People have their own ways of coping with tragedy. Everyone has their own method of dealing with something which shakes them so profoundly, it cannot be easily framed in words.

One of my coping mechanisms is attempting to defy that wordless quality of this sort of thing. Something which has no name is feared, and something which cannot be described in words carries a similar quality: to name something is to control it, and to describe tragedy can, to an extent, be to control its effect.

The following fic is my method of dealing with this. It has several CCS characters reacting to the news of the Sept 11 terrorist attack in character, from a Sakura POV. I'm not posting this for people to enjoy, or C&C on, I'm posting it in the hopes that someone out there gets out of it by reading it what I did by writing it. So here is the WARNING: If you are sensitive to this subject for any reason, feel this is in bad taste, or are trying to avoid the whole matter (like many people I know), then please, DO NOT READ THIS FIC. People who ignore the warnings and flame anyway will be ruthlessly and publicly mocked for all eternity.

_Sand Castles_
Author: Catsy (nekojita )

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Every human being who has ever lived remembers the day they lost their innocence. For some it was a lover, for others a parent, that said or did something that caused them to rethink the naivete of their youth, caused them to question so many of the things they take for granted.

For Sakura Kinomoto it was something far more profound, and it happened at age fifteen.

September 11th, 2001.

Sakura's life depended on routine, on everything being /just so/. The alarm goes off at a certain time, Kero yells at her when she's still not up fifteen minutes later. Clothes are thrown on, and Daddy is downstairs making breakfast. This was the routine, the way things /were/. There were minor variations, but all in all it made Sakura's world a comfortable one.

She knew something was wrong before she even awoke. It wasn't just that Daddy was shaking her awake before her alarm-there was more to it. A general sense of unease permeated the air; she could almost smell the /wrongness/ in her father, Fujitaka. As her eyes slowly came open, she reached out the way Eriol had been teaching her, trying to look, taste, smell, and feel the auras around her. The sense that came from Fujitaka right then nearly sent her reeling back into the world of dreams. Sakura shot bolt upright, rubbing at her eyes.

"Daddy, what is it? What's wrong?"

Fujitaka bit at his lip and looked towards the doorway. "There's something on the news I think you should see. Better for you to see it now while we can talk about it, than hear about it at school."

In all the years she'd grown up knowing her father, Sakura had never seen him this haunted. Even on the subject of her mother's death, Fujitaka's look had been wistful, as if the weight of the loss was vastly outweighed by the heartwarming memories. Doubly so ever since he'd been able to see her again in spirit.

This was different. Taken aback by a fear that she could not pinpoint or name, Sakura followed her father downstairs.

The television was tuned to NHK, and at first Sakura didn't know what she was looking at. A skyline she didn't recognize was almost completely obscured by a haze of smoke, thick and ominously grey. Sakura was instantly reminded of pictures she'd seen, photos of volcanic eruptions. Mount St. Helens, before she was born. Geology class. Where was this train of thought going?

The phone rang.

Kanji flowed across the television, Japanese words describing an implausible movie plot. An indistinct black shape flew in slow motion towards a building, and then flames. Sakura picked up the phone with inexplicably numb hands. "Hello?"

"Are you watching the news?"

"Daddy got me up, Eriol. I don't understand."

A pause. "No, I don't expect that you would. I'll be right over."

"I'm still in my pajamas," Sakura protested. The television screen blanked, and then cut to someone speaking English, with a voiceover and subtitles in Japanese. Something about a plane crash. Sakura's vision blurred.

"Then please ask your father's forgiveness for my intrusion in advance." Sakura began to form a reply, but it died in her throat. A few moments later she realized she was still holding the phone, and a soft repetitive beeping announced that there was nobody on the other end. For the life of her, she couldn't think of why she was still holding it, and she hung the phone up very slowly, deliberately.

Fujitaka gazed softly at his daughter, listening with half an ear to the news broadcast. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"Eriol's coming over." It was someone else's voice, somewhere else. Sakura felt herself form the words, but could not seem to attach herself to them.

Fujitaka nodded. "He would. But that's not what I meant. All this." With 'this', he indicated the TV with a wave of his hand, as if that wave could make it go away. As if that were within the portion of Clow's power he'd been given.

Sakura was crying, and she could not remember when the tears started. "I don't understand." It wasn't the first time that morning she'd said or thought this, and it wouldn't be the last. She looked at the television again. 8:45am EST, in the United States. A few moments of scratching on a notepad gave Sakura the answer of just after midnight on Wednesday morning in Japan. Hours ago. The math was an effort, and she took comfort in the distraction of that effort.

"Sakura."

Sakura looked up at her father. She started to say something, but heard a knock at the door.

Fujitaka got up to answer the door, but Sakura still continued staring straight forward. Her eyes found the TV again, and she stared, unable to take her eyes off the spectacle. Uncountable tons of concrete, glass, and rebar spilled down in a pillowy wave of dust and smoke. It was almost... liquid. Like somebody's sand castle, eroded at the base by the incoming tide until it crumbles.

Yes, a sand castle. Sakura fixed that thought securely in her mind.

"Sakura?" The name was the same, but it wasn't her father calling her this time. Sakura felt her head turning slowly, as if it were on a well-greased but slow hinge. Her vision swam, and when it returned she saw Eriol and Tomoyo standing beside her. Why were they here?

/I'm still in my pajamas,/ Sakura thought firmly. /Daddy's going to be pissed./ She greeted her friends, but again, it was someone else's voice.

Tomoyo leaned over and gave Sakura a big hug. Distantly, Sakura noted that her friend was in her pajamas, too. Now she remembered-Eriol had called, and said he was coming over. He hadn't said anything about picking Tomoyo up in the-she looked at her watch-fifteen minutes that had passed.

"Eriol," Sakura scolded, "what did you do, teleport here?"

"Something like that," Eriol said mildly. "How are you feeling?"

/Disconnected/, Sakura thought in a moment of clarity. /Like it's me in here, but sometimes not me./ "I don't know." She reached up and wiped tears from her eyes; wondered briefly why they were there. And then she looked at the television again. There was a roaring in her ears now, and she felt lightheaded, as if she might float right out of her chair if her legs weren't tucked under the table. And then the roaring was that of waves, as they beat against the wall of denial she'd built up in self defense, and the waves beat, crested-

-broke.

And the Real World came crashing down on Sakura Kinomoto with its full weight.

Fujitaka was there in a heartbeat, cradling Sakura in his arms as she came very close to fainting, starting to slide sideways out of her chair. At first he thought she was having a seizure, but a moment later he realized that the heaving of her chest was that of sobs, great wrenching sobs that tore at his heart just as they tore wordless sound from her throat. Sakura buried her face in her Daddy's chest, and he kissed the back of her head.

For once in all the times he'd seen her with Sakura, Tomoyo did not have a videocamera.

Eriol discreetly turned off the television, and Sakura gradually began to quiet down. Tomoyo pulled up a chair beside Fujitaka and his daughter, and stroked Sakura's hair. Eventually, Sakura turned tear-streaked eyes towards her friends and her father.

"Why?"

Eriol cast his eyes downwards. "You ask one of the most impossible questions to answer. Terrorism is... inexplicable. No rationale, no cause can justify it."

Sakura tried to find words, but they just weren't coming. Every time she started along a train of thought, it derailed for the simple fact that her mind could not wrap itself around the concepts involved. She couldn't even begin to search for answers that she didn't know the questions for. So again, she simply said, "Why?" And this time the word felt cathartic, so she said it again. It was better than pure, gibbering hysteria.

Fujitaka continued to hold Sakura, and Tomoyo continued to run fingers through her hair soothingly. "That's a start," Eriol said. "Why what?"

"Why did they do this? What were they trying to accomplish?" And then it came to Sakura what she really wanted to ask, almost like a revelation. "Why did this happen? If there are people like this, then... what good is having all this power if I can't use it to stop things like this? Not just me... anyone with the power to make a difference. Anytime. What good is it?"

Eriol took a deep breath, and knelt beside the chair that Sakura and Fujitaka were sitting in. For a long time it seemed as if he couldn't think of what to say... he'd start to open his mouth, much as Sakura had before, and then the thoughts would just end there without being voiced, as if he were trying to explain something which just had no explanation. "Let me address your first question. You wanted to know what these people were trying to accomplish." Sakura nodded, and Eriol looked at Sakura pointedly. "Look in the mirror then, Sakura. You, at this very moment, are a living example. Not you specifically, but anyone with a shred of humanity in them. The death and destruction they wrought were not the goal, they were the tool. These people want to make you and I and your neighbors, and people like us in America and every other country, question our lives, the things we take for granted. It is called terrorism because the objective is to create terror."

"It's working," Sakura whispered.

Eriol nodded slowly. "And you also wanted to know what good having power was, if you couldn't use it to prevent something like this." He sighed. "It is regrettable that there are no farseers of Clow's ability in this day and age, but even he most likely would not have seen this coming. The actions of small numbers of individuals, even to the greatest of seers, are all but unfathomable."

"What can I do?" Sakura's voice was almost inaudible at times, but there was a certain quality to it now that bespoke of an attempt at regaining her strength.

Rising to his feet, Eriol held out his hand. "You can get dressed, and go to school. Grieve for the lives lost, but let them go-and move on with your life."

Sakura lifted her gaze to match Eriol's, and found herself reaching towards his hand without thinking. Fujitaka let Sakura up, and smiled. "He's right, Princess. You know that."

"I know." Tomoyo reached out and took Sakura's other hand, eliciting the first smile from her that anyone had seen all morning. The smile was short-lived. "I'll try." She squeezed the hands of her two best friends one last time, and turned to race upstairs and get dressed.

"Sakura." Eriol's voice brought her to a halt at the foot of the stairs.

"Everything will be all right." It was her litany, her prayer, her magic phrase.

Sakura shook her head, and the bitter, sad smile on Sakura's face did not touch her eyes.

"No, Eriol. It will never be all right again."

Eriol listened to Sakura hurry upstairs with an indescribable ache in his chest. He took off his glasses and rubbed them clear with a napkin; they were beginning to fog up. Tomoyo gave him a speculative look out of the corner of her eye.

"We shall see," Eriol said quietly. "We shall see."