Officer Alex pays tribute to the people who restore order after chaos
Disasters: Like blood, I don’t handle them the way I used to. I don’t shy away from them, mind you, I’m just not as bulletproof against them as I used to be, and beyond a few educated guesses I cannot imagine why.
Maybe it’s 20 years of blood and gore crammed into a 7 3/8’s hat size that has reached the upper rim of the cup inside I once believed couldn’t runneth over. And disasters? God, the thrill of bedlam and chaos…just seeing them on television used to raise the hair on my arms.
I don’t gloat over death and destruction; I think (and I’ve always had to guess) it was the sense of complete freedom from all rules and order that appealed to me, and therefore the concerns and stress that go with them.
Normal people think of the future, and most worry—about paying the bills, about the next injury, about asteroids crashing, about Democrats...so seeing disorder reign gives you that break from the rules of a civilized society. Then you are filled with the laser-like focus of bringing it back to order, which had its own purity.
Disasters are simple. Pure. So is restoring order.
Now? I don’t want to see it. I’m done. So when that EF-3 son-of-a-bitch tornado made prison-shower-style love to my one safe place in the world a few years back (three years now, specifically), I was none too amused. But I went into it.
As I said, it was no longer exhilarating to see how temporary we are in this universe. How the Earth reminds us that we are guests at most, and it occasionally has to scratch its ass—which is clearly where we reside after the fact.
No, now I just saw people out of work where businesses were destroyed. Out of their homes where they’d been swept into the woods. And me, out of the one thing that brought peace to my soul these days—my damn boat. (Which is a far greater tragedy than their houses and businesses, of course. I mean, the LEDs I installed alone…)
Hearing tin wobble and shift in the trees no longer made me think of chaos, it just made me think my head could get sheared off, and therefore made me walk closer to cover to avoid decapitation.
I also looked at something else: Not the patients (once that part was over), and not my co-workers. I looked at the real workers on scenes like these. The clean-up crews and the utility workers.
In the event of disasters, cops basically do an initial sweep for victims, then direct traffic or tell stupid people not to do stupid things as they stupidly ask permission to do so.
Firemen handle searches and HazMat (or “Glow Worm”) stuff, which seems to consist largely of standing under a tent with a dry-erase board and bitching about how many platters of finger food to have delivered from a Firehouse Subs joint.
EMS workers have real work, but they’re generally in there to load-n-go. So who’s left after the first critical hours?
Utility workers. Clean-up crews. And business (and home) owners.
Responders are thinking about their next call for service in a few short hours and complaining about overtime or how bored they are now, while the guys cutting down trees, securing the hanging metal, and wrestling (and replacing) wires down know they won’t see more than four hours of sleep a day for the next week.
I’ve never been ungrateful for their help over the years, but I don’t think I ever fully appreciated the depth of their responsibilities until I’d seen the same faces doing the same work day after day as I went back to my “normal” life, driving by.
As my lower lumbar 4 and 5 will attest, I know the pain of bringing down a huge tree and disposing of it. But 20 trees? 40? Even with heavy equipment, I was in awe of the guys handling these things.
Electrical linemen? Most of us are afraid to turn a blender on (myself excluded, for obvious drinking responsibilities), but these guys are practically putting their tongue on a wire connected to a nuclear power plant or hydroelectric dam on the other end, and they’re working quickly.
My point? My respect for emergency services workers goes without saying, but who says the heroes of a disaster have to have a metal or embroidered shield on their chests?
Here’s a hint: The guys in the miners' hats up in bucket trucks and the ones holding the chainsaws are at a hell of a lot more risk and doing a lot more hard work than I am (and we are) on those scenes.
I’m damned impressed, and damned grateful to you, guys. Let’s just have the next exercise occur a damn sight further away from my beloved resort & marina, though.
(Respect to those who lost all but their lives that day on 03-02-2012. 77 homes lost, 346 more damaged, and 44 people injured…but no loss of life. God bless you all, every one.)
When officer Alexander D. Teach is not patrolling our fair city on the heels of the criminal element, he spends his spare time volunteering for the Boehm Birth Defects Center.