Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Taking the Tower 2

It’s become cliché to say 9/11 changed the world. But it did, and nowhere more cataclysmically than in law enforcement. Now even deputy dawgs in the middle of the sticks have to sweat terrorism. Using funds from the Department of Homeland Security, men and women who used to spend their time setting up speed traps are now learning to deal with chemical weapons. Occasionally they want publicity doing so, and that’s how I found myself huddling in a ground floor stair well and taking on paint ball fire.

To be honest, I’d been warned. In our earlier interview, the training officer with the bushy moustache told my lens how the opposing agents would take pot shots at the SWAT team assigned to take the tower.

“We got some other surprises for ‘em too”,” he grinned behind a wad of chewing tobacco.

Now, as I loitered in the stairwell and waited for the team I swore I heard giggling from four flights up.


The heavy steel door before me almost ripped from its hinges as the SWAT team poured into the small room, pistols drawn, eyes darting behind steamed up goggles. Instinctively, I leveled my own weapon - a SONY XD CAM with freshly charged Dionic battery. They weren’t impressed. In fact, they barely issued a law enforcer's grunt as they swept past my lens and loud shirt.

I turned to follow the team. The pudgy deputy beringing up ther rear wore a growing sweat stain on the back on his chem suit. With every step he pulled hard on the air tank's regulator, making him sound like Darth Vader - IF the Dark Lord was a two-pack-a-day smoker, that is.

Bracing against the wall, I steadied up a canted shot of the already fatigued team trudging up the staircase. A wide shaft of sunlight swathed the stairwell from above, casting their forms in silhouette and lighting up a thousand dust motes so well I could count them through the viewfinder. This is what I’d come for.

“Come on, you can do better that! How about Laguardia? You got nothing for me there?”

Erik's New Jersey accent pouring out of my headphones confused me at first. Then I took a step up and peered out of the second story window. Down below, I saw the well-coiffed top of my partner’s head. With the air of a young banker, he paced around the entrance to the training tower, yammering on his ever-present cell phone and one still-activated lapel microphone.

I considered hurling a 9 volt battery at him, but I was running low.

...more to follow...

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