Why NPR Avoided My Fictional Story involving Al-Qaeda: Was it all too real—too politically sensitive?
In May of 2012, I submitted an entry to NPR’s (National Public Radio) 3-Minute fiction contest. In the contest, writers have to tell a complete story in 600 words or less, based on suggested subject matter.
While I cannot be completely certain, recent Al-Qaeda alerts, and concerns about Osama Bin Laden’s number two, and now number one, Dr. Ayman al–Zawahiri gives me a clue as to why NPR likely wanted nothing to do with my story. Was the very first sentence too sensitive and explosive? I continue to ask them but, more than a year later, have yet to receive a response. Read the story and decide for yourself.
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He was dead. Bin Laden’s successor, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri was dead. President John Gregg, 41, married in a glitzy White House ceremony on Inaugural Night, addressed the nation hours before polls would open in his re-election bid. Considering his sterling national security credentials, this was the coup de grâce for his opponent.
Sporting a dark-blue suit, open collar, dark strands falling over his face, Gregg earlier emerged from eight hours in the situation room with his national security team. He spoke from the East Room where President Obama announced the Seal Team 6 killing of Bin Laden.
While Zawahiri was not universally familiar to Americans, his oft-repeated labeling as Bin Laden’s successor, and his recently thwarted terrorist plans in the U.S. resonated. He was killed resisting capture by U.S. forces, 75 kilometers from Peshawar, situated near the eastern end of the Khyber Pass.
The President turned left, off the East Room’s red carpet runner, and face to face with firebrand Chief of Staff, Brad Meltzer.
“We have to get to Walter Reed Medical now, Mr. President. First Lady is in full-blown labor. If we hurry, we’ll get there in time. Marine One is waiting. Klayford can handle the press. Hell, they’re probably already there.”
Earlier updates from Meltzer were reassuring. Within ten minutes, the President, Meltzer, and the Secret Service detail were airborne. In a diversion, several black SUV’s departed the White House gate, en route to nowhere.
Marine One landed. The President alighted, rotors still whirling, and bolted for the roof door. Meltzer and agents scurried to keep up. On the secured floor, all were met by the Administrator, and the Chief Nurse. Handshakes were followed by an update from the nurse. The First Lady’s labor was described as “atypically brief.” Mother and child were stable. That word brought a response from the President.
“Medical-ese, sir. Both are fine. The baby…the baby is undergoing routine tests.”
The entourage reached the First Lady’s suite, already cleared by agents. The nurse donned a mask, and handed one to the President. The others were directed nearby to wait.
Upon entering, The First Lady appeared asleep. The nurse directed the President to the lavatory where he washed and returned. He approached his wife’s bed, barely containing his joy. She flashed a faint smile then closed her eyes. Gregg saw tears wind down her cheeks. He removed the mask, leaned down, softly kissed her lips, her brow, and gently brushed away her tears.
“I’m…I’m so sorry,” Pamela whispered.
“Sorry? I’m sorry I wasn’t here earlier. Forgive me, sweetheart.”
The door opened. A smock-clad nurse entered, cradling the infant. The head nurse motioned the President to a bedside chair. The second nurse introduced him to the First Son, Kyle. Gregg’s chest swelled. His eyes teared. The nurse gently placed baby Kyle in his arms.
The First Father gazed at the miracle he held, and saw his beautiful son. As the nurses quietly exited, Gregg quietly observed the upward and outward slant of his son’s eyes; a fold of skin on the inner side; the narrow and short slits; the face’s flat appearance, and he knew. Despite negative pre-natal Downs Syndrome tests, the characteristics were clear.
Then a smile. The President saw his son flash the most beautiful smile he had ever seen. Overcome, Gregg planted a long kiss on his son’s brow then turned to his wife—his voice filled with emotion.
“He is so beautiful. He is truly our blessing. Don’t be sorry—ever. Be happy. Happy. You now have two men who love you unconditionally. I love you. We love you.”
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