Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Taking the Tower 4


Every muscle in my body flexed as the white hot blast consumed everything around me. In the sliver of a second that it took the concussion grenade to detonate, sound eclipsed sight, dust motes became projectiles and I just about dropped a very expensive camera. As the echos of the blast bounced from wall to ceiling to floor and back again, I remained very still, trying to wrap my brain around what had just happened.

Flash Bang. A SWAT team's favorite tool of diversion. I'd seen (and felt) them used before in training but never so unexpectedly, and never inside such a small enclosure. The very volume of the explosion was painful. Though only a fraction of a wartime ordinance, the flash bang rendered everything instantly irrelevant when it erupted from the corner of the room. The force blew the helmet off the SWAT team member closest to it, the unmistakable sound of it's thin plastic shell skittering across the concrete floor providing a delicate filligree against the blasts painfully bass echo.

When my vision DID return, I froze like a statue, absorbing the sound and wind and light as it slowly evaporated into shadowy daylight, my eyes darting around the room for signs of injury and finding none. The SWAT team were milling about and looking at the floor, already piecing together how they'd set off the booby trap. Everyone looked pretty casual but the rapid breathing sounds coming from behind their face masks told me even they weren't expecting a concussion grenade to be stashed amid all those cardboard boxes.

Only then did I think to look at my camera. As I turned my head toward the viewfinder, the red 'Record' light stared back, a beacon in the dark that told me I'd be able to relive the proceeding moments ad infinitum.

Through the ringing in my ears, I heard the sounds of Erik's voice coming through the headphones around my neck.

"Hey Stew - you need to come outside and change pants?"

My drawers were fine, but I stumbled down the stairwell anyway. Nothing else I captured on camera would top what I'd just recorded and I was anxious to watch the footage. Over lunch. In a hillbilly diner down the road. As I stumbled out of the training tower, still a bit punch drunk from absorbing the blast, I realized that, for better or worse, I still liked my job - deadlines, flash bangs and all.

1 comment:

old man said...

I'd already used up most of my "9-lives" after 25 years in the biz. I was shooting the destruction of an ancient very tall brick chimney via explosives. When I arrived on site I noticed that the base of the chimney already had a huge hole blasted away.

I learned long ago not to talk to the boss but rather the worker bees to find out what's really going on. The guy in the hard hat said "I'm afraid we're going to blow all the windows out within 1/2 mile of this place." Apparently they'd tried to take the chimney the day before and didn't use enough explosive charge and now the boss was pissed. That wasn't going to happen again.

This was a first rate demo company. When they tried to get the "green" light on the explosive circuit it wouldn't go on. They'd put so much explosive charge in the base that the denotation wire wasn't large enough to carry the current. No problem and I swear to god they sent a guy to Radio Shack to get a heavier gage wire!

Okay I'm setting up all the while talking to the workman. "Where's this thing gonna fall?" "I'm I back far enough?" I setup around 100 yards from the chimney. Just before the blast another worker guy comes up to me and says "I'd move back another 50 yards if I where you, the boss really packed the base with explosives" Okay, back I go and get near a telephone pole. My plan was to go into record and kinda of hide behind the pole. Hey, safety first.

Okay 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and BAM! Before I can react a brick coming at about a million miles per hour whizes right past my head, within 6 inches. Sounded like an artillery shell. The air just went SNAP! What was that quote from Teddy Roosevelt? "Nothing is quite as exciting as bullets flying around all around and none of them hitting you." No, I didn't have to change my pants. But I crossed future explosive demo jobs off my list of things to do. Oh yeah, and I got the shot.