TEOTWAWKI: The Long Walk Home: ch.7 “The First Recon”
The lights went out about six and a half hours ago, and the airplanes began crashing to the ground within a couple of minutes. Plumes of fire and smoke rose from the four crashed airliners in our immediate vicinity casting eerie shadows in every direction in the gathering darkness, but closer to DFW, and around the whole metroplex in every direction, numerous fires were boiling heavenward as funeral pyres of the airliners that had not survived the disaster. The abandoned cars and trucks in the parking lot and on the street in front of the data center where I worked also testified to the mysterious power of the EMP blast that had apparently stricken our country. No radio, no TV, no internet, no communications drove home the point that we had reentered the 19th century and may be heading for the 13th century quickly.
Everyone else had left the data center over two hours ago. Besides myself there remained my patrol officer, Liz, and a friend, John, with whom I had had many talks about surviving a disaster of this nature. We had elected to stay until about midnight when the moon would come up rather than move out with the herd of people who would be walking home on the highways in the afternoon and early evening. I preferred to avoid the herd when possible and use the cover of darkness to E&E my way back home. But home was still about 28 miles away for me, closer to 35 for Liz and 45 for John. It was going to be a long walk home for all of us.
And cold. Tonight’s forecast called for a low in the lower twenties with no clouds. Tomorrow they had said there was a strong probability of snow or ice. This would make for our third winter storm in three weeks in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Can you say hello to “global warming?” This was our fourth bad winter in a row; it looked more like the Ice Age because even the summers were cooler now after that blistering summer of ’09. With the setting of the sun about an hour ago, the temp was already dropping noticeably.
After watching all of our approximately 60-70 co-workers depart, except for poor, dead Jared, now sitting in his car (since nobody wanted to bury him), the three of us had conducted an inventory of what gear, food and supplies we had. Then we went through the data center collecting supplies from the first aid kits and a bit of food left in the kitchen. Now we were sitting out in front of our building watching the end of our world.
The fires from the downed jets around us were spreading, and that was of some concern. I wanted to take a nap this evening before we set out on our journey, but not if there was danger of a fire in our building. It wasn’t the fire across the street in the shopping center, nor the fire two blocks north that bothered me. The jet that crashed just south of us was my main concern.
“Hey, before we get surprised by a fire, let’s do a recon to the south side of the building and make sure we’re safe ,” I said to John. John, also prior military, agreed.
“Liz, you coming?” I asked.
“Sure,” she said as she nervously lit another cigarette, “ain’t nothin’ else to do and I’m not stayin’ here by myself.”
We shut the door on the way out and headed around the building. I chambered a round in my SKS and placed the rifle on safe.
Because what little breeze there was was coming from the west now, the smoke was not as bad as it had been earlier. As we approached the south side of our building we could see that the 747 had crashed just past the building on the highway just as Jim and Andy had told us earlier. The fire was still intense, and had spread to some buildings southeast of our building and across the highway, but there did not seem to be any danger of fire here, despite some of the trees and shrubs between the parking lot and highway being scorched. We did see a lot of damage in the parking lot from pieces of the jet that had exploded on impact and from the fire. Some of the cars clearly had heat damage but apparently nothing on this side of the highway was on fire. All the glass was shattered on this side of the building and several cars were hit by pieces of the exploding jet.
We saw no people initially.
But then we heard a cry mixed with a moan.
“What was that?” asked Liz.
We turned back to a car that had been almost crushed by a piece of the jet. It was a Mini-Cooper and it looked like a crushed Coke Can with a huge piece of aircraft resting on top. Inside, incredibly, was a person trapped and alive. The woman was seriously injured but conscious.
“Hello!? Can you move? Can you tell us how badly you are hurt?” John hollered into the car while we both shone our flashlights inside.
A groan came out first, then, weakly, “Yeah, I’m hurt bad. I can’t move at all. I think my legs are broken and my right arm and shoulder. Ohhhhh God, can you get me out of here? Please help me, please…I don’t wanna’ die! Where is ever-body?”
“What’s your name ma’am?”
“Takeisha, I’m Takeisha. Oohhhhh God it hurts. Can you give me anything for the pain? Please, I hurt all over.”
She was sobbing and coughing and fading in and out it seemed, as she struggled to talk to us.
From the looks of things this big, heavy chunk of aircraft had crushed the roof, windshield and hood of the car down onto Takeisha, pinning her inside. The steering wheel had plowed into her legs, giving her compound fractures of both fenurs . The roof caved in more on her right side and was crushing her right shoulder and arm; her arm was also cut wide open with bone exposed. Her head and face were all cut up from the glass; there was more blood all over that car than I cared to ever see again.
We began trying to open the driver’s side door but it was so warped that it wouldn’t budge. The window had popped out and shattered so we could reach the young lady but every time we tried to tug her free she shrieked in agony without moving an inch.
“Look, this isn’t working,” I said. “We can’t get her out this way.”
“If we could get something to pry open the door maybe we could get her out,” Liz said.
“OK, I can go back to the chiller plant and see if they have any pry bars and then I’ll come back. Y’all watch her and try to comfort her while I’m gone.”
“OK, sure” John and Liz agreed.
I started walking back to our side of the building at a brisk pace until I reached the door to the Central Plant. I thought I had seen a pry bar in there at some point months ago. Sure enough, I found it in the northwest corner of the plant, and a crow bar alongside it. I hoisted both heavy steel bars on my shoulder and made the return trip to the accident site.
Takeisha was out at the moment which helped us as John and I started trying to pry open her door. We pulled and we pried and succeeded in bending some of the metal here and there, but the crushed door would not open. The injured woman woke up after about twenty minutes of our strenuous but fruitless efforts and she started moaning and crying out in agony again. Liz tried comforting her but to no avail.
We continued working on getting her out by reaching through the shattered window and trying to pry up the steering wheel that was crushing her legs. We got it up a bit but not enough to free her. We worked until about an hour had passed and realized, we just could not get her out. She was passed out again and breathing very shallow, her pulse was very fast but weak.
“Guys, we need to step over here and talk,” I said.
“Look, I don’t think we are able to get her out of the car with what we have. She is still losing blood and even if we get her out of the car, what are we going to do with her? Call 911? I don’t know what to do.”
Liz said, “Well we can’t just leave her here to die!”
But John interjected, “But that might be our only option. We all have families that we have to get home to, and this walk home is going to take 2-3 days. I think she is gonna die regardless of what we do here.”
“John, I am afraid you’re right. It’s obvious that we have tried our best and failed. It is miles to the nearest hospital and they are likely out of power like everyone else. There just is nothing we can do.”
Liz began to sob. “We can’t just leave her to die. It’s not right!”
I hated this dilemma, I hated the war that had brought us to this place, and I wanted to go home. “Liz, look, just across this highway is a 747 that crashed. There are likely injured people all over the place around here that need help. We can help someone maybe, but not this one. She’s too far gone, there’s nothing we can do.”
John said, “Look, she is out cold, I think she is almost dead and there is nothing we can do for her. Let’s go back to our side of the building and get ready to leave. What time is it?”
At least my watch was still working, “It’s about 8:20. Yeah, let’s head back.”
Liz objected strenuously, “I can’t believe you guys! Are you just going to leave her in that car to die? What about this Christian decorum crap you were talking about? How Christian is it to walk away from somebody who needs help?”
“Liz, she is dying, we can’t do anything for her. Nothing! Do you think I like this answer? We have to get ready to go ourselves. We need to eat and try to rest a little bit before we start moving out.”
“Look, can’t we just stay with her for a while? What if she comes to again and is all alone. No one should have to die alone. No one.”
I looked and John and he looked at me and shrugged his shoulders, “It wouldn’t hurt to stay for a while, I guess” he said.
“Yeah, I really don’t think she has long, as much blood as she has lost. OK, Liz, we’ll stay. You can try to talk with her and hold her hand. But we can’t do this all night. When we leave here we are going to encounter scores of people who need help” I said.
“I know we can’t help everyone, but we can help this one!”
With that Liz approached the crushed car and started talking to Takeisha in soft, soothing tones, and holding her only free hand. Takeisha did not stir or make a sound. John opened the door of the car next to the Mini and sat down while we waited for the young lady to die. I stood solemnly beside Liz to watch the second person die today before my very eyes. No stranger to death, I had pastored a church for many years and had been around a lot of dying people. But this was different. And knowing that there were scores, maybe hundreds of dying people we would meet on our journey home didn’t make this one any easier. Heck, under the present circumstances, what were the odds that any of the three of us would be alive in a couple of months?
After about 20 minutes of standing beside Takeisha, Liz said, “Ryan, I think she’s gone. Omigosh, I think she’s dead.”
I leaned into the window and felt for her pulse…nothing. She was gone. It was 8:47pm.
“OK, let’s head back to our place,” I said.
Liz was crying as we began the walk back to the north side of the building by the wavering light of the jet fuel fed blazes around us. I felt like I was descending into the underworld with Virgil.
As got back inside our lobby I announced, “I haven’t eaten since mid-morning. I am going to eat my lunch and the snack.”
John said, “Well I did get a lunch but I’ll join you and eat the snack.”
“How can you guys even think about food right now,”Liz added. “I’m just not hungry.”
“OK, but you better eat before we head out tonight. We have a long walk ahead of us. And it’s cold. You’ll need some calories. Maybe before we head out we can cook those frozen dinners and eat right before we go.”
“Alright, I’ll try to eat then. But not right now.”
John tore open his bag of chips and packet of crackers while I ate my now very soggy sandwich. I could barely choke it down. I finished up with my bag of chips and saved the candy bar for later. I don’t need a sugar high before trying to take a nap. I downed about a half a canteen of water, realizing that I had had nothing to drink in the past 8 1/2 hours. In cooler weather I could get just as dehydrated as in hot weather because I just didn’t feel as thirsty so I didn’t drink enough.
I went to the bathroom to relieve myself, taking my rifle and a flashlight, and my half empty canteen. It was comforting to still have a flush toilet, it might me the last one for a while because as the water is drained from the system, and all the electric pumps drawing water from the reservoirs having ceased functioning, I had no doubt that sometime tomorrow the water in the DFW metroplex would run out. I finished my business and topped off my canteen and returned to the lobby.
“I’m going to try to take a nap; I don’t know if I’ll even be able to go to sleep, but I need to get some rest. I would recommend the same to y’all.”
“I dunno man, I am so freakin’ keyed up, I don’t think it’s possible. I’ll stand guard while you rest.”
Liz added, “There’s no way I can sleep now either.”
With that I unrolled my sleep pad and bed roll, checked to make sure my rifle was on safe, took off my shoulder rig, checked my Ruger for safety, and laid down.