There are maybe 400 Americans in Ankara, and most of us are here in the courtyard outside the new Base Chapel, waiting for an update from the Ambassador on What Happens Next.
It's been a bad week in Turkey -- half a dozen terrorist bombings in Ankara and Istanbul, dozens dead. The Turkish Army took power again in a coup, saying they did it to re-establish order. It's happened here before.
People are scared. I don't blame them. We're all wondering if we're going to be pulled out of here and sent home. That's the announcement I'm expecting as we wait.
We've all been in shock since Halloween, when my buddy Vic was killed by a terrorist's car-bomb. Vic did everything right -- looked and acted like a Turk, didn't call attention to himself, didn't talk loud in English in public, took a different route to work every day -- and the terrorists still got him.
And it's gotten worse since then. We haven't lost anyone else here, but the rest of the country is falling apart around us. It doesn't feel even a little bit safe here anymore. I figure we're gonna be told to start packing -- military, Embassy staff, all of us.
There's a lot of loud conversation. Our Chaplain, Liz McCormick, slowly takes the stage and steps behind the lectern to try to calm us down so that maybe we'll be able to HEAR the Ambassador when he comes out. He's a soft-spoken guy, usually.
"Has anybody heard what the threat level is today?" Liz asks the crowd. There is mild nervous laughter. She must be joking. The threat level's been HIGH ever since Vic died.
"Before we get started, I thought we'd ask Mrs. Brookwell to maybe come up...," Liz says.
"-- Like I know what the threat level is?" Ardelle Brookwell calls from out of the crowd, "like I'VE got any new information for anybody...? I'm waiting for the word just like you guys."
Ardelle -- the Ambassador's wife -- is often asked to lead us in the National Anthem on formal occasions, and she's never declined. Maybe until today. But she starts making her way to the front anyway, and climbs up on the platform with Liz.
The courtyard is full, and people are agitated. The security police are keeping an eye on the perimeter -- by order of the base commander. Security's been awfully tight since Vic. Guards along the fences, searches at the front gate. Off to my right, my boss Bill Mounsey is keeping an eye on the crowd and his SP troops. Bill hasn't gotten much sleep lately.
And then there's me.
Ardelle's still heading across the platform. "I'm pretty nervous," she says, "but I'll sing if you want...." There's laughter in the crowd. We're ALL pretty nervous.
Then there's a scuffle in the crowd up front. Ardelle gets behind the lectern and close to the mike. I'm sure once she gets the Anthem started, the Ambassador will come out and we'll get down to business.
But there's a whirl of clothes and some pushing and shoving up front. Some tall older guy with glasses and long gray hair is throwing his arms up. Looks like someone leaned or fell against him and he was pushed back. And now he's pulling something out of his sleeve.
"GUN! GUN!! GUN!!!" I hear somebody scream, and the guy with the long gray hair is pulling a rifle out of the sleeve of his heavy coat, like he had it tucked in there next to his arm.
The crowd panics and scrambles. The courtyard starts clearing, not fast enough. People are screaming. The guy is whirling, looking for a target. He must have planned to shoot the Ambassador -- but someone bumped into him and now things are happening much too fast.
The guy is still pulling the rifle out and aiming when I'm on him. I see him through the scope and pull the trigger. The bullet catches him at the base of the back of his neck and he goes down in a heap of clothes and arms and legs.
But he's not alone. There's a brunette with him, behind him and to his left, and suddenly she's waving a pistol in the air. She's firing behind the stage, into the curtains, maybe hoping to hit the Ambassador before he comes out. Liz and Ardelle are screaming, cowering behind the lectern. I squeeze the trigger again, twice, and she goes down.
The screaming is non-stop now, and it's still not over. From somewhere behind the brunette, up comes a blonde with a pistol, she's vaguely Russian-looking, she's screaming angry, and she's pointing the gun toward my position on the neighboring roof overlooking the courtyard. I can see her through the scope, turning and aiming.
But something happens. The gun jams, and she pops the magazine out. It falls in front of her as she digs for another. Somehow gold bullets fall down in front of her, in slow motion, glinting in the sun, and I see her screaming. She reloads and aims again. I pull the trigger and her head explodes.
Other than the screaming, the courtyard is empty and silent. The screaming has become background noise. What I hear is Mounsey yelling "HOW THE HELL DID THESE PEOPLE GET IN HERE??!! WE ONLY SEARCH FOREIGNERS NOW, WE DON'T CHECK AMERICANS??!! GOD DAMN IT!!"
I'm not done yet. I'm waiting for more. But there's no movement in the courtyard, just the pile of bodies. There's blood everywhere. I didn't mean this -- to stain this place. Over my radio I hear that the Ambassador's secure and OK.
I'm not done. I'm waiting for more movement, more people drawing weapons. There aren't any more.
Then Mounsey's hand is on my shoulder. He's yelling in my ear: "STAND DOWN! STAND DOWN!"
I'm already turning away by then, switching the safety on the rifle, picking the weapon up and walking away. I climb down off the roof, walk out in front of the church, realize I'm shaking, and sit down next to the big tree out front. I lean back against the tree, pulling my rifle close. The SP's are all around me. The screaming is continuing. I know I helped cause some of it.
Mounsey's at my ear again: "You did good, Frank." He pats me on the back, heavily. He's my friend and he wants to know if I'm OK. I'm OK until then.
He walks away a couple of steps, and then the shaking gets really bad. Suddenly I'm crying, I'm sobbing.
I just killed three people. I feel it.
And yet I'm burning with it. Because I know this was why I was here. This is what I was supposed to do. I don't understand why it happened, but....
Now we've got to figure out how the hell they got those guns in here....
(((I want to note that I don't own a gun, and even if I did, my eyes are so bad I could never hit anything with it. I also have almost no training in handling weapons. Almost all the dreams I've had since I started blogging have ended up here, and this one was so vivid and scary it jolted me out of bed at 3:30 a.m and I couldn't get back to sleep. I don't know what it means or much about where it came from or why. But I know I'm not supposed to turn my back on an idea or a story, because you only get so many of them in one life. I'm not in charge, I just live here.)))