Ross L Barber is a well-traveled, semi-retired South Australian high school teacher of foreign languages. He retired from full time teaching duties at the age of 53. After acquiring basic word processing skills, he turned his energies to writing. At first, humorous short stories from his early days in teaching in the 60s and 70s. In 1997, he began his first novel, Chalk that was completed in late 1998. In 2000, Barber began his first work of fiction, The Enclave, and finished it May 2001. In the first week of September that same year, he began his second work of fiction, Internet Stalker, an in-depth look at the Internet chat scene with all its exciting, dangerous and evil aspects, finishing it June, 2002. He penned Jihad, the sequel to Internet Stalker later that year. He is currently writing his fifth novel, Jihad Down under. When he is not working on his current book or penning some humorous anecdote, this former educator can be found down on the local pier fishing. His two children are grown up. He lives with his wife of 37 years in his hometown, Adelaide, in sunny South Australia.
OUT OF THE RUBBLE 9/12/2001
A hand protruded from the dust and rubble at the foot of Tower One. Until 24 hours ago along with its twin, it was the former heart of the financial world. The two huge WTC skyscrapers had dominated the panorama of NYC's skyline since 1966. With the exception of the middle digit, the fingers and thumb clasped the palm tightly. The middle digit flexed in an obscene gesture of defiance, like 'giving the finger'. It twitched. Then it curled back towards the palm.
Frank Fursenko, one of the exhausted firemen from Ladder One, glimpsed the finger out the corner of his eye. In his barely conscious state, it appeared to beckon him.
"Hell's that?" he yelled. "Hey, guys, get a load of this weird shit. Something's happening here."
The heavy earthmoving equipment clunked and groaned then a hush came over the scene.
Fursenko shucked up his oxygen tank, tipped back his visor and then waded through the knee-deep debris towards the hand. When he got there, it twitched again.
This sight shook Fursenko out of his torpor. The fireman swept the rubble away with his gloved hands. In a frenzy of hope now, he espied the wrist to which the hand was attached. It revealed the cuff of a powdery black turtleneck sweater. It led down to a big white male's shoulder.
Fursenko bent down.
He saw the guy jammed under a warped steel girder. It was still hot. Blackened by the searing heat of the exploding fuel from the airplane that took out Tower One the previous morning. The fireman touched the hot steel. He flinched.
"Hey, get that fucking hydraulic lifter over here. We got a live one," he hollered. He waited and tried to reach the survivor. Stretching his arm to the max, the fireman grasped the exposed shoulder. Squeezed it.
Still no sound.
Soon, many hands swept the bricks and debris back. Then the powerful hydraulic lifter arrived. They looped a wire rope around the girder, which pinned the survivor down.
The machine groaned, took up the slack, shuddered and then the girder slowly rose about six inches.
Fursenko removed his oxygen tank, crawled in and grabbed the big guy by his arm. He tried to pull him out.
The hydraulic lifter groaned again.
"You got about 30 seconds, Frank, before this baby goes. You don't shift some serious ass, soon, man, it ain't gonna hold. You're going to get crushed.”
Fursenko released the shoulder and slid back. "I need help," he said. "This mother fucker's too damn big."
Another three firemen were instantly at Fursenko's side. They tried to drag him out with a rope. But he'd gotten stuck. They heaved one last time in desperation.
This time, they dragged him free.
No sooner was the survivor out from under the heavy steel girder than the hydraulic lifter stalled.
The steel rope snapped seconds later. The twisted girder crashed down with a sickening thud and showered the firemen with a coat of gray powder.
But they'd saved his life.
Everyone cheered and clapped and the firemen patted each other on the back. Within minutes an ambulance was on the scene.
thumped the survivor's chest, applied CPR and attached a saline drip to his
forearm. The ambulance transporting him sped with howling siren and flashing
strobes towards Saint Christopher's ER.
Amidst the chaos of the ER, a distressed doctor said, "Until now, we've only had body parts in plastic bags. This guy should be dead like the other victims. He's one tough son of a bitch. If he weren't so damn fit and strong, he'd sure as hell be wearing a toe tag. His face has sustained burns, but we can repair them to a degree with plastic surgery. But he's going to have residual scar tissue. Amazingly, the rest of him is relatively okay, thank God. He's suffering from dehydration and hypothermia. Two of his ribs are broken as well. To muddy the waters some though," he said, "there's this…" He mysteriously raised his gauze-covered face to the assisting surgeons and ER nurses and pointed with his scalpel at the victim's temple. "I'm no ballistics expert," he continued, "but you ask me, it's a .22 caliber slug. Someone tried to shoot him before the plane hit. If his mastoid bone weren't abnormally thick, he'd sure as hell be dead. It's a goddamn miracle he's still alive," the bewildered physician exclaimed. "For mine, you can rule out a pro-hit because pros don't miss. But I'll have to notify the cops. In the meantime, it will kill him if we extract the slug. His only chance of survival is if we leave it in. Let's do our best to stabilize him. Okay? God only knows how he lasted this long. We can only hope the surgery pulls him through. At present it's about 99 to 1 odds he'll die anyway."
"Up till now," the ER nurse said, "no one's survived the WTC bomb attacks; not yet. This big guy's the first. Maybe he's superhuman, in his own way. We got our hands full. Don't want to lose him though. Jesus mercy. 24 hours non-stop. Sure hope the list of dead and missing slows up some."
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