Quatrain by Medler, John - HTML preview
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September 28, 2012. Cincinnati, Ohio
They called him Mash’al, or “The Torch.” He was an Islamic extremist and a paranoid schizophrenic, a dangerous cocktail. Since the time he was a teenager, Mash’al began finding his own personal secret messages from Mohammed in the Qur’an. When he was young, the Prophet only needed him to do minor tasks, like removing all the brown bottles from the local convenience store or catching mice and putting them in a duct-taped Slurpee cup. But that was small potatoes. The Prophet was calling him to do something important, that was sure. Mash’al’s parents in Iran had given up on him long ago. The father had a fairly respectable job working for a petroleum company. His mother did a good job raising Mash’al and his three brothers. But Mash’al was too much for them to handle. One day, his father would find Mash’al high on opium lying around the house. The next day he would learn that his son had vandalized a fruit stand, throwing the fruit all over the bazaar, claiming that the Prophet was calling him to cast out all the evil fruit pits. Left to his own devices, he was easily recruited by Al Qaeda. This next mission for Islam was something only a certifiable lunatic would do.
The Planner had mailed the anti-psychotic medications to his small apartment in Cincinnati. The Planner insisted that Mash’al take the medicine. If he did not, he would not become a true Abisali, a Warrior of the Faith. Mash’al did not want to take the pills, but he knew if he did not, he would let down the Master. Incredibly, the pills gave him a focus he had never experienced. The inner voices, constantly screaming at him that he was not worthy, that he was a mangy wolf, that he had too much hair….they had all died down. The silence from the voices was most welcome and allowed him to focus. The only downside was the drugs made him a little lethargic, but Mash’al was in good shape. He would be fine.
Today was the day Mash’al would fulfill his destiny as the spear point of jihad. He could not wait. Mash’al opened the door to the lobby of his downtown Cincinnati apartment building and met the UPS man. He was terribly excited to receive the brown package. He bounded up the steps two at a time until he reached 2J, then opened his door with the key and dashed to the kitchen table. He ripped off the paper covering with a knife, and opened the cardboard package. Inside, wrapped in cellophane was a set of gray janitor’s overalls, with a red and white emblem on the shoulder which read “Mills Janitorial”. There was also a red baseball cap with the same emblem. Also included in the package were a black .45 Beretta and silencer, and an orange key to a storage locker.
Mash’al could barely breathe, he was so excited. This was really happening. The Prophet was practically demanding that he complete his tasks today. He quickly donned the baseball cap and put the overalls over his clothing, zipping himself up in front. The overalls were the correct size. He grabbed his keys and, checking the hallway to make sure no one saw him, ran down the stairs and out the door to the parking lot.
In a half hour, he had arrived at the Store-A-Lot storage facility in downtown Cincinnati. He parked his beat-up Mazda in front of locker 73. Taking out the orange key, Mash’al unlocked the powder blue door, and then, from the inside, swung up the corrugated metal garage door. There was only one thing in the locker, a white plastic trash barrel with the words “Mills Janitorial” stenciled on the side. Mash’al lifted off the lid and peaked inside. Seeing what he expected, he quickly shut the lid, looked around and smiled. The barrel was heavy, but he managed to drag it over and roll it sideways into his hatchback. Today, the Prophet would be proud.
September 28, 2012. Kirkwood Elementary School, Cincinnati, Ohio
Eleven year-old Justin Idris was excited about his Science Fair Project. His project was about bees. He had stayed up until midnight with his mom the night before making the hive out of paper maché. It looked so real! The pieces of honeycomb were expertly glued to the side. All the parts of the bee--head, thorax, and abdomen--were labeled. His notes of his interview with the beekeeper were pasted into his yellow and black Project Notebook. And, in colored yellow and black marker, he had drawn on the side of the project boards numerous “Fun Bee Facts”, including:
--the average colony has 45,000 to 70,000 bees
--90% of the food consumed by humans depends on the pollination of honeybees
--the honeybee eats seven pounds of honey to produce 1 pound of wax
--the flight speed of a honeybee is 9 miles per hour
--the bee makes as many as 24 trips a day when collecting nectar from flowers
--50% to 80% of flying bees are collecting nectar.
Amy Idris, Justin’s mother, was a single mom and a police officer for the Cincinnati Police Department. As usual, she was running late. She checked her makeup in the rearview mirror, and, as she did so, looked at her small son in the back seat. He had black glasses much too big for his head. She had pleaded with him to get less conspicuous eyewear, but Justin really liked the black glasses. He said the glasses made him feel smart. The Science Fair project was lying on the passenger seat of their tan Chevy minivan. She could see that Justin was looking at the seat in front of him nervously, obviously concerned that the bee project would suffer some mishap on the way to school.
“Don’t worry about your project, sweetie. I am taking good care of it up here.”
Kirkwood Elementary had two separate entrances. The first entrance was used by parents dropping off children in the morning. The second entrance was used by the bus drivers. Occasionally, parents racing to get to work on time would cheat and go in the bus driveway so as to avoid the traffic in the other lane. Today, the line in the first driveway was packed with minivans and SUVs, so Amy passed it and cheated her van into the bus driveway.
“Mom, you’re not supposed to go that way,” complained Justin.
“I know, but if we wait behind all those cars, we are not going to get your bee project in by the deadline. They said it has to be in the gym by 8 o’clock.”
Justin’s mother glided the minivan around one bus and in front of the other, and then put on her flashers.
“OK, quick, sweetie. Jump out and get your project. I am holding up traffic.”
Justin quickly unbuckled, opened the sliding side door, and from the outside, opened the passenger door in front. He gingerly extricated the tall science fair project and closed the door with his foot.
“Bye, honey! I know your project will do great!”
“Thanks, Mom! Love you!”
Justin hurried through the front door of the school. Justin was a little guy, so the big three-paneled cardboard science fair project was a huge thing for him to carry. He was sweating a little bit, and his glasses slid down the bridge of his nose. He pushed back his glasses and forged on. He knew he had to get the project into the gym by 8 a.m. or it wouldn’t be counted in the competition. It was five minutes to eight. He had better hurry. As he hustled down the hall to the gymnasium at Kirkwood Elementary School, he couldn’t see where he was going because the boards of the science fair project were blocking his view. Running blindly, he plowed right into a plastic trash barrel placed against the white cinderblock wall of the hallway. His science fair project went flying and fell in a heap. The hive became disconnected from the branch and fell off. Some of the chicken wire and honeybee models he had glued to the board also fell off. “No!” pleaded Justin, visibly upset that his project was damaged. He started crying and whimpering, trying to re-attach the broken bee paraphernalia.
One of the science teachers, Mrs Willoby, was at the end of the hall and saw Justin collide with the trash barrel. Justin was so cute, in his green plaid shirt and those goofy black glasses. She would help him fix his project.
“Don’t be upset, Justin, I will help you.”
“But it won’t be in the gym by 8 a.m.!”
“Don’t worry, Justin. I will tell Mr Yost what happened and he will let you bring it in a little late. I have a glue gun back in my office. We can get that hive put back together in no time.” She brushed her hand on Justin’s messy brown hair, and felt good that she had cheered him up. As she bent to look at the broken science fair project, she glanced over at the trash barrel. The lid of the barrel had fallen off and the barrel lay on its side in the hallway. Something was blinking red in there. A toy maybe? She walked over to the barrel, righted it back up, and peeked inside. She saw a flashing red light, a series of wires, and beneath that bricks of some kind of gray clay. She was, after all, a science teacher. It took her brain three seconds to make the mental synapse.
“OH MY GOD! IT’S A BOMB!”
Justin looked at her in panic. Her first thought was
that she should evacuate all the children. No, that would take up
too much time. How much time was left? She gently lifted up the
housing with the red light and peered underneath. A red digital
timer underneath the housing read TWELVE SECONDS!!!! ELEVEN,
“Oh God, Oh God, Oh God….” She grabbed the edge of the trashcan and yanked it as hard as she could, dashing down the long hallway. NINE, EIGHT, SEVEN, SIX…. The trash barrel was heavy, and she was not that strong. My God! All these children!
She could see the doorway at the end of the hallway. Oh, God, she was going to die today! What about her husband? Her children? She did not want to die!
Only thirty feet left. She hauled the trashcan as fast as she could. She was ten feet from the exit.
THREE, TWO, ONE….. She threw the barrel towards the exit and then tried vainly to leap in the opposite direction.
The explosion which followed leveled half of the red-bricked school instantly. A huge ball of black smoke hurdled to the sky, as bricks went flying in all directions. Raging walls of fire consumed much of what was left of the school. The eighty or so students and teachers who were at the far western end of the building when the blast went off were the only ones not killed in the initial blast. The teachers and students, deafened by the sound and impact of the explosion, tried desperately to orient themselves in the darkness, as their ears began ringing and everything went deathly silent. The few teachers who could make sense of what had happened tried to find children in the flame, smoke and rubble and carry them to windows or stairwells. Many of them collapsed from smoke inhalation or falling debris with children in their arms. Miss Kiki Johnson’s math class was trapped underneath piles of stone and brick, their classroom door walled shut by falling debris. Within minutes, the class of helpless crying children suffocated in the smoke. A resourceful gym teacher named Joe Wallace, a big six-foot 275-pound former high school football lineman, managed to carry, pull and lead about thirty children to a western art room on the second floor. He pulled a child’s black North Face jacket from a hook and placed it underneath the door to prevent smoke from coming in the classroom. Then, in the dark, he ushered all of the children to the windows. He opened one of the windows and heard a lot of screaming below. He waved down one of the bus drivers in the school’s front driveway, who came beneath the second-story window to try and help.
“Stay there. I have thirty kids up here! I am going to try and pass them down to you one at a time.” Gus, the bus driver, looked around at what was left of Kirkwood Elementary. There was fire everywhere. The teacher had better hurry.
Most of the kids were crying, their faces blackened by the soot and smoke. Some had significant lacerations.
“I can’t jump that far! I am too scared!” said one.
“It will hurt when I fall!”
Joe Wallace thought for a moment. He looked out the window at Gus. It was too high up. They would get hurt pretty bad if he threw them out the window.
“The coats!” he said. “OK, kids, this is important, I want all of you to stay next to the windows and try and breathe the air from the windows. Do not go anywhere but the windows or I won’t be able to find you in the darkness. OK?”
The children nodded and crowded to the windows. Wallace crawled in the dark over to the far wall where the children had all hung up their coats. He grabbed fifteen coats. Then he returned to the children by the windows.
“Shoelaces! I need everyone wearing tennis shoes with shoelaces to take out their shoelaces and hand them to me.” The children obeyed.
“I don’t have shoelaces. I have Croc’s,” said a young girl.
“That’s OK. I just need you to give me your shoelaces if your shoes have shoelaces.” Just then another explosion rocked the school from the far side of the building. The children all screamed and huddled to Coach Wallace, petrified with fear. “Come on guys! Focus! Give me your shoelaces!”
Coach Wallace used the shoelaces to tie the arms of the light fall jackets together, in a daisy chain, making a long rope. When he had about ten coats tied together, he started to throw one end out the window. Wallace got the entire rope out the window.
“OK, now this is just like gym class. Remember when we all climbed the rope in gym class. This is no different. I want you to climb down the rope and when you get near the bottom, jump off. Jimmy Seigel, you go first.” The Coach picked the strongest and most athletic of the children, hoping he could easily scale the coats to the bottom and give the others confidence that they, too, could do it. Jimmy took the rope of coats and climbed out the window. He was down the rope in no time and jumped into the arms of the bus driver, who showed him where to run to get away from the building. One by one the children went down the rope. The smoke was starting to pour in through the bottom of the door.
“Come on guys, we have to hurry,” said Wallace. Just then, the glass on the classroom door shattered and smoke poured into the room. The children screamed again.“Hurry, hurry, hurry!” he yelled. Wallace ripped off his own shirt, and used it as a bandana over his nose and mouth. The children began scampering down the rope as fast as they could. The last two children, a boy and a girl, had passed out from the smoke. Fire poured into the classroom and engulfed the far wall. There were only seconds left. Wallace picked up both children over his right shoulder, and tried to muscle down the rope with his left hand. He got about five feet down when one of the arms of the coats ripped free, sending Coach Wallace falling to the grass with both children. He fell so that his back was on the grass and the children were cushioned from the fall by his massive frame.
Gus Gentry, the bus driver, immediately picked up the two fallen children, each by the scruff of their collars and dragged them across the grass fifty feet away from the building. He laid them down on the ground and performed CPR on each. Both of the children coughed within a minute or two. They were out of the woods. He ran back for Coach Wallace, who seemed stunned and unable to move from the fall. With the help of a second bus driver, he frantically tried to pull Wallace out of the way. Just as they got him to the driveway where the buses were parked, the entire rest of the school building exploded and collapsed in a cloud of brown and black smoke. Fire engines, with sirens wailing, were pulling in next to the buses.
Priscilla Wills was on the switchboard at the Cincinnati Channel 19 Fox News Desk when the call came in from her brother Dan.
“Priscilla, have you heard about the Kirkwood Elementary School Bombing?”
“What bombing? What are you talking about?”
“A guy at my work said that his kid goes to Kirkwood Elementary School, and ten minutes ago, the entire school blew up in a bomb. It might be a terrorist thing! I checked with the La Grange Fire Department, and they are confirming that their fire trucks are responding to an incident at the school. That’s what they called it, ‘an incident’.”
“Jesus!” said Priscilla. “A school! Now they’re attacking schools!” She thanked her brother and hung up. Priscilla stood in the middle of the news room and yelled as loud as she could. “EVERYONE! I NEED YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION. THERE HAS BEEN A BOMBING AT KIRKWOOD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL! WE NEED A CRISIS TEAM ASSEMBLED NOW! WE NEED TO GET THIS BEFORE ANYBODY ELSE GETS IT! THIS IS NOT A DRILL, PEOPLE! THIS IS BIGGER THAN 9-11! GET MOVING!”
The news room office was in sudden pandemonium. Everyone dropped what they were doing and reporters and cameramen went scrambling for the door. Priscilla could not believe it. A terrorist attack in her own city, in a swing state, in the final month of a neck-and-neck Presidential race. Their ratings were going to rock!
Anna Scall, the Governor of South Carolina, was the Republican candidate for Vice President and the running mate of Tim Woodson, the Republican Governor of Nevada. Their campaign against Barak Obama and Joe Biden had gone well so far, but they were still behind by three points in most polls. They only had one month to close the gap, and some of their funding was drying up. Scall was a strikingly beautiful woman. She was 5’ 6” with long, wavy brown hair and a long, graceful neck. She wore skinny light-framed eyeglasses, the kind that made one look either smart or German. She had long legs and flat abs that most women would kill for. She was a workout freak, and spent two hours every day exercising and lifting weights. When she talked, all of South Carolina came out, and her hometown charm won most people over. In addition to being a former Miss South Carolina, she was also a great pie maker, and each year was the hands-down winner at the Lexington County Fair. Her favorite pie was the blackberry cobbler, a recipe given to her from her mother. She wasn’t keen on all the details of national politics, like the name of the leader of the Congo or the meaning of a health care cooperative, but she was excellent at hammering home talking points. If someone gave her a script, she could hit it out of the park every time. And she studied a lot when Woodson gave her the nod as VP. She was not about to let Katie Couric make her look stupid. Her interviews with the major news outlets, including The Today Show with Matt Lauer, went very well. Audiences loved her.
Her three girls were nine, ten, and thirteen. Her husband, a dentist in Charleston, South Carolina, was a little strange. He was seven foot two inches tall, with somewhat freakish blonde hair which stood on end, and looked like a cross between Ichabod Crane and Albert Einstein. All Tim Scall liked to do in the world was ride bikes. When they met, Anna had enjoyed bike-riding with him, but her interest in riding bikes had faded long ago, so they did not have much in common left. He hated politics. He did not mind the occasional family photo, and he was proud of his wife, but he much preferred riding bikes with his girls and helping them with their homework. He and his wife had stopped having sex long ago.
Today her campaign manager, Matt Suba, had scheduled Scall for a rally near Findlay Market, Cincinnati’s 160 year-old produce market. Suba had picked the site due to the diverse racial and ethnic crowds known to frequent the market. If some blacks, Latinos or Asians showed up in the crowd at the rally, he would have cameramen ready to take their pictures. Ohio was going to be a critical swing state this year, and the campaign needed every vote it could.
Scall, Suba, and the campaign staff had set up temporary quarters before the rally in a downtown Cincinnati Hyatt hotel suite. As they were going over last-minute details for the rally, Suba got a phone call from his friend Priscilla Wills from Channel 19.
“Matt, has Governor Scall heard the news about Kirkwood Elementary?”
“No, what news?”
“There was a bombing—maybe a terrorist bombing—at Kirkwood Elementary School in suburban Cincinnati. Hundreds of little kids are dead.”
“Prissy, is this a joke? Because if it is, I am really busy right now.”
“Matt, it is no joke. The entire school blew up. Our news van just arrived on the scene. Turn on your television.”
“Where is Kirkwood Elementary?”
“It is located at 2419 Manchester Road. You are about fifteen minutes away by car!”
“Thanks for the tip, Prissy, I owe you big. I’ll call you back.”
Suba ran for the TV. He turned on Fox Channel 19 and saw a picture of a burning building, with fire trucks spraying water. The byline at the bottom read: “BOMBING AT KIRKWOOD ELEMENTARY. HUNDREDS OF CHILDREN PRESUMED DEAD.”
Suba ran to the adjoining room and banged on the bathroom door.
“Anna, get out here now! There’s been a bombing at a school! Hundreds of kids are dead, and we are FIFTEEN MINUTES away!”
Suba ran back to the center of the room.
“Sheila, I need Anna’s tightest jeans, and a Cincinnati Reds sweatshirt with a hood. We need her hair changed to a ponytail. Make her look like a suburban mom. Cut down on the makeup but give her just enough to look good.
“Jimmy, cancel the rally today. Send out a press release stating that due to today’s tragic bombing Governor Scall will be canceling the rally and putting all her efforts into helping the victims of this tragedy.
“Danny, get working on a statement for Anna-- terrible thing, possibly terrorists at work, dark day for the parents of these small children, our campaign will do everything in its power to bring these madmen to justice, blah blah blah, get on it.
“D.J., juice up the Suburbans and have them ready in three minutes. The address is 2419 Manchester Road. We are going to Kirkwood Elementary immediately. Also call Secret Service. We are going to need an escort through the police and fire blockades.
“Manny, I need as many first aid kits as you can lay your hands on, bottled water, disinfectant, Neosporin, blankets—red ones, cots—we need lots of cots. Contact the closest big hospital to the school with a burn center, maybe Mercy Hospital, I don’t know. Hell, call all of the hospitals within a fifteen mile radius of the school. You tell them that Governor Scall will pay from her own personal resources the medical bills of any child whose parent does not have insurance. Then go down to Toys R Us, and start buying every stuffed animal they’ve got. I need Gameboys, Barbies, whatever you would play if you were a kid between kindergarten and fifth grade, however old that is. We need them ready to be taken to the hospital. Find the best Cincinnati pizza place, and start buying pizzas, take them to the hospital and to the school for the families, courtesy of the campaign. I need photographers at the hospital, because Anna will go there later today. Have them take video and stills of the pizzas, the toys, stuffed animals coming into the hospital. Got it?
“Jim, call the LaGrange Fire Chief and the Chief of Police. I want round-the-clock updates of the details of this bombing. How many kids are dead? How many are injured? Where was the bomb located? Who is a suspect? How did the bomb get in the school? What was the mechanism of the bomb--plastic, fertilizer, what? You got it? Get me everything. Ditto for the FBI and Homeland Security. Find out who is running the case on the Fed side.”
Anna Scall dashed out of the bathroom in a towel. Her aide Sheila handed Scall her skinny jeans and a Cincinnati Reds sweatshirt. “Here, put these on,” she said. “Matt says your hair needs to be in a ponytail, halfway on the makeup.”
“Got it,” said Scall, grabbing a ponytail holder from the dresser and running back to the bathroom.
Suba was still barking orders. “Poll guys. Come here.” Two thin men in t-shirts and jeans, one with horn-rimmed glasses, ran over with their Sony VAIO laptops. “I need polls on how this bombing affects the opinions of voters on which candidate to choose. Does this give us a bump or not? Does this help Obama or us? What if we attack Obama as being soft on terrorism? Does that help us or hurt us or should we take the high road and let Hannity and Beck blast him? What themes will bump us up? Go, go, go, I need this yesterday!”
Ten miles away, a sleepy-eyed college freshman at the University of Cincinnati working part-time at Adriatico’s Pizza hung up the phone. “Hey, Donny! We just got an order from the Woodson Presidential Campaign for a hundred cheese pizzas!”
Donny was dumbfounded. “A hundred?”
“Yep. They said they would be here in thirty minutes to pick them up!”
“Holy shit!” He turned to the assistant manager. “Mary, call every part-time guy we can find and get them in here now. We’ve got some pizzas to make!”
When President Obama heard the news about the Cincinnati Massacre, he was numb. Hundreds of children dead, on his watch. Those poor families. It sure sounded like a terrorist attack. He wondered whether the bomber was home-grown or foreign. Whoever he was, he would make sure this guy was caught.
Obama looked at the television and watched the injured children being carried out from the school. He was in Santa Fe, New Mexico today because New Mexico was going to be a critical swing state in the election. He was about as far away from Cincinnati as he could possibly be. And Scall was in Cincinnati today. She was going to have a field day with this. He called his entire staff in to work out an action plan. Obama considered his present location. It would take at least twenty minutes to get to Air Force One and probably four or five hours at least to get to Cincinnati. Who did he have on the ground in Cincinnati?
“I am sorry, sir,” said the LaGrange Police officer at the yellow horse barricade. “The fire chief says no one gets in.”
Suba, a Howie Long lookalike with a huge muscled chest, buzz cut, and wire-rimmed glasses, tried to size up the officer. Suba had forced his way through the frantic crowd of shoving parents, each of whom was screaming that it was their child in there and to please let them in.
“Officer, I have Governor Scall in the suburban behind me here. She is very interested in the welfare of these children. She is also still a registered nurse, and she has extensive experience in helping trauma victims. She is not trying to make speeches, Officer. She’s just trying to help.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” said the lanky officer, “I have my orders. The paramedics are already in there taking care of the wounded. I just cannot let anyone else in.”
He could see he was going to get nowhere with this squirrel. “Could I speak to your supervisor, Officer?”
The young policeman considered the request, and then spoke into the black radio on his shoulder.
A few minutes later, the police captain approached the barricade.
Suba showed the man his credentials. “Captain, I appreciate your consideration. Governor Scall is here and she just wants to lend a hand.”
The Captain said, “Where is she?”
Suba escorted the Captain through the angry crowd of parents and over to a double-parked black Suburban. Governor Scall quickly jumped out of the back seat, looking like a perky soccer mom.
“Isn’t this a tragedy?” she said to the Captain, in her thickest Southern drawl, and gently picking up the Captain’s right hand. “Captain, if you could just grant me access to those poor souls in there, so I can lend a helping hand, I can assure you our campaign will arrange for a charitable donation to your department. Maybe you could use some more police cars or increased pay for your officers for all the fine work they do?”
The Captain leaned over so that only Scall and Suba could hear him, and spoke in a hushed tone.
“Governor, you’re the only one in this campaign that seems to get that we have a war going on against these Muslim bastards. Look at this today! All those little kids killed because the Democrats want to read these bastards their Miranda rights! Come with me, I will get you where you need to be.”
The Captain ushered Scall, Suba, and one camera-man passed the yellow barricade. As they did so, the parents became furious that someone else besides them was getting access to the school. Anna Scall turned back and walked over to the anguished parents. “Captain, can we let just three of these parents through? I will make sure they stay out of the area of the fire. And then we can use them to go report back to the other parents?”
The Captain did not like the idea. The crowd was anxious, awaiting the Captain’s response.
“Captain, what would you do if you were one of these kind souls here, and it was your child in there?”
“Well, I guess it’s OK,” he said.
Scall quickly picked the closest two mothers and one father and grabbed them past the barricade. As she walked toward the school, she turned to the parents and said, “I promise I will be back with an update on your babies.”
She quickly ran with the Captain, Suba, the camera-man, and the three parents to the closest fire engine. Fire-men were running everywhere in the black smoke with hoses and ladders. Scall quickly dashed past the first fire engine and onto the lawn in front of the school. Temporary cots had been set up on the lawn, some with body bags and some with injured children or teachers, awaiting transport in an ambulance. She quickly made her way through the crowd, trying to comfort everyone she saw. Suba, meanwhile, was getting an update on what law enforcement knew from the Assistant Fire Chief, the Chief of Police, the FBI, and Homeland Security.
Amy Idris, mother of the little boy with the science fair project, was a police officer, so she had no trouble getting through the police barricades. She dashed over to the front lawn of the school. The fire-men were taking the injured children in ambulances. The bodies of the children and teachers who didn’t make it were lined up in body bags in three rows on the front lawn of the school. Idris started crying, repeating, “Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Justin, where are you?” She looked in each of the bags but did not find her son among the bodies. Initially, this gave her optimism. Many days later, she would learn from an FBI Forensics team that Justin’s small remains had been identified through dental records. He did not make it.
Governor Anna Scall scanned the place where the red-brick school had once stood. It was a crumbled pile of bricks, mortar, and debris. She decided to jog around behind the school to see if anyone else was there. What was left of the jungle gym and playground was in the back. She started to walk around some of the rubble, seeing if there were any survivors. She soon came upon a gray Little Tikes plastic molded castle, the kind little toddlers use as a fort. The castle had a secret hidden brown door in the back, so that someone inside the castle could sneak out. It was dark, but sticking out from the little door was a foot and a tennis shoe of a child. Scall quickly peered over the top of the castle, and curled in a ball inside the castle, underneath a dozen bricks and stones, was a little boy, blackened with soot. Anna Scall’s heart leapt for the boy. Could she save him in time? She reached over the top of the castle, and, with her waist on the top of the castle wall, reached under the boy’s shoulders and yanked up with all of her might. It took a few tries, because he was wedged, but on the third try she grabbed him and pulled him over the wall. She held the boy in her arms and ran into the side yard of the school where she could find a patch of grass to lay the boy down.
“ABC, ABC,” she told herself. “A” was Airway. She tilted the boy’s forehead back and put her cheek over his mouth. She could not feel any breath and his chest was not rising. “B” was breathing. She bent down and gave the child two rescue breaths. “C” was circulation. She checked his pulse. She could not feel anything through his blue Kirkwood Elementary shirt. She put her palms out and began giving the boy chest compressions. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Then two breaths. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Two breaths. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. She was not giving up. She had done about ten rounds when paramedics rushed over with electric paddles. They shuffled Anna out of the way, juiced up the battery, yelled “Clear!” and shocked the boy’s chest. The boy began immediately coughing and sputtering. One of the paramedics placed an oxygen mask over his mouth, and, winking to Governor Anna Scall, carried the boy off on a stretcher over the yard to the school’s driveway. Governor Anna Scall sat back on the grass, exhausted. When she got her wits, she realized that she just saved the boy’s life. Her camera-man, Ramon, was standing next to her, grinning from ear to ear.
“What is it?” she asked, confused.
“I got the whole thing, boss! You are going prime time!”
The headline of the Cincinnati Enquirer the next morning said it all:
HUNDREDS OF CHILDREN DEAD IN KIRKWOOD ELEMENTARY BOMBING
HERO GOVERNOR SCALL GIVES CPR TO BOY, SAVING HIS LIFE
When the dust settled, it was clear that 240 of the school’s 300 children, and nearly all of the teachers, had been killed. No one had claimed responsibility for the bombing.
During the next month, the video of Governor Anna Scall rescuing the young soot-covered twelve year-old boy from the castle, giving him CPR, and modestly accepting the weeping thanks of the boy’s parents, was played hundreds of thousands of times on television news channels and the Internet. The poll numbers started to turn, and the Woodson campaign was out in front.
Barak Obama had reassuring words for the country and harsh words for the bombers. He vowed to find them wherever they were and obtain justice. But so far, the FBI and Homeland Security had turned up nothing. There were no cameras at the school. No parent or bus driver remembered seeing anything suspicious. And the physical evidence was buried under a mountain of rubble. The FBI would find what they needed eventually, but it would take time, and in the homestretch of a Presidential election, that was a luxury the President could not afford. Hannity, Beck, O’Reilly and the rest of the Fox News gang were merciless in accusing the President of incompetence and demanding to know the identity of the terrorists. Dick Cheney returned to the “Talking Head” circuit, quacking to anyone who would listen that he had told them so, and that if the country had not gone soft on water-boarding terrorists, we would not be in this position. But more importantly, all across America, mothers became very, very worried. An attack on a government building or a skyscraper was one thing. This was an attack on suburbia, on an elementary school! If the terrorists could strike in Cincinnati, they could strike anywhere. A wave of panic set in, and Tim Woodson stepped into the fray of paranoia nicely, assuring voters that he was in a better position than the President to protect America. By Halloween, Woodson and his running mate, heroic South Carolina Governor Anna Scall, were ahead by three points in most polls.
On Halloween, the lead investigator in the bombings, FBI Chief Detective Rudyard “Ruddy” Montana announced a lead. A hiker had found a Mills Janitorial Company white plastic trash barrel under a small bridge in a creek bed a few miles from Kirkwood Elementary. The barrel contained a number of discarded pieces of paper that clearly came from Kirkwood Elementary. The FBI concluded that the bomber must have posed as a janitorial worker, taken one of school’s trash barrels and put it on his truck, and then replaced it with an identical plastic barrel full of explosives. Later, driving down the road away from the school, he must have stashed the barrel of trash from the school under the bridge. The FBI searched for fingerprints on the barrel and began combing through the records of Mills Janitorial.
However, while the discovery bumped the President’s approval ratings back a point or two by Election Day, it was simply too little, too late. Voters turned out in droves to elect the candidate best equipped to battle terrorism. On Election night, the State of Ohio put Tim Woodson over the 270 electoral vote threshold needed to win the Presidential Election.
January 16, 2013. 2 a.m. Washington, D.C.
Two months after the election, the one called “Mudabbir,” or the Planner, sat up in his bed at 2 a.m. He was frantic. He had seen something important in his dreams. The Ancient Prophecy had never been extinguished. Now, the prophecy was out in the open. This could ruin everything. He quickly picked up his cell phone and started making international calls.