How was your day? I ask my daughter as she hurls her backpack into my car dropping on the seat preheated for her. It is just another day picking up daughter from school. Pulling out into the maze of parents in cars, dashing in and out of the street, loading up their charges. Avoiding the daily near misses by inches sometimes. Pulling on to Speer, traffic is nearly pre-pandemic in volume, taillights casting red glows on our faces. She is thinking hard I can tell; I ask again How was your day? This time a response as she turns looking out the window.
She asks if we are going to be OK. Will Putin bomb us? Then comes the stream of thoughts and emotions. Will she get to go on her senior trip to Barcelona, how her class was robbed of everything because of Covid, lock downs from suspected school shooters. It is a long list of what she and her classmates have experienced in high school.
The car ahead moves a little, the light is about to go yellow then red, a quick dash it is across the intersection. There is a moment now to figure out how to answer the question. In this past week the world went from a slight piece of normal to a brutal war. The speed of it all was not lost on me, nor the consequences of it. Looking out at the skyline, traffic once again is not moving, horns are blowing, we are surrounded by humanity all focused on their own worlds. I turn to my daughter explaining to her we will be ok here. Explaining as best I could that the types of weapons and tactics used are more or less local in scope.
The sun is setting, the glow of colors reflecting on the windows and the sky is turning more gray. I know the threat of nuclear war is not something she understands. Kindergarten for many of my generation was marked by air raid sirens wailing their warnings and a fast dash to a hallway. Long lines of little children staring into the tile wall, studying the specks in the grout, arms protecting our heads from the expected blast. Sirens more of them wailing across the city. Bigger kids crawling crashing into each other for the safety under a desk. Standing there in that wall were the sounds echoing the warning, horrifying. I always peered past the crook of my elbow at the glass doorway that led to our playground. Waiting for the flash that never came. I have told my daughter the story before when she first started to have to hide in her school rooms, someone with a war weapon in their hands nearby. She laughed at the duck and cover films we watched, I silently realized just how vulnerable and naive we were.
Following the mad race up Speer into the Highlands then Federal, I tell her I think more about Yellowstone erupting one day than a missile from Russia coming here. I was not totally honest with her, not today with Putin’s dark evil, sometimes as a parent you must blur the threat some. She knows me and my protective side, I tell her about how for years the threat has been small because of a this for that response.
We roll into the neighborhood, she is smiling again and starts her routine of homework, food, texting, the normal life of a 17 year old. I feel my heart pounding and my sense of dread is acute, recalling over the years the haunting reality of what really is possible.
Walking to clear and ground my emotions I reflect on my service to this country. In my duties, medical, meeting people who had tattoos with their blood types on an arm. This was done to them as small children in the event of nuclear war to save their lives. While history gave us the Nazis doing the same to track their killings, so very surreal. I must come to terms with the strong emotions of needing to go and help Ukraine, my skill set is needed badly. Ukraine is desperate and calling for volunteers.
Mothers holding children wounded, masses of people with horror strained faces, lives shattered. It all registers deeply within me I have stood in those places wearing the uniform of this country doing combat medical evacuation, treating the unbelievable wounds, getting people out of hell. Air Force during the Cold War. Served with the Air National Guard in Bosnia, Croatia, Iraq. I would fly to some war zone and set up a field hospital.
As the emotional weights pull me back to the battlefield, my daughter’s words echo in my head. You have done enough already; your body has been punished trying to do good, the right thing. Yes, war is hard on human beings.
In the Ukraine today the threat of Putin’s war of madness is splashed all over the media. Not since Vietnam has the American public seen an uncensored war. This is not some trending event. In a couple days it will not be replaced by the next thing to numb our realities. It is a cold hard fact we as a race have created horrific ways to eliminate each other. As a child I looked to the sky, contrails were those bombers or missiles, feelings of hopelessness real then, as it could be today.
It is not time to start digging a bomb shelter as the British did turning over their small gardens, hoping to survive the Blitz raining bombs over England. America dug deep into the earth during the 1950’s creating shelters, some you can find around Denver to this day. The yellow shelter here signs are gone or rusting in place. We moved on believed no one would ever think of a nuclear war again. This is happening in real time and Putin, has in a good sense united most of the world to stand together.
I would suggest to those who feel there must be something they can do look no further than your front yard, put a Ukrainian flag out, take a picture send it worldwide. Businesses, place a flag there where your mask mandate sign was. If you have investments check to see who the companies really are, remove anything related to Russia. Send money to real aid organizations.
There are those who say the Russian people will suffer, we will too economically. We are at the brink of a third world war, war not for oil, or to bluster a favored government. Worldwide democracy is on the ropes, collectively we can survive. This is a challenge for our own democracy here too, this period will define who we are, perhaps help dissolve the polarization we face.
I close my eyes and breathe, all my life I have read history and the patterns repeat again and again. We may never learn how to not have war; the weapons created each go around more exact in killing us. There is a resilience in humankind, and I hope we never lose sight of that. Support Ukraine as you can, talk to your family and friends about how they feel right now. Grab a shovel, no do not dig a bomb shelter but dig a garden, things may get rough for a while. Spread love and forgiveness to one another, have faith and pray for Ukraine.