e saw it before he heard it. And he heard it before he felt it.
Randal was standing looking down the street at the huge Southern Pacific train engine holding up the traffic. Suddenly the huge glass window of the hardware store on the right buckled out toward the street and exploded!
He heard the crack of the explosion then the glass as it tinkled to the sidewalk, the cars and pedestrians in front of the shop.
He glanced around and the windows of two businesses across the street had also exploded and shards of the glass was actually landing on him from across the street. Two lanes going each way, plus parking on each side plus very wide sidewalks. That is a long way for glass to fly!
All this in a micro-second. At the same time the ground was heaving up and down as the vehicles sliding toward the bottom of each wave crashed and banged into each other. The pavement, the sidewalks, the dirt all behaving as if it were the waves on the ocean!
The enormous vibrations and the sound of extremely close - huge diesel engines racing far past their redline was thundering in his ears. The sounds of buildings crashing down, the terrified screams of men and women piercing the vast array of sounds rushing through his head.
The huge engine pulling the train across main street that was holding up traffic as the brakeman switched the tracks toppled heavily onto its side as if in slow motion. The engine one way - the cars the other way. By this time he was on the ground and had scrambled to all fours but was unable to stand.
Three seconds, five seconds, eight seconds of eternity dragged on as the quake rumbled. The ground became as water, and anything of weight simply sank. The term for this is liquefaction and solid soil will allow most anything to settle into it - almost as if it were water.
Sink holes allowed whole vehicles laden with occupants to fall in and be covered over as the dirt, concrete, asphalt and demolished buildings slid into the pit on top of them. Within ten seconds, which seemed like an eternity, the entire town had been reduced to rubble. People - the dead, the severely injured and frightfully scared were scattered around lying on the ground, trapped in vehicles and in demolished buildings.
Randal was trying to get his camera into position and the video turned on, but due to the violent wrenches of earth rolling toward him like ribbons, he was unable to do anything. He struggled on the ground for the entirety of the quake watching the entire scene as if in slow motion.
Suddenly a large explosion shattered the waning sounds of the earthquake as electrical sparks ignited several natural gas leaks escaping their thick walled pipe screaming like a tornado. What was left of the buildings after they'd crashed to the ground was beginning to roar from the inferno as they caught fire which quickly spread like water spilled on the ground.
Emergency centers, Police Stations and hospitals all had their own problems. Buildings which had crashed down around the emergency vehicles had to be cleared before they could respond. They had to rescue themselves before they could rescue others!
"Earthquake proof" hospitals would have to be evacuated because of the growing inferno which had now spread to the hospital. Where to? Outside?!?
Hundreds had already expired in the little city of thirty thousand. Many would not be found in time and many would never be found. Survival was decreasing by the second.
Electricity, water, communications, shelter, food, transportation . . . and survival - all destroyed within one ten second time frame. And that was only the initial shock! It would be over an hour before emergency services not destroyed in nearby areas could respond. In the meantime, several more shocks and tremors would lead to even further destruction.
Randal's first thought was his family. Where were they? Were they safe? What about the schools? Had the structures survived the disaster? Or would they be counted within it? His quick glance around proved his vehicle was totaled and now on fire from the building which collapsed forward toward the street.
Within less than an hour the entire city had nearly been wiped off the face of the earth. What had not collapsed in the quake was destroyed by fire. The few structures left standing were mere ghosts of what they were only minutes earlier.
His only chance of learning the fate of his family lay in his ability to travel to them. Fast. And it was going to be on foot. As soon as he could get to his feet he headed off toward the school where he'd dropped off his two children less than ten minutes before.
His home was a little less than two miles from his current location. Lela - his wife had deceased a little less than a year ago. Her parents had visited twice now, and had been here a little under a week but were antsy to get home would leave today. They may still be there.
Being this close to the epicenter he hoped his home had fared better than the businesses he'd just watched crumble like paper. It would be at least over three hours before he could get to his home . . . And he was going to have to carry his daughter - Sarah Jane - that was if he found them and if he could . . .
He quickly put the thought out of his head. How could he carry them and hurry? By now he'd gained his footing and was dodging through the hodgepodge of vehicles on the street. Cries of help reached his ears. People were trapped in vehicles that were smashed together, on their sides . . . two were buried nearly up to the windows.
The only chance to help them was pull them out through the broken windows. If they weren't broken, he had no way to break them. He looked around for something with which to do just that. He'd only hurt himself if he tried to do it with his fist or foot.
One vehicle was on its side and the trunk deck had partially opened. He quickly grabbed the lid and yanked it a little further open requiring all his might. A tire iron was within grasp and he snatched it up and dashed to the car nearest him where a young woman was pounding on the glass by her door.
He motioned her away from the door and she leaned over as far as her seatbelt would allow and turned away from the breaking glass. Three good licks and it broke, then he was able to kick the glass in. With his pocket knife he sliced through the jammed seatbelt, reached in and dragged her from the vehicle.
"Anyone else?" he yelled.
Seeing her shake her head in the negative he then yelled over the roar of the fire "my name is Randal."
"I'm Sarah" she responded then added "I've got to get to the school. My son is there.
"Mine too" he yelled over his shoulder as he headed off in the direction of the school with Sarah right on his heels. And she was keeping up with him too!
"What grade is your son in?"
"He's in third grade in Mrs. Wade's class."
"My son is also in that class, and I have a daughter in Kindergarten - Mrs. Hales class." Randal gasped through ragged breath. By this time the adrenaline was wearing off and he was slowing down.
"What is your son's name?"
"Lane" she responded then continued. "His best friend is Randal"
"That's my son! His best friend is Lane. Wow, what a coincidence!" His thoughts immediately went back to something Randal Jr. had told him when he learned his mother would die from cancer. "My best friend's father was killed in the war in Afghanistan." Randal remembered his son being sad for his best friend.
Randal was having one of those moments when all this sadness was overwhelming him. So much sadness in the world and then one finds something that makes them glad . . . Perhaps he shouldn't think of this right now, but . . . well, Sarah . . . his newfound friend, his son's best friends' mom . . . well she was very pretty! And she was purty tough too!
It was heartbreaking to see the destruction of the school. Randal knew where both his children were and made a beeline to the closest classroom. They were fortunate in they found Randal Jr and Lane side by side. They'd been down on the floor beside the teachers sturdy desk comparing drawings so they were unharmed. The side they were on faced the huge wall of glass window panes so they were easily found.
Randal crawled in and handed them both out to Sarah then several other children. The teacher would not make it as she was sitting at her seat behind the desk when the roof fell.
Seeing no more children at that location Randal and Sarah headed for Sarah Jane's classroom. Seeing no way to get through the roof, he laid down on the concrete and started inching his way in. He could see nothing and was calling out to her - no response.
Another large tremor and he backed out of there, and ran the circumference of the class attempting to locate a way in. Nothing, and the roof settled a little closer to the ground. Using the tire iron still in his hand, he started hammering and prying at a covered roof access door he discovered which was warped almost open. The latch gave way quickly and he opened it up.
Calling to Sarah Jane he heard her whimpering. Worming his way into the opening he reached three children and handed them out to Sarah. Within another ten minutes he located and pulled his daughter Sarah Jane to safety with the remaining six children in the class. The teacher was lying on her side with a beam across one leg just above the knee.
No doubt she would lose that leg. "If I move that beam you'll bleed to death in seconds he told the teacher. We need help to get you out."
Mrs. Hale nodded she understood then responded "there's others you can help. Go!"
By this time many more parents were arriving. Sarah, was holding Sarah Jane and attempting to keep a reign on the other children, most of whom were crying. Most of the children's parents had already claimed them. One lady said "Mrs. Hale, Lacey is my sister. Where is she?"
Randal explained Mrs. Hales plight, and the lady said "I'm a nurse. I can stop the bleeding if you can get her out."
Her name was Christine and her husband arrived before Randal finished his report of Lacey. Wrens said "let's get her out. Christine, you go in first and get into position. Randal and I will follow you in after to see if we can raise the beam enough to move her."
Instantly Christine was through the hole, and Wren was right behind her. Randal crawled in on the other side of Lacey and got a hold of a board long enough to use as a lever. Wrenching a couple more boards loose to use as a fulcrum, and between their strain effort inched the beam up and blocked it a little at a time to where they thought they could get Lacey out.
Christine had gone to work on her the instant she reached her. Very efficient, with a little strap mounted light on her forehead, she clamped off the bleeding with a tourniquet. There was no doubt the leg was far from saving. Just above the knee. Lacey screamed from the pain as the beam lifted enough to let blood flow and regain feeling. When her leg could not be completely withdrawn the only other option was amputate.
Christine gave her a heavy dose of morphine, then pulled a set of surgical knives then instantly began cutting deep into the muscle just above the knee. Within a minute she retrieved a small bone saw and in less time than he thought possible, she commanded "let's get her out of here!"
Lacey and Christine both were a bloody mess! Wren and Randal were covered in sweat, dust, bits of insulation. They handed Lacey out to some more men waiting on top of the collapsed roof. After helping to carry to the shade of a small tree, they brushed each other off. Christine was still holding a sterile pad to the stump to stench the flow of bleeding.
Lacey was pretty much out of it with the medication Christine had given her and getting very weak with the loss of blood. She was fortunate about the morphine. Christine only had about two more doses with her.
Christine finished up all she could do with what little she had and quickly went to others in need of assistance.
Within an hour Christine's supply of emergency medications was exhausted. All she had or could get a hold of momentarily was in the bag she always carried in her vehicle. They were stopped on the opposite side of the train crossing from Randal when the quake struck.
Only a few minutes behind Randal and Sarah, they secured their daughter, whom Randal had dug from the debris from Mrs. Wade's class then headed over to see about Lacey her sister. Wren and Randal worked side by side all over the school site until several First Responders showed up with more equipment and medical supplies. Even those would run out long before everyone was taken care of.
Finally Randal told Sarah he was going home to check on his parents in law and his home. "I'll go with you if you'll come to my house and help me check things out there as well" she responded.
"Deal" said Randal. Where do you live? Your place may be closer than mine and if so we'll go by there first."
It turned out her place was the closest and only about a mile from his and very little out of the way. With no means of transportation, they'd have to hoof it, so they started out. They talked of a lot of things before they got to her house. Her house was really torn up and no where near livable. No water was available from the faucets but Randal did secure enough water for them from the water heater. Hot, but wet!
At least they could clean up a bit and knock their thirst. Randal was able to clear the debris and the lumber crushing the refrigerator and get them some cool drinks and some bologna with which to make sandwiches. It would not take long in this heat for everything in there to ruin.
In the space of less than an hour later, she had salvaged a bag of clothes for her and Lane, and they were walking again. This time toward Randal's house.
Randal was extremely thankful! Years before he'd started making preparations for a time such as this. Lela's parents derided him about being a "Prepper," a "survivalist," a "conspiracy theorist," a "America's gonna fall" bad news aficionado. Randal just held his tongue and now he was thankful of that as well.
He wondered what their reaction would be now that his planning, saving, preparations for an emergency would be saving all their necks. He knew they were going to leave for home up in Colorado today or tomorrow, but had no idea they'd left soon after he'd taken the kids to school. They'd stayed two weeks this trip and a week with him a year ago when Lela had died.
This morning Randal had taken the children to breakfast for Randal Jrs. accomplishment in acquiring the position of honor roll. They'd been gone from the house a full hour and a half before the quake. So mom and dad Hood were nearly a hundred miles away from the disaster area and were completely unaffected.
Randal had no problem sharing with them even though they were critical of his preparations. His thoughts on finding them in a bad way when he got home was heavy on his mind. He didn't want his children to see them hurt in some way. His alarm was great when he did not see their vehicle parked in front of his home. He found their farewell note on the kitchen table.
Randal's house had fared much better than most. He'd built the house himself and had prepared many extra details that were not in the plans. One contractor had called him silly. Even so, he had running water, electricity and natural gas with which to cook when few within a forty mile radius had nothing.
He had his own well, solar electrical system and even a backup natural gas system which stored two weeks worth of compressed natural gas. Everything with the exception of the solar system was underground. He even had a one thousand gallon tank of gasoline and a thousand gal tank of diesel fuel - underground - stored under pressure with C02 and with Stabil or Seafoam. The fuel storage bunkers were well ventilated, dark and well grounded.
But he also had backups. And he had backups for his backups! And he was ever more thankful. After he had taken a quick spin through the house he invited Sarah and the kids in. "Please don't think me forward . . ."
He was hesitant as he spoke to Sarah. But you and Lane are welcome to live here until you can make different arrangements if you like. Randal had several other vehicles which were fine other than being shaken around a mite. A couple of dings here and there sure didn't matter at this point.
He handed the keys of Lela's vehicle to Sarah and said you're free to come and go as you wish. "Be careful of the fuel as it's gonna be extremely hard to acquire for a while" he mentioned.
The steel building which was his shop had fared quite well also. "My only problem now is keeping what I have" he thought. He didn't know how much to tell Sarah. He didn't know if she had any kin or close friends . . . or would be asking him to house them . . . His provisions for himself and his family would not last for too long - and even shorter if people arrived demanding he share.
The fence and the gate around his residence would not last a long time against looters, or even simple hungry people. He'd thought long and hard about both those situations. His preparations included a secure place against both of these problems. He'd share the food in his home and his pantry until it ran out, then they would go to emergency rations - family only.
These were stored where not even Randal Jr. had knowledge of. For good reason. A man was responsible for his family. Not everyone else.
From his water dispenser he drew enough water for them to drink. They'd washed up at Sarah's house so he didn't take much. He still didn't know how much to trust her. Who were her friends? Did she have a man friend? If so, how responsible would she feel toward them - would she feel guilty about her good fortune and want to share?
And with him allowing her to drive his vehicle, she wanted to go back to her house to see what else she could salvage. "Not a problem. I'll be happy to go with you - if you want. He stood silent not wanting to influence her.
She stood without knowing how to answer him thinking she might seem over indulgent. He finally broke the awkqard silence with "Do you have kin here in this area?"
"No, I'm an only child and my parents live in Idaho. I came out here with my husband before he was deployed. When he died I was left alone with Lane, and although I wanted to move home, I hesitated because I didn't want to disrupt his studies during the school year. After that, I felt so connected I didn't want to leave my job . . . so we stayed."
"I'm sorry to hear about your wife. How long has it been?" she asked softly.
"Almost a year. She died of cancer" he responded quietly. He hoped Sarah felt the same attraction toward him as he was feeling toward her. There was another awkward moment then he said "we need to get to your house quickly then get back here as soon as possible."
He paused for a second then said "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make the decision for you, I just automatically expected you and Lane to stay here. I don't think there is any place else to go at this point."
"I'm so terribly indebted to you already. Will I be imposing to shelter here for the moment. I certainly don't want to be a bother or hardship. I can get help from my parents but even that will take a couple of days."
"Not in the least. Now, that problem is settled, let's get gone and back a.s.a.p.! How about we go in my pickup truck. Maybe we can salvage a little more."
Within three hours they were back and Randal had backed up to the steel building he used as a shop. Already someone had pried open the door and some tools were missing. "Hopefully it was someone in rescue needing some equipment with which to help others.
He'd addressed that issue as well. He had huge barriers in front of the gate that could be raised at the flick of a switch, and the fence was cable reinforced although hidden. He had chosen a piece of property well outside of the city and on a dead end street with very little traffic.
A generator was missing as well as all his gas cans - which he kept full. All the water stored in the shop was gone as well. A couple of saws, some pry bars, hammers, etc. were gone. "Not a problem" he thought. "I planned for such a situation as this."
After storing Sarah's stuff in the garage, he helped her move her personal belongings into the extra quarters where his guests had all the amenities of home. It was close to seven o'clock when they finished. "I figure you're about as hungry as us. How 'bout some supper?"
"Sounds fine to me" she replied. "I've got the where and when figured out, but not the what . . . nor the how."
Randal smiled to himself about her not realizing he had electricity. That was thanks to his Solar System he'd installed a year after finishing the house. "Well, let's go see what we can round up" he said as he stepped aside allowing her to pass. "Turn right at the second left."
It took her a second to catch on, then she headed off. When she stepped into the kitchen he flipped the light switch on. Finally she caught on.
"You have electricity! That's why it was so cool in here. You sure have lots of secrets" she finished. You go sit down and rest. I'll cook" she added.
"Deal" he said. "Something light . . . if it's ok with you. I don't like to eat a large supper."
Someone pounded on the front door in a rather demanding way as he left the kitchen. As he reached the front door he opened a little door chest high on the wall to his right. He reached in a withdrew an XD .45 and concealed it at his side On the screen just above that was a man he did not know, nor was he wearing any kind of identification.
Without releasing the heavy chain which only allowed the door to be opened about two inches, he twisted the door knob and cracked the door. "What can I do for you?"
"You can open the door and give us food and water and the keys to your vehicle!" the man bellowed.
"Who are you?" Randal asked. All the man had to do was explain a couple of things. But he refused to identify himself. Besides, the gate that led into his property was still closed - meaning the man had jumped the fence.
"Did the man have accomplices? Was he here earlier? What was his name?" All these questions were coming fast to Randal.
The man refused to identify himself, who his employer was and by what authority was he demanding provisions. Randal was watching the screen but saw no other person. "I would have given you some water and a bag of food, but your attitude that I owe you stinks."
"And, you're NOT getting my vehicles. Also, you're trespassing on private property. You had to jump a fence to get here. So you can go before your rile me."
"I ain't leaving here without food, water and your vehicle" the man yelled. "Do you want me to break down your door?"
"Wrong response" answered Randal. "I have a .45 pointed at your chest. Raise your hand to the door and you'll die where you stand" growled Randal. "It's time for you to leave. And don't come back. I won't be so lenient next time. Now leave."
The dude started backing up. When he drew near the gate Randal opened it and he left. "It's just what I was expecting would happen" he thought. "Wait until tomorrow!"
Randal turned around and Sarah, ashen faced, was there staring at him. "Would you have shot him?" she queried.
"Yes ma'am. I would have. Asking is one thing, demanding on threat of violence is quite another. By the way. What do you know about firearms?"
"I am familiar with them and I've shot several when my husband Larry was around. I've owned a .32 for a long time, but I couldn't find it at the house. I kept it under clothes in my nightstand. The nightstand had turned over so it may have just fallen out during the jolt. And by the way, I agree with you one-hundred percent."
"Have you ever carried concealed before?" Randal asked. Little by little he was learning a lot about her.
"I have, but never possessed a permit" she confessed.
"Well, it's time for you to have another firearm. Randal Jr. is knowledgeable about them and also knows to keep his mouth shut. I've trained him about family secrets. What does Lane know?"
"Not a lot. He was only about six when his father died. But he's sharp and is a very quick study. He'll take to what he calls 'man stuff' very quickly." It was easy to see she was proud of him.
They sat talking till after midnight. The alarm at the front gate sounded twice but the threats went away. It was a little after one in the morning when the alarm alerted once more. Randal watched as a couple in about their early forties stood at the gate. The lady was holding a young child, probably a grandchild.
Finally the call button sounded a query and Randal answered. "Sir" the gentleman said. "We have lost everything in the quake and my wife and granddaughter need some water. Could we bother you to allow us to get some water from your pond out front?"
Randal opened the gate and responded "come in." He watched as they trudged through the gate. The man took the little girl and the lady picked up what looked to be a paper sack. They headed directly toward the little fish pond without so much as even looking toward the house.
As they neared the pond, Randal appeared from a side door through the wall next to the pond. "Here is some fresh water. And in the sack are some sandwiches. What are your names?"
I'm Jesse Robinson and this is my wife, Rhonda. This is our granddaughter Lisa Holbrook. Her parents, died today. We have been accosted twice and what little foods and water we had were taken. Our house and car burned in the fire and my pickup is stuck down at the railroad crossing.
"Please, would you follow me?" Randal said. Randal led off to the left of the house around by the driveway, to the back and across the driveway to a small bungalow. If you want you can rest here for the night. There are provisions for coffee, tea, and some foodstuffs in the frig.
Also there are clothes to wear and shower facilities. Please, make yourself at home and I'll talk to you around seven."
The woman was in tears and Jesse stretched out his hand to shake. "Thank you for your kindness. Please, tell me your name."
"I'm Randal Glasser" he responded as he met the handshake. "I believe I pulled that young lady out of Mrs. Hales class this morning."
"I thought you looked familiar" Jesse responded. Rhonda excused herself to the restroom. "Thanks again."
Randal shut the door to the little cottage and stepped out of the light to allow his eyes to adjust. He saw a movement up by the house and realized it was Sarah. She had trailed the couple as he led them to the bungalow. When he stepped into the house, she flung her arms around him and began to weep.
"You are an answer to prayer" she sobbed then "I wish there were millions more just like you."
He let her finish out her cry and just held her. It had been a long time since he'd held a woman in his arms. And he'd decided early-on that he wanted this woman in his life. He would remedy that as soon as he could!
Randal's alarm woke him at five-fifty-five AM and he arose, showered and shaved then prepared for the day. He didn't know just where to start. He was a self-employed contractor, and he had jobs in varying stages of progress. But there was plenty that had to be done. He would go around and check out the situations concerning each job site.
He learned that Jesse was a carpenter and electrician. Randal offered him some work then told him to rest. Sarah made sure they had provision for the day.
Randal learned all but one of his employees, James English, were down. Three hospitalized, two dead, two missing. His house had fared better than most so he was home. Randal drove him back to his own house where his equipment was stored and instructed him to fill the water truck and drive it into town. He would meet him there.
Help was beginning to pour in from other cities so he checked in at the Police Station. Rows and rows of tents and outhouses, camper trailers, motor homes were lined up in a field. Although there was no electricity at the moment, many had generators.
A temporary gravity-fed water system was set up with lines leading out with spickets where people could acquire water. So at least they had shelter and water.
The water truck was welcomed and pumped into the system. This was done all day long - trip after trip. At Randal's expense, from his own well.
Many of the vehicles abandoned simply because they had become blocked in were now untangled, running and being used. Tractors from all over were digging the cars out in the search for victims. The same with collapsed buildings. People listed as missing at addresses were being found - some alive . . . some not alive.
Mobile hospitals were being set up, and food was being trucked in. After shocks kept coming and at each one the chatter would quieten, then resume. But many were doubtful that the city would ever be built again.
Jesse was extremely helpful in the driving of the tank truck. When James left he would take over. He and James would become Randal's right hand men as of that day. Both men were able to retrieve their vehicles, banged up, but running.
When Randal went home for supper that evening, Sarah had cooked a scrumptious meal. He could get used to this sort of treatment real quick. After supper they sat and talked for a while, comparing likes, dislike, this that . . . just normal get acquainted stuff.
Later they sat watching the news and Randal recognized Wren and Christine Martin. They were requesting additional campers and help. One could locate them through the Police Station.
Randal announced "I'm going to go down to the Police Station and see if I can locate Wren and Christine. Wanna come?"
"Absolutely. I met her one day at the school. I found her to be a wonderful person!"
"Good. Then I have another question."
Something about the way he said that last line that arrested her full attention. Sarah turned to face him directly, all her attention was on him. She smiled up at him and he instantly knew he was about to ask the right question.
"Will you marry me Sarah?"
"Yes Randal, it would be another answer to prayer, and an honor. I'll marry you."
"Then we can have the Police Captain to marry us when we go into town."
Wren and Christine were there to witness the marriage. Then, they followed Randal and Sarah Glasser home as guests in one of the four bungalows.
Through disaster and their desire to help others, even some they hadn't known before, their lives had become enjoined and fulfilled.
Lela (Hood) Glasser
Randal Glasser Jr.
Sarah Jane Glasser
Mom and Dad Hood
Sarah (Collins) Morris
Lane Allen Morris
son of main character
daughter of main character
Randal's newfound friend
Sarah Jane's teacher
sister to Lacey Hale - nurse
spouse to Christine
asked for a drink from pond
Randal's lone employee