Chapter 29: Epilogue
December 28, 1 p.m.:
Tony was on his knees, and regretting having worn his best suit today. Except that this was the day, of any day, to wear it. "Yeah, McGee," he said into the phone. "How can I tell which cable goes where?"
"DiNozzo—David—let's go." Gibbs' tone was as quiet and somber as the dark suit he wore.
"It's time? Okay; coming, boss." Tony and Ziva looked up from the replacement computers they were installing in the squad room; looked, by habit at the wall clocks, then at their watches. They still didn't have replacements for the wall clocks yet; these were frozen at the time the e-bomb had gone off. Most of the electrical equipment at NCIS, nearly everything that had been plugged in, was a loss, and it would be weeks before all equipment would be replaced and up and running. Tony put on his suit coat. They'd hoped that by staying busy they'd feel less depressed, but it wasn't working out entirely that way.
Now two days after the Army National Guard arrived on M Street, the people of NCIS were set to join the Navy Yard's other residents and the members of the Anacostia Naval Station for a service under large, striped tents erected over the largest parking lot; the only area in the Yard big enough to hold the expected crowd. The weather was a bit chilly, but dry. That was more than could be said for most people's eyes.
The President had declared this day a 'national day of mourning' after the horrendous event which had quickly been dubbed Our Second 9/11. Federal and most other governmental employees, and some private sector employees, were given the day off. Perhaps many of those employees far removed from Washington looked upon the day as nothing more than an extension of the New Year's holiday. For those close to the District, the attack was an unwitnessed event that could have taken place in their own back yard.
For the Navy Yard employees, it was a day acknowledging their personal losses; something they greatly needed.
The men and women of NCIS wore dark, solemn colors which matched the sobriety of the military uniforms. Having the event outside meant that it would stay fairly short, it was hoped.
Big mucky-muck visitors to the remembrance event were many: congressmen, other political leaders, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, some foreign dignitaries—it was rumored that even the President might show up. The apologies that congressmen made for diverting the National Guard for a day to guard parts of Washington that were not in danger fell hollowly. Everyone in the audience knew that lives could have been saved if the Guard had been allowed to come when they were expected. In a way it was unnerving and frustrating for the Navy Yard people: these visitors hadn't lived through it. They didn't know. To get closure, the Yard people needed something just for themselves, without the outsiders who felt they had to be there and make a statement, or at least be shown waving the flag, so to speak. To many of the Yard employees, those people were intruders, and they didn't want this remembrance service to be something to be endured.
Short speech after short speech praised the bravery and heroics of the men and women of the historic Yard, the nation's oldest shipbuilding facility. Just as the news media had already carried the names and the pictures of the dead, over and over in the newscasts, so the speeches here remembered them, and the numbers were staggering: eleven dead from the Marines, four from the Navy, and sixteen from NCIS.
It was bad enough that some of their number were unable to attend, being in the hospital. Jimmy's condition had been upgraded to fair; his recovery would be slow, but he would recover. Tim gnashed his teeth and lamented his confinement after minor surgery that would keep him in there for another few days. They were the only NCISers still in the hospital; another three were convalescing at home. Grief counselors had already started attending to all of the NCIS employees; they would be there for weeks.
As the service ended, Jenny looked at Gibbs, next to her, and smiled slightly as he touched her hand in reassurance. She already knew that the months ahead would be hell, but the recovery began here, today.
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Within a day, the funerals began. Jenny and a string of volunteers attended whatever funerals they could; she saw to it that each one had at least one NCISer in attendance. Not one family faulted NCIS for allowing their loved one to be put in danger. They all knew well the dedication the agents had for their job.
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January 4, 10 a.m.
A week after the Navy Yard service, Jenny, Gibbs' team (including Tim, reluctantly permitted by his doctor to travel), and other NCISers from HQ attended the memorial service for the fallen CRFO agents in Glynco, Georgia. Nine of NCIS' dead had been with the CRFO. This service was more like what the Yard employees wanted: closed to outsiders, although attendees included several staff and students from nearby FLETC, and of course, the families.
Ziva's throat caught at the sight of agent Rhonda Schofield's older daughter, probably no more than ten or eleven, gravely accepting a folded flag from the head of the CRFO. Her little sister—the one whose birthday party her mother had cried over missing—clung to her Naval officer father's leg. All of the dead honored here had something similar; something powerful in their lives, even if it was just being remembered for being a decent person who loved dogs and always bought whatever candy the neighborhood kids were selling. Ordinary people; that was the best thing about them.
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Over the next several months, NCIS got only a fraction of its normal work done, due to the enormous work put in for the recovery. Equipment replacement costs at HQ were mind-numbing, but a sympathetic Congress gave Jenny near carte blanche to bring things back to normal.
Jenny found a new Intel head in one Janet Sorenson; freshly retired from the Navy. Tim had been arm-twisted into being Acting Head of Intel for two and a half weeks, and was very glad to have Sorenson take over. She was down-to-earth and friendly. The search to replace Conklin in MTAC took longer, but finally came up with a 25-year agent named Barnard Flynn. Flynn was calm and thoughtful, and would probably work out.
Conklin himself had been sent, as Gibbs predicted, to Gitmo quickly. Along with him went Private Hart, the Marine guard who'd raised Abby's suspicions by being on door duty so much. Having heard of Conklin's capture, Hart decided to confess that he'd been paid off to let some people in and out without signing the log; hoping a confession would make things go easier on him.
Jenny still needed agents to fill in the gaps left by the tragedy. She assessed the numbers over and over. Faith (not considered one of the sixteen, as Zelig was not, either) would not be replaced at Intel, at least not for the time being. Two surviving agents had filed for retirement; talked into it by their families. Jenny put out a call to all the other agents around the world for volunteers for a six-month detail to HQ or the CRFO. Figuring that they could get by with four volunteers at HQ and five at the CRFO, she knew she'd settle for three and four, respectively. If she needed to, she'd beg recent early-retirees to come back for a few months. Any of it was asking a lot, though, for people to uproot their lives for up to half a year. She expected to get eight to ten volunteers, altogether.
She got fifty-six.
The FBI, the CIA, and other parts of Homeland Security joined in a thorough inspection of NCIS' methods and people, at Congress' request. Jenny bore the brunt of the charges and the accusations, but kept her head held high, winning her peoples' hearts. In the end, little fault was found at the agency—it was the sort of thing that could have happened anywhere, Congress acknowledged. NCIS just happened to be where the terrorists hit. In fact, Congress' final report, issued the next year, praised NCIS for its courageous actions. "No other group of civilian federal employees could have done more in a war-like setting," said one part of the report.
Eventually the truth came out about Zelig and Faith. Faith had been born in Turkey under a different name, and come to the US at an early age with her family. She wasn't the only one in her family to have gone the double agent route; her family kept the CIA busy for over three years. The real Charles Zelig had died as an infant; a clever young man who had learned English very well had been recruited from Afghanistan and given a well-built-up identity. His five years of work with NCIS had been a slow but necessary build-up in responsibility. "Zelig" had indeed recruited Faith. The investigators could only guess that Faith had expected to be paid well, and then flee the country.
The best news came in March, when a naval inspection team finished going over the Barry and declared that it could be repaired for not too great a sum. Loving symbolism, Congress readily appropriated the necessary money. It would mean so much more to have the Barry repaired than have it replaced with another ship.
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June 24, 5 p.m.:
"Hey, Palmer; you coming or not?" Tim called from the edge of the park, across Sicard Street from the NCIS building. Jimmy was loosely considered a hero by many, and a space would be saved for him up front.
"Yes, get a move on, Jimmy!" Abby said, grinning.
"Go on, Jimmy; don't keep your friends waiting," Ducky said to him as they stood just outside the NCIS door. Jimmy smiled in some disbelief and ran over to join Tim, Abby and the rest.
Six months from the day of the first attack, at approximately the time the attack started, a different service was held in the Navy Yard on a beautiful early summer day. This was for only the Navy Yard people. An uncluttered granite marker, with the names of the thirty-one dead, would be unveiled in Willard Park.
The speeches today, the memories spoken, were all from the heart. No one could hear the stories and not be affected. The agents on the six-month details, including Stan Burley and Richard Owens, could only listen in wonder. There was so much that they'd heard in their time in Washington, but each new story brought out new details. The two new agents just out of FLETC were appropriately green but eager, and humbled by the ceremony. A class had just started at FLETC, and by the end of the year NCIS would be fully staffed again.
The ceremony ended with a scent of flowers in the wind. The tears were still there, but the grief was getting bearable.
"It's almost 6," said Tony. "I'm willing to put in a little more time on the Dickenson case tonight; what about it?"
"Fine with me," said Tim.
"And with me," said Ziva. After something like this service, they were reluctant to part. Such an experience as they'd gone through, in those three days back in December, had brought them closer. Arm in arm they went back inside their building.
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