Hey guys,I thought a lot of people would like this book so here's the introduction and Wiki page on it: War Day
However and wherever we are, we must live as if one never dies. -Nazim Hikmet "On Living"
Whitley: A Survivor's Tale
The survivor's tale is the essential document of out time. All of us have them; even babies have them. To be born now is no guarantee that you will not be touched by Warday. Indeed, birth makes it certain.
So we are all survivors, and those of us who actually lived through that day carry our histories with us, our stories of how we did it, of what particular luck or strength or cleverness saw us through
We are not the people we were on that sharp October day in 1988. I see change in my wife and son, certainly in my collaborator, Jim Kunetka. And in all whom I know. Sitting here with my pad and paper, I find that writing about it evokes obscure and powerful feelings. A I bitter, or angry, or simply sad? So much of what I saw as a basic to life is gone; what I counted as valuable, worthless.
I have my own particular artifacts of that time, mostly small things and mostly relating to the security of my former life. I have been marked by the economic diaster as much as, or more than, by the radiation. In the final analysis, for so many of us, the closed bank and the worthless money are truer expressions of Warday than is some distant mushroom cloud. My last stock statement from Shearson/American Express, for example, is probably my most treasured talisman of the past. It reminds me of the fragility of complex things. Somehow, age has given it beauty. I can imagine that such a thing, covered with symbols and symbolic numbers, associated with a mythical time of plenty, could one day become an object of worship.
I open the document, smooth it out. My feelings about it are so strong that they are almost silly. I have sat staring for hours at the anachronistic names: Raytheon, General Foods, American Motors, Dow Chemical. I got eighteen gold dollars in the distribution of '90(Note: Both paper dollars, which are worthless, and gold coins, which are worth a lot of paper money, are used as currency in the post-apocalyptic wasteland after Warday). How ironic that nine paper dollars will now buy a house. In 1987 you could spend more on a suit.
More even that to this paper, though, I cling to the memories of my family. These five years later I still find myself waiting for the phone to ring, expecting my younger brother, Richard, to be on the other end of the line. Richard, the determined, tiny rival, my childhood enemy who became as an adult my best friend, who understood me and whom I understood. Whom I loved. We talked every afternoon, no matter where we were in the world. So now, each day at four, I remember. That is my monument to him.
New York was my home in the eighties, and I was there on Warday. We remained there through the dangerous twilight that followed. In fact, the only reason I am alive now is that we stayed there as long as we did.
Nobody would have put San Antonio on a list of prime targets - nobody except the Russians. They thought not of the quiet streets or of the fun we had, but of the repair and refitting facilities at Kelly Air Force Base and of the burn center at Brooke General Hospital, and of the massive concentration of spare parts and equipment in the area. But they did not think of kids running through sprinklers, or of the River Walk or the genteel silence of the McNay Art Institute, or of the enormous, vital, striving Chicano population.
My family had a history in San Antonio, I was deeply connected to the place; in so many ways, my identity flowed from it. Though I lived in New York, I kept a membership in the San Antonio Writer's Guild. When I was there I used to walk by the river for hours, and then eat Mexican food at Casa Rio. At age ten, I would sit in my father's office in the Alamo National Bank Building and look out over the flat smiling land and dream boy's dreams, of having wings, or of riding shotgun on the stagecoach to Dallas.
How can it be that the place where I was formed is gone? The Alamo National Bank Building was a tremendous skyscraper, or so I remember it. Did it fall over at the end, crashing into Commerce Street, or did it simply disintegrate?
My brother had just opened his own law office there, on the eighteenth floor. Did he feel anything? Say anything? I visualize him on the phone, hearing a noise, glancing up, then gone. Or was it horrible and slow? Death by fire in an elevator? Or by suffocation in some sub-basement parking garage?
And my mother. Looking back to the placid life we knew, it seems so impossible that her fate was to be killed in a war. She was seventy-one years old, and for her the end was almost certainly instantaneous. She lived in an apartment house two stories high, of rather light construction. She was either there of as a neighbor's house at the moment of death. Whichever is was the case, there wouldn't have been he least protection.
So many bombs exploding simultaneously over such a relatively small area caused the temperature to exceed that of the surface of the sun. People have told me that they heard the explosion in Oklahoma City and Monterrey, Mexico.
We are the first generation to see places instantly vaporized. Hiroshima na Nagasaki were destroyed, but not so completely as this. In a vaporized plac, not even rubble remains. (Cont. later)