“FROM THE OTHER SIDE”
A TALE OF ANGER
HARRISONBURG, Virginia -- Yesterday morning in Harrisonburg began the same way most Mondays begin across the country. After a sleepy three-day weekend the streets were coming alive with morning traffic as employees drove in to work, shops began to open, and parents drove their children to school. It was a clear, otherwise normal day.
But that tranquility was fleeting.
Before the morning's classes could even begin at James Madison Elementary School on Harrisonburg's west side, an E.U. stealth drone fired a missile into the building. Three teachers and twelve students were killed, bringing the national death toll to 147 for drone strikes this year alone. Another 310 have been injured.
“I could see the drone when I dropped my son off that morning,” explained Andy Lee, whose son received minor injuries in the attack.
“I honestly didn't think anything of it at the time,” he said. “You see them in the sky all the time now. I assumed it was just spying on the area again and called the Homeland Security hotline.”
After the strike, the drone continued to circle the area for almost an hour. Rescue workers were initially hesitant to respond, fearing the drone would fire a second missile specifically to kill them -- a practice commonly known as a “double-tap” strike -- as was the case in both of the drone strikes in Colorado last weekend.
Many in the community blamed the delayed response for at least three of the deaths.
By the time a U.S. drone finally arrived to counter it, the E.U. drone was already long gone. Two air force fighters attempted to pursue the E.U. drone over international waters, but it escaped to a base in the Azores and the fighters were forced to withdraw.
“These continued attacks are barbaric,” said Senator Andy Jackson (R-Virginia), condemning the attacks yesterday in a teary-eyed press conference in Richmond. “The people killed weren't terrorists. They were children. Sons and daughters.”
Representative Nelson Garcia (D-Virginia), echoed Senator Jackson's comments in a statement released shortly after the press conference.
“I am not only disturbed with the fact that these are attacks on our soil, but also that they are attacks on decency and human dignity,” he said.
Just hours after the attack, the European Defense Agency released sparse details concerning the attack in a 24 page report to the press. The sole intended target of the strike was a nine year old boy, Anthony Davis, whom the E.D.A. regarded as a figure “involved or likely to be involved in future terrorist attacks” against the European Union.
The boy's father, Matthew Davis, a political activist, was killed in a drone strike four months ago. Matthew Davis was targeted because of a blog post calling for armed American retaliation against the E.U. by private citizens.
But Anthony Davis had never met his father. His parents were divorced before he was born. He died yesterday for being the son of a man he did not know.
Willem Bakker, the President of the European Council, was dismissive of the outrage when questioned by American reporters in Brussels shortly after the attack.
“Our strikes are surgical in nature,” said President Bakker. “There are actually very few civilians who are ever killed or even injured by our drones. We only authorize attacks on specific targets, and only when we can be sure they will be hit and that casualties will be minimal.”
He insisted that the continued drone attacks on the United States were justified, but refused to take any further questions from the press. It has been confirmed that at least one of the American reporters was later detained and is in custody for unspecified offenses.
Despite the increasing occurrence and severity of drone strikes in the U.S., the White House has remained virtually silent on the issue.
Other than a brief and unspecified call for prayer during his first weekly address last week after the Colorado attacks, the President has continued to avoid the issue in hopes of avoiding retaliation from the E.U.
The outlook inside the Pentagon is grim.
“It's going to get worse before it gets better,” said a source inside the Pentagon, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “The E.U. spends half of our defense budget, yet they are able to get their drones into our air space, fire on our civilians, and escape before we can retaliate.”
When questioned about the possibility of escalation, the source was pessimistic. “Their drone program is just the tip of the iceberg. They've outpaced our technology, and we've already isolated our own dwindling allies.”
The source further explained that if it came to war, we'd likely be on our own. “The E.U. would bomb us to hell.”
But all this speculative talk is of little comfort to the parents and siblings who lost a loved one yesterday.
“Why is this happening to us?” asked Mindy Rohr, a mother whose daughter died in the strike. “What did we ever do to them? America would never do anything like this.”
The fourth in my Tales of Emotion series. I wrote this back in December, but the issue the story touches on has exploded as of late so I figured it was a good time to go ahead and post it. It's a bit "heavier" than the others in the series, so I was reluctant to include it, but it fit the emotion of "anger" so well. I'll try and make the next story more fun and less serious.