Tuesday, September 05, 2006

dual lives

Kirk was still working insane hours. We didn't even pretend he got enough sleep - he just grabbed what he could. He didn't want to miss time with the family during the week, dinner was pretty important time at our house, but it meant he sometimes got by with only four or five hours of sleep a day.

When he was with us, he gave everything. He did his best to be wholly there for us when we went biking or fishing; he tried not to let the other life, the counter-terrorism life, intrude. It became harder and harder.

I realized it gradually, realized how much this work was taking over. It didn't happen when we were in the woods - when we were catching frogs down at George Washington's Retreat in Yorktown, or biking the three trails at Harwood Mills - but when we were driving around town there would be moments when he was distracted, different.

Like the time he glanced over as we passed a local bank, stiffened and muttered something about 'so they use that one...' I think he had recognized someone going into the bank, and now part of him was concerned with working out how to use this unexpected windfall of information.

One afternoon we were driving up the highway outside of Langley. I was reading a magazine - the Smithsonian I think - and I was chatting to Kirk about an article discussing the greatest achievement of modern medicine: the successful campaign against smallpox. Wasn't it amazing, I said, the way the WHO had managed it, wasn't it wonderful that the world was safe now from a disease that had been a deadly threat for thousands of years. Very quietly, his hands stiff on the wheel, he said 'it's not gone.'

Just that. But I knew - I knew that not only did he know that more than one country had kept live samples of the virus, he knew intimately the infection rate, the symptoms, the horrific scarring that those lucky enough to survive would suffer. He knew how it could be weaponized, had thought about delivery systems, had worked through countless scenarios in which various populations were targeted and infected.

And gradually I realized that he was living like that constantly. Everywhere we went, there was part of him looking around and evaluating targets, thinking about blast zones, considering mortality rates, political value, public reaction.

In order to stop a terrorist, you have to think like one. To be successful, you have to inhabit his mind. Kirk was very good at what he did, and it was beginning to take over everything. He was staring into Nietzsche's abyss.

No comments: