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April 24, 2004

Sgt. Pat Tillman, US Army

I started commenting on a wonderful Rottweiler post about Sgt. Pat Tillman, the NFL star who joined the US Army rangers and died fighting in Afghanistan, and the comment just grew out of all reasonable proportion, reaching a hundred plus lines. I suppose the trouble with making up a story is having to let it play out. I don't want to kill the Emperor's bandwidth so I'll just post it here and link it. So here's the comment that couldn't stop growing


That's a very sad story about a very brave American. The leftists are calling him a dumb jock despite his having graduated summa cum laude in just 3 and a half years. He reminded me of Brigadier General Stewart, who at age 32 also left an established and extremely successful career to defend his country flying bombers against the Luftwaffe, earning the Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Croix de Guerre, and numerous other decorations. I was thinking about one of his most famous movies and thought I'd jot down a snippet of a Hollywood version of Sgt. Tillman's wonderful life.

"Who are you?"
"My name is Clarence. I'm here to take you home."
"What happened Where am I?"
"You died in that ambush back there."
"What? What are you talking about? Just who the heck are you, anyway?"
"Why, I'm an angel, Pat."
"Yeah, and I'm the Dali Lama."
"Oh, you don't have to believe me, but we do have to move along now."
"Move along? Where to? What is this place?"
"Why, this is no place at all, but we do have to go to a someplace."
"I don't get what's going on."
"Oh, you'll get it figured out. Like I told you, you got killed."
"Funny. I don't feel hurt."
"Oh, that's right. You won't. Everything is fine now. Just come along with me."
"And just who are you again?"
"I told you. I'm Clarence. I'm your guardian angel."
"Well it looks you haven't been guarding too well lately."
"Oh, I watch over a lot of other people too. That's why you're here."
"What the heck are you talking about?"
"I'll show you. Take my hand and I'll show you something before I take you home."
"Show me what? Where are we going?"
"We're going to go watch a football game."

The scene changes to bathroom in a stadium locker room. The roar outside is deafening.

"What the…"
"Here we are. Oh, what a nice bathroom, don't you think?"
"Where are we?"
"We're in the bathroom. Nice?"
"I suppose so. Now just what is going on? Why the heck am I in a football uniform?"
"Oh my. Well I said we were going to watch a game."
"You didn't say anything about me playing!"
"Well ok, I left that part out. I'll just be watching, but you'll get a much better view of it."
"Look, I'm not a football player anymore. I'm a Ranger."
"You never became a Ranger here. Here you chose to stay in the game."
"What the heck do you mean, Clarence?"
"Well, this is the life where you chose to keep playing football. You never joined the Army."
"That doesn't make sense."
"Well this is the life that went differently. Here you're still in the NFL. See, you're already suited up."
"Yes, I suppose I am."
"Half-time's almost over, so you better get back in the locker room."
"Alright, alright."
"2005 NFC championship game too. You're up 14 to 10."
"Ha!"

He opens the door and walks out. He blends back in with his teammates and walks back onto the field, where he sees his wife in the stands, sitting in the middle of the other wives. He waves madly and aches to run up and sit with her, but keeps his place, enjoying once more the game he loves so much. Then he's on the line, driving the assault forward with his mighty heart, playing like a champion. The game moves into the fourth quarter, growing ever tighter. He remains focused and alert, absorbed fully into the contest now. Clarence just watches from the sidelines, smiling and clapping now and then.

Then a dozen impossibly loud explosions go ripping through the stands in a rapid staccato, scattered from down near the field to the upper deck. Whole sections of stands are stripped bare of both seats and people. Thousands are injured and others completely vaporized by the explosions. High velocity debris flies out from the center of each flash, and smoke, blood, and fire go roiling up under the bright stadium lights. Total shock and pandemonium engulfs the scene. Tillman instinctively dives to the ground, his Ranger training taking over where football leaves off. He keeps covered as pieces of metal, flesh, and bone shower down around him. He's stays as flat as he can get yet still feels the desperate need to find a hole as he lies in the middle of the vast open field, heart pounding, eyes scanning rapidly for more incoming. But all he sees is the mad scrambling of tens of thousands of people in total panic as an impossibly loud wail reverberates through the stadium, growing louder and louder. It looks like nothing he's ever seen before. It looks like nothing anyone's ever seen before. He's looking into hell.

He gets up on one knee and looks at those around him, then rises to his feet. He sees Clarence shuffling toward him with a rapid, arm flailing gate as parts of the screaming crowd surge onto the field. With a shock he whips around to find his wife. He knows where she was sitting, and the whole area is enveloped in blood and smoke. He bolts toward the area, but Clarence jumps in his path. Tillman just bowls over him but Clarence grabs his legs.

"STOP! STOP! You can't help them! It's too late!"
"Damnit! Let go!"
"It's too late, Pat. It's too late."

Pat spins on him with an icy stare.

"WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT'S OK!!!"
"This isn't real I tell you! This is just what would've been. Not what is."
"LET ME GO! I've got to help. I've got to find Marie!"
"Stop it! You can't help her now."
"Where is she?!! Is she ok?!"
"She died up there, Pat."

He lets out a long wail as people continue to swirl about in panic, crashing into him. Clarence waves his hand and all the people disappear. Suddenly the sun is overhead and the stadium is just empty seats dotted with abandoned wreckage, strewn with police tape and thousands of small yellow flags. From the upper deck a giant American flag flaps in the breeze.

"There. Better now? It's certainly quieter."
"This can't be happening Clarence!"
"Oh, it is and it isn't happening."
"What the fuck is going on?!"
"I'm just showing you this just so you'll understand."
"Understand what Clarence? That my wife is dead? That all those people are dead?"
"Well, in a way. But not really. This is just what would've happened."
"Would've happened?"
"Would you have it otherwise?"
"Hell yes! Can you stop this?"
"Well….."
"Couldn't you stop them Clarence? You're claim you're an angel. You could've stopped them!"
"Oh, not me. I'm not supposed to interfere like that. But I can do other things."
"Like what? What good are you if you can't stop this?"
"Oh. I couldn't stop this. Nobody could stop this. The plot was hatched far away and never leaked."
"Then why did you put me through this?"
"Just so you'll know what would've happened."
"Well what did happen?
"Well, some very bad people managed to get jobs in the stadium."
"Where are they now?!"
"Oh, they're dead now too. Suicide bombers."
"Oh God… Oh God."
"They came from Afghanistan and were supposed to be working as vendors. But some of their beer kegs weren't filled with beer. You knew they'd try this eventually."
"And there wasn't anyway anybody could stop this?"
"Oh, there was one way to stop them. And you did it. You broke up the cell that ended up planning this attack."
"I did?"
"Yes. Of all the people in the stadium that night, you were the only one whose life had another possible path that didn't result in this happening. And that's the path you took. You saved them all, just like you wanted."
"So Marie is fine? Everybody is fine?"
"Oh yes. She's fine now. Very sad, but very proud of you. Everyone is very proud of you."
"They are?"
"Yes they are. And they don't even know about any of this, what was going to happen. Now let's go home and rest. I'm getting too old for this anymore."
"Yes Clarence. Let's go home."
"Here, take my hand again. I like those Ranger wings, by the way. I'm hoping to get a pair of my own wings someday… Did I ever tell you about the time …"


*****

The British police recently arrested a cell in Manchester, which had possibly been planning to take out a Manchester United game in much this fashion.

But anyway, there's my old Hollywood movie version of what happened. You can see why I'm not in pictures.

April 24, 2004 in War | Permalink

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Comments

No. They don't make them like that any more.

Posted by: bill brown at Apr 24, 2004 12:34:50 PM

George, you do not give yourself enough credit. Beautiful prose, true to the piece you were updating, and sensitively written. A beautiful piece.

I hope you'll one day flesh this out. Perhaps when Rottweiler Pictures gets off the ground... but who would play Clarence?

Just don't rewrite and make Clarence into Clarice, because I just couldn't stand another un-earthly Whoopie casting. Robert Duvall, perhaps? I think he can "dotter about" with the best of them.

Beautiful, George. Simply beautiful. You really are the smartest man I know.

Posted by: Mamamontezz at Apr 24, 2004 5:45:04 PM

Actually Mama, I just took dictation on this one. The characters wrote their own dialog as it went along. Sometimes you get lucky that way.

It started branching into several different possible sequences for the final conversation, though, so that part may not flow as well.

Damned actors. Why can't they just stick to the script?

Posted by: George Turner at Apr 24, 2004 7:35:32 PM

"Actors are crap." John Huston.

Writers are, sometimes, the Voice of God.

This was one of those times. Thank you, George.

Filled with awe and gratitude,

Jon, Imperial Hunter

Posted by: Jon, Imperial Hunter at Apr 25, 2004 12:49:50 AM

Really, George, I agree with Mama. Like the truly wise, you do not recognize how great is your gift. This deserves wide circulation. I think Misha, at the very least, should publish it in as full a version as you would care to write.

Posted by: Jon, Imperial Hunter at Apr 25, 2004 12:54:13 AM

There've been a lot of famous people who left successful careers here in the States to go overseas and fight the good fight.

This is, as far as I know, the firs time the media has shown disrespect for such brave individuals.

I challenge any and all persons who would call such men as Tillman dumb to go and fight for Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

They won't, of course. Because they're the dumb ones. They're the cowards. They can't understand what drives men like Tillman, what it's like to give up everything and fight for the freedom of others, just because it seems like the right thing to do.

Posted by: Bond at Apr 25, 2004 2:45:39 AM

Absolutley marvelous. Thanks for taking the time to post it. Sadly, I fear that we will have to deal with this scenario for real one day, but it won't be because Tillman didn't try and stop it.

Posted by: Da Nukevet at Apr 25, 2004 12:28:48 PM

TURNER POKES MAN IN THE HEART WITH HIS B-SWORD

My wife will say that, ("I have to write this down while they [the characters] are still talking") when she's inspired.

You made me cry, man. You helped me remember that I have made a differance and that 700+ American lives in those two countries matter to us here.

Posted by: Mikenchi at Apr 25, 2004 2:06:07 PM

Thanks everybody! I'm so glad you liked that one. Such a sad event, just as when any of our soldiers gets hit.

Posted by: George Turner at Apr 25, 2004 11:01:21 PM

I hate getting all misty eyed. Hope you don't mind, but I'm sending this to a bunch of my friends.

It's really good.

Posted by: Black Oak at Apr 26, 2004 1:46:09 PM

Thanks, George. Now I have to get back on the phone and take customer calls with my voice cracking and my eyes all misty.

Pat Tillman considered the cost, and then paid it. We owe him and his kind a debt for that sacrifice.

We owe them our honor and our regard.

Posted by: Brian B at Apr 26, 2004 4:53:06 PM