A Searcher's Journal
After the main contingent had left for the crash site I had a chance to talk to
one of the rangers, I knew I was soon to face a severely burned, headless body.
I was also given the idea that the hands and feet were missing also. So on into
the site I traveled with my 35 pounds of water while mentally preparing myself.
My mission was to cool the body so it (why it instead of he?) could be placed
into the body bag. I was expecting bright red at the missing points, the most
horrible odor that I could imagine and the internal organs spread out over the
woods. When I first arrived I could smell the forest fire odor but could not
discern a human element. This surprised me because I was actually attempting to
sniff. The second thing I thought was everyone was going to be away from the
body, so I walked right by it at first. Then they called me back. For a moment I
did not want to look but then my curiosity took the better of me as it often
does. So I looked, surrounded by points of light, outlining my coworkers solemn
faces through the fog. I only felt the stillness not the rain. The body was on
its stomach with every joint bent, hands twisted, as if I could feel the pain.
But I didn't. The body was not a body but instead a lump of charcoal. It even
appeared shiny in parts. The missing head didn't bother me. It was a comfort
really. This thing clearly was not human. I then went for the details, look at
the open femur fracture, notice the shattered patella and the entire joint
exposed. Chuckle at the shiny buttocks, one of the few areas left unburnt. As I
poured on the cooling waters I noticed the flight jacket he wore. The collar
looked out of place. The feet were also left unburnt, shining in the glow of my
flashlight. At least my light was white unlike the red lights that bobbed in the
fog like tiny demons dancing about the plane. Finally, I realized my arm was
tired from the water pump. Before, we turned over the body I thought of the
worst. Karen was the only one who volunteered to help turn. We turned and I was
somewhat confused. As the water hit and wisps of steam and smoke swirled upwards
into the fog I realized I was staring at the vertebra; the entire insides had
simply burnt away. We then quickly placed him into the body bag and departed
singing yellow submarine. I hung back with one of the more experienced rangers
and discussed the interesting effects stress was having on some of our members.
Following the road of flagging tape we marched back up the hill never realizing
we had left the fragments of his wife still unfound and unnoticed. A most
powerful and interesting night in the woods.