Monday, October 19, 2009

Diary of Caleb Ryan Shaw- Tuesday, December 4, 2012, 11:42 PM

I’m one of the millions of people that felt the need to personally document what happened yesterday. I mean, it’s all that’s on the news. The world is talking about it. FOX, CNN, and MSNBC have unanimously claimed it the end of the world. Actually, I’m glad, yeah I know, I’m sick… but whatever gets them to talk about something else instead of the normal garbage that is reported. I’m straying; I guess now is not the time to outline my disgust for the American media.

President Obama has declared Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas a disaster zone and has also declared martial law. Louisiana is in a state of panic; as well it should be… New Orleans has just vanished. Obliterated is more like it. It’s working its way northwest to Texas it seems. The news says that the military is trying to reroute it because their attempts to thwart is as effective as killing an elephant with a Dixie cup.

Unprecedented and unprepared… I keep hearing these words… and really… how can you prepare for the unprecedented? I know the world doesn’t know. Staring down the gullet of fate does funny things to the mind. I hope I live through this.

Yesterday, I went to work at the newspaper. It’s not a bad job for someone right out of high school, and it’s pretty easy work. I took a quick fifteen minute break at 10:30, and I walked outside to the roof. It’s the only place that you can think and clear your head. It also has a nice view of the Mississippi. I’ve watched that river for months now, and I’ve seen barges up and down it. I even witnessed the crash last month between the two freighters, but this… this was something else.

Not to be dramatic or whatnot, but the view is simply stunning. People often trivialize words such as “amazing”, “awesome”, “unbelievable”, and for once, I can say, those words hold no weight to the vast selection of words that I might choose to describe what I saw.

Like I said, I’ve seen freighters crash, and I’ve seen their demeanor as the river consumes them. This oil freighter capsized and then was pulled under. Transfixed, I pondered if what I just saw actually happened. There was a rumble and shake just like an earthquake. My gaze was sharply interrupted by the river spitting the ship several hundred feet into the air. The massive shredded debris twirled in all directions and crushed the 200 foot tall New Bridge into the river. Several explosions ignited the thousands of gallons of oil in and around the river and the collapsed bridge. Fireballs floated through the air and landed on the city.

I heard a sound that pierced my ears, and it was so potent that I felt it in my throat and chest. The blast wave reached me before the sound did and lying down face first in the roof gravel I heard the explosion. I gagged and coughed as the dirt and smoke passed over my body. When I turned around, I saw the horror of what happened. The refinery and chemical plant had exploded- completely. Not just a part of it, but everything was on fire.

At this point, I considered sitting down and trying to compose myself, but then I saw it. Another massive earthquake almost shook me from the roof and then I saw it rise from under the river. Through the haze of smoke I saw its arm, and what I could tell, its head. Given the present, I didn’t wait. I know what I saw, and in my mind, it was time to go. I slid down the antiquated fire escape and ran as fast as I could to my GS500

There are sounds that you may have never heard before, but when you hear them your mind tells you what they are. The roar shook the city and even the sounds of discord seemed have stopped in fear.

In the distance, I heard sirens and screams of horrified people, and I imagined the panic that was about to break out. I wondered why I was so relatively calm and not like all of the others I heard and saw. Crazed reporters flocked out of the newspaper’s building and clamored around like ants after you kick open their nest. I wasn’t interested in them or what just happened, so I put on my helmet and sped off.

The disorder was almost impossible to navigate. It was fortunate that I had a bike, or I would’ve never made it home. I cut through fields, neighborhoods, backyards, and underpasses. When I got home, my parents had already evacuated. I was relieved that they were getting out of town. I went into my house and packed a small bag which included my 9mm and 500 rounds. I also filled my bike’s tank with fuel from the gasoline can we had for the lawnmower.

I happened to notice that the military was forcing people into trucks. It was part of the evacuation I assumed; however, that was not my plan. I already had one, and it didn’t involve a camo truck shared with a few dozen people.

If I played my cards right, I could leave town unnoticed amidst the ensuing panic. I needed to make it Uncle Roo’s ranch in Texas. It’s about an 8 hour drive, but with all that was going on; I knew I might be in for a long haul. I packed up some more food, and fastened an additional fuel tank to the Suzuki.

After carefully navigating back roads and even trails, I emerged alongside an empty Interstate 10. I drove for 4 hours and was wary of any authorities. By 7:00, I had only gone 150 miles, and I had used far more fuel than I expected. I stopped along every rest stop I could to find gas, but they were all empty.

Another fifty miles down the road I found a hastily abandoned station, and luckily, there was fuel to spare. I filled my tanks and took some food and drinks. I felt bad because I had never outright stolen anything before, but I suppose there were greater crimes out there.

For the first time since I fled, I turned around and looked at what was behind me. Some 200 miles outside of Baton Rouge I could see the smoke. Maybe it was spreading? It was now around 11 and I knew I had to get some rest. I grabbed a poncho from the store and headed a few miles down. I ventured deep into the neighboring woods, maybe a mile or two, and set up a camp. I placed the poncho on the ground and covered with a blanket I had packed. I noticed my pen and notebook I kept for news gathering for the paper, and I wanted to write this down, but I was far too tired.

Even though it is December, a Texas-Louisiana winter night isn’t necessarily cold. It was around 65 degrees, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the comfortable temperatures had something to do with the hell I just left. Making lemons into lemonade I suppose? Regardless, I was tired, and I soon found myself asleep.

What I am about to tell you, I have no answer for. With the events that I have witnessed over the past 40 hours, this is the most petrifying and inexplicable moment of my life. I awoke, maybe around 5… I wasn’t sure of the time. I opened my eyes to the darkness of the thick woods. I noticed the temperature had dropped below freezing. I knew this because a light sheet of ice crumbled from my blanket when I sat up.

I heard a rustle in the brush, and I spoke to the night.


How stupid. Why is it that this is our default phrase when were hear something and can’t see what it is? In retrospect, I should’ve said, “I’ve got a gun and you’re about to die.”

Not that it would’ve mattered anyway. I don’t think it could answer me. The rustle grew a little closer, I strained my eyes to try and decipher some type of noticeable silhouette.

This isn’t the movies, so I didn’t get up to investigate the mystery with suspenseful high tension music playing in the background. I’m from Louisiana. I picked up my gun and fired 5 shots into the direction of the rustling. The flash lit the darkness, and I wasn’t sure what I saw. It was an animal… I think. It was shaped like a large cat… maybe a lion but much, much bigger. I know at least one of my bullets hit it because it screamed and stumbled around a bit. Now that I knew where in the darkness it was, I fired the rest of my 17 round clip into it. To my surprise, it was still alive. I knew this because it hissed and growled as it retreated to the blackness of the wood.

I hastily gathered my blanket and poncho and stuffed it into my bag and put on my helmet, and without regard for briars and limbs, rode my Suzuki out of the woods and continued to Uncle Roo’s.

About 20 miles down the road I began to realize where everyone had gone. The interstate had become a sea of cars. None of them were moving. I knew that I had to find another way. I’m not going to go into the aggravation of actually getting to Uncle Roo’s from there. I had to take back roads… all mostly packed with cars while avoiding the cops and the military.

I finally reached the ranch at around 10:15 tonight. Uncle Roo heard me drive up, and he greeted me at the door. He asked about my parents and how I got here. We talked a little, I ate, and we watched the newscasts over and over again. My only hope was that my parents were able to get out of the city.

We watched the devastation on the TV. Nothing was left. Everyone has seen it; you all know what I’m talking about. Every living person that witnessed it knows the feeling. Thousands were dead or missing and there was absolutely no one to blame. We were all powerless to stop it. Helplessness is a terrifying thing.

I told Uncle Roo I didn’t want to watch anymore, and he agreed. He told me that in the morning we would come up with a plan, but until then, we both needed some sleep. He was glad that I was here, and I was glad I had Uncle Roo.

Before I could sleep, the writer in me compelled myself to turn on Uncle Roo’s laptop and type… this… something that would live in my mind forever.

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