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There Once Was a Base…

Postcard from Moffett Field, California

By Reva P. Minkoff

For the past six weeks I have been living on a military base. I am protected by police cars patrolling at all times; secured by barbed wire fences. To enter the base, one must pass through a guard booth and show the armed guard a driver’s license (if driving) or another form of government recognized identification. Once inside, speeding fines are tripled on federal property.

Moffett Field was a thriving military base decades ago, serving as an airfield and housing planes, blimps and soldiers alike. Since then, however, it has turned into a mixture of abandoned asbestos-filled buildings, cracked tennis courts, and an abandoned bowling alley juxtaposed against beautiful homes available for rent to military families, the world’s largest wind tunnel, and, of course, a McDonalds.

Then there are us, the interns from Google and NASA, with a few interns from other companies mixed in, living in the “NASA Exchange Lodge.” We are the outsiders; looking in on a world that few if any of us were familiar with before.

We laugh at the McDonalds, which closes by 7 p.m. every night. Then we watch as it comes to life on the weekends, when military personnel come home to visit their families. The pool became the apparent loud and vibrant social center for this group last Saturday, while several weeks ago, a ceremony was held on the main quadrangle featuring bagpipes, a band, and squadrons marching in rank and file.

Living here, in this small abyss, I have begun to think differently about the military and military life. In this cornucopia of students from different schools and backgrounds, we share a common patio, essentially the only place we can get wireless internet access, and a common experience. While work has kept me busy and isolated from news of the outside world, the fact of the war in Iraq remains. And each time I walk, drive or bike past the village for military families, with nearly every house sporting a U.S. flag, the news takes on a different meaning.

Looking at these houses and families with young children playing outside everyday, I hope this village of color never has even one house adorned in black. I don’t naively suppose this has not already happened, but living on this base 3,000 miles from home, I want to see it alive again. I want to see the asbestos-filled buildings torn down and replaced by more houses and building complexes. I want wireless Internet access from my room. Above all, I want the constant color and light that these soldiers clearly bring to their families.

I bike to work at Google, where everything is new and cheerful. But I come back to what sometimes feels like an abandoned village left to rot away. The interns have brought it to light. We have created a community for ourselves that is constantly alive and vibrant. But in the winter, when we are gone and that light has gone away, I hope the casualty count is down, the soldiers are home, and color and life have returned permanently to this ghost town I have chosen to call home for the summer.

Reva P. Minkoff ’08, a Crimson editorial editor and former Crimson Staff Director, is a government concentrator in Pforzheimer House. She is working for Google this summer in a building about two miles away from the main gate of Moffett Field.

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