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   A Day In The Life
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Page Eleven

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From:  patti keiper (  
Subject:  Like Panama Canal..
Sent: Sat 5/11/13 2:45 AM

The first parachuted firefighter landed on the roof deftly, using the areas
that Brice had indicated as still being safe. He pulled out a cherry smoke
marker so the man behind him could see his landing a little better in the
soupy fog.

Johnny, Roy, Marco and Stoker were familiar with the dangers the jumpers
faced.  Together they helped smother and trample each man's chute as
he landed before the wind had a chance to pull them off the building and
into the deadly mudslide around them.

The two jumpers released their harnesses and immediately got on their
radioes.   "We're down. Stand by for a torpedo line!"  Then they
began to unpack some very technical rescue gear that they had carried
with them from the plane.

##Aerial Two, we copy. Ready to receive on your mark.##

"Wow.." said DeSoto, impressed, when a shoulder launcher, long
distance lay lines, and other eye/sight devices were laid out.

The first jumper smiled and took his palm into a handshake greeting.
"Lt. Gregory, lead smoke jumper and captain of L.A. County's Swift
Water Rescue Team."

Johnny tried to get Sharon to smile with him at their benefactors'
arrival, by sweeping some hair out of her eyes gently. "Swift water?" he
murmured, surprised.

"Yeah." replied Gregory. "Why not? It's still the same set of problems.
Only mud's not as..." he smiled. "...swift." he joked. "What hazards do we
have besides the obvious?" he blinked.

Gage replied. "Mainly surgery gas tanks. Some may be leaking. The
false ceiling gave way in there."

"So definitely no campfires. We'll keep our radio use to a minimum
and upwind to prevent triggering an explosive with static electricity."
promised the lieutenant.

The younger fireman introduced himself. "I'm Kane. I take it you four are
the trained ones with the department?"

"Uh, five actually." said Brice. "But I'm not healthy yet. I'm still sort of walking
wounded from dealing with this stuff." he said, pointing out to the slick mud
river pulling the vet hospital's foundation along. "About our victims. She's first."
he said about Dixie. "She might lose breathing ability again. Metabolic coma."

Roy added more. "This one's a head injury. Concussion, back of head. It would
be better if he's not made to walk any more. The younger female's a compounded
lower arm fracture. The rest of us are just minor cuts and bruises and general
muscle fatigue. We won't be able to help you much with our hands. We had
a lot of resuscitation support to do earlier and some of us had a very long day

"I saw the news." said the lieutenant sympathetically. "Hang tight. We'll handle
all set up for these stretchered folks a.s.a.p once we get a line across to others
on the far bank of the slide."

Gage was making a face. "Hang on. Just,.. wait a minute.  We aren't on
solid land here. We're moving. Just how the h*ll are you going to keep the rope
from snapping once it's been tied off due to stretch?"

"That's why we're here." said Gregory, pointing to the patch on his jumpsuit.
"You see, my buddy's also a hydrology engineer. He's calculating flow speed
and direction right now with that sight against those cliff tops." he said, pointing
to the laser viewer the man was using. "And because this is mud flowing down
hill over a flat level parking lot, those vectors aren't going to deviate that much.  
You see, the other end of our relay rope's going to be tied to an Addison that'll
be rolling down the roadway that flanks this canyon, while keeping up with us."

"Matching velocities." Roy grinned. "Johnny, that's the same thing as holding
still. It'll be no different at all from our usual high angle stokes recovery
operations. Maybe a little breezier.  Like mules pulling barges along the
Panama Canal."

Gage coughed out some left over dust. "Way over my head."

"No, way over the mud's." DeSoto joked. "Gentlemen, we'll go get them ready
with fresh O2 masks and tanks."

"Here are some life belts, helmets, and carabiners. Use these tarps to cover the
victims' faces for protection in case it starts raining again."

Soon, using their radioes and the torpedo rope launcher, a string was shot over
to the unseen ladder truck crew pacing them. It was found and retrieved by
a line of runners on foot.  Soon, the light shooting line was safely taken up
and replaced with the thicker belay rope that was securely anchored up to
the operator basket of the vertically extended ladder on the moving fire truck.

"How far are they from us?" Brice asked.

"About thirty yards." replied the younger man.

Roy eyed up Gregory. "Can this line take two at a time?"
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"One belted and one stokes.  That's all. Nothing over three hundred eighty pounds
total. Any more weight and the sag in the middle might drag some feet into the mud."
he replied.

Roy planned quickly.
"Okay, Brice. Go with Dixie. Marco, then you with Miss Burns. Coolidge will have
to be line ferried alone. He's a big man."

"What about Boot?" Sharon piped up, holding the soggy dog in her arms for

"He can ride with Dixie. He's going to want to be with her anyway." Roy said.
"Then you and Johnny can get across. Stoker can go with Quincy to show him
how to crawl line using a life belt and I'll take Sam with me to do the same thing."

Kane did the math. "And then us last with Officer Howard. Seven trips? We'd
better hurry. The canyon widens a half mile down and takes a turn to the right. Not
even a nylon blend will handle that kind of stretch if this floater of ours swings wide
to the far edge and runs aground."

Gage met in conference with the rest of the 51 crew while the jumpers made
preparations. "This is one for the books. A belay from a moving, deployed
ladder truck?" he fretted, scratching his mud itchy head.

"It's the only thing working." DeSoto shrugged. "The rain may be gone, but
it's still far too foggy for any choppers."

Soon, Dixie's stokes was connected to the relay line hanging suspended over
the mud using the vet hospital's block and tackle that Stoker had set up, fitted
with a guide line.

Craig donned a provided helmet and belt and slowly followed her into the fog
as the firefighters on the other side pulled her stokes towards the engine
hose bed upon which they were riding.

Everyone's radioes crackled. ##HT 51. This is Dr. Morton. I've got two firefighters
here with me who really want to see you when you fellas get over here. Also,
I've got Mayfairs waiting.##

::It's Cap and Kelly!::  the 51 gang realized, almost tearing up at the thought, their
PTSD effected emotions still very close to the surface.

The swiftwater team looked at each other."Now that's good medicine." grinned
Gregory to Kane. "I'm glad the I.C. let them come."

Kane nodded. "He knows what brothers need."

Five minutes later, the vet's stokes was hoisted onto the aerial line. Patty Burns
waved at Barney with her good hand from her own. "See you soon. Maybe
we can share a room at the hospital and plan out the new clinic's design."

"Looking forward to it." said the big man cheerily.  He folded his mud speckled,
shattered glasses into an equally caked lab coat pocket and folded his arms.
"Okay, gentlemen. I'm ready."

Barney's basket stretcher slowly moved away from the porch slab. One hundred
feet, two hundred...

Suddenly there came a shout over the radio.  ## Obstacle in the way! Abort! Abort!##

A huge pine tree, still rooted to the boulevard sidewalk that was jutting up and resisting
being torn down by the mud slide, appeared out of the fog from downstream like a sick
slow motion dream.  Its exposed crown made contact with the aerial line.

"Oh, no!" yelled Johnny and he quickly whirled Sharon around and blocked her view
of the final outcome as the tree sliced the stokes rope like a hot knife through butter.  


Soundlessly, Barney Coolidge's stokes fell thirty feet and plunged into the thick,
churning mudslide, disappearing in an instant.

Sam Fujiyama was immediately sick. He vomited and fell to his knees.

Sharon Walters fought Johnny, flailing at him in anger. "What happened? What didn't
you want me to see?!" she raged.

Johnny was numb. But he spoke the horror that Walters already knew. "The
line.....  parted. He's gone."

Kane and Gregory were stunned for just a few seconds before iron professionalism
carried on.  ##Aerial 1. Get spotters downstream. One in the water.##

Brice and Roy were very shocked and Craig blurted out. "There's no way he
can get out from under the straps before he drowns. He went completely

"Shh." DeSoto hissed, closing his eyes to seal out the memory of the splash.

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Fujiyama was mumbling, crying. "They're not going to find him in time. They're
not g--" He was violently sick again, losing what little food he had eaten in the night.

Quincy knelt by Sam to offer him some comfort. "I'm so sorry, Sam." The coroner
knew that his assistant understood exactly what kind of death Coolidge would suffer.
A slow one that would take many seconds to happen.

Stoker flinched as the aerial's other rope end was cut away to fall free into the mud
to allow another belay set up attempt. But then he got to work clearing rope fray
fibers from their block and tackle.

Kane and Gregory worked rapidly to regain their lost lifeline to the far bank without
looking at their victims.   Gregory finally spoke up. "We're going to finish this.
We're going to save the rest of you all." he promised fiercely.

Soon, it was Gage and Walters turn to go. The new aerial line was humming with
vibrations from the wind. When Sharon was led up to it in her lifebelt and helmet,
it was buzzing, like an ominous, angry wasp.

"Johnny. Ican'tdothis. Don'tmakemedothis. Please." Sharon begged in a squeak,
hot tears burning clean furrows down her muddy cheeks.

Johnny gripped her face with both hands and made eye contact only inches away
from her. "Sharon. Sharon. Look at me. I'm not going to let you fall. I'll be right
with you. You can keep your eyes closed the whole way.." he said soothingly
and firm.

""   Her monosyllabic protests came verbally but physically, she cooperated
as the others clipped her and Gage onto the rope and hoisted them into the air
to begin the trip across.  Then Walters was mute, beyond shock.

"I got her, Roy." he told Kane and Gregory. "Let's get going."

Kane cracked out the ready on his HT. "Two victims on the line! Haul out!"

##Two on. Retrieving!## came the reply back.

Sharon was gasping when they swung out over the bubbling mud and into
the surrealistic ball of fog that let them see neither land nor sky. And the wind
over the mudslide was biting cold.  

"Sharon. Look at me. Look just at me. Don't look down. I got you and I'm not
going to let go until we're there." Johnny said as they passed over the point
where Barney Coolidge had fallen.  Some sick part of his mind imagined
a hand flailing downstream out of the mud but it was only the branch of a
bush, slurried with sludge.  He took solace in her brown eyes as autopilot
kicked in. His surroundings shrank down into tunnel vision and all sounds grew
distant.  "I love you. I love you.."

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Then they were there, a sharp grab on his pants legs by reaching firefighters
snapped him out of it.  In his arms, he realized that Sharon had fainted mercifully
a few minutes ago, somewhere along that horribly lonely line. He felt her breath.
"She's okay. She's fine. Just let us down." he told them.

Once Sharon was loaded into an ambulance, he turned to Dr. Morton. "How's

"She woke up for me with a little epinephrine. Long enough to focus on my eyes
so I could deliver to her a very personal message." he grinned.

Gage smiled. "Kind of like mine for Sharon?"

"Yeah." he chuckled.  "Now let's go meet the others. You can ride in with Walters
after the EMTs get her comfortable."

Cap, Marco and Chet appeared like mirages from the murk.

"Hey, Pally." said Hank said, a loaned out Captain's helmet on his head. It looked
incongruous over his wrinkled blue, black and white plaid shirt. But his happy grin
more than made up for it.

"Saved you some pizza." Chet said, holding out a very sorry looking bag.

Johnny choked down a single sob, covered his mouth with a hand, and
took him into a huge bear hug. "It's so good to see you on your feet again, Chet.
I've missed you."

"Likewise, Gage. But gee, do I suddenly look like Sharon to you? Back away.." he
joked, not letting go.

Soon, all six of the 51 gang were sharing uninhibited embraces of intense relief
and deep re-bonding.  Craig Brice stood nearby and just watched, smiling softly
as he petted Boot who was seated at his feet. "See that, Boot? This is how we
live. And you're sure a big part of that. Why don't you go join them? You've
earned it."

Boot rocketed away and soon was drawn up into the melee.

Other new paramedics briefly hovered but Dr. Morton waved them away.
"They're going to be fine now, boys. I have a good feeling about that." he told them.
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It was a week later at Rampart.

Dixie's bed was surrounded by Joe Early, Mike Morton and Kel.

"So how's our favorite patient?" said Early, sitting on the edge of the bed.
"Feeling up to doing a few schedules? They're driving Carol absolutely nuts."

"Work?" McCall complained. "Are you boys going to be nice to me? My legs
are still paralyzed."

"Boo!" yelled Morton into her ear suddenly.

Both her feet jumped up under her blankets as she startled.

"No, they're not." Mike said evilly.

Joe Early and Kel Brackett mirrored each other with folded arms.
"Our head nurse?"    
  "Telling fibs?"  they both said simultaneously.

Dixie's whole body wilted dramatically onto the pillows. "Oh, I'm
still really tired and don't want to go home yet."

"You're gonna be." said Kel. "You almost died."

"Twice." echoed Joe.

Dr. Morton just grinned and signed off Dixie's discharge papers with
a flourish.  "I'm done here. See you guys on the floors." he
said and then left the room.

"I'm going with him. Seems like I've run out of patients here."
Early said, opening his mouth up in mock at the pun.

Soon, Kel and Dixie were alone. He pulled back her bed coverings
dramatically to reveal that Dixie was already fully clothed.

"You're not fooling anyone. Come on, let's go. We've been invited."

"Invited? Where?" McCall said, rising slowly from the bed around
her left over aches and pains.

"You'll see." Dr. Brackett smiled, adjusting the big tie around his earth
tone plaid suit, he said, as he took her arm genteelly.  "And neither of
us will have to pay a bill."


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Quincy popped his champagne bottle with his best friend and host
of Danny's Restaurant, who was looking on, holding out a tray of empties,
so he could pour out flutes of it for his new found firehouse, police,
Rampart, and vet hospital friends: Les, Dave, Vince, Miss Burns,
Dixie, Kel, Sharon, Station 51's A-shift plus Brice, and Sam Fujiyama.

It was every one he had been with during the past twenty four hours,
save one.

"Let's toast the memory of Dr. Barney Coolidge, everybody. I'm
sure he's lecturing about horse dryers in the big cloud in the sky
by now, driving all the angels crazy."

Patty Burns laughed even through her grief. "And about African Pygmy
goats." she said.

Dixie and all of the others laughed openly over their dinner plates.

The coroner raised his glass and so did the others. "So here's to
a day in the life, for all of us, and in honor of him."


           A Day In The Life, Movie Three
           Emergency Theater Live. 2013.

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   A Day In The Life
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