Being inspired, maybe – 37

A picture paints ... well, as many words as you like.  For instance:

And, then, the words:

It looked like we were in the middle of a post-apocalyptic event.
The dust was still settling, and the smoke clung to the ground in a last ditch effort to remind us we were very lucky to escape, for the moment, with our lives.
In the other direction it was a mess, the explosions that lasted almost half an hour, managed to level almost an entire industrial area, and only a short distance away, a shopping mall that had an estimated 25,000 people doing their last minute Christmas shopping.
Over 10,000 dead, no one really knew for sure because many had been vaporized in the explosion, another 10,000 critical, and the rest, well they were going to be suffering more than just the wounds of war.
And, war it was.
The terrorists that had been threatening to arrive, had in spectacular fashion.

I was standing on the side of the road, trying to breathe, surrounded by the smoke the gentle breeze had blown our way, our reminder of the apocalypse.
Trying to come to grips with the enormity of the devastation, not only in infrastructure but in human life.
Was this what it was like in Hiroshima after the nuclear bomb was dropped?
We didn't have the radioactive fallout, but a fallout of a different kind, and perhaps, in its way, more devastating.
Like all major terrorist events, no one saw it coming, and yet, within 24 hours of it happening, all the evidence was there, and everyone had looked the other way.
It was all there in plain sight.
Everyone had seen it happening in the days leading up to it, and no one had bothered to raise an alarm.
Because the perpetrators had hidden behind the veil of normalcy.
Who would question major utility service trucks, and normal workers going about their normal jobs?
We never questioned the fact these 'workers' were foreign because we welcomed everyone who said they were refugees with open arms.
We never questioned what they were doing, because now, in the shadow of the consequences, it was patently obvious.
Now, our lives were shattered.
Now, our trust was shattered.
Now, screamed the headlines of all morning newspapers, we will never trust anyone from another country, particularly those of the nationality of the perpetrators.
A dozen faces of those suspected of committing the terrorist act appeared on the front page the day after the attack.
Within hours there were dozens of reports of attacks on what were assumed to be innocent men woman and children.
People who became casualties simply because of who they were.

But, and wasn't there always a but...
The group responsible admitted to the industrial area demolition, their aim, to cripple essential services.
Not to kill 25,000 plus people.
They had not targeted the shopping mall.
That, they said, was the result of corruption and greed, that local authority had taken a bribe to rezone the land on which the mall was built from industrial to commercial.
The builder of the mall, an offshore corporate entity, had taken shortcuts and not cleared the site properly, leaving an array of old gas and petroleum tanks, and the piping that connected them all in the ground instead of removing it.
Tanks that were a ticking time bomb and all it would need to set them off was the striking of a match, well, something slightly bigger, like a terrorist bomb.
And yet, it the aftermath of the attack, and all of the rhetoric from the politicians, on one side, trying to grab dictatorial power and deportations, the other saying I told you so, and the screaming headlines of the media wanting to feed the publics desire for retribution, read revenge, none of this information, freely made available on the internet, made it any closer than a paragraph on page 15.
People were not interested in crooked officials and shonky builders.
But I was.

I lost a wife who wasn't meant to be at that shopping mall.
I wanted retribution like everyone else.
I hated terrorists.
But, it looked to me like the real perpetrators of the shopping mall disaster were going to get away with it.
Or, probably thought they would.
The smoke and dust had yet to settle.  There'd been no rain, just long hot breezeless days, and the air hung heavy with the smell of death and ash.
I'd made a call, and an hour later a van pulled up outside my house.
The side door opened and my old boss, the one I thought I would never see again, or work for again looked out.
"I was surprised to hear from you Jerry until I read the list of dead and missing.  I'm sorry for your loss."
McAdam was not the sort of man who would not be sorry for anything.   But he was someone who got things done.
"You find them?"
"The terrorists?  They've all been dealt with.  The others we spoke about, we're on our way to pay them a visit.  Care to join us?"
The other faces on the van were familiar.
Hard men who did what no one else would do.
I climbed in and took a seat.

Hell was about to come to breakfast.

© Charles Heath 2019


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