Barbara’s Mommy Chronicles – ‘Terrorism’ at Our House?

After 9/11, there was a lot of fall out as people kept finding potential dangers and all law officials took all reports very seriously. Although we mourned with our nation and prayed, we never thought we’d ever be a part of it . . . until we went out for the mail one day.

The longer I have been a mother, the more solutions I’ve discovered in handling controversies among my offspring. The biggest argument of the day, when my children were little, used to occur when the mail arrives. There was always a mad dash for the door in order to be the first to get to the mail box. It caused a definite strain on my memory as from day to day, I had to remember who had a turn last. Terrorism solved my problem!

My daughter, Julianna, won the mail fetching round one week. She happily skipped up the path, a load of mail clasped in her arms. In the middle of the letters and magazines was a blue envelope. The return address was Argentina and the addressee was to someone in Brooklyn, New York. Here is was, however, in Rialto, California! The envelope had a small tear along the side and when I picked it up, it ‘shook’ funny, like it had something in it other than paper. It struck me as very odd to the point where I immediately contained it in a plastic bag and sealed it. I called information at the police department.

The woman answering the telephone at the police department was ever so helpful. She suggested I shake the envelope and see if I could get some powder out of it. I declined to do this. She then said I could iron it and kill any possible Anthrax spores. I declined to do this. I simply said, “I want it out of my house now!” She sighed and transferred me to dispatch who said they would send a police officer out to the house to pick up the envelope.

An hour or more later, the police officer shows up. Not his fault. Dispatch sent him to look for an Argentina ‘male’. The police officer circled the block, called for further clarification and was told an Argentina ‘male’ from New York. The officer finally got dispatch to elaborate enough for him to figure out they were talking mail. He knew there was some kind of misunderstanding because how was he to find an Argentina male with a New York accent? And why would a suspect hang around a street corner, waiting for him?

The police officer came into the house, took the letter to the light, then put it down on the table and didn’t touch it further. He called in the information and I heard them say that if it said Argentina on the envelope, they were ‘going to roll’ immediately. The officer said someone from the fire department would be here in about five minutes.

While we waited, he took us out to see his police dog, showed us some of his commands, explained how they were trained and let us pet the dog. I think he was trying to keep us from worrying unduly. I counted it as a home schooling unit study!

Suddenly we heard sirens, the dog came to complete attention and we felt our jaws drop as a fire truck came around the corner and parked in front of our house! Four firemen hopped out, took the information and went into my house to see the letter. The chief told them all to glove up and the one who actually picked up the letter was wearing protective covering. Here we were participating in current events. They checked out the envelope and asked for another bag to contain it.

Meanwhile, their superior drove up in his official vehicle. We now had a police officer, four firemen and the battalion chief standing around my kitchen. The police officer took a full report, listing us as reporters of the incident until such a time as we may be labeled victims. My eleven year old, Julianna, was the main victim/reporter as she had brought in the mail. I was the secondary one. The rest of the children said they would love us from a distance from now on.

The fire department determined this was ultimately a matter for the post office and called in the post master. They handed him the secured letter and asked if he had any idea why his postal worker would deliver a letter addressed like this to our house. He looked abashed and said, Well, I . . . have no idea!”

The police officer then proceeded to write up an extensive report. Although they felt at this point, that we were not dealing with Anthrax, he said he wanted all the facts on file in case the FBI had to be called in! It was also decided that they would not have to call in the mobile unit to have us decontaminated. Too bad as what an experience that would have been on the first hand impression of being scrubbed down in front of the entire neighborhood.

Our public service and coping with terrorism started at two in the afternoon and didn’t get finished until 5:30. All the emergency vehicles cleared out just before my husband came home from work. He got more than he bargained for when he cheerfully asked, So, how was your day, Barbara?”

As for the children, they never argued again about who got to go out for the mail anymore. From then on, they stood by the front door while I would tentatively pull the mail from the box. I could still see it in their eyes, however, the half wish that something exciting would happen again.