Downstairs was organized chaos. The walls echoed with voices and none of the typical white noise I was used to hearing in the gym. No AC running, no music playing. Just voices echoing in large open rooms. We moved around a bit before settling on a location for the first aid station. Tables were set up, trash cans readied, supplies opened and organized. I felt a mild panic going through the supplies. I didn’t know what to do with half of the stuff. Didn’t even know what it was called or what it was for. My Red Cross First Aid training had not prepared me for this. God I wished I knew what to do.
Hank was with me again. He had been able to get in touch with his parents - they were on their way to get him and bring him home. Derek had been in touch with our families during the slow drive to safety, but my phone still wasn’t working. I grabbed a Gatorade and some point and chugged it. Thank you sugar rush! Sam tried to break us into the Sports Rehab office so patients would have some more privacy and we would have beds to lay them on. The master key didn’t work in the lock. Lance called Derek away to discuss something.
Men in scrubs arrived. Thank you, Jesus. I recognized them from work. They were physicians and med students from UMC. Dr. Uzlen, our interim dean, was with them as well. I was beyond grateful. Their presence meant someone with more training and more experience was officially in charge. Derek and I could back out if we wanted to. It wasn’t on us to save anyone. We could take care of ourselves for the time being. I slumped against a wall, sat down, and spaced out again.
When Derek returned, he had a package of chocolate cookies that his mom has sent him for his birthday. He shared them with everyone. It seemed strange that it was still his birthday - that this was the same day that had started just that morning with me waking to sunshine in my bed. A bed that I would never return to, in a home I would never live in again. I could never have imagined that would be my last time waking up there.
Derek and I both needed to get away for at least a minute. We decided to head to the rock wall - Derek had keys and no one else would be there. I felt a little guilty since there were so many people there who wouldn’t have the luxury we were about to indulge in, but that wasn’t going to stop me from taking a minute to breathe. It was around midnight I think.
Derek and I went into the rock climbing room, shut the door behind us, and sat down on the mats. There was a single emergency light. The echo of voices was distant. It was almost quiet. Before we had any real time to ourselves, someone found us though and called Derek away. I was left by myself in the dimly lit room. I got up, grabbed a rolled of paper towels and sat back down on the mats. In the familiar space, where I’ve climbed & hung out with friends, I finally took my moment. With all the weight of the day, I let go of all my control and cried, gasping sobs. I cradled my head with my up drawn knees and let tears flow freely. But just as quickly as my crying started, it stopped. I rubbed my face with paper towels, feeling the itch of the fiber glass insulation that covered me with its invisible residue. I sipped my water, and I waited for Derek to come back.
He came back with Hank, who was still waiting for his folks. We all sat together in the quiet, attempting to process the day. Hanks folks arrived soon after. Derek and I decided it was time to bunk down for the night. It was sometime after 1:00AM. We met back up in the Rec office with Sam, the Haynie’s, and others? We grabbed camp pillows and fleece liners from the Outdoor Rec office and headed back downstairs. Lance slept in the office. Catherine went to stay with friends. I have no idea where their dogs went, or where Kyle went for that matter. Derek, Sam, some other guy, his dog, and I went to the climbing wall.
We laid out our beds for the night. Refilled water bottles. Made trips to the darkened bathrooms. Tried to settle down. We all laid down and waited for sleep. I heard my watch chime 2:00AM. And 3:00AM. And 4. I know I slept some because with every person that walked by, every time the dog stirred, and every time the wind howled I woke up. I laid there, staring at the ceiling, listening to the wind, waiting for the roof to rip off. I did not dream.