THREE PEOPLE FOUND
Yesterday a fellow came up to me at The Chatterbox just before I was getting ready to go into the web with my show from the Wanderers Cruise Night. I like talking with folks and, this guy seemed to share my gift of gab. I’ve heard and told most of my stories so, I was very happy to listen to his. He had a good supply. I believe he was retired from the New York City police force. We talked for a while about the recent shooting attacks on officers throughout the country. We didn’t come up with any real solutions. We just agreed that shootings stink no matter what and, that it just seemed to be a shame that folks are doing that kind of thing to one another.
I noticed that the guy had a bit of a rasp to his voice and a slight cough. That was a kind of tip that he was once at the 9/11 world trade center attacks. I’m not sure if he was there on the actual day it happened. He might have been but, he didn’t talk about it. But, he was there for a good part of the cleanup. In fact, he may have been there for the entire cleanup. It was tough on him.
If I understood him right, his task was to do an investigation each and every time a body was found in the debris. He and others with him would do all they could to identify the victims and come up with some idea of how they died. When he was done with that task, the bodies would be removed and given to their families. He knew many of the police, fire, and rescue personnel that were being uncovered. He knew them by name and at one time or another served with them. Some of the victims had coffee and maybe a doughnut with him a week earlier. Now, he was pulling what was left of them out of the pile and recording all the circumstances he could find. I know he wasn’t enjoying himself but, he felt that he owed these folks his best efforts so, he stayed at it.
He told me how one day, he was called to a mass uncovering. I may have the circumstances a bit wrong as I tell you what he went through. I’ll do the best I can to tell this right but, I may have some facts wrong. I apologize in advance for any unintended errors.
Workmen had just lifted a large chunk of debris. It may have been a heavy section of wall or, maybe, a floor ceiling assembly. There were victims underneath the slab. He hurried over to find three bodies. The workmen were standing over the small pit. Their faces were grim as they hoisted the slab from over the victims to a safer loading spot. My new friend said how he just stopped at the edge and took in the awful scene. The bodies were badly damaged by the crushing blow of that slab hitting them. One was a woman and the other two were men wearing uniforms. One may have been a paramedic. The other was a cop. The woman was apparently a worker at the trade center.
The investigator climbed down to them and squatted down next to the victims. The cop and the paramedic both had either badges or identification. My friend knew the cop. He didn’t know the paramedic. The woman didn’t seem to have any apparent identification. Still, dental records and the clothes she was wearing might be all that was needed. It appeared that the trio died instantly. They were very flat. My friend was grateful that they didn’t appear to have suffered for any more than an instant. It looked to him like they were in maybe a dusty, smoky, and, blocked hallway. Perhaps they heard the rumble of the collapse above them and then pow, they were gone and on their way to heaven.
The floor of the scene was heavy with dust and junk. The investigator casually moved some of it aside and discovered that the woman was lying on something. It was a stretcher. She must have been injured somehow when the cop and the paramedic came upon her in the confusion. They must have been carrying a stretcher that day as they went into the trade center over and over again to get injured victims outside and away from the danger and off to hospitals. They may have made dozens of trips or maybe this was their first time inside. Who knows?
The investigator moved some more of the dust on the floor and, then he moved some more. He was on a mission. There was something he wanted to see and confirm. Soon he had the whole stretcher clear. Sure as heck he found what he was looking for. There at each end of the stretcher were the mangled and now decomposing hands of the cop and the paramedic. With all that was going on that day. With all that fear and danger to face. There in the face of hell on earth, my friend noted that the cop and the paramedic never let go of the stretcher.
He hoped that in a much better place the trio was drinking good coffee and munching really really great jelly donuts and licking their brand new fingers.