The Aftermath

The-PilotDidnt, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

It was a sunny Thursday morning, warm and mild with a slight breeze. I was running late, as always, scurrying down highway 183 as fast as possible without drawing attention. It was one of those days you seriously want to open the sunroof and put your foot down a bit. I had the radio on and was making pretty good time despite the late start and there were even some happening tunes on the radio. That’s when I heard the news. The morning DJ broke in to announce that a small plane had crashed into an office building along Highway 183, just a few miles from where I was stopped at a traffic light and very close to my intended destination. “No word on casualties,” she said in her annoyingly chipper voice, “but traffic in the area is snarled.”

It wasn’t until later on the in the day, almost mid-afternoon, that we learned of the sinister plot behind the morning’s events. The pilot of the small plan, Joseph Andrew Stack, had actually targeted the Echelon building, home to (among other things) the local Austin office of the Internal Revenue Service. He owed back taxes and was angry at the government, so he torched his upper middle class home to the ground, drove about 20 miles north, to the small city municipal airport in Georgetown, Texas, boarded a freshly fueled plane, and slammed his small Piper Cherokee aircraft into the IRS office in Austin. It was a suicide mission-a demonstration of his anger against the government, the aftermath of an argument with his wife, and his unwillingness (or inability) to pay his back taxes that drove him to do this.

Nobody anticipates that events like this will ever happen in their town. Nobody expects this. Everybody now says, “but he seemed so nice/normal/ordinary/loving/kind/happy/and so on.” Nobody thinks it will ever happen here but, on a sunny Thursday morning, warm and mild with a slight breeze, it did happen here. We saw it and felt it and heard about it and wondered about it and feared it. We became unwitting witnesses to a crime we could never imagine would happen here, in our otherwise quiet corner of the world.

I can’t proclaim to know what could possibly make a man, an otherwise ordinary mild mannered man, slam an airplane into an office building, killing innocent people in the process. I can’t image what would drive him to do this, in a small town, my town, on an otherwise ordinary Thursday morning. I just can’t picture what caused it, why it happened or what kind of monster would even think of doing this. This sort of thing, it just does not compute.

No, I don’t have those kind of pictures for you and, I almost hate to say it, but, somehow, I doubt anybody does. Instead, I intend to provide you something else-something I’d have to call “the aftermath.” This is what was left behind. This is how we changed and will change. This is how our lives, each in some small way, will be forever molded, after witnessing the events of that otherwise normal Thursday morning. This is what was left behind in the wake of those events on that Thursday, that warm and mild with a slight breeze of a Thursday morning, a morning when nobody expected to bear witness to such a tragic turn of events yet, somehow, in some small way, we all did.

I want to complete a photo essay with this work. I hope to show the world, using my humble little camera, the aftermath of the events that happened so that maybe one day events like this can be avoided in another town, perhaps even your town, on an otherwise normal Thursday morning. And, I hope you find my view of things interesting enough to follow along, as I invite you to take this journey with me. As things unfold, I’ll post more about this.

In the meantime, this is the first image from my documentation. This is first in a series covering the aftermath of the tragic events that unfolded this past Thursday-the hole that was left after the aircraft slammed into the building. This is what the 9400 block of Research Boulevard in northwest Austin, Texas looks like now. I hope you never find yourself looking at something like this one Thursday morning, as I had to, this past week.

Until next time…

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