I had some difficult assignments
It was my job to search for the lifeless bodies of the young, hidden in the murky depths, or under layers of ice. I would cling to the triangle we had carved in the ice, suspended at the moment of courage, the edges of life. A rescue diver already suited up next to me. The time has come to push my body under the ice and search for the beloved and recently missing.
Focus only on tactics and training. The fear would come later, sometimes in the middle of the night.
I was on a team of SCUBA divers responsible for Search and Rescue (USRT). Over the years I dove most of the lakes and rivers in the County. I searched for bodies, cars, weapons and other items of evidence.
The children were the hardest. A family would have their world torn to the bone in the missing minute and the question, “Where’s Timothy”, and the slow sting of panic settles in. Each moment more frantic than the previous.
I was part of the blur of sirens and uniforms, but I was different from the rest. It was my job to go in the water and search for Timothy. As I suited up it was my eyes that you would ask your questions and pin your slim hopes on. Mother’s eyes brimming with tears, trembling lips mouthing mournful pleas. Terror has arrived.
Most often we would find their missing loved one in hours. Sometimes it was after days of diving. Swimming underwater with a rope in tow in wide sweeping arcs. Covering every inch, to shove my hands into the cold mud, like oatmeal. I could rarely see, happy to sneak an occasional clear view of my dive console. Always finding the missing by touch rather than sight.
The startling terror of finding a fellow human so dreadfully out of place. It was always cold and dark. Just a touch of gravity as we danced on the lake bottom.
Timothy is right here, 40 feet under the ice.
I tug the line and get the free lift to the surface with this lifeless child clutched to my chest. I pass him through the hole to the awaiting hands of the real life savers (and a job I could never do) the EMS EMT guys.
I hear the screams of a mother…
These experiences aren’t unique to me. Some Officer, Deputy or Trooper did these same things today, many witnessed much worse.
Maybe someone else needs to know that we can survive the past and live in this day.
© 2015, Michael Fulcher. All rights reserved.