"A kind of pressure" intermingled with foreboding.
Cindy, a former history major, witnessed the ways political waves influence the news, but she also bore a profound personal interest in political events. In May, 2000, Casey, the oldest of her four children, had enlisted in the U.S. Army.
Cindy, youth ministry coordinator at her church, on the morning of September 11, woke from a jarring dream:
I had just washed a delicate crystal vase and was putting it on the back of the toilet. I was careful, but it slipped out of my hands and fell into the toilet and broke and glass shattered all over my face. I thought, "Oh, no! Now I'm going to waste the whole day at Kaiser...."
In the next scene, I was escorted out of my office by a firefighter. I was covered with soot, and so was he. I wondered, "What's the big deal," since my office was on the first floor.
Confused, Cindy walked into the living room as her daughter shouted, "Mom, a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center." They watched another plane hit a second Tower. Cindy gasped at firemen evacuating workers from the fiery buildings, a mirror of her dream.
A "horrible feeling" snaked through Cindy -- a fear the events of September 11 would lead to Casey's death. Like the soot covering the firemen, the fallout from September 11 would blanket her, too.
The Sheehans lived in Vacaville, California, populated with military recruiters because of its proximity to Travis Air Force Base. Still, Casey surprised his family when he enlisted and chose the Army. He was a Boy Scout at age six, an altar server two years later, an Eagle Scout, and "faithful to Church and God," Cindy said. "He talked about being a priest, but wanted a wife and family, so he became a deacon."
The Army recruiter promised Casey a $20,000 signing bonus, a chaplain's assistant post, and exclusion from combat because of his high score on the military competency test. The Pentagon would break every pledge.
Cindy wrote in her book Peace Mom Casey's enlistment was "a fact" before she could dissuade him. "He thought he was suppose to," she explained.
Immediately after September 11 and then in the wake of the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan a month later, the dream's memory haunted Cindy. She feared the military would deploy Casey. Instead, he was stationed at Ft. Hood, Texas, with the 82nd Field Artillery Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division.
As Casey's tour of duty neared its end, the U.S. invaded Iraq, and Casey reenlisted. The Sheehans were relieved when Casey, by then a light-wheeled vehicle mechanic, remained in the U.S. But less than a year later, his unit was called up and on March 30, 2004, C Battery arrived at Camp War Eagle outside Baghdad. Its mission -- to secure Sadr City, an 8-mile square section of Baghdad, crowded with 2 million poverty-stricken Iraqis.
Cindy's dream on the morning of September 11, 2001, the shattering of her precious vase, would soon mutate into a real nightmare.
After the fall of Saddam Hussein, Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shi'ite cleric, whose family fought oppression in Iraq for generations, controlled the city named for his father. The cleric provided humanitarian aid and attempted to maintain peace despite the U.S. occupation. But the Bush administration provoked al-Sadr. On April 4, he released his forces, and the Mehdi Army ambushed a U.S. Army patrol in Sadr City.
That morning, Palm Sunday, Casey was an altar server during Mass at Camp Eagle. By dark, Specialist Casey Sheehan was dead.