1.3 Frame 371 Zapruder Film copy


Zapruder keeps shooting, his zoom lens locked on to the car until it disappears. Later that day, after he’s absorbed some of the shock, he’ll realize, with a shudder, how close he was to the action.

          I must have been in the line of fire.

          He doesn’t yet know that a new world is dawning, one his footage

is helping to create, where everyone, at some point, will feel like they’re in the line of fire.



2.1 Jimmy's Japanese girlfriend copy


She would be over ninety years old now, the young Japanese woman whose picture is pasted into his scrapbook, above the caption My little Jap girlfriend in Yokosuka, alongside the two stamps she gave him for the letter she hoped he would write.  The man posing stiffly on the stamps is Admiral Togo Heihachiro, 1848-1934, revered naval strategist, mentor to Emperor Hirohito himself.  Jimmy would probably not have cared about all that.  He did take pains to spell out the girl’s name phonetically – Soo/ge/u/la Ma/sa/ka – and one imagines him practicing the pronunciation, chopping up the syllables in his clumsy American accent, trying to remember which name would come first in English.  

          They probably laughed about it.  



2.4 Chow Line copy


Besides the big shots, there are also pictures of his buddies. Three sit jauntily on a jeep, one holding a small makeshift Christmas tree under the towering palms; hundreds of sailors are planted in a chow line that never seems to move (food horrible – bread full of wheat bugs), only the ones closest to the camera attempting a forlorn smile; Jimmy himself in his skivvies, wringing his wash out over a bucket (no automatic laundromats here!).

          They all seem impossibly young, boys more than men, hardly aware that this wartime experience will mark them for the rest of their lives.



2.7 A Bomb in Seattle copy


Jimmy’s mother sent him an aerial view of downtown Seattle, a newspaper picture with 4.1 square miles marked off, corresponding exactly to the devastated area of Hiroshima. The headline said it all:  If Atom Bomb Hit Seattle… 

          Better to be on the side that set off the world’s most horrific weapon first.  

          Jimmy and his family, like many other Americans, would never question that elemental belief.



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The woman in the crosshairs is wearing a hajib, a child walking down the street at her side.  She can’t see the Apache helicopter as it hovers above her, more than a mile away, but it can see her, its camera drifting in lazy circles over her neighborhood as it zooms in and out.  

          On this day, in July 2007, two Apaches are flying over Baghdad in what an investigation will later identify as Operation ILAAJ, the clearance of Zone 30.  

          The woman and her son probably don’t realize they live in Zone 30.



3.1 diary page copy


Diarists from the 21st century on (now journaling or blogging) would find themselves practicing an antiquated art, insisting, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that disclosures could be voluntary, that the individual life could be separated out from the aggregate, that people weren’t just data points.

          That would be, in its way, an act of defiance.



4.2 Young Trav copy


Every statistic can be unpacked so that the story at its heart emerges, like a lost language one has to relearn.  It requires a rediscovery of the particular, the one-off, the ordinary. 

          As if anyone is really ordinary.

          The year he was born, 1982, the most popular boy’s name in America was Michael, followed by Christopher, Matthew, Jason, David, James, Joshua, and John.

          His mother chose to call him Travis.

          The year of his death, 2009, he would have had another 50.32 years of life left, on average, if he had been average. 



5.11 Woolworth lunch counter copy


Not all national struggles have been fought on formal battlefields; some have taken place in ordinary spaces across the country, like the bridges, town squares, and dime stores marking important sites in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.  

          Four empty seats from a lunch counter are now showcased in the Smithsonian, mundane objects transformed into iconic relics of resistance.  

          They commemorate the moment in Greensboro, North Carolina, when students of color, denied service, sat at the counter and refused to leave.  The sit-ins would spark a national movement that resounded across the decade.  

          And now, visitors can imagine themselves in the seats, wondering what would I have done?



5.16 Small town parade copy


What if the whole town came out to fete you, held a parade in your honor, gathered to welcome the prodigal back?

          It would be quite a party.

          Bands, barbecue, toddlers held aloft, sodas on Main Street, all the trappings of small town life you remembered as if it were yesterday.

          All you would have to do was close your eyes to see it.



5.20 Charlene at lake copy


It’s a simple shot, taken on a day trip early in her illness when she was feeling good.  She had always shied away from a camera, to the point where only a few images of her throughout the years could be found, but she knew her family would want something going forward, something to hold onto, so she let the picture be taken.

          If it were up to her, she would have been happy just to pass on the moments that couldn’t be captured on camera, the ones that would inspire the stories they might tell one another much later.

          She came up with the ending to her own story after a long silence one day.

          I’ve had a good life.  It’s been a hard life, but I’ve been loved.



5.22 Charlotte and Russell Brooks copy

They were happy once, before the war, they probably made the kinds of plans that young people think will last forever.  

They spent a brief time together and then it was over, all the plans in the world not enough to keep them safe from the hazards of history.

          Years later, she wrote her son somewhere in the South Pacific:  your father would be so proud of you, you know he was your age in the last war and he would now be 45 years old.

          When she lost him, she stopped writing letters for a very long time.

          But she typed out a poem and probably read it over in many dark moods. 

                    Let fate do her worst, there are moments of joy,

                    bright dreams of the past which she cannot destroy…