A Golden Retriever called America

Two grandparents with their daughter and a chunky Golden, with a white beard and a smile in her eyes. They named the dog America, born on 9/11. The grand-daughter wasn’t alive yet. The dog’s 100 in dog years, has lived a lifetime since then.

My mom called at 6:30 and woke us up, said look at the news. My boss called, and said plan on staying late.

I was in corporate communications at Starbucks, and squeezed into the CEO’s conference room. He had a flat screen TV which was rare then, and all the VPs sat around the table, wondering what to do. He said we had to close all our stores so the employees could be with their families, and we did, all of them, across the U.S.

I drew the short straw and stayed behind, writing voicemail scripts and helping the VP from New York collect his thoughts, to leave a message for his stores. I helped him with the wording, how to characterize what had happened? We debated saying “God bless,” or prayers be with you, but didn’t debate long. I saved the straw.

My boss drove me home and stopped at a gas station to buy the newspaper. He collected papers with famous headlines, and bought all the copies that were left.

America hadn’t gotten attacked like that before. We were used to being the ones who could take whatever we wanted, and get away with it. Now we saw what the real world was like, the one outside ours got in. I knew things would never be the same; no good could come from it. A war on war.

The English I knew said it happened on the tube every Friday at 5: they called a bomb scare to foul-up the evening commute, but the English just sat there with their newspapers, waiting for the train to start again. We didn’t know what it was like, in America.

The Strokes played a sold-out show at the Crocodile and their album hadn’t even come out yet. They had to delay it because they wrote a disparaging song about New York city cops, and all the copies were already pressed. They had to pull it back and reprint it with something else. The singer knocked the track lights out with his mic stand, and the floor went dark.

Our friends got into an accident and Wendy went into a coma that February, didn’t wake up until an earthquake hit, a couple weeks later. I stood in the doorway when I got home that night and thought I felt an aftershock, then started crying. With the accident, it was like their tower went down, too.

Someone started lacing the mail with anthrax in November and I got nightmares about it, thought I saw Bin Laden’s face as a spider, as a vampire, woke up cold and shaking, it was so real.

It got into our bones, the fear. I proposed to Dawn the following summer after climbing Mount Rainier, crossing a glacier scared half to death. I realized our world was a lot smaller than I thought, and our time a lot shorter.

It’s funny to name your dog America, but sweet too: a loving creature born on a bad day, a symbol of something good, still innocent.

About pinklightsabre

William Pearse publishes memoir, travel journals, poetry and prose, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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2 Responses to A Golden Retriever called America

  1. Elyse says:

    It’s sweet, I think. A reminder that life goes on. One of my frustrations with how we Americans reacted to 9/11 is that we let the bad guys win — we changed how we act, how we travel, how we do everything. We are one nation, under paranoia. Not at all like the Brits. That should have been our model.


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