The Newport Daily News was late. Normally, it showed up on our front door around three in the afternoon, but today it didn't appear until six. As soon as I saw the front page, I understood why.
Normally, they put the Daily News to bed around nine in the morning. The Event would have occurred while they were in the process of printing it out and getting ready to ship it to the various newsstands and convenience stores. The Managing Editor had evidently decided to shut down the original print run, gather up as much news of the Event as she could, and put out a delayed edition of the paper. I like to imagine that she ran into the press room and shouted, "Stop the presses!"
So here, in my hands, was the first solid news I had of what had happened here in Newport. I read about the four thousand estimated missing children and the thousand estimated missing adults. I read about the seven crashed vehicles, and the seven vehicles whose passengers had taken control of them when the drivers vanished. I found out that all seven members of the City Council were present and accounted for, along with our state representative, state senator, and all the statewide elected officials. There had also been two crashes by driverless cars in the neighboring town of Middletown, and another one in the town of Portsmouth. There were no official figures for the number of people who had disappeared in the state, but it was estimated that out of about a million people, 150,000 children under twelve had vanished, along with about 40,000 people twelve and above. The accidents on Interstate 95 had been worse than here in Newport, because so many cars had been traveling above 50 mph when their drivers vanished. Nevertheless, the interstates had remained open, though sometimes reduced to one or two lanes.
There was an editorial that basically said that nobody knows what's going on yet, but there was still hope that somebody would figure out a way to get all the missing people back, or that whatever made them vanish might cause them to reappear.
Probably the saddest part of the paper, ironically, was the comics. A lot of the strips had main characters under twelve: "For Better or For Worse", "Baby Blues", "Family Circus", "Sally Forth". Would they be discontinued? Would they pretend the Event hadn't happened and keep all the under-twelve characters? Would they write the Event into their storylines? I could imagine Lynn Johnston, at least, doing the latter.
And if it was true for the comics, it was also true for the rest of popular culture. The Event, I was starting to realize, was going to leave a permanent psychic scar on the human race, even if nothing else bad happened to us. A hundred thousand years from now, assuming humanity survived that long, the Event would still haunt us.
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