My Nine ElevenI was told what had happened by a former student as I was leaving my room after class at 10:00 and was walking slowly up the incline of the corridor to my office cubicle.More Like This
"Mr. Skank!" she exclaimed. "Have you heard?"
With my student I walked to the library where the staff had arranged two television monitors in the reception area for public viewing. With a dozen other people, new viewers arriving as others left for class, I watched as reporters replayed tapes of the catastrophe again and again.
All that day and into the next we watched television.
Unlike most of the students, colleagues, acquaintances, and friends I spoke with or emailed over the next twelve months, I felt no anger. My own reactions to the events were—in this order—shock, disbelief, horror, revulsion, sorrow, sadness, and dread.
At first more than anything else I felt sad.
Then I felt dread.
For the next two months and off and on for several weeks more, to colleagues, f
The DraftIn 1965 I earned my bachelor's degree in English from Iowa State and thanks to my nearly straight-A record in the study of the language and literature of English I won a National Defense Title IV fellowship to study English at Indiana University in Bloomington, where my boat to the Doctor of Philosophy sprang its first leak, my instruction in English there so different from Iowa State where I had risen like a meteor and felt like a star. In my two years at Indiana I could inspire not a single teacher to take any personal interest in me. Sobered and dragging a C bitterly behind me I swam off a Master of Arts and counted myself lucky. Then, from the fall of 1967 through the spring of 1970, I taught English at little Upper Iowa College in Fayette, Iowa, where the desperate young men in my classes needed passing grades to maintain their student deferments and avoid the draft.More Like This
Competition was fierce.
Literally a matter of life and death.
One afternoon of finals week I dropped
Tavern TalkThe little liberal arts college in Fayette, Iowa, where I taught English had recently started a correspondence degree program aimed at government and military personnel. They were required to attend a short summer residency in Fayette to complete their degree, and at the local taverns I often saw them drinking beer and just hanging out. By this time, due to my public advocacy of all liberal causes, I had a local reputation both good and bad. One night a man in his mid-thirties, like me, approached me as I sipped a beer and surveyed the scene.More Like This
"Are you Robert Skank?" he asked.
"You don't know me," he said, "but I know you."
The man told me his name.
We shook hands.
"I've heard of your interest in war and I want to tell you a story," the man said.
"All you have to do is listen."
"You don't have to say anything."
He explained that he was a veteran of the war in Vietnam and that he had been a spotter for an artillery unit.
"Are you famili