It doesn't take someone skilled in dream analysis to explain the nightmare that woke me this morning.
The scene was far northwest Oklahoma City, a few years ago, before developers started building new subdivisions out that direction. At the time there was a small feed store near Portland (State Highway 74) and Edmond Road. It was an old place, reminiscent of a 1940s family grocery store. The roof ridge was adorned with the old saddles of once-loved horses who had gone to the big ranch in the sky. Colorful grain signs decorated the sides and advertised the wares within.
In the dream, chaos overtook this bucolic setting. Where horsemen's boots normally crunched across the gravel parking lot, emergency workers were trying to contain spilled diesel fuel.
The late afternoon sky was filled with smoke and the sound of endless sirens.
The roof of the feed store, once a testament to a rural lifestyle, now was pierced by the cockpit of a passenger jet. The plane was snapped at an angle; the front part pushing through the building and resting on the ground, the tail still high in the air, showing the angle at which the plane hit the building.
The point that puzzled me, even in my sleep, was the lack of people around the scene. Of course all those in the plane had been killed, as had anyone who had been on the ground. But in the aftermath, the only people present were a cleanup crew of about a dozen men, a couple of nearby property owners who just happened to be passing by, and a photographer from the newspaper, who was parked on Portland right in front of me. The photographer, Doug, and I have known each other since college days.
There were no other spectators, no television news crews, no helicopters or police.
The cleanup crew seemed to include firemen and oilfield experts. One burly guy used a giant grader to build a berm to contain the jet fuel while others brought in hoses to siphon it off. A few bulldozers were along the periphery, ready to remove contaminated soil.
I remember standing on the roadway, leaning against the hood of my car, watching Doug shoot a few photos. I was surprised at his casual approach -- he was staying at his car rather than moving closer to the action, which is not like any of the news photographers I know. It was as if he were shooting snapshots for a personal photo album.
The grader moved off to the west side of the scene as the team moved in closer with hoses and other equipment. A man with a bullhorn was narrating the action and directing the work. The workers moved almost mechanically, like they did this every day.
Just as they moved in, under the belly of the elevated part of the plane, the narrator's voice came over the bullhorn and calmly said "Gentlemen, an explosion is imminent. The fuel line has ignited."
At that statement, all the men in fire suits formed a tighter mass, futilely trying to put foam where the fuel had sparked. With the whole crew now in one small area, an electric blue fireball engulfed an area covering several acres.
A blinding white mushroom cloud followed the initial blast, filling the blue and purple sky. In a matter of moments the sky returned to its usual appearance, but nothing else was as it had been.
Now, the earth was barren and cratered. There was no evidence of anything that had been there two minutes earlier. There was no fire, no smoke. No building, no plane.
Even Doug was gone, as was his car.
The few land owners who saw what happened ran to the dusty brown crater to search for the wounded and dead. It was a pointless search as everything simply evaporated.
I noticed a figure moving west of the crash site -- it was the grader operator. I ran across the highway to see if he was injured. Physically he was fine, but he fell to the ground, sobbing. I joined him.
There was nothing more we could do; the alarm clock was playing Alan Jackson's "Where Were You When the Earth Stopped Turning?"