He saw everything at once. A hurricane of memory. Bombarded by a torrent of recollection. The heartbroken parents, the distraught woman, the unbridled anger of the young man, the confused student, the wounded soldier.
The parents, tears in their eyes, the news of their son--killed in action--had come the day before. The woman who had not heard from her husband in weeks. The young man, his disfigured hand, the reason he'd not been allowed to join. The girl, three years at Yale, did not understand how the world could come to this. The pilot sent home, his legs ruined, his brothers still fighting.
A full twenty-four hours had yet to pass. What astounded him the most was their presence of mind. Somehow they'd climbed from the hellish abyss a child's death thrusts one into to speak to someone that might be able to help them. Not ease the pain, nothing but time would do that. Understand it, the pain, the war, the killing, the reasons that drove a whole nation to wage war on the rest of the world.
She clutched the crumpled letter as though it were life itself. In a way, it was. Postmarked the middle of July. It was the last week of August now. Her life had come to a standstill. How was she supposed to go on? Had he been shot down? Was he wounded? Was he still alive? A single word would save her.
Born with only half a thumb on his left hand. The young man was angry there was nothing for him to do, at least that's what he'd been told. They needed 'able-bodied' soldiers. He argued that he could run just as fast, shoot just as well, fight better than many. They asked him to climb a rope. He couldn't do that. What did climbing a rope have to do with fighting Nazis?
No book had told her why the world would want to rip itself apart like this. No professor had been able to answer her questions. "When people with different ideas and ideals..." There was no way she could accept such mundane explanations. Tens of millions of lives lost because of different ideas and ideals? No. No way. She needed a better explanation.
He half dragged himself up the stairs. His legs, gone from the knees down, were little better than useless. What he felt went beyond anger, beyond rage. He was furious. Made worse by not knowing where to direct his feelings. At the war? The enemy pilot? His orders to be put on that particular sortie? Himself? Who, or what, was to blame? And what if there was nothing to blame? What was he to do then?
These were a minute fraction of what he saw. Laying there on the floor, lost and battered. Like a piece of driftwood in the fury of a storm. Lightning flash images and falling walls of emotion. He endured, held on. These unresolved--lost--issues would be taken care of. He would do it even if it broke him. Leaving them unattended had been irresponsible in the extreme. He would not let this place be home to these problems any longer. They demanded acknowledgement. He would answer them.