On the evening of March 20, 2003 I was working as a field researcher for a UIC/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation health study. My job was to go door to door to the addresses randomly chosen for the study and conduct a 30-minute interview with residents, for which they were paid $50. I kept a packet of money envelopes in my backpack for this purpose. Nearly everyone I met during the study was surprised when they found out I was walking around with all this money. But I didn’t feel any particular worry about it; after all, no one would have guessed it was there.
That evening I was sitting on someone’s couch, conducting an interview. The man I was interviewing sat across from me in an easy chair, and between us was a TV set. It was on but the sound was down low. We were right in the middle of the interview (“About how many times in the past month have you missed work due to illness?”) when we both noticed, more or less simultaneously, that the TV program had been interrupted by a live news report. An aerial view showed Lake Shore Drive completely shut down, overrun with protesters. The man and I shook our heads in disbelief. I had heard there was going to be an anti-war protest, but the sight of Lake Shore Drive flooded with people was stunning, beyond anything I had pictured. Though we were distracted, we finished the interview and I gave the man his money.
I remember thinking that evening, as I took the bus home, that even the spectacle of thousands of protesters snarling traffic on one of Chicago’s busiest thoroughfares, joining hundreds of other demonstrations all over the country–that even all that would have no effect on stopping the war. The war was moving forward as planned; the administration was dead set on invading Iraq, and there was literally nothing to be done. So many lives were going to be lost. So many billions of dollars were going to be spent. And there was nothing to be done. Except wait. Wait for the day to come when people would shake their heads in stupid regret over another unnecessary war.