As I moved to the front of the bus I saw discreet images; nothing seemed connected to anything else. Snap shots from someone else’s album. Snap. Red splotches of not-rain on an abandoned kit bag. Snap. That damned shoe. Snap. Shimmering fragments of glass. Snap. A hat. Snap. The ruins of a bus seat. I am aware that people are talking, yelling, crying, calling out, but I register only sounds. The world outside of myself is muffled. I am wrapped in cotton wool.
The driver’s seat has disappeared. The driver is standing there, looking out the front of the bus, and the back of his shirt is sodden with blood. I go to him, raise his shirt… and his skin is completely intact. He turns and points behind me. “It’s his.” I look over at the man I saw earlier, the one who was moaning. Now I focus.
His eyes are closed tight and he is whimpering. His respirations are shallow and rapid, his pulse thready, his skin cold and clammy. “My name is Knot. I’m going to take care of you. What’s your name?” I pull up his shirt, open his trousers, gingerly palpate his abdomen. Nothing wrong there that I could tell, so I turn my attention to his leg. My patient had been seated in the second seat behind the driver. The driver’s seat had been destroyed in the explosion and the first seat behind him apparently rose and then fell on his leg.
I stood and reached for the first aid kit that is fixed to the bus interior above and to the left of the driver. It’s not there, must have been destroyed in the blast. One of the soldiers, couldn’t be more than 18 years old, silently handed me the field dressing from the kit he was issued, probably just a few weeks ago. It is small and useless in this situation, but I smile and thank him. His eyes are full of tears and his lower lip is trembling.
A middle-aged man takes off his shirt and tears it into strips for me. I pick up a pen from the floor and use it and a strip of fabric to make a tourniquet. I figure he will probably lose the leg, but I have to try to stop the bleeding. A young woman appears out of nowhere and tells me she is a practical nurse and can she help? Together, we try to stabilize the leg – below the knee it feels like a bean bag – and tie it to a splint made from pieces of bus. “Where are the ambulances?” I suddenly wonder to myself. Then I hear sirens. (“Finally! Did they stop for a coffee on the way?!”)
“Hey!” My patient starts hollering. “Stop that! You’re hurting me!” The girl helping me chides him, “That’s good that it hurts. You should be thanking God that it hurts.”
As we are stabilizing the leg and preparing the man for transfer off the bus, an army officer gets on and starts yelling at us. “What are you doing? Don’t you know there’s another bomb on this bus? In the back. You have to get off. Now! Get off this bus, I’m telling you!”
“I’m almost done. Put your hand here, hold this. Here, now you keep his leg even on one plane and I’ll hold his head. Get two soldiers here with a stretcher.” They do, and we all descend. My patient is loaded into an ambulance and I can finally look around me.