By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Both women are back at Maria's the next morning, trying to get on with things, talking quietly when they can, exchanging smiles when they can't. "You want to pretend that this isn't happening," Gomez says as she heads off with a plate of pancakes. "But this is the real life. What can you do?"
EVERYONE FROM JEB BUSH TO Yasir Arafat is donating blood. 1-800-GIVE-LIFE yields an endless busy signal. Yet on Wednesday afternoon the waiting room at the American Red Cross blood bank near downtown Minneapolis is half-empty. KSTP-TV (Channel 5) and the Minnesota Daily have descended on a picture of almost bland serenity: college students scanning textbooks, the panoramic view of the Mississippi riverfront, the faint patter of Dan Rather, the slowness of the two-hour wait.
When your name is called, the cheerful woman who opens your vein is not a nurse. "I'm a phlebotomist," she explains. "And that doesn't mean I give lobotomies." You get the feeling she doesn't mind repeating this joke for the hundred-billionth time. When she's done, you are sent to a nearby table and attended to by a petite and energetic twentysomething who never sits down. Jennifer would normally be on the road selling clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies, she tells you, but today she's stocking Oreos and pouring juice. "You can't go out and do sales," she says quietly. "Not today."
Jennifer says she can't turn off the TV. Reprisal is the word of the hour. "Don't you think, with the War Crimes commission we have in Europe, that we couldn't just go on a hunch now and go bombing somebody without being sure?" She sounds hopeful rather than certain.
"It doesn't matter now, anyway," she goes on. "The damage is done. We lost. They can flatten all the countries they want, and it won't bring those people back. All we can do is wait. And give blood."
"YOU CAN JUST CALL ME 'Gene from Tackle Plus.' Everyone will know who you're talking about," says Gene from Tackle Plus as he pries the top off a Styrofoam container to assess the well-being of a dozen night crawlers. On this Wednesday morning, Gene is working the register at Hayes Tackle Plus, a gritty little bait shop on East Lake Street in Minneapolis.
It has been a slow morning on the Day After. But Gene says the bait business is generally sluggish in September, so it may have nothing to do with yesterday's carnage. The customers who have come in so far have said little to nothing about the attack, he reports. Gene, who is 52 and has worked at Tackle Plus off and on since 1980, first got news of the events of September 11 via a phone call from his brother. He turned on the TV and watched the news "until they started showing the same stuff over and over," he says.
He acknowledges that the episode caught him off-guard, but he was not especially shocked. "I felt something like this was bound to happen. Anytime you have a powerful establishment, someone is going to want to bring it down," he posits. "People here in the United States used to boast that we've never been bombed. Why should we think we're indestructible? There's nothing in this world that can't be touched. It's like in sports. You take a team that wins all the time, and they start to think that they can't lose. But eventually somebody is going to beat them."
A Vietnam-era Army veteran--"Didn't see any action, spent most of my time stationed in Korea," he allows--Gene says that he likes to laugh and clown around, especially at the bait shop. "People know that about me. But I'm serious, too. I think about things." The first thing he thought upon learning of the catastrophe in New York, he says, was that this was no Oklahoma City--and definitely not the work of homegrown militiamen: "They're not the suicidal types."
At 11:30 comes the day's first rush of business: four Spanish-speaking kids, who peer into the tanks at the sucker minnows before buying two dozen night crawlers. One of the kids purchases a license. Another pair of customers, a middle-aged man accompanied by a woman, stops in to drop off a faulty reel. A few more patrons straggle in for Styrofoam containers of wax worms and angleworms.
Business is decent. Some days, Gene points out, he has only one or two patrons before noon. Why might people choose to go fishing despite the national calamity? "You can't alter your life for fear that it's going to happen again," he muses. "You won't be yourself. There's no reason to walk around scared. This is out of your control. Why be nervous? If you stop and think about it, what can be done?"
FOUR TEENAGE BOYS HUDDLE ON the curb with their skateboards and backpacks, staring into the cobblestones. "One of the planes was supposed to crash into the IDS tower," says the one wearing a puffy jacket. He heard this, he adds, from someone who works for the government.