SOME OF THE voices have accents that remind you of home.On the phone and in person, they say words that ring with the sound of New York. They came down to work for the New Deal or Fair Deal and maybe later, and now someones in the family works for B'nai B'rth. In the night, you can hear the accent clearly. It comes out in their terror.
They are the relatives of the hostages and some of them were at the Foundary United Methodist Church. The Red Cross had set up what you would have to call a waiting station and that was what most of them were doing - waiting. There was a man there whom I knew but he looked right past me. He was siting erect on a metal chair, his tie still tight round his neck and he was staring into nothingness. He had a relative inside and he was saying nothing. His eyes said that he would answer no questions.
A woman came in. She was short and she was dressed in blue and she, too, has the accent. She held a slip of paper in her hands and announced that she had the names of people who had managed to get out of the building. She called off some names. A man who had not been in the room when the names were called off, was told that his wife was safe. Another man was told that his son was on the phone - safe. The man moved off to the phone in the hallway. The man on the metal chair had received no news. He looked straight ahead.
There was a reporter there. She was young and from a radio station and dressed in a trench coat. She watched the man who had been told his wife was safe and she watched the man who had been told about his son and she cried. Her eyes welled up and her nostrils flared and she gripped the tape recorder slung down from her shoulder. She looked at me and tired to manage a smile.
You have these faces before. They are the faces of the dum founded and the terriorized. They are faces of people pulling at the rubble of earthquakes. But these are special faces because in their hearts they hold a terrible secret. These are Jewish faces and they fear that history holds a lesson for them. In the end, they believe, they will get worst of it. That is the way it has always been and that, take my word for it, is what they believe.
There is yet another voice. It is the voice on the phone of a daughter whose mother is being held in the building. Her father is waiting in the basement of the church. First her husband waits with him, then she waits with im. The old man is in his 60s, but he will not move. He knows the history of these things.
So these are the faces and the voices that are in your mind as the day goes on and as this thing goes on without end. But on the radio comes a different voice. At first it sounds strong and beligerent and the demands that come from his voice are strange and, to some, absurd. But then the voice talks of his children who were killed and his wife who was crippled and there is something about the voice you have heard before.
This is what the voice says. He says that when his five children were killed, no one cared. He says that when his family died no one came forward to say they were sorry. He said he did not hear from any of the people he is hearing from now - the City Council members, the mayor, the police. He said all these things with hate and with beligerence - but with hurt, too.
And, of course, he is right. I speak for myself. But when the family of Hanaas Abdul Khaalis was massacred in 1973, I shuddered at the news, but moved on with my life. It was like a bad auto accident, a pileup on the freeway, a disaster in some coal mine. These are things that do not happen to you or your people and so you do not think of them. They are news, not tragedy, and you move on - a strange religion, a strange people, not your fight.
So now I give it the thought it deserves and now too late. I feel sorry for the man I hear his voice on the radio and I mourn for his kids. I see him and the way I see him he is staring straight ahead. I do not excuse. I do not justify, but I recognize something in his voice.
It's the accent of anguish.