When I awoke the next morning, my Teddy bear spoke,
“Mary, today I want you to write three copies of a note. In the note put your full name and that you are all right. Tell that your mother, Mary Cusak went to Luxora to the beauty salon and your father, Karl Cusak went to Blytheville for parts. Tell that after the quake you went to your Grandad’s house in Whistleville. Write that it is located behind the cotton gin. Say that your Grandad had a heart attack but he is still alive.
“When you finish writing those notes, roll them up and put them in the waist band of Sergeant Major bear. Carry him down to the road. He will take it from there.”
I went for water and made oatmeal. I woke Grandad and fed him a half bowl of oatmeal. I helped him walk to the outhouse and back. After I had eaten, I sat next to him and asked,
“Grandad, this is Sunday. We can’t go to church, but would you like to have a little church service here?”
I couldn’t tell what his grunt meant. I walked across the room and picked up the Bible I used to see Granny read. I carried it back and sat down beside him.
“Let’s sing a hymn first. How about “Standing On The Promises”? I’ll stand because that’s a hymn we always stand to sing. You can stay seated.”
While I was singing, he seemed to be humming.
“Okay, while I’m standing I’ll say the Apostles’ Creed.”
After the Apostles’ Creed I sat down.
“I’m going to read some passages from the Bible. First, I’ll read the twenty-third Psalm. Then I’ll read the Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.”
He reached over and held my hand while I was reading.
“Now let’s conclude by saying the Lord’s Prayer.”
As I was praying, I would hear an occasional word of it from him. At the end he squeezed my hand and let it fall.
In Victoria, a note was taped to a window pane in the door of an abandoned brick building. The building, which had once served as the police and fire station, had been undamaged in the quake. Another note was attached by a string to the trunk of a tree that had broken just at the point where the main branches began. There was a tree still standing in front of the Cusak’s mobile home. The mobile home had turned over during the earthquake. On the first branch of the tree, visible from the road, sat Sergeant Major bear with the third note rolled and tucked under his belt.
Early that morning, a National Guard helicopter on its way to Osceola flew over Victoria and saw some people on the streets with old wooden houses. A few were waving their arms at the helicopter. Others were lying on the ground. The pilot reported back to the ground controller. He was told to land, give whatever immediate assistance that he and crew could provide. Then he was to report back.
After the copter landed, they found several women and children. They were frightened and probably needed water and food. They were speaking Spanish and were very emotional. They gave the group the bottles of water and MRE’s (meals ready to eat) they had on board for themselves. Then they walked toward where they had seen bodies on the ground. A teen age girl excitedly beckoned them towards the wounded men. They didn’t have anyone with them who knew any more than just basic first aid. The pilot went back to his copter and reported what they had found. He mentioned that there was a landing strip and it appeared to be undamaged. He was told,
“If you can load any of the injured onto the copter without making their injuries worse, bring them here to Osceola. I’ll send a rescue team out there with some more food, water, and blankets. I’ll send someone who can speak Spanish along with them.”
There were several stretchers on the aircraft. They put the three men who looked worst on the stretchers and loaded them onto the helicopter. There was a teenage girl named Rosalita who spoke English as well asa Spanish.. The pilot said to her,
“Rosalita, please tell the others that another aircraft will be here before night. It will bring blankets, food, water, and some medical people who can help the injured men.”
Several hours later a rescue team landed. They brought the supplies the previous pilot promised. While a nurse was tending to the casualties and assessing their injuries, the other two men went through the town on an ATV they brought. When they stopped at one of the brick houses, they heard someone calling.
“Help us. Please help us,”
Through the rubble they saw a woman who had sought shelter in a bathtub. They pulled beams and sidewall aside to reach her. In the tub with her were two little children. Her back had lacerations. Evidently she had laid herself over the children to protect them.
“Here is a bottle of water. You drink some. Give some to each of them. Don’t let them drink too much at once or they’ll get sick. When you are ready, we’ll carry your children out one at a time. Then we will help you out. There is a nurse who is treating some injured men. When she is through with them, we’ll bring her up here to take care of the cuts to your back.”
They were getting the lady, Mrs. Cartwright, and her children, Jamie and Joy, settled under the broken tree out front when they saw Mary’s note.
“We’d better take this note back to the Command Center.”
“Mrs. Cartwright, we have to get back to looking for casualties. Here is an energy bar. You’ll have to share it with your children. I promise you that the nurse will be here as soon as she is able to do so.”
They went to the other brick house. Looking through the rubble they saw an old woman sitting in a rocking chair. A beam had struck her head and it was at a crazy angle. A younger woman was lying on the kitchen floor. Blood had run out of her mouth and had dried on the linoleum. A refrigerator was lying on top of her chest and stomach.
The headquarters building had one entire side wall missing. Looking into the building they did not see any bodies. There was another building which was back a good way from the road. When they approached it, a man ran out to meet them.
“There are six of us inside. Two are females. None of us is injured. We are hungry and thirsty. We have been roughing it, waiting for help. There was no electric power or phone service. There is no water and the toilets don’t work. Cell phones get no signal. We couldn’t get too far in any direction in a vehicle even with four wheel drive. I ran down when the other helicopter landed. I couldn’t get their attention.”
“We have some women and children that we are going to bring up here so that they don’t have to spend another night outside. It will be tomorrow or the next day before we can evacuate those who are not injured. We will bring the water and food up here. See to it that you share it equally.”
“You mean you are bringing them Mexicans up here?”
“If you have a problem with that, I can seize the building in the name of the Governor, bring them here, and let you sleep outside!”
Going on down the road they came to the abandoned building.
“Let’s take a look inside this building. If it is all right, we can put the Mexican women and children there and avoid adding to their distress.”
Getting off the ATV Harry tried the door. It was locked. Before breaking a window pane, he tried the old credit card trick. It worked and he was inside. Shining his flashlight around he saw that it was surprisingly clean.
Turning around they went back to the other end of town. The buildings there were all made of tin. They had fallen down in a heap. The machinery inside had been tossed around like toys in the hands of destructive children. Evidence of fire was all around. The most gruesome evidence was charred human bodies. There were at least a dozen. A twenty foot long fertilizer tank looked like a giant can opener had ripped it open. They knew they would not find any survivors there. On the way back to where the nurse was working, they saw a body on the ground near where the water tank had fallen. Was he killed by the falling tank or did he drown?
The nurse had finished with the men she was treating. Harry took her on the ATV, leaving his partner behind. His partner, Danny, went on foot back to the building where the office workers were staying. He carried six bottles of water with him.
“Okay, here is a bottle of water for each of you. Get that truck you were talking about and go back with me. I’ll give you a couple cases of water, a couple cases of MREs, and some blankets. After that we are keeping the truck for our use now and when we come back.”
Danny gave them the supplies that he promised. Then he went down to where Mrs. Cartwright and her boys were sitting. The nurse had finished treating her wounds and was ready to go back with Harry. Danny told Mrs. Cartright to get into the truck with her children. He took them down to the building and told the office workers that they had company.
He went back to where the Mexican women and children were. He asked Rosalito if they would be willing to stay in the abandoned brick building.
“That was the old police and fire engine station, Senor. We can stay there.”
Harry put the remaining water, MREs, and blankets in the truck. There were some flashlights which he gave to Rosalito and the women.
“Okay, tell everyone to get up into the truck.”
Some of the women started speaking excitedly, protesting.
Rosalito said, “They don’t want to leave the men lying out here alone.”
“The men won’t be lying out here alone. We will be with them until the helicopter comes back. Then we will load them onto the helicopter and it will take them to a hospital.”
Rosalito translated what he had said. The women still looked worried, but climbed into the back of the truck.
Danny reported by radio to the Crisis Command Center:
“This is the rescue team sent to Victoria. We have located twelve ambulatory adults and nine children. One adult has minor injuries. Five of these adults are women who speak no English. Most of the children also do not speak English. One of the children, Rosalito, can speak both Spanish and English. We have put them in two surviving buildings and they have enough food and water for a little more than a day.
“We have five injured men who need to be transported this evening.
“The rescue team also found a note from a child who survived the quake and went to her grandfather’s house several miles away in Whistleville. She reports that there was no damage there but her grandfather had a heart attack and needs medical attention.”
After the truck left, Sergeant Major bear left his perch and went back to report to Teddy bear and me what I have recorded above. Grandad had gone to bed early. Teddy bear said,
“Sergeant Major bear report back to your post. Mary go up in the loft and bring down British Bobby bear. (British Bobby bear had a blue policeman’s uniform with a shiny badge. He had a night stick hanging from his belt and a tall dome shaped had with a badge.)
Like Teddy bear and Sergeant Major bear, British Bobby bear was an angel. When he appeared on the scene in Victoria at the building containing office workers, he appeared to them to be an Arkansas State policeman. He told the men to take the shovels that were outside and start digging slit trench latrines on either side of the building and behind the building across the road where the Mexicans were staying. He told them not to think about quitting until he was satisfied they had done a satisfactory job.