"We got live fire out here!"
Lights and sirens.
Perimeter set, we arrived and posted up. SWAT enroute.
Full pockets don't make the grave, you see.
And that's the part I have found no one wants to shake.
Do any of us?
A drug house and drug deal gone bad. Another one. Someone owed money. Now guns alive and officers arrived to shots still being fired. Shotgun shells leaving a second floor apartment residence. Officers jump out and make way behind their vehicles and some behind trees, taking cover. Pistols up and rifles ready we surrounded the perimeter. Holding our position while a shotgun continued racking, shots fired.
We arrived at the north side, my partner and I, holding it's post. Waiting. Securing.
"North side, need someone from the north side. Get in there! We got someone down!"
That was us. We looked at each other and nodded.
Partner breathed in, heavy. And I'll never forget his words, "I'm with you, let's do it".
I was driving that day. I didn't hear him breathe out. He was nervous too, maybe. Just as I was. Breathing tends to shake sporadic after fear makes it forget it's rhythm.
One man had caught several shots and was down, laying with loud wails unable to move, right beneath the one who was still firing upon arrival.
Shotgun slide racking, lead to chamber.
We had to go in. Any other officer I know would have done the same, the ball just happened to fall in our court that day.
I shifted into drive and floored it, I ramped a curb into the courtyard of the complex and followed directions blind, given over a radio transmission. 'Where's the body, where's the body';
I scanned the opened grounds frantic, time was not on our side.
A racking shotgun above my head.
'Focus, Hanna. Focus, trust your cover.'
There he was, a body in pieces lying on dirt ground, screams shattered any peace that had been left behind between those gates. Screams from a man with point blank 12-gauge shots to flesh. It was ugly. Worse than what I had prepared my mind for while driving in.
*shotgun slide racking*
If brave happens without fear, well then I have never been brave at all.
And so all the brave and the not so brave at all jump out of a police car and ran to a man with screams running wild, frantic and painful, just like his blood was.
And we pick up shattered bone, bloody, blasted flesh. Some bone left to dry forever on grounds where we began to lift a man twice my size.
That's the thing about adrenaline, it makes weight not feel like weight anymore and pain doesn't feel much like itself either.
*Radio transmission: 'Be advised: He went inside, he's reloading!'
Get out of here, I thought.
Surely he'll shoot us all dead right here if we don't move.
Get the job done--this job has to be done to save him. Focus.
Relying solely on fellow officers who held steady rifle sights on the one with a shotgun, ready to pull triggers if his aim went toward me or my partner or this man again.
I lifted his upper body and my partner lifted from his lower end, or what was left of it.
In a blur of our legs moving heavy and blood from a shattered man soaking red into a blue uniform, life and death hurry, no time for precision--we began with grave efforts to run with him in our hands--we had to get out of there.
Left bicep, gone. Right hip, blown out. His stomach was making its way out into the air when it had once for his lifetime, been sealed away inside flesh. The same flesh now freshly annihilated by lead.
Both knees had been blown out. His legs twisted in circles--heel to the front, toes to the back, and back around again--as we ran with him. The top of his left shin was only attached by thin strands of flesh now. The bone had been shattered completely through by a shotgun blast and no longer connected to the rest of his body. I watched those flesh strands twist and twist, watching his foot turn around and around with wails from a man in brutal pain as I ran with him in my arms as fast as we could.
I quickly shook my gaze, realigning with the job that had to be done.
His screams we're the worst. He yelled in dying pains. I wanted him to go unconscious, his only escape from the pain I couldn't take away. I think I would have wanted the same.
It's hard ignoring your own pain, but trying to block out the agonizing screams and cries from a man dying is worse, I think. I tried desperately to shut it out as we continued to move.
Hes too bad, he's just too bad, I thought.
But his screams that reached the sky said alive and so, alive remained. We kept moving.
Somehow screams over his screams escaped my lips,
What's your name?
Look at me! What is your name?
Running, carrying a man with bood, screams and pleas all spilling out onto the grounds and into my hands and into the air and caught by my ears to remember forever.
Look at me, Damon**, look at me.
You got babies, Damon?
How many Damon**, how many children do you have?
Look at me. How many children do you have?
Between screams he mustered out, "Five".
Words were my helpless effort to take his mind away from terror and away from brutal and away from torture for the few seconds it took for him to think and respond.
Tell me their names? What are their names, Damon?
He screamed out five names I can't remember today, maybe because those questions, his answers, were mainly for him to hold on to, not for the purpose of my knowing them. Maybe they were for me too though. Maybe for both of us. I can't be too sure now.
We made it to our vehicle and we threw his shredded, mangled body twisted in the back of our patrol car. I don't even remember putting the car in reverse, but somehow we slung out of that courtyard, while he lay in the back seat. I remember bottoming out when I hit the curb and I hit it so hard my Sgt later told me he thought I collided with the ambulance.
We swept him up again out of the thick, red puddles now collected in our back seat, and carried him to the paramedics who had been waiting for us, now grabbing hold to help carry the load.
The rest is kind of a blur. That's the strange thing about the mind, it does its best to forget the things it isn't meant to carry around. But then it also keeps horrifying pieces it so chooses to keep. I don't understand it.
Later I heard,
"He was a dealer too, ya know. He slung dope, owed money--he was no good"
Angry and frightened, the residents of the same quarters of chaos that afternoon told us our action limped with no purpose. They told us the one we brought out to save wreaked of evil doing himself.
Doubt certainly slithers and creeps into a heart only to fill with confused defeat ready to deceive, hearing such things after something so adrenaline and trauma heavy.
But the One with purpose, for purpose, Creator of purpose--He showed up in that place for me. A confused, doubt-ridden place. Like water I began to drink-- between the sweat running down my face, sore arms, hamstrings pained, and a uniform being removed to dispose of as blue and red had made purple--
My Lord--- You---You do not deal with me according to my iniquities, according to all my dark places before You. You do not deal with me based on the things done and left undone or repay me the way I should be repaid. There is no other god who rescues like You (Daniel 3:29).
The One who rescues greater than any other knew all of me yet, still. He came for me.
My Rescuer did not deal with me according to all my wrecked, mangled life when He sought me. He knew of it all before it ever came to pass and He saved me anyway. He made my past into a scattered morning mist (Is. 44:22), forgotten. And He didn't regret it afterward.
He in perfect righteousness, did not look at me and say, 'No purpose', according to my shattered mess.
He looked at me, while unclean, picked me up, carried me out and called me worthy because He is.
And the One who rescues quickly captured a world's whispers feeding deception and doubt around me and replaced them with His words. The only true ones.
Here was a shattered man, a mess just as I am a mess. He was part of the drug and money game. He owed the dealer, and didn't pay up in time. And before we knew of who he was or what he was prior to arriving to this call, we went in for him. Because those things are never what is to weigh in when called to serve, to love; to go (Matt 28:19) This, reflects the love of Jesus.
To those who have been rescued, those who belong to Christ, we have not been given chains of fear to be held back, stagnant. Drink and eat of what He says to be true, what He has done and go.
We move in. We press on.
We go after Life because it has been given to us. And there was Life here between these gates of chaos on this day.
We always go in.
** indicates alternate name used to protect identity.