From the Journal of Shael McFinney, Thursday June 30,
Its impossible to tell where it all began. Im
sure it had been slow starting for a long time, and we never saw it. Then all
of a sudden the whole world was different and was completely unforgiving about
it. Anyone who is alive today figured that quick.
I came to this understanding at 2:15PM, Monday, June 27,
2005. That was when I killed someone for the first time ever.
I dont know if killed is the right term,
because they were already dead.
My grandparents were luckier than my parents. Their great
defining moment, their call to arms, came one Sunday morning in a sneak attack
at Pearl Harbor. No one had to tell them the world had changed. They knew it
immediately, everyone did. My parents didnt have that luxury, their
generation sucked into the Vietnam conflict that crept into every facet of
their lives slowly and silently like a parasitic vine.
On nine-eleven, everyone glued to their televisions got to
witness an era end. The planes hit, the buildings crashed and everyone with a
nice vantage point from the cheap seats let out a huge gasp as they grasped the
enormity of what was happening.
Those of us on the ground had had as much perspective
of its enormity as an ant does of the lawn service that mows the yard they live
in. We all had to find our own moments. We didnt have the luxury of
taking in the tragedy from a distance. I was visiting friends in Manhattan when
it happened. Ten minutes earlier and I would have been under the impact zone. I
work as a nurse, so the moment I saw the planes hit I just grabbed whatever
gear I had in the car and ran for the site.
It was the longest day, filled with the longest hours of my
For a long time after that I was shaken. For months I felt
like I was sleep-walking. The hours of triage; people, burned, scarred,
bleeding and dying around me. Who do we treat? Who do we pass over? Who is
beyond care? Everything was fresh in my mind every day for a long time.
My Great Uncle, well in his 80s, had served in World War II
in Italy and in the Battle of the Bulge. He never talked about it so the
history channel was watched with a Wheres Waldo approach
trying to see if we could glimpse a young man staring back at us from across
the years. A couple years ago, about 6 months after the towers fell, he pulled
me aside and said in his cigar-graveled voice, You gotta let it go.
Whatever it is that youre carrying happened in a different place and at a
different time and under different rules, so dont try to figure out how
to make sense of it from the here and now.
I wasnt sure what to make of what he said.
I have a pretty good idea what you went through down
there. There were a lot of people hurt. There was blood, screaming and none of
you were thinking about anything but what was right in front of you. You
werent lucky enough to be in a hospital with a full staff. You had to get
as many people as you could out of danger. Not everyone made it. And no matter
what you could have done, not everyone was gonna make it. You could have stuck
your hands in your pockets and waited for doctors, or paramedics, or the right
equipment. I bet a lot of people did. And Ill bet they lost a lot more
wounded than you did.
You saw that if you were gonna do your job, which is
saving lives, that you had to accept that the rules for doing your job changed.
You didnt have the luxury of choice. You saved those you could, and god
rest those you couldnt. But you got you and as many of your people out
alive, and thats all that matters.
It really stuck with me. A lot of things happened on 9-11
that, if I did that at my job, I wouldnt have lasted the day. There were
a lot of people that I knew lost arms or legs, or more, that I couldve
saved if we just had a tourniquet, or a clean suture kit, or a neck
immobilizer. Hell, if we had any organization in the first hour I wouldnt
have had to knock out a womans two front teeth when she wouldnt
stop running toward the buildings. She never ever called to lisp thank you.
We got an education back in the
Winter of 44 about the difference between rules, and reality. My
uncle told me. We were at the front lines of the bulge, right where
Hitlers assault slowed up. We were in an exposed part of the line so we
were surrounded on three sides with Germans. Hell, things were so confusing we
were never sure which three sides they were. Well, after the 3rd day of being
cut off from communication our sergeant went out to the tree line with a couple
guys waving a white flag. The bastards cut them down with a machine gun. Now
youre supposed to take someone prisoner if theyre trying to
surrender. They decided to change the rules, so instead of crying about it, we
just dug in and didnt give the bastards the opportunity. I didnt
take another prisoner till they signed the surrender, and I went all the way to
Berlin. Was that right? I dont know. Im not proud of it, and I
dont feel a lick of shame for it either. It was a different time, and our
world had different rules. If we coulda changed the rules, we wouldve,
but since we couldnt we just did our best to keep our promises to get
He was lucky. There isnt a home to go back to.
Everywhere its the same. Everywhere we know of. The main thing right now
is to deal with whats in front of us, and hang on until we find out
differently, and make the best of it.
I cant believe that I picked up this journal to keep
my notes about my sisters wedding. Its a nice leather-bound booklet
that I thumbed over while drinking Chi Tea at Borders, cursing my recent failed
relationship, debating whether or not to get a dog. Not because I like or
dislike dogs, but because when a woman turns 31 she either gets a dog or a
husband. Nothing screams desperate like a golden retriever.
A dog would be nice to have right now. Might make the back
of the ambulance a bit more comforting. I might sleep a bit better knowing a
dog would bark if anything was coming. I might feel safe. I havent slept
since Monday. Its what? Wednesday. The Indians kept dogs around for
protection against animals and starvation. Another good practical use.
I have to sleep, and Im going to risk a sedative to do
it. Im not up to drive for a few hours anyway. Right now I couldnt
fight off any attackers, so Id rather be in a drug-induced sleep if I was
going to be bitten to death. I dont like the thought of what happens
after that though. I have to watch Stan though. He was bit at least five times,
so its only a matter of time. Till then, he drives, Joe and Sheila watch,
and I sleep.
Were somewhere in Hunterdon County NJ, following the
back roads west. Hopefully well be able to get over the river in Milford.
We decided to stay away from the major highways. Theyve been clogged with
empty cars for over a day now and the last thing we need to do is risk it on
foot. Hopefully well be able to bypass the population centers and get
into the open country. But I doubt it. Its only a matter of time before we run
out of gas, get into an accident, get bit and turn or whatever and were
faced with nothing but a few thousand rotting mouths lumbering toward us.
On second thought, Im going to skip the
sedative. I only have three doses, and Ill need all three at once to OD
Stan when he starts to turn. When he does I dont know if Ill inject
him, or me.
If something happens to me, and you find this, take some
advice. If someone around you dies? Bash their head in before they come back.
Itll be easier to do it when theyre not moving, and they WILL get
up and move. No heartbeat. No pulse. And when they do, they will try to eat
you, bite your flesh. If youre bit? Youre as good as dead, and
its painful as hell. And you WILL turn. (Why hasnt Stan turned yet?
Its been four days and he doesnt even look sick.) Stay away from the
cities. Stay away from towns. Head west. Hopefully there are some places where
the people were able to get up some defenses before they were outnumbered.
Theres no place like that left east of the Delaware.