The woman who answered was perky and calm, which didn’t stop me from babbling, “Yes, my stepdaughter—she, she said there was a shooter, I want to pick her up, is everyone okay, where should I go? My teeth had been freshly freed of metal, but I still struggled with my skin and my flat chest and skinny legs.
” In the silence that followed, I heard myself the way she must have heard me: hysterical. My stepdaughter was fourteen the way I had never been fourteen. She was more beautiful, her body more womanly, than any fourteen-year-old has the maturity to handle.
Given my profound lack of experience at the onset, I’ve only actually been useful for about a year, maybe two. But, as Rocky, a veteran member once told me, only half joking, “We’re mountaineers. It’s what we do.” That suffering is accepted because this is what we volunteered for (and almost all of us are truly volunteers – only the sheriff and a few others are paid). Dad’s dead,” my mother told me, barely a quiver in her voice.
We have a general idea of where the three kids are, or at least where they are supposed to be. It’s made tolerable knowing that there is someone worse off, someone who needs us. After more than a decade in medicine, as an EMT initially and now as a physician assistant in a busy urban ER, I have revived cardiac arrests, treated trauma and dealt with just about every other medical calamity, but mountain rescue is different. On the night of my first high school dance, the police showed up bearing somber news to my mother. She was trying to hold it together, but saying that out loud, she couldn’t. They couldn’t save him, but they could return his body to his family.
Other circular tables surrounded ours, wine glasses winking in the pass of headlights.He is tasked with interacting with the other team leads and Incident Command, as well as making sure all of us come home alive. The route travels up from the bowl and over a ridge. We will be travelling across a large crevasse field, hidden in dense fog.Then there’s Keith, an engineer who makes dad jokes without being a dad; Christopher, an occasional school teacher who’s fond of instigating shenanigans and watching his work unfold; and me, the newest member of the team – the low-man on the totem pole. The route leads up a snow and ice gully from the far end of this crevasse field.This is one of the two more common routes for teams to take after they have previously completed the standard route. There is a great deal of discussion and speculation as to what happened. I don’t particularly care how they got there, just where they end up – back with their families.It represents a step up in technical difficulty, presents complicated route finding, and is an overall longer route. n some corners of America, a conspiracy theory floats about asserting that the Newtown Elementary School massacre never happened.In the principal’s office, she kept trying to catch my eye. On top of everything, my graduate thesis was due that week. She was suspended, and we picked up Chick-fil-A in silence. “You’re going to sit downstairs and do your homework and whatever other schoolwork you’re missing today. ” I wasn’t sure he’d agree with me, but then her dad said, “Get your backpack.”Surprised and subdued, she nodded, and I stalked from the house with my laptop. The waning months of our marriage had been an electrical storm of tension and silence, vicious fights badly concealed. A dinner that should have been just the two of us, but that he perhaps saw as his last chance. He left, and we leaned toward each other in our iron chairs, holding tight, weeping.