By the weekend you needed that feeling of isolating worry to go away. After four days of too much news, Washington began to break out, seeking distraction. Three D.C. high school football games were played on Saturday at 11 a.m., and by then the kids who'd lost no one could begin to put Sept. 11 away. Some Anacostia High students had been outside in gym class when the plane hit the Pentagon, and they'd watched smoke from the crash rise over the capital. No, Anacostia coach Willie Stewart said, his players had no problems adjusting to the disaster. "They live in a war zone," he said. "They don't fear a damn thing, these Southeast kids. They hear about stabbings and shootings all the time."
Anacostia took a 14-6 lead over Wilson High in a blessedly normal first half. There was no anthem because the Wilson band had gotten the news too late about the game being moved from Friday to Saturday. There was no moment of silence because no one from Wilson, the host school, seemed to think of it. Stewart took his kids aside beforehand and asked them to remember the children lost and survivors found, but by halftime the 200 fans in the stands were up—yelling because their boys were playing hard, and angry because their coach, Horace Fleming, and one assistant had been ejected for arguing a call. Everyone reasoned that playing these games would help kids return to normalcy. No one counted on its doing the same for the adults. "We need this as much as they do," said Fleming, whose team lost 20-14.
Two hours later, downtown at three-time D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association champ Dunbar High, the bands showed up, a moment of silence was observed and an announcement was made honoring D.C.'s three teachers and three students who had died on the jet that had hit the Pentagon. A five-man color guard marched out, wearing silver helmets and bearing rifles and the U.S., D.C. and Dunbar flags. A scratchy recording of America the Beautiful blared. Planes flew overhead, and they almost looked normal. Boys danced. Dunbar beat Eastern 36-0.
Saturday night, Georgetown Prep receiver Eric Heidenberger played in his team's 35-7 win over Good Counsel, though he hadn't been sure all week if he should. His aunt, Michelle Heidenberger, was a flight attendant on American Flight 77. With the score 7-7, Eric caught a three-yard pass for his first touchdown of the season. You wanted to think that for one instant anyway, his family had a chance to feel good.
But you knew it couldn't last. All weekend a stream of people made its way to a hill overlooking the Pentagon's west wing. Families, couples, friends, tourists, mourners—all came and prayed or took pictures or sat mutely, staring at the massive black cavity in the side of the building.
You saw it, and that helped because it made you angry, and you didn't want anyone to forget. Leaving Virginia, just before reaching the Francis Scott Key Bridge into Georgetown, you saw the sign that someone had painted on the right side of the road: REST IN PEACE VICTIMS OF TERRORISM, flanked by pictures of the dead. It made you feel strange to see all the bikers and joggers cruise past without missing a beat. Part of you wanted them to stop and stare. Part of you wanted them to go faster still, to soak up the gorgeous day and walk, run and pedal for dear life.