Sept 2006 # 2

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The world has changed since that fateful day in September five years ago. Here is how it has changed since then for some who live in the world. 

A middle aged woman looks out of her office window as a shadow passes by. She looks up just in time to see a huge airliner crash into the building only a few blocks from where she works. The building her son works in. 

She had said goodbye to her son that morning as he got off the train they caught to work each day. She picks up the phone and calls his mobile. It rings through to his answering service. She tries his office number but the phone rings out. In a state of panic she rushes to the lift and cries her way to the ground floor. 

By the time she gets to the street hundreds of people are standing. Some in silence, some sobbing and  others screaming uncontrollably.  

She is not to know that in a little less than an hour she and her husband will be without their son. In a little less than an hour another woman on the other side of the city will be without a husband. 

In a small room above a house in a town half a world away a young man stretches as he opens his eyes. The room is his now that his older brother has moved out of the family home. He hears the dull ďthud thudĒ as more missiles unload their deadly killing. 

He stands and rubs the sleep from his eyes and looks through the small window in his small room. The sun is still a deep orange colour as it rises above the minaret of the Mosque. He contemplates the day ahead and says his prayers under his breath. 

He goes downstairs where his mother is already baking fresh bread and he kisses her on the cheek. He gathers his breakfast and eats it slowly, enjoying the taste as if it was his last. Perhaps today it will be. 

He stands and places his empty utensils in the bucket. He kisses his motherís cheek again and opens the door. In a little less than an hour his death will come quickly in the form of a sniperís bullet. In a little less than an hour his mother will lose her second son and his brother will lose his best friend. 

A little girl runs back and forth, back and forth working up a furious sweat as she chases her imaginary friends. She has little time to notice the car pull up and the two men get out. Her game is the main game and everything else is on the periphery of her vision. 

The two men walk slowly towards her house. They donít take much notice of her either. They too are focused on the main game and today is payoff day. 

By the time the young girl hears the screams of her mother it is too late. The debts of her father have caught up with him and the two men are dragging him into the car. In a little less than an hour a little girl will be without her father. In a little less than an hour her mother will be without her husband. 

The boy glances up through the one good eye he has. He cocks his head to compensate for the lump of infection that oozes puss from the top of his nose. He sees a cloud of dust rising across the plain and hears a noise he is all too familiar with. 

The men come, as they always do, in their cars and light trucks. They swagger around his village and do not take lightly any back chat or refusals of their demands. These men with government issue uniforms and shiny badges and medals are not kind. Their punishments are witness to that. 

The boy is too weak to stand when they motion him to come. When he tries and falls hard on the ground the men laugh. Itís been five days since they were last here and the few able bodied but old men have only just buried the last victim from their previous visit. 

The men demand the clan leader sign the document they are holding and when he refuses they reach for the boy. He has no family. The last of them was buried yesterday. In a little less than an hour another victim of the civil war will be dead. In a little less than an hour a little boy who once chased chickens and threw rocks at birds will breathe his last. 

In a bar with a huge Elvis picture on the wall a man slumps in his chair. He has, as always, a picture of a pretty young women in uniform propped up against an empty glass. The bar manager says that he nearly had his armed ripped of by the man one day simply because he reached for the glass propping up the photo. 

The man comes in early and leaves at precisely 2:16pm every Tuesday. The bar manager says he thinks he knows why but isnít sure. It seems the man doesnít talk much but one day someone came in and made a comment about dealing with tragedy. It seems the manís daughter once belonged to a battalion that was outgunned on the other side of the world. 

Why the man leaves at 2:16 each Tuesday is no secret to those who have lost someone. Everyone settles into a comfortable pattern of grief. For some itís the forgetting. For others itís the remembering. 

At 2:16 on a Tuesday afternoon, the official notice said, her battalion was overrun and she was mortally wounded. In a little less than an hour another soldier would be dead. In a little less than an hour a manís daughter would be no more. 

In a tiny town a hundred miles from nowhere a boy is lying in a humpy. He is naked and the flies torment him with their bites. He is too weak to respond and to delirious to really know how. His small body heaves with effort as every breath weakens him just that little bit more. 

His mother and aunties sit watching. Theyíve done this before. Their own children having fallen victim to this poverty and they too known the pain. They murmur songs that have stood the test of time and sing of rivers and roos and a great sky falling. 

The little boy knows nothing of this. He is not old enough to have language. His eyes slowly close and open and he tries to cough. In a little less than an hour a little boy will ride beyond the clouds. In a little less than an hour another mother will cry for what was not. 

George Bush said this about his war on terror and what the outcome will be. ď... we will lead the 21st century into a shining age of human liberty  But he is nothing more than a snake oil salesman. He knows nothing of liberty or human dignity. He speaks only for a few whose lives have been enriched on the pain of others suffering. 

In New York, Gaza, Sao Paulo, Darfur, Wako and a spot on a map of the Northern Territory the suffering remains the same and continues unabated. For many people in many places of the world nothing has changed in five years only because devastation, loss and deprivation are their way of life. For them nothing has changed but nothing has stayed the same. For them the shining light of liberty may bring change that costs too much and comes way too late.