Thursday, June 04, 2009

Thoughts of a Jackal

"Dude, we got CRA-ZEE flash flooding all over. Can you check out a water rescue up your way?"

Scene of water fatalityIt was more marching orders than a request, so I didn't bother answering. Instead I repeated the address in question and folded my cell phone. Thirty seconds later I wondered where my hat was as I steered Unit Four through what felt like the Red Sea. It wasn't, but with seven inches of rain falling over my homeland over the course of a few hours, the biblical references come fast and furious. Which is precisely why I kept an eye out for animals traveling by pair as the GPS screen led me deep into Northeast Guilford County. When the voice on my dashboard told me I'd reached my destination, I didn't really believe her, but then I saw red and yellow orbs dancing in the distance.

Hatless in the ShitCloser inspection revealed men beneath that light show, so I found a soggy patch of shoulder to park on and inhaled my last few seconds of comfort for the evening. KA-WOOM! The rain came down with such force, I wondered if I owed it money. But before I could figure out who to curse for my soggy boxers, I felt the eyes of a dozen souls upon me. Firefighters, deputies, rescue swimmers - all staring at me as if I'd mailed invitations to this glistening spot in the road. But I didn't take it personal, for I know what's up when first responders idle...

floods 001 2.0I stood there for more than an hour, the rain invading my every pour as I competed with the rescue crews for who could look the most bored. None of us were bored, mind you, but it's just something grown men do when there's no one left to rescue, nothing yet to report. Later, I would find out a woman driving a moped had ignored police warning to stay off that road and she paid for it with her life. I was there when they pulled her out, but far enough away to escape the brunt of it. Folks sometimes grow angry with my ilk; they figure we're unfeeling leaches who live for the next body-bag shot. They're wrong - but I can no more change their minds than I can stop the rain. Truth is, I no longer really care. This job CAN be done with dignity, respect, feeling. Those who say it can't have never stood in my soggy shoes, have never averted their lens when the gurney rolls past, have never pretended the water rolling down their face is nothing more than rain.

Here's hoping they never have to.


FlutePrayer said...

Beautiful. Thanks for bringing class and compassion to work with you.

Amanda said...

At least you can come out and say this.

An old colleague of mine from way back spent 30 years shooting this and every unimaginable horror on this earth during his career as a military combat photog - and could not talk about it, no one to turn to. There was no Internet, no, no blogs and toss in the military stoic culture on top of it.

When I met up with him at an old employer of mine, after he figured out I spoke teevee - he also realized I had a military background (Navy brat) so I was one of very few there that knew where he was coming from. One day, he cornered me at my desk and finally opened up and unloaded all he saw over those 30 years.

Something he really needed to do, but couldn't for the longest time. To come out and say, yea I'm human and all this shit I shot did bother me.

sitbonzo said...

I think my new collegues were cross when I didnt deliver the pics of the 15 year old car crash victim either on the ground or being put in the ambulance. I didnt shoot the pics and I wont shoot the pics.
nice post.

turdpolisher said...

Keep doing what you do. The compassion you bring to your work is something that sets it apart from the drivel that's out there.

Fecund Stench said...

You're living proof that sociopaths should never have cameras. My Dad ran the Stenchville rescue squad and would come home from an accident and cry like a baby. I never joined up.

Thanks for averting your lens.