Someone Find Me Turtledove
On the night the Iraq war started, a group of people from my school went to hold a candlelight vigil in front of the Dayton Federal Building. I got there at around 1AM. Roughly the only other person around was the building's security guard, who was generally friendly. After a little while, a local news team parked nearby. The security guard came up to us and said "I just thought you guys should know, Kuwait City has been gassed."
I know now that he was mishearing news reports. A fake missle was dropped into Kuwait City as a gas drill. I suspect he heard the end of that news on the radio, and out he came to talk to the peaceniks. But at the time, it felt like a sucker punch. Was everything I had believed so wrong? Were so many people dead? I felt like just packing it up, going home, and maybe voting Republican next time around. Okay, maybe not the voting thing.
Some students went over to ask the reporter if she had heard anything of the sort. She had not, but since she hadn't heard anything not saying it, it was a slow comedown from the moments of panic. I still feel it occasionally. The moment of complete and utter wrongness still shows up when I think about it.
I wonder about that alternate history sometimes. In it, did the US fight a longer, more brutal war and emerge victorious, with no need for occupation? Sometimes I think that the administration and media live in that reality, and have mystically appeared in ours.