So. It snowed again. A lot. And this time we didn’t get to sit at home, all cozy in our living room watching episodes of Friends and How I Met Your Mother while snuggling the dog. No. This time we had to work.
Friday morning we left home at the buttcrack of dawn. We drove an hour North, to Fredericksburg and attempted to figure out the plan. See, when shit gets bad, and especially when shit gets bad in terms of weather, the National Guard gets going to places that might be impacted. Andrew and I are both journalist for the Virginia National Guard. Weather reports were calling for snow accumulation of up to 30 inches in the Northern parts of my usually-not-very-snowy-at-all-state, so, we went North.
By the time we got to Fredericksburg, at about 7 AM, the National Guard had only been tasked with one mission. Since we didn’t know when or if other missions would come down, Andrew and I decided to attach ourselves to that mission and figured we would move on to bigger and better things if that mission turned out to be a dud.
By mid-morning Friday we were with a group of five National Guard Soldiers at a fire station just north of Fredericksburg. And we were excited. Because, as I mentioned, we were at a fire station! We got all up close and personal with the fire trucks (swoon!) and spent hours upon hours hanging out with firefighters, first responders and medical staff (also, swoon!).
The snow started around mid-afternoon on Friday. But it wasn’t sticking. At all. In fact, it started to stick in the grass and then, just like that, it all melted. I was pissed. I was grumpy. I was paying $35 a day for my dog to be boarded and there was no fucking snow. My patience was limited, but I figured the snow would speed up eventually and start sticking and then we’d be busy like bumblebees.
Friday night we went to sleep on cots in the upstairs area of the firehouse. And no, there wasn’t a pole to slide down should we be needed. I was a little depressed about that one as well.
Sleeping at a fire station is an interesting thing. It’s fitful, to say the least. All night there were calls and various noises that made getting a good night’s sleep a little difficult. Plus, there was the whole sleeping on a cot thing. The good part though, is that the novelty of hearing sirens and radio chatter hadn’t evaporated yet and I still managed to get more excited than irritated each time I was woken up by chatter over the PA system.
Saturday morning we were antsy. There was a lot of snow outside, but we still hadn’t been utilized. We were ready to go. We wanted to help.
And then, just like that, at about 10 AM, they needed us. And we went. We scrambled our way out the door, excited and ramped up and ready to save the world. But then they didn’t need us anymore. So we went back to the station.
It went like that a few more times – getting called out only to discover they didn’t need us anymore. It was frustrating, but still, we were helping. We were getting faster in our response time. We were having fun.
Later in the day on Saturday we were actually able to help. Emergency vehicles were getting stuck in the snow everywhere and, with our humvees, we were able to help pull some out. It was cold and fun and I could tell the guys, the Soldiers who had been waiting all day for some action, were excited with the prospect of finally being able to help.
At one point I stepped off the road. The snow was above my knee. And, at the point, it was still snowing.
Saturday night Andrew and I sat down to process the footage we’d gotten. Internet access was shaking, but the firefighters let us use their system to post photos. Since it was dark, we decided to stop going out on runs since my camera hates the night-time and the darkness. We played a game called hand and foot with some firefighters and called it a night. We didn’t know what the next day would hold for us and wanted to be as rested as possible.
The Soldiers got called out on four runs over night and got very little sleep. They helped a pregnant women. And a child. And an elderly gentlemen. They loved it. They were excited. They were helping – really, really helping. I’m sad I didn’t go with them. I feel like I missed out on some really great stuff.
Sunday morning we decided to break contact. We had enough footage and our boss said we could go home.
It was bittersweet to leave the fire house. We’d spent nearly 48 hours there with the Soldiers and the firefighters and I was left with the realization of how cool my job is. I get paid to spend the night at fire stations and go on emergency calls with my fellow Soldiers. I get to meet some of the greatest, most self-sacrificing guys in the state. I’ve flown on helicopters with the doors wide open and the world below me. It just doesn’t get any better than that.