Thurman P. Woodfork


As the bright sunlight filters in through the window, a familiar, distant thunder is heard; a jet circles in the skies over Washington. Years ago, when I was a child, planes flew directly over my house as they entered the landing patterns for National Airport or Bolling Air Force Base. They were a mild irritant because they momentarily disrupted the TV reception as they made their descent to earth.

Bolling long ago closed its runways and the flight pattern for National has been changed. But this plane isn’t landing; it is circling high over the city on a patrol, guarding against possible terrorist attacks.

It’s far above my house, its engines a remote mutter, yet it casts a shadow through the pattern of sunlight shining through the trees and playing upon my living room wall. It overlays the dancing leaves with an invisible but tangible shadow of anger and fear.

Deadly explosions and sneaking attackers are things that I thought I had left behind in another life in another country. Yet, here they are again; they have followed me home. And an old, long sublimated feeling returns, vivid as ever: an impotent, banked, helpless rage. The same anger I felt in the bunker down in Tay Ninh after I returned to Trang Sup TDY.

I was waiting for a flight out, so I had no defensive position to man. I just sat in the bunker with some others, listening to and feeling the explosions erupting overhead outside while someone else confronted the unseen enemy.

Dimly, I can hear children laughing outside as the sound of the fighter fades into the distance. Remembered sounds and odors recede; again, I’m in a room bright with sunlight instead of a darkened bunker.

The shadow dissolves back into leaves moving lazily in the random breezes. The anger is slower in receding.

Author’s Note: In my younger days, I would have thought nothing of walking the distance between my house and the Pentagon. Before my dogs died, I used to walk them from my house to the Capitol. Now, after over twenty years of traveling the world in the name of freedom, it seems the menace has found its way to my own neighborhood. When I joined the Air Force nearly fifty years ago, an attack by such a faceless enemy was inconceivable. Submitted for the October 2003 IWVPA Club Theme Project, “Shadows