Of Hell and Helicopters
Peacefully unconscious in a blissful sleep, I was yanked violently awake by the sound of helicopters circling overhead. It seemed as if they would descend through the roof at any moment – engines gunning, blades whirling. Exhausted, I tried to ignore them but found it impossible. It was 3:15 am by the time I heard them move on to the next quadrant of their search. And by then, the irrationality that is born from being startled awake had blossomed into a Venus Flytrap.
I knew they were police helicopters and I lay in bed, fighting to get back to sleep. Who are they looking for? What had he done? What if he’s hiding in my back yard? These questions bounced off the insides of my brain like popping corn, leaving tiny little marks from their hot centers that eventually melted together and created a panic. I got out of bed and paced, peeking out the windows and searching the blackness outside for shadows.
Settled in again, I experienced several rounds of breathing deeply, drifting off, hearing an unfamiliar noise, and finding myself wide awake again. This went on until about 4 when, unable to fight the physical exhaustion any longer, I finally fell asleep.
When I woke up, I felt like I’d been in a fight. I called two neighbors, neither of whom had even heard the helicopters. Then I contacted the police to find out what had happened. It turns out it was a perfect storm of man-hunting – three different helicopters, all searching within a mile of my house for three different suspects. The woman at the police aviation center was very nice and suggested I consider buying protection.
The entire morning, I operated in reverse. I wasn’t going fast enough to be in slow motion. As I prepared to leave for a meeting, the gray skies opened up making the roads slick and slowing traffic. While driving in this foggy state – both inside my head and outside in the world – I had a moment of utter clarity. Is this how it feels to live in Afghanistan or Jerusalem or Palestine?
If my one single night of sleep interrupted by helicopters overhead for a mere 45 minutes could create such a disconcerting state of mind, what must it be like to hear bombs exploding, machine guns firing, and tanks rolling every night? More importantly, where do you have to go within yourself to get used to it so that you can actually give your body some of the rest it requires to function?
Every experience is relative. And I won’t mitigate the impact that being woken out of a sound sleep by police searching for suspected criminals had on my mental and physical states. However, I realize in a different way just how fortunate I am to live in a place where it is a once in a blue moon occurrence instead of something I must find a way to make normal.