The chimes sound at noon, and we stop everything. Stop everything but our thoughts. Full of questions, at a loss for answers.

Ring.

Where were you when it happened? Some of us were in class, temporarily insulated from the news by literary discussions, economic computations and theological lectures. Lessons that were irrelevant by the time we put away our notebooks, of course we did not know that yet.

Ring.

Where were you when you heard? The news came from television, friends and teachers. We spread it quickly and thoughtlessly, like a virus, because the destruction was still abstract, nightmarish, unfathomable. But then we saw, with our own eyes, the smoke at the Pentagon. And the words stopped coming.

Ring.

Soon enough, we could no longer deny the grim reality. Real people: real mothers (mommies) and fathers (daddies) and sisters and brothers and uncles and aunts and grandmothers and grandfathers. They’re dead, and we don’t know why.

Ring.

They’re dead, and we’re not sure whom to blame.

Ring.

Part of us, of course, died with those in New York, Arlington and Pennsylvania. But which part? It seems to have been our carelessness and naivete – maybe our innocence – that we lost that day. Pretty trite, no? The end of innocence. Isn’t that a song? Yes, we lost our sense of humor, too.

Ring.

Once we figure out whom to blame, do we know what’s next? The national mood has issued the death warrant, and the political leadership has been quick to amplify the rhetoric. Now it’s an academic matter: Find those barbarians and put a few incendiary devices under their rear ends. We’ll blow them, and anyone sitting nearby, high into the stratosphere. That will be justice, no?

Ring.

Thinking about the killers is easier than thinking about the victims. We can hate faceless entities enough to kill them. We can hate groups of people, even whole nations of people, based on their association with a few thugs. That sort of hate is culturally conditioned. But becoming killers ourselves – or sanctioning our camouflaged killers – isn’t so tough, either.

Ring.

Curiously, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is based on Roald Dahl’s book titled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In changing the title, the film’s producers rearrange the perspectives and expectations of viewers. The book is about a boy whose wildest fantasies become reality. The film is about the substance of that dream.

Ring.

When will we dream again? Maybe the next set of dreamers has gone through something so terrible that the substance of their dreams has been shaken. Maybe dreams will never be the same. But when circumstances are most desperate, the dreams are most important – that’s why we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. On Copley lawn, with the sun beating down out of the bright blue sky, it’s easy to dream.

Ring.

Did you hear about California Congresswoman Barbara Lee? She’s the only member of congress who voted against a resolution authorizing President Bush to use military force against anyone associated with last week’s terrorist attacks. Now, she’s getting death threats herself.

We wait, but the next ring doesn’t come.

It may or may not be raining now. The air is cool and wet. We stand there, not sure how to leave. Not sure how to go on.

Tim Haggerty is a senior in the College.

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