Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Walkerton Writer Strikes Again

Our most recent writing assignment was to find a news story and write it from two different perspectives. We needed to use details from the story, but were allowed to take liberaties and add fictional elements as we liked.

I selected a story about a sandstorm in Germany. The storm, however bizarre, caused an 80-car pileup and many of the cars were burned as a result. Here's my take on the story:

I know I’m forgetting something! I don’t know how people can be ready at a moment’s notice to fly out of the country on business. Some of us need a little time to consider what to pack. What’s the weather? Will I need a dress? Are there any social functions? And that’s just the clothes! What about this crazy red mane? The constant rainy, damp weather in London will be a complete shock to it! It may need special attention to tame. There are just too many variables for my taste. At least I managed to throw some things into a suitcase and head to the airport in the short window I was given. I should consider that a good omen!

Now I just need the traffic to cooperate. The route to the airport is always an adventure. Faint-hearted drivers just stay off the Audubon. I still remember my first time on the famed roadway—saw my life flash before my eyes! These days it is just a way to get from Point A to Point B.

What is going on? Why are the cars ahead slowing down? I hope it’s not an accident. That’s the last thing I need!

Come on, folks! Let’s go! Move ye arses!

Shite! Oh… maybe that’s what people are slowing for! I’ve never been in one, but I’m fairly certain that’s a sandstorm heading this way. It looks just like a summer storm brewing, but it’s a strange glowing brown color.

If we all just keep at this pace, nice and slow, easy going, I might make it to the airport right before the plan takes off. I wonder if they still expect me to be there two full hours ahead for my international flight. I don’t want to have to call my boss and tell him I missed my flight. I’ve only been at my job for five months. I don’t think he’d looked highly on this. I’m supposed to be show him I can handle the responsibility. I’m actually very good at my job—not just another pretty Irish redhead named Clare.

I still can’t believe I landed this position. I moved to Germany nine months ago to live with my boyfriend and I’d nearly given up landing a job at the prestigious Fischer Marketing Firm. Irish luck must have been on my side though—several resumes, numerous inquisitive calls and even offers to work for free finally wore down the Director. Now I need to show them all I am up for the challenge! And the first challenge I have to overcome, obviously, is making my flight!

Right now, all I can do is concentrate on the road ahead, because it looks like I am going to have to drive right into that massive brown cloud. Great. I just paid this car off and now it’s going to get a sand-papering from the storm. I wonder what my insurance will cover in a situation like this. After this, my car may need a new paint job. But if I knock ‘em dead at this meeting in London, I might be able to afford something extravagant like that paint job.

Bloody hell! The wind is really picking up! I can see the cars ahead of me struggling to stay in their lane. I sure hope this storm passes quickly. I am not a fan of driving in less-than-ideal conditions—especially on this road where just keeping up with the masses seems dangerous.

Ok, wee car, just stay on the road. I’ll guide us through this mess. We’ll be on the other side in no time.

Isn’t this grand? I can’t see anything! What’s the point in headlights if they aren’t lighting the road? All I see is the wall of sand surrounding us. I guess as long as I don’t see any other cars I’m fine.

Damn! That was close!

Just a little further, I’m sure of it. How big can this sandstorm be? My palms are sweating and I’m white-knuckling the poor steering wheel. I guess I’m a little more scared than I thought. Deep breaths. I’m going to be just fine. Breathe.


What happened? Never saw the cars—they came out of nowhere. I couldn’t hit the brakes fast enough. They must have piled up in the sandstorm.

Something doesn’t feel right. I can’t move my legs. And I think I’m bleeding. Yeah, that’s definitely blood on my hand. I must have knocked my head on the steering wheel when I hit that car. So much for paying off my car.

WOW. I feel sore in places I didn’t even know were there. I hope someone called an ambulance and the police, possibly a few firefighters to get me out of here.

Oh my God. What is that smell? Does a sandstorm smell like that? Like dirt and burning rubber? It must be coming from the other cloud—that thick, black one ahead. At least I can see the orange sky starting to show through the brown haze ahead of me. God, I hope they hurry up and get me out of here. It’s getting harder and harder to breathe.

What was that noise? How could the world be so heartless and wake me from the best dream ever—spring break in the Caribbean with a bevy of models. Who can I talk to about continuing this dream every night? Note to self—I better not mention this to my girlfriend. I’m not sure she’d have the same fun imaging it as I did.

Ok, Ok. I’m up! I know the drill—not my first fire, people! You’d think after five years on the job here and four before that in the U.S., they’d stop treating me like the new guy. I guess they’ll always see me as the newbie since I’m only 26 and youngest of the lifers on the crew.

Ha! Look who’s the first one on the engine! Take that—I showed those old guys!

Even though I wish I could have stayed in that dream a little longer, I never tire of the rush of excitement I get from jumping out of sleep into rescue mode. I think that’s what sold me on this job. I don’t have a hero complex, but I have to admit to being an adrenaline junkie. But nothing gets me going like a fire. I can’t explain it. There’s just something mystical and timeless about it. Fire has been around forever—it’s amazing!

I didn’t hear the call specifics, only the alarm, but from what I can hear the guys mumbling, it’s going to be a nasty one. A freak sandstorm or something on the Audubon caused a pile-up. I have no idea what kind of scene we will find when we get there, but with that many cars and people involved it’s going to be pretty bad.

I’ve never been one to shy away from gruesome scenes, but a few in my career have tested my strength. Those are the ones you never forget and I hope I don’t ever get used to those kinds of scenes.

Damn! How can the Captain see the road ahead of us? The sandstorm may have died down, but there is still plenty of brown dust in the air mixed with black smoke. I better put my mask on if I plan on getting my job done in this mess.

Oh my God… I’ve never seen anything like this. How many cars are involved? There must be close to 100! We’re going to need more help! We can’t possibility handle this alone!

Snap out of it, Luca. You have a job to get done. No time to waste. Do what you were trained to do and tune the rest out.

Deep breath. First, is the fire under control? I smell burning rubber and am seriously thankful I put my mask on before getting out of the truck. That smoke! It’s moving across the scene before me like a solid being. I’ve only been able to get a few glimpses of how bad things really are. I’ll have to rely on instinct.

Ok, the fire is out. It’s just smoke lingering. The cars I’ve been able to get to on the outskirts of the pile-up aren’t too bad. Of course, the drivers are really shaken up and unable to get out of their wrecked cars, but otherwise alright.

“Sir? Sir, can you hear me?”

No answer. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since his SUV is now the size of a Smart car. I need to say a quick prayer for him—I’ve done that for all the accident victims I’ve come across in my career. There’s always time for that.

Keep moving, Luca. Don’t linger more than you need to. There may be people still trapped who need help.

Climbing over the tangled mass of vehicles and wreckage, my attempts at finding anyone alive went unanswered. Closer into the middle of the pile-up, cars were blackened with heavy fire damage and no longer recognizable. Scenes like this you don’t know whether to hope for survivors or not. Living or dying through this is something no one should have to go through.

I’m not holding out much hope of finding anyone alive, but I know I still have to check each car.

Only one more vehicle left—another that was fully engulfed in flames. I’m not sure I will ever be able to get this day out of my mind. The number of people killed is astounding. I feel for all the families affected by this tragedy and won’t take for granted going home to my girlfriend.

The sooner I check this car, the sooner I’m home with Clare.
Link to story: