“I’m not ready yet!” I yelled to my crew mates. I huddled in the corner on my cell phone, the heavy winds and rain from Hurricane Irene buffeting the garage doors. A loud crack resonated through the garage as another tree snapped, succumbing to the almost 90mph winds caused by Hurricane Irene.
“Yeah, Mom…I can’t…you’re breaking up.” I heard a fuzzing noise, then the phone went dead. “Shit…” I shoved it back into my pocket and moved back into the crew room. “What’s the report?”
Matt handed me the station phone. I put it up to my ear, pulling out a pen and my notebook. “It’s Mike. Hey…the other crew went out on a Cardiac arrest…can you make sure 134 is clear? The top of 134 to the hospital is open, but we don’t know if it is up to the boat launch. Can you guys go out and take a look?” A strong gust of wind rattled the windows, startling me. I felt my heart drop into my stomach, but I stiffened up. It was a quick, ten minute ride. What could possibly go wrong?
“We’re on it.”
I hung up. “Let’s go. We have to see if 134 is open up to the boat launch.” I pulled on my sweatshirt, then draped my raincoat over my arm. I walked to the Ambo Bay and realized I was walking alone. I went back to the door. “Come on…we have to go…” Nervous eyes looked at me from the crew room. I felt a bead of sweat roll down my neck and along my spine; I had no idea how to deal with a Hurricane, but everyone looked to me for direction. “Whoever wants to come with me can, if not, you can stay here.” Slowly, Matt, Ashley, and Angie stood up and followed me to the garage. Everyone piled into the truck. “Alright. Let’s just make a big loop. Go down Camp Hollow, turn onto 134, drive up past the boat launch, turn down Lighthouse, get onto Marion, and then get back on to 325 and then right back to the station. We shouldn’t be gone for longer than 20 minutes. Easy, peasy.” I smiled at everyone, trying to encourage them…but it was also to encourage myself. I was feeling unsettled, but I figured it had to be because I had never experienced a Hurricane before. As we pulled out onto Camp Hollow, I felt the truck get buffeted by the wind. The truck swayed a bit to the same rhythm that the trees moved and the leaves flitted from their perch to the soggy road. I looked through the rain spattered windshield, watching little rivulets of water move across the road.
We splashed through the puddles in relative silence. The roads were empty; a State of Emergency had been declared and while we weren’t under mandatory evacuations, we were encouraged to. I lived at the furthest end of the state, right up against the bay. My house and town were at sea level. My mind went to my sump pumps…if they didn’t kick on, I’d be extremely screwed when I got home. My mind was elsewhere and it wasn’t until Angie tapped my arm that I came back to reality.
“Do you think we can drive through that?” I looked to where she was pointing and I saw the boat launch had flooded across the road. There was a huge standing puddle…or more like a small river crossing 134. I hopped out of the truck and walked up to it. Slowly, I worked my way across…the water hit the tops of my boots and spilled inside them. Even still, it was less than a foot. I waved the truck through and I hopped back up inside, picking up the radio. “This is Medic 84 to Base and Medic 74, there’s a little less than a foot of water crossing 134. If you come through in the nest 10 minutes, you should be fine. Drive safe.” The radio crackled in response; I was using the talk around radio used to talk between the two stations and our ambulances. It wasn’t good that the talk around was going; we used the same towers that County Dispatch used. I picked up the Dispatch radio, trying to keep my voice steady. My nerves were starting to get to me again. “Medic 84 to dispatch. How do you read?”
“You’re breaking up, but we received your message.”
“10-4.” I looked at Angie, “Let’s just turn around and come back the way we came…how does that sound?” She nodded and began to turn the truck around. As we approached the launch, waving at the driver of Medic 74, we all leaned forward, looking at the water. I opened up the door to step out, but as my foot hit the running board, I heard a familiar groaning sound. I looked down the road and watched as a tree that had been buffeted by the wind for too long finally gave way with a heaving groan, then a bone chilling snap. We all watched as the tree fell in seemingly slow motion, making almost no noise except for when it crashed through the roof of the substation. Sparks flew everywhere, then with a deafening pop, all the lights on the road went out. I stood on the running board, my jaw slack. We couldn’t come back the way we came and conditions were deteriorating rapidly.
I slowly retreated into the truck, drops of water splashing from my hair onto my pants. I pulled my wet tresses back into a ponytail and I realized everyone was staring at me. I sat for a moment, then I pointed, “Let’s go down Lighthouse. I want to get back as soon as possible.” Angie nodded and we turned down Lighthouse and I leaned back in the seat as the valves of the diesel engine tapped away.
“Matt!” I turned around with a smile on my face, “You never told me…how did the Registry go?”
Matt perked up, leaning his head through the birth canal, “It went great! Hopefully I’ll have my EMT in the next week or two.” I gave him a high five; we had gone over the EMT practical for weeks after he failed the first go round and I knew he was solid. I pulled out my phone and an Aux cable from my go bag and I quickly put my ‘Code’ playlist on. Metallica came through the speakers and we jammed out on our way down the road, lightening the mood dramatically. We were giggling and laughing…life was okay…everything was going to be fine. I looked through the windows; it was now completely dark. The high beams glinted off the rain slicked road. I looked out my window and saw fallen trees along the side of the road. My Medic Sense started tingling and I looked back.
“Hey…buckle up back there. You know my rule.” I watched Matt and Ashley tuck into their seats and get secured again. I turned around and watched the road in front of me. As we went around a turn, the road ahead looked clear. Two left curves, three right curves, then a right turn. Three or four miles and we’re home safe. We were almost off the back country road and onto the main road that went through town. I sighed gently, taking off my wet sweatshirt.
“Almost home!” I leaned back, watching the road go by. Without warning, Angie slammed on the brakes.
“HOLD ON!” She screamed. I saw the tree across the road and I put my hands out against the dashboard. We skid to a stop, a few feet from the tree, all of us straining against our seat belts. I heard the metal clip board go clanging down from its holder and along the floor, the Jump Bag making a heavy thump as it slid from the bench seat onto the floor.
“Is everyone okay?” Everyone quietly acknowledged and I pulled out the map book to figure out what to do next. Lighthouse let out at the ends and the offshoot roads were dead ends.
“What if we go back down Lighthouse and then continue up 134? It might be clear to the hospital. We can take Marion to the top of 325 and go down that way. Worst case scenario, we can go to the hospital and wait it out there.” I looked at Angie and nodded, “Do it.” I looked at my watch; almost 90 minutes had passed since we left the station. I grabbed the Talk around radio,
“Medic 84 to Base. We’re stuck on Lighthouse just past Library. Downed tree. We should be back shortly.”
“Medic 84 to Base, can you read me?”
I picked up the county radio, “Medic 84 to County, can you read me?”
My heart began to throb in my chest and my mouth went dry. I looked at the mic in my hand, then I keyed it up.
“Medic 84 to County. Can you read me?”
I hung up the mic. “Turn around, lets go your way.” The truck lurched into reverse and I looked back to Matt and Ashley. They had crawled up to the birth canal and were looking at me with wide eyes. I put on my best smile for them while inside I was screaming.
“It’s going to be fine, honest.” I looked back to the windshield. So far, so good. I picked up my cell phone and I dialed Mike.
I typed out a quick text.
Can’t be sent. No signal.
I put my phone down and turned the music back on. The air in the truck was thick with tension and my mouth felt like it was full of cotton balls. I dug through my Go Bag and I pulled out a few bottles of water and Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip cookies. I held up the bag.
“Anyone hungry? I even have water if anyone wants it.” I passed the bag around and handed out the water. Silently, we ate. Ashley was the first to speak.
“What are we going to do if we can’t get back to the station?”
“Well…” I sighed, “We’ll just have to find a place to sit and wait.”
Rain splattered against the windshield once more. The wipers were humming along, moving as fast as they could to clear off the water. We rolled slowly over a small bridge that we could barely see; the creek it went across was now swollen into a tiny river, the water just tall enough to lap over the bridge. As we cleared it, I figured we were home safe. We could go up 134 all the way to the hospital or take Marion back down. The hospital seemed safer. We rolled on, once again in silence. As we neared the end of Lighthouse, our hopes were dashed. A tree. A stupid, fallen tree blocked our egress.
“Dammit!” I yelled, slamming my fists against the dash. “Son of a Bitch!” I put my head in my hands. Angie was staring at the tree, her eyes wide, her knuckles white from gripping the steering wheel. Ashley started to cry softly in back, her shoulders heaving with every quiet sob. Matt looked down at his feet like a beaten puppy.
Not good. Not good. This is not good.
“Go back.” I spoke quietly. “We are getting off this road come Hell or high water.”
“We already have the high water. Can you call this Hell?”
I smiled slightly at the joke. “Yup.”
Angie turned around once more. “What’s the plan?”
“I think the field back there was open. Take the truck through the grass around the tree.” I swallowed a swig of water, trying to clear up my throat.
This is bad. This is very bad. I don’t know what to do.
As we reached the far end of Lighthouse, we saw the field. It was full of Soybean plants. The edge of the road dipped slightly into the field. I grabbed the spotlight from behind the seat and looked for a clear path. I didn’t see any fences or anything that would impede our progress.
“Go for it.”
Slowly, Angie inched the truck off the road into the field. Immediately, the truck began to sink into the rain soaked field. I rubbed my nose, praying we didn’t get stuck. The wheels lost traction and began to slip, but we were still moving forward. Foot by foot, we made it around the tree and back onto the road. Up ahead, we could see cars driving down Marion. From here, it was only a few miles back to the station. The tension in the truck eased considerably as we turned onto Marion. Matt gave a sigh of relief.
“I need a drink.” I laughed at Matt. “I know the feeling. Tomorrow, when this is all over, y’all have to come back to the house and have a drink.” Everyone nodded in agreement. Up ahead, I could see the flashing amber lights of a utility vehicle. As we pulled closer, we could see why he stopped.
Another. Fucking. Tree.
I let out a scream of frustration. I was wet, I was tired, I was cold. I wanted my bed, I wanted a shower, I wanted a drink. I wanted to go back in time to stop myself for signing up for Hurricane duty. I wanted to be home in the warm and safe. Without me saying anything, Angie turned the truck around and started to head back up Marion. I thought about what was along the way. I knew the Electric company had a station there, as well as the State Troopers and another ambulance company. We could pull into any one of those. It had stopped raining and the eerie silence made my stomach turn. It went from deluge to nothing almost within an instant. I could hear my heart racing in my ears. Zipping along, we went several miles without seeing a downed tree. Relief was in sight.
I rubbed my neck, all of my muscles tense from the capitalistic day I was having. We passed Lighthouse and saw down trees, stacked up like kindling blocking the road. Turning a corner, I pointed at another set of amber lights, but they didn’t look right. They were lopsided. We pulled closer and saw a tree laying on top of a Utility vehicle, the cab crushed. Angie stopped and we all ran out and over to the truck. Inside was a man with a large gash across his forehead. I knocked on the glass and he looked at me with a look of genuine relief.
“Oh my God!” He screamed. “Are you here to rescue me?”
“No…well…yes…I mean…we were driving through and we saw your truck.”
“I can’t open the window or the door to get out!”
Matt stepped up, holding his shiny new window punch. I nodded quickly and within a few minutes, we had the gentleman out of his truck and into the back of ours. I dressed his forehead while Matt and Ashley took vitals. Angie stood just to the far side of the truck, smoking a cigarette.
“What’s your name, sir?”
“Pleasure to meet you, Andrew. I’m Shao, that’s Matt and Ashley. Your chauffeur for tonight is Angie.”
He smiled weakly. “Thank you. You guys are life savers.” I smiled and clasped his shoulder. Angie got back into the truck and we continued on our way. We drove for a few more minutes, making small talk amongst ourselves. I felt the truck slow to a stop. I walked up and looked at Angie.
“What’s going on?”
“There are lines down in the road. I don’t know if they are cable or electric.”
I shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine.” Without warning, Angie threw the truck into reverse and backed up a few feet and a large tree fell across the road. If she hadn’t reversed, the cab would’ve been crushed. My throat dried up again and I began to dry heave. Angie began to cry.
“I can’t do this anymore!” She pounded on the steering wheel, the horn blasting out with each hit. “I just want to go home!” She sobbed.
I groaned, sitting on the floor of the truck. We were stuck. We couldn’t go anywhere. We couldn’t talk to anyone. Suddenly, the County radio crackled to life.
“County to Medic 84.”
I grabbed the mic.
“This is Medic 84.”
“County to Medic 84.”
I keyed up. “This is Medic 84. Can you hear me?”
“County to Medic 8….4.”
“This is Medic 84, County. Can you read me?”
“County Dispatch with…*static* message. Medic…missing. Repeat…*static* 84 missing.”
My hands trembled as I dropped the mic and picked up the Talk-around.
“Medic 84 to Base!”
I put my head down and as I did, I noticed my phone buzzing to life. Text messages were popping up. I started reading through them. They were all from various people, asking if we were okay. I replied back with our location…my own mini LUNAR report. The message stalled out. It wouldn’t send. I jumped out of the truck, holding my phone into the air, trying to get just the smallest bar of signal possible.
“Send…send!” I watched as the small, quarter bar waved back and forth, then it winked out, being replaced by a red X. I held the phone down at waist level, looking at the screen…looking at the X, the red X. As I stood there, the wind started whipping up, bringing hail and thunder with it. I stood in the wind, small pebbles of ice pelting me from above, then I turned slowly, my feet dragging as I walked back to the truck. I climbed into the cab and I put my forehead against the dash. I was done. I was spent. I was emotionally worn out and spent. Matt popped his head through the birth canal, his face illuminated by his phone.
“I think I know what County was trying to say.” He handed me his phone. A CAD page had come through during the minute of signal. I read it over and my jaw slackened. I handed it to Angie, she read it, then looked at me, her eyes wide. I looked at the message again, my breath catching in my throat.
Medic 84 is missing. Last known location: Lighthouse Rd.
I handed the phone back to Matt and I sat back, crossing my arms over my chest.
“Okay. They’re looking for us. That’s a good thing.” I glanced at my watch. “We’ve been gone for over five hours. Let’s just hang out here. We just got the message, but it looks like it was sent about an hour ago from the time stamp.” The hail continued to pelt the truck, but soon gave way to rain. I sat, contemplating about if it was wise to just sit here, but we had no choice. I looked in back; Matt and Ashley were huddled together on the bench seat. Andrew was sitting on the stretcher, reading a book he fished out of his backpack. Angie had her eyes closed, her head back against the seat. I fiddled with the AC…my clothes were in various stages of wet and the air blowing on me was causing me to shiver.
“Uhm…” I heard a small voice behind me. “Hey…I…have to go to the bathroom.”
We all looked at Ashley. She was biting her bottom lip, looking much younger than her 17 years. I wondered if I ever looked that young and diminutive when the shit hit the fan as a baby EMT…if I ever had the look of abject terror and fear that was written all over her face. Her mascara left charcoal marks along her cheeks from crying.
“I…I have to pee.” She practically whispered at this point. I heard a snort come from the seat next to me. Angie had her face hidden in her hands, her shoulders heaving with laughter she was trying to stifle. I couldn’t help it. A smile broke across my face and I bit my lip, trying hard not to laugh. Matt started it. He couldn’t hold back any longer. He broke out into laughter, his head back, tears streaming down his face. Ashley looked around, then even she started to giggle. I put my head down, giggling hard. The entire truck was filled with laughter.
“After all of this…” I swept my hand around, “Everything we’ve been through over the last five hours and you have to pee.”
The giggling turned to hysterical laughter. We held ourselves, tears streaming down our faces. We probably laughed so hard due to the tension and stress…we were all shot emotionally, so it made sense it had to come out somehow…and the laughter was our release. After a few minutes, we all calmed down to small giggle fits that would take over when we looked at each other.
“Guys. I still have to pee.”
I pointed outside to the rain. “Have at it.”
“I can’t pee outside!” I looked up at the ceiling, then back at Ashley.
“Well..Oh!” I turned around and pointed. “There’s a bed pan under the bench seat. Put it on the Bio Bucket like a seat and…go for it.”
Matt and Ashley stood up and lifted up the seat. They moved the padded board splints and KED out of the way, followed by the Hare Traction splint and Triage Kit. She pulled out the pink bed pan and she held it up. I pushed the Bio Bucket towards her. She grabbed the bucket, the pan , and a blanket, then she stepped outside. After a few minutes, she came back in with a look of relief on her face.
She nodded. “Better.”
We settled back down, trying to get comfortable. I turned the music back on, this time some soft jazz. I wanted to keep the tension low, keep the stress down. I closed my eyes when Angie turned the truck off, leaving the battery on so the music kept playing. It was just after midnight. It wouldn’t be light until at least 0700 and depending on how bad it was, they may not make it to us until well after nine or ten PM. I couldn’t do another nine hours stuck out in the middle of nowhere. I gazed out the window, watching the rain streak down. Leaves fell from their branches, spinning like a Whirling Dervish in the wind. They flitted across the sky, being lifted or lowered depending on the whims of the gusts. I watched one leaf as it came off its branch being battered by the wind and rain. Somehow, it stayed aloft, whipping back and forth. I watched it, mesmerized. The noise in the truck faded away as I became focused on the leaf.
My mind drifted away to a different time, a different place. I thought about how I made dinner for the first EMS crew I ever worked with…Spaghetti and Meatballs. Laughing with Byron over something silly, probably one of his silly jokes that could always make me laugh no matter how bad my day was. How I stood amongst the falling leaves, walking with someone near and dear to me, kicking the leaves up, giggling and laughing. I saw my old station, the laughter ringing through the trailer, snow falling all around us as my partner came in through the back door, throwing snowballs at all of us. We ran out into the snow, rolling around, throwing it at each other…using Reeves and Backboards as sleds. I watched Hawkeye lob a snowball at me. I watched it sail lazily through the air in its arc…as it hit the peak, it came down towards me…slowly, languidly…
The snowball landed on my face with a deafening screech. People were screaming as I was snapped out of my daydream. I felt the truck lurch forward and rock violently. Ashley fell off the bench seat, onto the floor. I lurched forward, bracing myself against the dash. Angie rocked forward hard…she must have been asleep, barely keeping herself from slamming head first into the steering wheel. It felt like the noise and motion wasn’t going to stop. I heard a pop, then what sounded like pennies being thrown onto the floor. The truck lurched one more time and stopped.
I gasped, putting my hand against my chest. Angie was panting, looking at me with wide eyes. I looked in the back; Ashley was picking herself up off the floor and Matt was brushing himself off. Andrew was sitting quietly on the stretcher, his shoulders heaving with each breath. We must have all dozed off.
“What the hell was that?” Angie screeched.
“I don’t know…” I shook my head to clear the cobwebs out. “You guys okay back there?”
All three of them nodded. I saw the back windows had broken, shattering glass all through the inside of the truck. I saw pieces of leaves mixed in with the glass in the back of the truck. Angie had climbed out of the truck and she was standing in the road, her hand on her mouth. I climbed out and looked where she was looking. A tree had fallen on the back of the truck. Somehow, the back step was still attached, but copious amounts of paint had been ripped off. Branches and leaves obscured the back of the truck. Red plastic laid on the ground from the tail light. I stood next to Angie, both of us staring ahead, unable to speak. Ashley and Matt climbed out of the truck to join us.
I held up my hand.
I shook my head, keeping my hand up.
Matt moved in front of me, screaming at me. “What are we going to do now?! We can’t go anywhere! What’s your plan now?” He walked off, running his hand through his hair. Ashley started to cry…again…and Angie looked at me.
“John…is going to kill me…”
I shook my head. “Alright! Hold on…” I paced around, trying to think.
What now, genius? How are you going to screw this up even more, dumb ass?
“Look. We are just going to sit here. It’s not like we can do anything else. There’s nothing we can do.”
I turned around and walked back to the truck. I got in and slammed the door, putting my head back in my hands. I watched as everyone else climbed back in, the mood somber. No one was talking. All we could hear was the rain. Angie looked at me, her voice soft.
“You’re religious, right?”
I nodded, “Yeah…”
“I’m not.” She looked back to the steering wheel. I looked at her in the silence. After a moment, she looked back up at me.
“Do…do you think you could pray?”
I looked at her for a long second, then nodded. “Yeah…yeah I can…if you want.”
She nodded, then bowed her head, reaching out for my hand. I took her hand gently in both of mine and bowed my head. I thought for a moment…a long moment. Her hand was cold and trembling in mine as she gripped my fingers.
“Ahh…” I haven’t done this out loud in years…
What do I say?
I let out a sigh, licked my lips and started again. “Uh…Dear Heavenly Father…” I trailed off. “Thank you for keeping us safe. Please, keep us protected and get us through this safe and sound…and please protect anyone that may be out looking for us…” The words came easily now, “and our families. Please comfort them in this time, may they find strength through you. Thank you…Amen.”
“Amen.” I heard softly to my left and from behind. I looked up to see three sets of eyes looking at me through the birth canal. I didn’t say anything. I just sat there holding Angie’s hand. Suddenly, I heard a noise. It was familiar, yet not. I looked out the windshield and I saw lights flashing in the leaves of the fallen tree. We all looked closer. The branches of the tree began to fall away, then the top portion of the tree moved backwards. I leaned forward, trying to figure out what was going on when there was a knock on my window. I looked to my right and there was a man, wearing a green poncho and camo pants. I rolled down the window.
“Hey!” His voice was way too chipper. “Are you guys the missing ambulance?”
All I could do was nod.
“Great! I’m Jack with the National Guard. We’ve been looking for you all night! Is everyone okay?”
I nodded again. I finally found my voice. “Yeah…we have one minor injury, but we’re okay.”
He picked up his radio, “I found them!” From around the tree came a flood of people wearing camo or bunker gear. I started laughing, pointing at the crowd.
“They found us!”
High fives all around. We laughed with relief, looking at each other. The fire department came to the truck, swarming around it. We got out, giving everyone hugs and high fives. Angie grabbed me, wrapping me up in a hug, a smile on her face.
“I am SO going to church with you on Sunday!”
I laughed, “You and me both!”
Jack came up to me. “You aren’t far from the State Trooper base. We’ll escort you there.”
We all piled back into the truck and followed the man with the flashlight. He guided us around the tree and the road ahead looked clear. We drove along slowly, following the path of the Humvee in front of us while the Humvee followed the transport truck. Every once in a while, we’d stop as the National Guard poured out and made short work of a tree for us to get around. We moved slowly and we stopped at another tree. We watched as they poured out, but we began our own conversations between ourselves, not paying attention. After a few minutes, there was a knock on the window. Angie rolled the window down.
“Hey!” Jack waved and grinned at us. “There are wires tangled in the tree. We don’t want to cut it because we don’t know what they are and if their dead, but we should be able to drive through the grass and get around. Past that, we’re home free.
Angie nodded. “Show me.”
The transport truck slowly backed up, then moved around the tree, leaving huge, muddy divots in the grass, but it made it around. The Humvee did the same. The tire ruts got deeper. Angie edged up, then she looked at me. “I don’t think we’re going to make it.”
I shook my head, “Same here…we’re going to get stuck…”
Jack waved us forward and Angie waved her hands. He jogged over and Angie rolled down the window.
“We’re going to get stuck. We aren’t as heavy as you guys…” Jack shook his head, “You’ll be fine! Come on!”
Angie looked at me, worry flashing across her face. I shook my head. “This isn’t a good idea…we shouldn’t do this…” Angie nodded and kept the truck stopped. Jack continued to wave us through. Angie sat for another moment, then she slowly crept forward. “I’ll go around the tracks they made…”
I nodded and put my hand on the ‘Oh Shit’ bar. We moved forward, then I felt the truck go off the road and almost immediately sink into the soggy ground. We kept moving forward, but the ass end started to slip out…but we kept going. As Angie maneuvered around the ruts, we realized that the grass sloped down dramatically into the tree line. She tried to correct, but the back end was done. We felt the back of the truck sink, then slide. Angie hit the accelerator, but we dug in even further.
We were stuck.
We jumped out into the rain, looking at the truck. The back end of the truck had slid down the small embankment and was stopped by a tree. We looked at each other, the rain pouring down. We were soaked to the bone. Slowly, we unloaded the truck of the important things and we put them in the back of the Humvee. We then trudged over to the transport truck and they helped us in. Hanging from wires strung across the back were glow sticks that shone brightly in the dark, giving everyone in the truck a greenish glow. As we piled in, we were given glow sticks and told to open them and string them up if we wanted to. As I stood up, I looked at my crew who looked sullen and defeated, then I looked at the glow stick in my hand. I looked back up; the entire crew looked like abused puppies.
Grabbing a hanging glow stick, I pulled it down and I started waving my arms around, dancing around in the small space.
“Hurricane Rave Party!” I started beat boxing as I danced around, waving the glow sticks. Everyone looked at me for a hard moment, then they broke out into laughter, waving their sticks around. I sat back down, moving my arms, making shapes in the air, laughing and giggling. The Guardsmen joined in and the back of the truck turned into a mini party. I glanced about, smiling at the mirth that filled the small space.
After a few minutes, the truck slowed to a stop and the back opened up. “Home sweet home you guys!” We jumped out of the truck and walked into the Base. Inside, we were met with coffee, donuts, and blankets. I felt like a Rock star; we were getting hugs and high fives, cheers and jubilation. I sat down in one of the chairs, using a towel to try and sponge some of the water from my head. I leaned my head back, closing my eyes. We were warm and safe.
I dozed off quickly, but rest didn’t last long. I felt someone shaking my shoulder and I jumped to my feet. The room was dark and all I heard was the bustle of people walking through the hall. Angie was standing next to me.
“We’re leaving.” I looked at her, not fully awake yet.
“Why?” I yawned and stretched. It was just enough down time to start stiffening up. My hip was killing me and I shook my leg out, trying to loosen up.
“They lost power. We’re going to the old dispatch office just down the road.” I nodded and slowly followed her out of the building. We piled into a squad car and joined the procession down the road, lights on. Huge trees laid scattered about; it looked like Hell in the dark, so I could only imagine how much worse it was going to look in the light.
We pulled into the old building and we piled out. Walking into the old office, you could see just how long it had been since anyone had been in there. A fine coating of dust covered all the surfaces, a magazine dated Aug. 1998 laying on a desk. One of the Sergeants walked up to us, pointing to the stairs.
“You guys can sleep down there. It’s quiet and we won’t bother you. You guys look like you need it.” I nodded and waved my thanks. We walked down the steps…well…I hobbled down the steps. The lights flickered, but they stayed on. None of us were talking…we looked like Zombies as we moved. Once we got down, we looked through the rooms and found a room that looked like an old break room. We collapsed into the couches and chairs, letting out huge sighs.
“My kingdom for a bed…” groaned Matt as he got comfortable on the couch. I moved around a bit, trying to put the blanket under me. My clothes were soaked and I didn’t want to ruin the couch, but exhaustion won out and I made myself comfortable. Angie closed the door and turned off the light. Within minutes, the light snores around the room started and even my own eyes closed and I drifted off to dream land. The storm raged on outside as we slept.
An hour or so later, I woke up, feeling something on my hand. I was laying face down on the couch, my arm over the side. I picked my hand up, using my phone as a flashlight; it was wet. I looked around and saw a few inches of standing water on the floor. I sat up and put my boots back on. They squished in the water as I went to the door and opened it. The entire floor held the standing water. Tears started streaming down my face. I just wanted to sleep and not be wet. I flicked the light back on.
“Wake up…” Everyone groaned and pulled their blankets over their heads.
“No, seriously…come on. It’s flooding down here.” Eyes popped open and looked at me, then looked to the floor. Slowly, everyone got back into their boots and we made the trip back up the stairs. Angie told the Sargent what was going on as we found a room to sleep in. We found a small office and we set up for the night on the floor. Within minutes, we were back asleep.
A knock at the door woke me up and I lifted my head up. The door opened and Mike was standing there, looking at us with sad eyes.
“Are you guys okay?”
I nodded and stood up. I gently woke everyone else up. “Yeah. The truck is stuck back on…”
“I’m aware. We’re towing it out now. I’m here to bring you home.” I smiled weakly at him and followed him out the door. On the way back to the station, the devastation was apparent. The amount of downed trees was amazing. Huge trees, ripped up with the root ball intact laid like firewood along the road. The rain had finally stopped. We drove in silence as Mike’s SUV pulled into the station. We slowly got out of the car and we were met by our coworkers. They ran up to us, giving us hugs. Families were reunited and I stood off to the side, smiling at the scene. Hawkeye showed up and he put an arm around my shoulders, hugging me to him.
“I thought something bad happened to you, kid.”
I chuckled, putting my arm around him. “You can’t kill me that easily. Can we go home now?”
Hawkeye smiled, then he grabbed my face, kissing my forehead, then he gave me a light smack on the ass. “Come on, let’s get you home.”