(AP) WASHINGTON – An 88-year-old gunman with a violent and virulently anti-Semitic past opened fire with a rifle inside the crowded Museum on Wednesday, fatally wounding a security guard before being shot himself by other officers, authorities said.
Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier said the gunman was "engaged by security guards immediately after entering the door" with a rifle. "The second he stepped into the building he began firing."
Law enforcement officials said James W. von Brunn, a white supremacist, was under investigation in the shooting and that his car was found near the museum and tested for explosives. The weapon was a .22-caliber rifle, they added. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss the investigation just beginning.
"What in the hell…?"
For what seemed like the hundredth time, an MPD cruiser went screaming past our classroom window, making as much racket as possible with the siren.
"So, is there something going on that we should know about?" we wondered out loud.
As if on cue, Sgt. Paulson threw open the door and announced that because of what had just happened at the Holocaust Museum, the Department was now on a special alert in which nobody who is currently on duty can leave their respective posts (at this time, very little was known about the situation or the perpetrator, and the ever-present possibility of "terrorist incident" loomed eerily overhead).
He left in a rush, leaving us with more questions than answers.
Oh, well—stuck here again. We turned back to our cardiac rhythm workbooks, the news of the shooting quickly fading from our minds. Suddenly, Sgt. Woodward's voice echoed down the hallway, his quick-stepping self not far behind.
"Three-five-nine! Three-sixty! Go home. All the medics in three-five-eight, get your gear and bring it to the apparatus bay."
We looked at one another, momentarily surprised.
"Engine 34, Engine 35, and Truck 41 are to
be placed in service, stand
ing by for the city."
Sure, there were enough instructors and officers at the Training Academy today to fill three pieces of apparatus with seasoned firefighters. But what in the hell did they want with us newbies, and where were they planning on stuffing eight probationers with full gear?
It was a neat idea, but I had the same thought as when I saw the latest Star Trek movie, and Kirk is appointed Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise at the end of the movie:
"Uh… wasn't he a cadet in Starfleet Academy, like, a week ago?"
Nevertheless, we ran around for about twenty minutes, scraping together SCBAs, axes, saws, radios, and anything else that would bring our three beloved pieces up to par for a box alarm. PAT tags clipped onto the UDCs, gear laid out beside our respective apparatus, and radios holstered, we were ready to go—I won't even begin to describe how crazy the staffing was on each piece.
And then… we waited. Always listening to the murmurs from the dispatch channel, we hoped in vain for the call that would never come. Nevertheless, I thought it was cool that we were officially in service, so I grabbed a quick picture in the downtime. This was the first time since I've been at the Academy that E-34, E-35, and T-41 have been ready to respond to an actual box alarm, if need be.
Hours passed. Four grilled cheese sandwiches and hundreds of bullshit conversations later, we were finally allowed pack up and go home; the alert was lifted, and the Training Academy staff was freed.
What's that, you say? It's a crap story, because nothing really happened? Well, you're right. However, I relay it simply to drive home the point that this job is completely unpredictable, and any given day might bring something really intense. It's the uncertainty that draws me to the profession, you see—there's not a single day that's the same as any other.
Regardless of what happens, the paramedics of 358 will continue our time at the Academy, refreshing ourselves on EMS things so that we can eventually be mentored out in the street. We've got a few weeks to go, for sure—but that's certainly no reason why we can't have any fun.
Most-excellent-yet-unrealistic daydream #2,961: Let's keep the engines and the truck staffed by Academy personnel every day, and we'll do our Fire & EMS mentoring the old-school way.
Image source: http://www.startrekmovie.com