Date: March 2014. Time: 0900. Location: Pennsylvania.
"Looking back on it it sounds like the plot to a bad 90s action movie but it’s the way things were." The man I'm interviewing, Firefighter Kenna, stares off into the distance as he recalls the beginning of his ordeal.
“Let me see if I understand this correctly, Kenna. You want us to gear up in Turnouts. Grab hooks, halligans, and axes. Make our way cross town, which is infested with those things, to a National Guard armory that’s more then likely already emptied either by the military or looters in hopes of finding some supplies?” The look on his face said it all there was no way he was going to agree to this crazy scheme. It was insane. It was suicide. It was all we had.
“Yes.” I tried to act strong but the defeat in my voice held my enthusiasm at bay. I was able to convince myself to keep and maintain eye contact with him.
The silence was deafening. I was just about to go on about how we could locate survivors and help them. I was ready to counter with arguments about public service. Honoring the memories of our fallen. Taking care of our families.
“Well damn it. What are we waiting for?” And just like that the argument was over. “We’ve got nothing better to do. Might as well have an adventure before we end up as dinner right.” The smile on his face tried to hide his concern.
It’s amazing how all of us made it to the station. All 23 of us. Some arrived with their families; wives, girlfriends, husbands, boyfriends, kids. Being single I had no where else to go, but the family guys, I would've thought they’d take off, try to find an evacuation station, get to the mountains, anything. But no, we all took an oath and each of us showed up. We brought what we had; canned goods, bottles of water, a couple shot guns, some pistols, other various supplies. We secured the doors, packed into the upper levels of the station house then destroyed the stairs. We’re a Hook and Ladder group, we specialize in entering burning buildings and ventilating structures, we tear shit up. So taking out the stairs and replacing it with a chain fire ladder was no issue. We were lucky for while. But supplies began running low. First we just hit the near by businesses. Then we spread out.
We had all heard the saying, “It ain’t stealing if you leave a note.” So we left notes. We had exhausted the local sources and had lost too many good men, and women. The first guy got bit as we tried to commandeer some supplies from a pharmacy. Got tagged by a quiet one that was standing behind a door. We took him back to the station. We’d all seen the TV reports and listened to the radio but no one wanted to believe it. If you got bit you became one of THEM. A Zombie. Took us two more guys, after Bobby, turning in the Station House and tearing apart their families before we came to the consensus, anyone bit was put down with extreme prejudice. Still we had already lost too much.
It had been decided that we would stay put and wait for rescue, which we all just knew was coming cause there was a SOP (standard operating procedure) for disasters. We’d spent the last several weeks holed up, waiting for... The National Guard? FEMA? Anyone from the Government? Someone to find us. We now found ourselves out of food. Running low on water, an irony to be sure. And desperate.
Down to seven men. Trying to support 11 other survivors. Madness.
The big man had settled it. He had been silent as we went over the pluses and minuses of the plan. As we tried to figure out how to break the plan to the terrified huddled families.
It had started the night before as we were rationing out the last of our supplies. When I suggested the plan, “You’re fuckin’ crazy man.”
“You know how many of those things there are out there?”
“They fuckin’ tore apart my son!”
They laid into me. But I didn’t give up. We argued. All day yesterday and into today. Once Walker agreed…He was a career firefighter, old school. Graying at the temples and widening at the midsection. And he could still whip the ass of any Rookie and most of us regulars in PT. Built like a brick shit house is how my father would have described him.
I was hoping they could talk me out of it. Not that I’d talk them into it.
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