Dr. Katy Garrity hopped out of the St. Luke’s Roosevelt ambulance, stepping cautiously onto the sidewalk. Fire and glass rained down from the inferno in the high rise building. Heat fanned from the fire, but Katy stood frozen watching the scene unfold in front of her.
A child’s screams could be heard above the sirens and splashes of water from the violent stream of the firemen’s hose sprayed the doctor’s cheeks. The stench of burnt plastic and wood filled her nose while soot and ashes now covered Katy’s chestnut ponytail, which was whipping against her face in the wind. Her eyes stung from the smoke that hung heavily in the air she was breathing.
Jolted forward by a passing paramedic, Katy snapped back to reality shaking her head. She rubbed her shoulder where her co-worker had run into her and looked at the triage area. Instead of heading to the red or yellow patients, her feet took her to the black section. Black meant the victims were already dead.
Her eyes scanned quickly searching for one fireman. Her stomach settled when she didn’t see who she was looking for. Satisfied for the moment that her heart wasn’t broken again, she returned to the red patients who were in need of immediate attention.
Seconds, minutes, hours passed and she cared for burn after burn until she couldn’t see straight anymore. The smell of burnt skin and the cries of the victims as she cleaned each wound were not things that would easily wash away when her shift ended. Tears had stung her eyes as she treated the first of the victims but now she was numb. Numb to their pain, numb to her compassion, numb and ready for the night to be over.
A commotion behind her broke her concentration. She heard firefighters screaming and shouting as they ran out of the building. She turned her attention to them and there was the fireman she’d been looking for earlier—slumped lifelessly between the two men calling for help.
Her pulse pounded loudly in her ears, blocking out everything, and her eyes focused only on the man in front of her. Sprinting to the injured fireman, Katy did her best to remain calm. Her finger pressed against his carotid artery, feeling for a pulse. Nothing. She moved her fingers checking for it again. Still nothing.
Her body trembled as panic took over her body. She shook his shoulders trying to rouse him but his head bounced lifelessly. A pot belly pushed against her from behind, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her away. She thrashed her arms and legs trying to get out of his hold, but he only squeezed her tighter. Watching them take the lifeless man away, she cried out, “Jesse!”