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A 9/11 Christmas

In December of 2001 Nancy and I were invited to the Admiral's annual Christmas party at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. It had a strange, surreal feeling. Security was extreme. The ballroom was lit with Christmas lights, the tables decorated, the band music was festive, but the heaviness was undeniable. There was a kind of weariness, too – it was, after all, just three months after the terrorists had struck. The attempt at holiday cheer seemed to only darken the atmosphere. I'm not sure why we had been invited. We had done some art consultation at the school, we knew a few people who taught there, but most of those on hand were military and spouses. During dinner a high-ranking officer stood and gave a report on how the Naval Postgraduate School had, soon after the attack and at request of the government, sent some of its most brilliant minds, and it has many, some of the finest thinkers and teachers in the country, to Washington to participate in emergency think tanks on ways to defend the country. He described the process, the gathering of groups of people from various branches of government and the military to come up with ideas. Many were still in Washgton, away from home and working long hours.  There was still a sense of extreme urgency in the country and that ballroom. The officer was proud of what the school had and continued to contribute, but he too seemed tired. Soon after the Admiral wished everyone Merry Christmas, the party broke up, and people slowly left, most quietly.