Saturday, December 19, 2020

the last book I ever read (A Promised Land by Barack Obama, excerpt twelve)

from A Promised Land by Barack Obama:

The night before, Michael Chertoff, President Bush’s secretary of homeland security, had called to inform us of credible intelligence indicating that four Somali nationals were thought to be planning a terrorist attack at the inauguration ceremony. As a result, the already massive security force around the National Mall would be beefed up. The suspects—young men who were believed to be coming over the border from Canada—were still at large. There was no question that we’d go ahead with the next day’s events, but to be safe, we ran through various contingencies with Chertoff and his team, then assigned Axe to draft evacuation instructions that I’d give the crowd if an attack took place while I was onstage.

Reverend Jakes wrapped up his sermon. The choir’s final song filled the sanctuary. No one beyond a handful of staffers knew of the terrorist threat. I hadn’t even told Michelle, not wanting to add to the day’s stress. No one had nuclear war or terrorism on their minds. No one except me. Scanning people in the pews—friends, family members, colleagues, some of whom caught my eye and smiled or waved with excitement—I realized this was now part of my job: maintaining an outward sense of normalcy, upholding for everyone the fiction that we live in a safe and orderly world, even as I stared down the dark hole of chance and prepared as best I could for the possibility that at any given moment on any given day chaos might break through.

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