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I fell asleep in front of the TV while eating crackers and watching a South Park rerun. I vaguely remember dreaming about being a prisoner in a jail run by circus clowns just before a convoy of helicopters shook my house and woke me up.

I jumped up and opened my front door to see what was going on. I counted no less than 25 large choppers flying at tree-top level. I went back inside and saw what appeared to be a military officer on television. A man wearing a dress uniform was reading the news and a scroll at the bottom of the screen repeated the message: URGENT NEWS FROM THE PENTAGON NEWS SERVICE.

I picked up the remote and changed the channel only to find the same show on every channel. As the sun rose, the Pentagon newsman informed me that the Sears Tower in Chicago had been nuked by al Qaida using a nuclear device supplied by Iran. Then, Dick Cheney made an announcement that America had just retaliated against Iran with airstrikes on strategic targets.

This is crazy, I thought as I made a pot of coffee. As the coffee brewed, I turned on my computer and discovered I could not connect to the internet. I returned to the television and watched as a parade of government spokesmen instructed various government employees to report to various locations. Members of the Reserve and National Guard were told to report for duty within 12 hours.

Civilians were told to stay at home and warned that al Qaida terrorist cells were preparing to detonate additional nuclear devices. Employees of certain businesses were told that they should report to their employers to assist with emergency preparations. The military had apparently taken over the operation of these businesses.

The Pentagon news reader informed viewers that all banks and airports were closed. The NYSE was closed and all securities trading was suspended. The USPS and all private delivery services were closed. Retailers were urged to accept only debit and credit cards in an effort to prevent a run on cash at ATM machines.

The Governor announced that the Interstate would be closed to all traffic except for military and emergency vehicles. He urged citizens to cooperate at various checkpoints that would be manned by the National Guard. I watched in disbelief as the checkpoint procedure was demonstrated.

A smiling soldier wearing fatigues instructed citizens to approach checkpoints slowly and come to a complete stop. He explained that drivers and all passengers were to exit their vehicle and place their hands in the air. The driver was to unlock all doors and the trunk and present an ID. Passengers were to have their IDs ready also. The soldier said that weapons and "all other contraband" would be seized.

The Pentagon newsman announced that there may be interruptions in electric and telephone service. He suggested that people fill containers with water, replace batteries in flashlights, and stay tuned for important news. Dick Cheney then appeared at what appeared to be a press conference attended only by members of the armed forces.

Cheney repeated the narrative that al Qaida had detonated a nuclear device in Chicago. He said the device had been supplied by Iran and that there were at least a dozen more of the devices already in the country. Cheney explained that the President had declared a state of emergency and that the safety and security of the American people would now be under federal control.

Cheney then took questions from the audience:

Q - Will President Bush address the nation, sir?

A - The President will make a brief statement sometime later.

Q - Where is the President, sir?

A - The President is safe.

Q - How long will the nation remain in a state of emergency, sir?

A - For the duration of the war.

Q - Do you have any information regarding our operations in Iran, sir?

A - The Pentagon will issue a statement after an assessment is made.

Q - Can you give us any further information about the situation in Chicago, sir?

A - The residents of Chicago are being evacuated and the area is being secured.

Q - Have there been any other attacks on America since last night, sir?

A - No.

Then, the Pentagon News Service ran a short tape of the Sears Tower collapsing. The footage was tinted green and apparently shot from an airplane. A scroll at the bottom of the screen informed viewers that normal television broadcasting would resume as soon as the state of emergency ended.

I picked up the remote and went through all the channels - it was the same show on all channels. I turned on my radio and discovered that the same programming was also being broadcast on all the radio stations. I could hear what sounded like gunfire coming from somewhere nearby. I put on a CD and turned up the volume.

I tried to get on the internet again and found that I had no telephone service. The Pentagon News was still on TV. There was nothing new - they were merely running the same stuff that had been on all morning. I decided I would go outside and walk around.

The neighborhood was quiet. I decided to walk to the 7-11 several blocks away. There was no traffic and I saw only one other person - an old man walking a dog. He looked at me suspiciously and then looked away.

There was a huge crowd at the 7-11 store. There must have been at least 100 people standing outside. There were about 30 cars waiting to get gas and policemen were in the street talking to the drivers. A military jeep was parked near the entance of the 7-11 and two soldiers holding rifles stood at the door.

A long line had formed going into the store while other people just stood around in the parking lot. There was little conversation. A woman in front of me whispered that they were allowing only three people in the store at a time. A man in a suit approached me and asked for my ID. He did not identify himself.

I asked him why he wanted to see my ID and he walked away. He returned moments later with a policeman who asked me what the problem was. I told him there was no problem and the officer asked to see my ID. With one hand on his gun, he took my ID and looked at it. He showed it to the man in the suit and then returned it to me. They walked away saying nothing.

I waited in the line for about 15 minutes and decided I would just go back home. As I left, I heard one of the soldiers tell the people to line up two by two next to the building. A man asked why only three people could go in the store at a time. He was told that there was a war going on.


This article contributed by Tom Blanton of Richmond, Virginia.