By Bruce A. Smith
The Men of Honor if Unity House is a novel based upon my experiences as a therapist at a foster care facility for young men coping with sexual assault charges. In 2001, during the Anthrax scare that followed 9-11, my agency’s director and I mapped out a plan for how we would deal with our men, aged 12-18, if we had to go into lockdown in the event of a local terrorist attack. The following pages are based upon those discussions.
The plot so far: A 2-kiloton suitcase nuke has exploded in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the staff of Unity House form the Men of Honor Society for two purposes: One, to keep the twelve teen-aged boys of Unity House busy and not fighting each other, and two, to act as a rescue group to the local neighborhood. Due to the destruction and radiation, the police and army can not get into this section of Worcester. The people living on Marion Avenue and Plantation Street only have the Men of Honor aiding them.
To read more of the Men of Honor:
Chapter 23 – Who believes in God?
Day Five – 3 pm
Following Montoya’s instructions, the first deuce and half backed up to our main entry at the Commons room. Ryan and TT were ready to receive it, while Naleef and I stayed outside since we were wearing our rad suits, and we helped in the transfer while the other soldiers were hooking-up the all-important water lines.
In two hours, we had the cargo trucks and Humvees unloaded. Naleef and I took off our rad suits in the portal to take a break, and when we walked inside Unity House, we didn’t recognize the place.
The Commons room was turned into a twenty-five-bed hospital ward with another thirty cots downstairs in the basement. The dining room was transformed into a surgical operation theater.
Stacked and packed.
TT must have read my thoughts because he chimed in right off the bat, “The boys are going to have to double and triple up,” he said. “We got Naleef and Deon in one room. Trey is by himself still, but we put six cots in there. It’s gonna be a sick room. A & P are in one room with Willy. Ryan is going to sleep with the soldiers, since he’s been working with them, and he’s, ah, he’s…”
TT didn’t finish, he didn’t have to. Ryan was too volatile and too vulnerable to be in really close quarters with other SO’s or other sexually aggressive youth. His radio time with Karen gave us good cover on the why and wherefores for giving him special treatment.
The radio was moved into the staff office and the booster was placed outside its small window. Six cots for Army staff were placed in there as well, and Montoya’s people took over the Conference room and Jeannie’s old office. Me, Adam, and TT moved into my office, and the girls and Terry in her office.
Wheeled cases packed with medical equipment lined the hallways, giving us about twelve inches of space to walk through. Medical supplies were stacked in boxes right to the ceilings in the bathrooms. Cases of food and personal gear filled three new Mylar cargo tents attached to the portals. We were ready.
Captain Montoya’s team consisted of two doctors – one a surgeon and the other a radiation specialist – eight nurses, six radiation technicians and five medical aide/drivers. In a strange twist, I thought, they even had a small portable X-ray machine. It seemed strange to me to bring more radiation into the house, but the X-ray machine was to monitor bone marrow loss. With all this gear I wondered what more the high school could possibly have.
Captain Montoya explained that our role was to stabilize folks, either enough to go back home or survive a trip to a trauma center like UMass-Amherst. A lot of our services would overlap with the high school, but the latter was getting better equipped for the more intense, more complex medical work and longer-term care.
As for St. Vincent’s, Montoya told me a medical company choppered-in and they had their hands full with the almost two-hundred injured staff and patients. In fact, the Army was thinking of totally evacuating St. Vincent’s regardless of people’s ability to travel. The darkness of the basement, a total lack of utilities or sanitation, and the seeping radiation from moisture and dust made St. Vincent’s a very problematic site for emergency work. But moving very sick people is also tricky business. For now, the folks at St. Vincent’s were staying put and receiving a measure of care on site.
Along those lines, Montoya firmly declared Unity’s role as a triage unit. He put the situation in a nut shell: “We’ll do the simple broken arms and legs here at Unity, but the high school will do the compound fractures, ones that have torn up blood vessels and the like. Our main job is stabilization. We either stabilize people to go back home and recover, or get them able to transfer to a higher degree of care – either at North High or out on a chopper to U-Mass or Springfield VA.”
While he spoke, a Mass-Fire and Rescue ambulance drove up. Six bodies on stretchers were removed out the rear door and carried into our portal. Our triage people picked them up from there. “Unity Triage,” as we were now known to the world, was officially in business.
Mass-Fire and Rescue brought them to us because the FEMA Triage at WCPD at Grafton and Arcadia was jammed. They were beyond stacked and packed with over three- hundred severe cases of radiation poisoning, wounds and fractures, and all compounded with severe dehydration and hunger. The six we received were close neighbors, just on the other side of Heywood Street on Derby. Help was coming to Worcester and it looked like it was just in the nick of time.
Ryan and Karen radioed the high school and asked for our kids to come back for we had plenty of work to do here at Unity. Besides, Red Cross and Army personnel were pouring in there now that Grafton Street, our main artery to the outside world, was passable to military convoys. North High School Hospital, also known as FoMed-North, was the number one priority out of all the eighteen forward medical bases in the zone, but we still needed our kids more than they did.
Adam and Deon on their Gator were the first to arrive back.
“You being a hero, Deon?” I asked as they came in the door.
“You bet, man,” he replied.
“How is it out there, Adam,” I asked as he came in right behind Deon.
“It’s a mess. The convoy was jammed up behind an overturned bus that was wedged into the guard rail on the Vernon Hill viaduct and a crumbled brick façade from a building. Part of the bridge work was toppled on them, too, along with half a dozen cars. It was a disaster. Mass-Fire and Rescue was out there with cutting torches and a Jaws of Life, chopping their way through and getting bodies out. There were at least two-dozen corpses on the bus. It was very painful to see.”
”How did Deon hold up seeing the dead bodies?” I asked.
“I don’t know, really. The real question is how am I holding up? It’s been rough, Dave. I don’t think I ever saw a dead body before, not in their death grip at least. And certainly, never dozens. It was horrible. Oh, God, and they didn’t die easy. Cuts, fractures and bodies blown apart or smashed, whew,” he whistled softly, “they were tumbled all around in that bus. It just rolled and rolled as the shock wave hit it. It must have been horrible, just horrible.
“As for Deon, though,” Adam continued, “well, he didn’t say much. Kids, ya know, I think they just take it in, in a neutral kind of way. It’s us adults that see things a little differently. But, the kids may be affected; I don’t want to discount that possibility at all. No sir. We’re going to have to be vigilant to nightmares and an uptick on acting-out behavior, especially wanton violence. Are those pets still here? I don’t think they’re safe here. I certainly don’t want to take a chance with the kids abusing them in a reactive, angry, kind of way. We gotta get rid of them. Send them back to the girls’ home.”
“I think they’re already there. I’m pretty sure Terry took them back this morning on the way to the school. I know they haven’t been around here today, and I’m glad of that, too. We’ve got a full house, and a couple of dogs and cats would make it tougher.”
“We got anything to drink?” asked Adam. “Any of that cherry bug juice?”
“I don’t know. We’re been munching on tuna sandwiches and grazing through the refrig. We’re probably gonna need an organized kitchen and cooking crew.”
“You got that right,” replied Adam.
“As for bug juice, I think you’re on your own – but Deon’s good at making up the right proportions.”
“I think I’ll give Deon a rest,” Adam said under his breath. “Half a day with that kid has got me wantin’ something stronger than cherry bug juice and I don’t mean lemon-lime.”
“I hear ya, boss,” I said, smiling. “Why don’t I take him back out with Ryan and Naleef? You take a rest and help things get organized here when the rest of the gang gets back.”
Day Five – 4 pm
After a late lunch, Deon was ready to go again. TT and I led our group, but now we were part of an expanded rescue effort. We had the Nukester, two Gators, eight Humvee ambulances and twelve of Montoya’s team. We swarmed the slopes of Union Hill to Grafton Street.
The Men and Women of Honor formed one crew, and Montoya divvied up his people into multiple crews.
TT and Deon were the lead team of the “Honor People,” as Montoya’s people called us.
Deon went zipping from house-to-house seeing if anyone was home, ringing doorbells, banging on doors, checking for unlocked doors, and giving a shout. If he didn’t hear any stirring, he was off to the next apartment or house.
TT hustled right behind him to talk to folks answering their doors, or poking his head in the unlocked doors to give a quick assessment. We didn’t bother with towels or anything like that anymore, and TT checked every house or apartment.
Behind TT and Deon, Ryan, Kevin P, Naleef and I followed, and we called ourselves “the extractors,” getting folks out of their apartments and homes.
Terry, Adam, and Willy stayed on the street with Montoya’s team, helping get evacs ready for the ride to Unity.
Half the homes had people in them, and fortunately most were unlocked or the door was blown in.
Over half the folks we found were in rough shape although most were conscious; but many just barely. The lack of food and water, and the effects of five days of radiation had taken a serious toll.
Virtually every person we saw was deemed eligible for evac to triage. Once we made an assessment or applied first aid we went through the house getting ID’s for the unconscious people we were pulling out.
Initially, that took a surprising amount of time until Naleef figured out a system, namely finding names by looking in waste paper baskets for utility bills or old emails, and checking kid’s dressers for family photographs that became picture IDs.
When we got an ID, and hopefully a picture ID, we duct taped it and a FEMA ID sticker to the body. Naturally, Naleef was our secretary, recording who came out of what apartment, and most importantly was the ‘Lord Keeper of the Sharpie” pen supply.
KP, Ryan and I did the scrounging, locating the bodies. If someone was conscious and ambulatory, we assisted them out of the house to a waiting Humvee. For someone not conscious, we moved them only to the front room where they received a triage assessment from one of Montoya’s team.
We weren’t able to move a few due to their obesity, or the amount of trauma they had received. For the latter, Montoya sent in a medical team A-sap.
We were moving people up to Unity so fast that Montoya had to chopper in another medical team to assist at Unity.
Chinooks ferried second stage folks to Amherst every hour as well. By the end of the afternoon, I didn’t even bother looking up every time another chopper flew over on its way to Unity.
As we moved eastward across Grafton and left the sheltering effects of the hill, the severity of injuries increased.
Everyone had cuts from flying glass, and severe skin burns from the dust which followed. Many had fractures and concussions, or other injuries from falling down or the blown debris. Not one person southeast of Rice Square was conscious, and many were dead.
“The bag teams will be here for the deceased in the next day or two,” said Sergeant Willis, the lead rad tech. “Just write down the street address and number of the bodies that you find on the master sheet from FEMA.”
A fourteen-person team from the Massachusetts National Guard joined us at 5pm. Together, we worked past dark until our flashlights ran out of juice, which came about 8:00pm, and between them, Montoya’s crew, and the Men and Women of Honor, we got a thousand people to safety.
Re-supplied with rechargeable flashlights the Guard kept going; but Montoya and the Honor People had to call it a day. On the go since dawn, we were spent.
Heading up Heywood, I finally felt “peacefully tired” for the first time since the bomb had gone off, four and half days before. I savored the quiet of the streets as we drove home; only the roar of the engine and the head lights to reminded me of human technology.
I like this quiet. I like seeing the neighborhood all still and dark. It feels sweet. I wish we could have this without a bomb. Maybe we should have Quiet Day once a month, nationwide. Just turn everything off. No lights, no TV, no one driving anywhere, a countrywide siesta for even an evening. That would be cool.
Never happen, though. Too bad.
When we got back to Unity, the place was jumping.
A deuce and a half was being loaded with black plastic body bags. They were stacked in long rows on a deck made of plywood, fitted between slots along the sides of the truck. When I walked past, they were working on their second tier.
In the past hour, thirty people didn’t make it. I later learned that more than four hundred from our neighborhood died that day.
Inside, it was nice to have lights again. We even had fresh air from portable HVAC units, but it came at a price. Three generators were roaring, and my quiet night turned 180 degrees.
Day Five – 8:15 pm
All the Men and Women of Honor were home, but all was not well. Terry met me at the portal as I took off my rad suit.
“Willy’s sick,” she announced. “…We put him in with Trey.”
“Oh, my God.”
“…Yeah,” Terry replied.
I reached out and touched her shoulder. I wanted to hug her; but was too afraid. Tears came to my eyes and I felt scared. Would I be next?
Then, like a lahar, the fear broke through my professional veneer. I hugged Terry and sobbed.
She hugged me back, and we cried together.
After a few moments I looked up and laughed. The twenty rad suits hanging off every available nail or knob in the Mylar’d entry way to the Commons room looked so bizarre, yet, crucial.
What a weird world we live in. It is all so wacky and wonderful, scary and beautiful.
Karen and Adam had organized a full-time kitchen crew with Monica, Tracey and Kevin A. Some, if not all of the Men and Women of Honor were now going to be full-time cooks and nurse’s aides to take care of the rapidly growing numbers of staff and patients. FEMA, National Guard, Army, and Red Cross units were pouring into the area. Our mission was going to change and I felt a little disappointed: No more the hero?
In the meantime, another convoy was on its way to us, one with portable showers and toilets. They were also coming in with a mobile home unit to put up the staff. We now had twenty-six soldiers plus Karen, seven lads, two of whom were sick, the two girls Monica and Tracey, and four Unity staff, one of whom, TT was getting ready to leave. Forty-one people plus what looked like at least seventy-five patients. And thirty bodies on a truck.
The next convoy was also coming with another detachment of nurses, techs, and doctors. A mortuary team from Dover Air Base was enroute as well, and since our parking lot and small soccer field was filled or being saved for chopper landings, all these new arrivals were going to encamp at the Abbey and commute via TT’s Road. We were hopping, and we were only one of eighteen forward medivac sites.
After dinner, the Men of Honor helped settle the new arrivals, and our entire basement was wall-to-wall patients. By 10 p.m. we ran out of cots and blankets, so a Chinook broke daytime only regs, slicing through the night sky with its halogens shining like a streaking meteor, and flew in with more bedding supplies. That was critical, because most of our new arrivals suffered from severe shock and we had to keep the people warm.
After unloading the bed-gavant Chinook, the Men of Honor and I went to sleep as best we could, but not before TT got a group of us together to pray over Trey and Willy.
I laid my hands upon Trey’s shoulder for a minute. I was so worn out emotionally it was the most I could do in the therapeutic touch department. And as for Willy, he went untouched.
But not tomorrow, I resolved. We’re gonna do this every night, and we’re gonna do it right.
It’s hard to sleep in the middle of a war zone hospital going full-tilt boogie, but after an hour or so I got used to the noise and the lights, the cries and pain, and the intensity of it all. Fortunately, Army-supplied ear plugs and sleeping blinders helped. After four or five hours I woke up to urinate and the whole area was still ablaze with lights and activity. I shrugged and went back to sleep. It was reassuring knowing that “competent others” were taking care of business. In a deep place in my psyche I let go and slept like a baby.
Day 6 – 9:20 am
When I awoke, I was groggier than usual, and even after power breathing, I wasn’t too zippy.
“Since you’re not an early riser, Dave,” said a too-cheery Terry, “we’re going to put you in charge of the night kitchen crew.” I scowled, she laughed.
“What’s the plan for today, Terry?
“That’s a little up in the air. We’re not going back into the neighborhood because most of the apartments and houses have been covered. Mass National Guard got that job done during the night. We’re going to have a meeting with Captain Montoya soon about developing a new role here, such as being orderlies and support staff. Feel like cooking for two hundred?”
I debated over going back to bed, because not only do I hate being up what seemed like twenty-four hours in a row, I was scared – my throat was feeling a little scratchy. In the past, when I’d lost a chunk of my night’s sleep I’d often gotten sick with bronchitis.
I headed for a cup of coffee, and focused on vital energy flowing through me. I am radiant health, I said to myself, padding through the hallway in my stocking feet. Pulling myself together, I noticed all the guys had on their berets and scarves. With all the plastic and “rad suitage” I had worn in the past couple of days, I had forgotten about wearing my “colors.” But, now that we were being turned into “indoor heroes,” it seemed the thing to do. I padded my way back to the staff bedroom and put on my beret and scarf. Then, I looked in a mirror. Yikes! I looked scary with a six-day beard.
I need a day off just to sleep and get cleaned-up. I headed to the toiletry cabinet in the staff office and got the last razor.
What! Is the Army raiding our supplies? I felt indigent even though it was the Army that had provided the razors.
I was getting cranky, and I took a deep breath to refocus on living in the “now,” and changing my stressed-out attitude. I calmed down and blessed my slack time, even if it was just a few minutes.
Shaving, I thought about Willy and Trey. What are we going to do? What can we do to save them?
At breakfast, Terry and I met with a Doctor Kim, the radiation specialist with Montoya’s unit, who gave us a better understanding of what we were facing.
Willy and Trey, along with our other patients, were getting standard rad treatment. That consisted of mega doses of anti-oxidant vitamins, such as vitamin C and E, which act like radiation absorbers. All patients also received vitamin B to help the body by rebuilding damaged tissue.
“Running home in the dust moments after detonation is probably why these boys are so sick,” Dr. Kim said. “They undoubtedly inhaled large amounts of irradiated dust into their lungs.
“The alpha and beta particles,” he continued, “are most likely dispersed throughout the entire body – with system-wide problems developing – everything from decreased brain function and poor nerve response, to digestive dysfunction.”
Hearing that, Terry got on the Army’s wireless computer to surf the Internet and find radiation cures.
Within minutes she became an expert on the wonders of Japanese miso soup. Not only was it considered a good, digestible source of nutrients for radiation sufferers, but there was also evidence from the Hiroshima bomb of 1945 that it was medically therapeutic.
Dr. Kim was ambivalent about the possible benefits of miso soup, but I thought it was worth a try. Millenia, the local health food store, was at Rice Square and it might have survived and along with it, miso soup. That prospect was worth sending a Gator down to see. Adam and Ryan got right on it.
Dr. Kim also told us that he was prescribing some experimental drugs and treatments, not only for our boys, but all the folks being brought into Unity House. He was a little hush-hush about it, and I sensed that he didn’t want to incur scrutiny over possible liabilities for treating people when they weren’t informed as to any potential risks.
I assured Kim to use his best professional discretion; that these were desperate times for people in desperate conditions. Terry agreed with me, but we also wanted to know exactly what was going into Trey and Willy’s bodies.
Kim told us, that first he was giving them an experimental drug called HF-2200. It was an immunity enhancer that worked by protecting the neutrophils in bone marrow. The neutrophils are critical for the immunity system because they generate the important proteins that fight off infections. Somehow the HF-2200 bonded with these neutrophils, hardening them, and thus making them less vulnerable to the radiation.
“Radiation illness is basically the body’s response to the radiation being too energetic for the body to handle,” Dr. Kim said. “Radiation stirs the pot when the body can’t tolerate stirring. That’s why all the systems of the body are affected. Hormonal signals, feedback loops, nerve transmissions, and even the homeostasis of every cell are affected.
“In severe cases even the DNA breaks down, and when that happens, the whole body goes into disarray. Opportunistic viruses and bacteria can then enter the body and kill the patient.
“Or, the stirring goes on too long and tissues morph into gelatinous masses, internally and externally, and bleeding throughout the body is the end result. Radiation sickness is a totally nasty business. But, hopefully, the HF-2200 can block one source of trouble, namely infection.”
Kim also proposed, but hadn’t attempted yet, an even more radical form of therapy, a treatment he had developed, but, one that even his superiors in the medical corps didn’t know about.
He called it a Quantum Magnetic Therapy machine, and it worked by sending electromagnetic pulses into the body, regulated by some kind of quantum bio-feedback device monitored through a computer.
“The excessive energetic effects of the irradiated particles in Trey and Willy’s body have to be countered,” Kim explained, and he thought that a directed electromagnetic “pulse magnometer” might be effective. It sounded like a counter-radiation, radiation machine.
I loved the idea, but Terry was adamantly opposed to what sounded like wacko science. But we had bodies by the dozen lying outside on a deuce and a half that said we needed every tool we could get our hands on.
Alpha and beta particles radiate with precise frequency, Kim told us, but the gamma waves were a little trickier since they had passed through Trey and Willy’s bodies within nanoseconds of the blast. However, they had left behind a complex cascade of radiation echoes that rang throughout every tissue of the body. But, Kim told us he would address the alpha and beta contamination first.
He suggested that we start Trey and Willy on these machines.
I was eager to try it, and Terry, numb yet hoping, finally agreed.
We went to Trey and Willy’s room and Dr. Kim unpacked his equipment. At first glance, it didn’t look too fancy, and with everything else the Army had brought in, it didn’t seem out of place.
Each unit was comprised of two machines. One, the electromagnetic pulse generator, was the size of a loaf of bread, and the second was a laptop hooked to a palm-sized quantum feedback device that had lots of electrodes dangling from it.
The theory was that the feedback machine would match both the frequency and the power of the radiation, and the EM generator would send a pulse to neutralize it. Dr. Kim only had two units with him, and I suggested he hook up both Trey and Willy.
But Terry nixed that idea and told Kim to start with one lad and see what happened, in effect, hedging her bets. Kim reached for Trey, who appeared paler than Willy, and we deferred to his intuition.
Dr. Kim hooked up a couple of EKG-looking suction disks to Trey’s arms and legs and flipped a switch. The machines made absolutely no noise.
Fighting an invisible killer with a silent weapon. Hmmm.
“How will we know if it works?” I asked.
“If he gets better, we’ll know, maybe. If he doesn’t, we’ll know the machines didn’t do anything, or at least not enough,” Dr. Kim replied. “We’ll match post-treatment blood tests with his baseline, and measure normal body functions; we might see some localized or system specific improvement that might tell us something as well. But it’s really too experimental to really know anything. Besides, the kid’s pretty sick and there is a lot going on inside his body right now, both pathologically and therapeutically. We have a miniature biochemical and radiological war going on in this young man’s body. Who can say what is doing what, really.”
“And we don’t know what the power of prayer can do, either,” said Terry.
“I want us to do more of what we started last night with TT,” she said.
“I agree,” I said. “We ought to have regular therapeutic touch sessions for each kid, and also for those of our other patients that we can handle. In fact, we ought to instruct our guys in the value of prayer, meditation and therapeutic touch, so that when we’re all doing it together, we can have a more focused thing going. More bang for our buck, so to speak.”
Terry gave me a look that said, what the hell are you talking about, Dave?
“Terry,” I replied, “I’ve been reading a great book called, “The Field” by a medical journalist named Lynne McTaggart. She talks about the zero- point energy field and how all of creation, everything, are in it. She says the field is plucked somehow by thought, like the strings on a guitar, and the vibrations influence the intended recipient.
“So, Terry, “ I continued, “our prayers and healing hands put out an energetic pulse into the field and it hits the tissues of Trey’s and Willy’s body. They’ll respond to our healing intention. The more focused we are, the clearer, more precise the signal. The more energetically we do it, the stronger the pulse, and with more people doing it for longer periods of time the greater the impact.”
“Ah…yes,” said Terry with arched eyebrows. It was her way of saying, “Enough!”
“Want to join us Doc,” I whispered.
“No, thanks, Dave. I’m already way out on a limb. I’ll keep my day job with the Army if you don’t mind.”
“Terry,” I asked, “do you have any problems with me talking to the guys about the power of prayer, and what I know of the zero-point energy field and how all healing techniques can have an influence?”
“No, Dave. I guess not. But sometimes you scare me, and this is one of those times. Let me ask you something.”
“Sure, what is it?”
“Do you believe in God?”
“Why sure, why do you ask?”
“Because, I’m not so sure some times.”
Terry stared blankly at me, but I felt genuinely surprised by her question. Then, it dawned on me that I really didn’t believe in God the way that she did. In a flash, I realized that my world-view, my cosmological view of reality, was really quite different from hers and her way of asking me about it was to ask if I believed in God.
“You know, Terry, you may be right,” I said, pausing to let Kim walk away.
“I don’t think I believe in God the same way you do. Or, I believe in a different kind of God than you do. I know I don’t believe in the devil and heaven and hell and all that. In fact, I think those concepts are funny, or even worse, destructive. I don’t think anything is outside of God. I think all things are ‘of God,’ that there is nothing that isn’t ‘of God.’ It’s all ‘God.’ There’s nothing that ‘isn’t God.’”
Terry nodded, getting confirmation that her suspicions were indeed correct.
“Are you still okay with me talking to the guys together about prayer?”
“Yes,… Dave, let’s…,” she said sighing, unable to finish her thought. She looked too weary and too uncertain to proceed.
“When should we get everybody together,” I said, changing the subject, “to get organized?”
“Give me an hour. Montoya’s got his day team already going. I’m not totally sure how we can best fit into things at the moment, so let’s take stock of where we’re at with kids. I need a little rest right now to pull myself together, and then we’ll see where we go next.”
“How about ten-thirty?” I asked.
“I’ll spread the word,” I replied.
Making my rounds, I learned that TT had already left.
Didn’t say goodbye or let us know if or when he’s coming back. Typical TT, I thought.
I also learned from Adam that the Army had sent in more brass, including Montoya’s boss, and they wanted us to join them for a morning strategy meeting. In fact, Adam added, the purpose of their attending was to tell us to leave and thereby make room for more medical personnel.
“What?! Goddamn them,” Adam,” I exclaimed. “They want us to leave? Screw ‘em. Hell, we were here from the beginning when they weren’t, saving lives when they couldn’t do diddily-squat. Now, they want us to leave? Where are we supposed to go? This is our home, I mean, this is the kids’ home. Where are they supposed to go, and who’s supposed to take care of them?’
“I informed Colonel Potter of those very issues,” said Adam.
“Potter? We have a Colonel Potter? We have a Colonel Potter here now in charge of us? What is this, Reality TV – like this is a MASH unit or something? C’mon Adam, for Christ’s sake, what the hell is happening here?”
“Relax, Dave,” said Adam, “you’re getting emotional.”
“Yeah, I guess I am, but I’m pissed off.”
“I understand, but let’s come up with a plan. First, we need to consolidate the boys into one room and free up a lot of space. Then, we have to figure out a roll for us that will enhance our presence here and not be a nuisance to the Army.”
“Nuisance! We sure weren’t a nuisance yesterday. We pulled a thousand people out of their homes. Has Colonel Potter ever try walking up a triple-decker in a rad suit? Or carry a body down one? But,” I took a deep breath and calmed down, “you’re right, Adam. Yeah, you’re right. Thanks for thinking clearly. I guess I’m getting a little edgy.”
“To be understood.”
I need to remember how Adam just handled me. He maintains his calm so much better than I.
Our ten-thirty Unity meeting turned into an Army-Unity organizational meeting and miso soup brunch. We decided to relocate all of our healthy guys into Ryan’s large corner room on the south corridor, and all the male Unity staff moved into KP’s room, also in the south corridor. Terry and the girls piled into KA’s old room, now called the “girls” room. This gave the Army one whole bathroom and shower complex and the six bedrooms of the north hallway and all of our old offices.
We also got a new mandate. We were now medical orderlies and community relations specialists. One Unity staff and one of our guys would work the morning shift, and another pair would take the afternoon. Another set of staff and lads would do kitchen detail. The rest of us would address the personal issues of our sick neighbors already here. Currently, we had seventy folks to help and the Army expected us to top out at a hundred by nightfall.
We were entering the next phase of the rescue-recovery effort. Exactly what that was going to entail was a little hazy, but the first response phase of the rescue was coming to a close. The next part would be more complex and more imprecise to detail, but basically it meant getting the lives of our neighbors back together.
For some families that meant burying the dead. For others it meant getting newly-orphaned neighborhood kids connected to relatives in the safe zone. For others it simply meant coming to Unity House for the first shower in a week and having a hot meal.
For all, including the Men of Honor, it meant surviving the immediate crisis and focusing on the future.