bag” anticipating recall into a refueling squadron in the Air Guard. Hecter, a BM1 in the CG Reserve, had reported while I was still trying to get back to Eddy’s Chuck. I never would have dreamed that all these folks were quite that ready.
So I sit here today on a boat in a security zone at undisclosed coordinates recalling Eddy’s Chuck and all it means as a small part of America. Small as it is, it can’t go untouched by events some 3,700 miles away and those of us hiding there can hide no longer.
Yup, the harbor has fewer folks living in it this month but we still call it home. I guess America has a few sleepers wandering around as well; Eddy’s Chuck seems to have more than it’s share.
*Eddy's Chuck Alaska is a fictitious harbor populated by real Alaskan
Copyright 2000 by Ed Sasser. All rights reserved.