…like the thought of my death, it burns in my private heart with a tiny, brutalizing flame.

When Shiranzai, with four of his men, reached the lane where the man was still wandering, they parked more than a block away and pointed their rifles at him. “He had a wild look in his eyes,” Shiranzai told me. “We understood from the way he was pacing, and from the expression on his face, that he was really feeling crazy.” After a brief exchange of fire, the attacker scaled a wall, then leapt onto the roof of a house. From there he shot with reckless imprecision at the officers. When he threw a hand grenade at them, it landed and rolled harmlessly down the street. He had neglected to pull the pin. Eventually, the attacker jumped from the roof into the backyard, where an officer shot him in the head. Later Shiranzai told me: “Something I’ve been surprised to learn is that these men, who are planning to blow themselves up, always become frightened when you open fire on them. As soon as the shooting starts, the suicider runs and hides. He doesn’t want to be shot. He is here to die, but he is scared of bullets. It’s strange.” [emphasis added]

The question of suicide was even more problematic. There is no theological support for such an action in Islam; indeed, it is expressly prohibited. “Do not kill yourselves,” the Quran states. The hadith, or sayings of the Prophet, are replete with instances in which Mohammed condemns the action. The specific punishment for the suicide is to burn in hell and to be forever in act of dying by means of the same instrument that was used to take his life. Even was one of his bravest warriors was severely wounded in battle and hurled himself upon his own sword only to relieve his terrible suffering, Mohammed declared that he was damned. “A man may do the deeds of the people of the Fire while in fact he is one of the people of Paradise, and he may do the deeds of the people of Paradise when in fact he belongs to the people of Fire,” the Prophet observed. “Verify, (the rewards of) the deeds are decided by the last actions.”

In his defense of the bombing, Zawahiri had to overcome this profound taboo. The bombers who carried out the Islamabad operation, Zawahiri said, represent “a generation of mujahideen that has decided to sacrifice itself and its property in the cause of God. That is because the way of death and martyrdom is a weapon thaqt tyrants and their helpers, who worship their salaries instead of God, do not have.” He compared them to the martyrs of early Christianisty. The only example he could point to in Islamic tradition was that of a group of Muslims, early in the history of the faith, who were captured by “idolaters” and forced to choose between recanting their religion or being killed by their captors. They choose to become martrys to their beliefs.

It was, Zawahiri argued, a suicidal choice. Other Muslims did not condemn them at the time because they were acting for the glory of God and the greater good of Islam. Therefore, anyone who gives his life in pursuit of the true faith – such as the bombers in Islamabad – is to be regarded not as a suicide who will suffer the punishment in hell but as a heroic martyr whose selfless sacrifice will gain him an extraordinary reward in Paradise.

With such sophistry, Zawahiri reversed the language of the Prophet and opened the door to universal murder.

It is better for aged diplomats to be bored than for young men to die.

How would you feel if you killed another person? And if, further, you were a seventeen-year-old girl and the person you killed was the boy you thought you were in love with? Of course I wished it had been me instead. Of course, I thought of taking my own life. Of course I thought I would never know peace or happiness again, I would never be forgiven, I should never be forgiven. Of course.

To open the oyster shell – it is an agonizing pain. I am haunted by what I did, and yet I can hardly stand to think about the specifics. There were so many terrible moments, a lifetime of terrible moments, really, which is not the same as a terrible lifetime. But surely, surely, the moments right after it happened were the worst.

If I said now that not a day passes when I don’t think of the accident, of Andrew, it would be both true and not true. Occasionally, days go by when his name is nowhere on my tongue or in my mind, when I do not recall him walking away from me toward football practice in his jersey, his helmet at his side. Yet all the time, the accident is with me. It flows in my veins, it beats along with my heart, it is my skin and hair, my lungs and liver. Andrew died, I caused his death, and then, like a lover, I took him inside me.

We both were smiling; every reference one of us made the other would get, every remark was a joke or compliment, and I suddenly though, Flirting.

Then – I couldn’t help it – I said, “Why did you go steady with Dena?”

“Because I was eleven years old.” He still was smiling. “I didn’t know better.”

“But you kept going steady with her. For four years!”

“Were you jealous?”

“I thought it was” – I paused – “odd.”

“When Dena was my girlfriend,” he said, “it meant I got to spend time around with you.”

Was he teasing? “If that’s true, it’s not very nice to Dena,” I said.

“Alice!” He seemed both amused and genuinely concerned that he’d displeased me.

I looked at the ground. What was I trying to express, anyway? The important thing I’d been planning all week to say when Andrew and I were alone – it was eluding me.

“What about this?” he said. “What if I try to be nicer from now on?”

Looking up, I said, “I’ll try to be nicer, too.”

He laughed. “You’ve always been nice.” There was a pause, and then he asked, “Is that a heart?” He reached forward and lifted the silver pendant on my necklace, holding it lightly, the tips of his fingers grazing the hollow of my clavicle.

“My grandmother gave it to me for my sixteenth birthday,” I said.

“It’s pretty.” He set the pendant back against my neck. “I should probably go to practice so I don’t get yelled at. If I don’t see you tomorrow after the game, you’ll be at Fred’s on Saturday, right?”

I nodded. “Will it be more a party where people come on time or later?”

“I’ll leave my house about seven-thirty. You should come then, too.” Andrew was unusually direct, especially for a boy in high school; I think it came from an understated confidence. When I got to college, the guys and girls seemed to play such games, the girl waiting a certain number of days to return a phone call, or the guy calling only after the girl didn’t talk to him at a party or he saw her out with someone else. But maybe, unlike those boys and girls in college, Andrew genuinely liked me. Then I think no, maybe he didn’t. Maybe, because of what occurred later, I invented for us a great love; I have been granted the terrible privilege of deciding what would have happened with no one left to contradict me. And maybe I am absolutely wrong.

After we said goodbye, I turned around, watching for a second as he walked toward the bleachers beyond which were the track and the football field: his light brown hair, his moderately broad shoulders further broadened by shoulder pads, his tan golden-haired calves emerging from those pants that stopped well before his ankles. When you are a high school girl, there is nothing more miraculous than a high school boy.

And despite my concern that I am manipulating the past, whenever I doubt that Andrew had feelings for me and that those feelings would have grown over time, that we had finally reached an age when something real could unfold between us, I think back to him examining my necklace, holding the pendant and asking what it was. That was obviously just an excuse to touch me. After all, everyone knows what a heart is.

If a mandarinate ruled America, the recruiting committee on September 11 would have had to find someone like Cheney. “I don’t want to get too poetic about this, but it’s almost as if his whole life had been a preparation for this moment in history,” said Jack Kemp, who used to be a future vice president himself. Scooter Libby quoted that line, too, giving credit to Winston Churchill. Cheney professed no knowledge of fate. He had some acquaintance, though, with force and counterforce. Al Qaeda having struck on his watch, Cheney made clear by word and deed that he would take a leading role in the nation’s reply. So, too, did Libby and Addington. The three of them simply knew what had to be done, a considerable advantage in the debate that would soon follow.

She went on in her overalls. She was too busy feeling grief to dress like grief.

In the midst of life, death is a misstep away.

He was bad at the business of life, which is letting go.

“Write my words.” Qutb responded, “My words will be stronger if they kill me.”

Sayyid Qutb was hanged after dawn prayers on August 29, 1966.