Last night there was a knock on my door. As first, it startled me. I guess I'm as jumpy as everyone else right now. But it's my own door; of course I'm answering. When I feel fearful, I remind myself that I was a Sgt. in the U.S. Marine Corps. Plus I live in a secured building.
I raked my fingers through my second-day hair, checked my t-shirt for cake crumbs, leaned my eye against the peephole and saw a woman. I opened the door.
"I live down the hall. May I please borrow a cup of flour?" she asked. She was about five feet tall, six if you count the white plastic measuring cup she waved up at me.
"Please, come on in." I said.
She did. I slid into the kitchen then quickly came back. I handed her my unopened bag of flour as if it were a reward for her neighbor bravery.
"I bought fresh today. I'm baking tomorrow, actually," I said.
She left, promising to return in a bit. Two minutes later, she brought my flour back zipped tightly in a new plastic bag.
Something about the interaction made me feel better about our world. It left me with a hopeful feeling. It also reminded me that I've been jumpy before.
In 1979, I graduated from Marine Corps boot camp and reported to my next duty station, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Even though I was away from them, my Parris Island Drill Instructors still had me wound pretty tight.
A bit later, Iran took U. S. hostages. Marines are the first to be sent in to conflicts -- the first to fight. From day one of the crises, we stood by halfway ready to go help, but always holding hope for a peaceful solution.
One night I was sleeping on base, in the barracks, in my bunk. I got woken up in the middle of the night by breaking glass and what sounded like machine gun fire. Right inside my barracks. The pop pop pop reverberated loudly against the cement floor, steel lockers and metal bunk beds. In one move I grabbed my M-16 and locked into combat position under my bed, alongside the rest of my unit in various poses and stages of dress. I think I snatched my helmet. We pointed our rifles at the ready, into the dark.
I smelled gunpowder. And.... beer. We were all confused.
Laughter cleared the smoke and revealed the source. Prankster Marines tossed in beer bottles and a lit rope of Black Cat firecrackers. Never funny.
After my unit calmed down, we returned to bed. I lay there feeling naïve for thinking that terrorists were able to sneak on a U.S. base (which was guarded by Marines) and carry out an attack. Why would I even believe that was possible?
Then in 1983 Marine barracks were attacked in Lebanon. It was horrible; 241 American service members were killed. A lot of tragedy has happened since, both on our own soil and around the world.
Meanwhile, American society has flourished -as a gay man, I'm the direct beneficiary of civil rights that I never thought possible.
Western lifestyle is still being attacked but now civilians are included as targets. I'm too old to re-enlist but I can protect myself while enjoying life. We all can - we have a wonderful country packed with democracy and freedom. We as a nation are unbeatable.
Go to museums and see the beauty mankind creates. Eat at restaurants with your friends. Enjoy a free concert in a park. Wear a sweater.
We will live without fear while we maintain vigilance. Hug everyone you can. Feels great and it's a chance to watch each other's backs.
I'm typing this in a coffee shop. Once I hit "send," I'm headed home to knock on my neighbor's door to borrow a bite of whatever she baked with my flour.