The word ‘terrorism’ was first uttered during a news broadcast that night. Markoff had heard it as he sat alone watching his huge TV in the theater room upstairs. Authorities on the scene had determined that the blast hadn’t been caused by a meteor. It was a bomb.
His wife was downstairs taking calls and giving out interviews over the phone when it was first said. It was spoken over footage that had been shot from a helicopter moments after the explosion. The builder could see a tiny dot running back and forth in the food court. The form was visible through a flaming hole that had been blown in the roof.
“It’s unclear as to who or which organization would have done this but what police now know is that this disaster was the result of something more sinister than just another asteroid or meteor from outer-space.” The reporter said.
Markoff leaned forward staring at the image as he listened to the report. He knew that one of the miniscule spots that was depicted on the 150 inch screen was actually Myrah. He watched her shape as it kneeled beside a motionless form and hastily bandaged the wounds. He watched her dot as it tore clothing and packed ice around severed limbs. He knew it was her but still he had trouble reconciling the pixels to the woman that he had married.
“Given the size and placement of the blast authorities have said that this was probably the work by a highly trained group of people who possessed an advanced knowledge of the shopping center’s structural weaknesses as well as it’s most populated gathering points.”
She had been energized all evening long in a way that Markoff hadn’t seen her ever before. As she spoke on the phone she claimed that she’d only done what needed to be done. She did a good job of mocking a modest composure for the press but still he could tell that she was extremely proud of herself. She hadn’t even changed out of her soiled clothes since they’d been home.
“Investigators have been called from the FBI to analyze the area and sweep for chemical traces that may tell them what kind of threat that they’re dealing with.”
Despite her excitement Myrah was still angry at him for not acknowledging what she’d done in a fast enough manner. They’d argued about it before the calls from the press had started to pour in. In her mind, this was her moment and she’d risen to meet it head on. While she was shining her brightest he had been more worried about her safety than impressed by the initiative that she’d shown at saving peoples lives. What did he think she was? A child?
Markoff watched the tiny dot on the television. Purposefully it went from one inert body to the next. It stopped to check on them. It treated them. It moved on.
“What is clear is that the loss of life from this incident could have been much worse.” The reported continued. “First responders have gone on record as saying that if it hadn’t been for the work of one local woman many more people would have surely died following the blast.”
The picture cut to a shot of a firefighter standing amid the ruins of the malls ice rink. He was wearing a respirator and breathing heavily. Behind him, the parking garage crumbled and the burned out cars sent smoke pouring out from between the cracks of it’s levels. “I think that we owe a great deal of thanks to this citizen as well as the others who helped.” He said, his voice muffled through the plastic of the mask. “If she hadn’t been here to administer aid I’m sure that we would have had a few more families to notify.”
Victims flashed on screen. Men and women with sweaters tied around their heads, arms and legs. A small child was rushed past. Its mother held an expensive looking woolen sleeve filled with ice against its head.
The reporter continued. “Unfortunately, the woman left the scene before anyone could interview her for the cameras but we have since identified her and we have her on the phone right now.”
The builder watched as the image changed back to the helicopter shot from above. The entire screen darkened around one clear circle. It hovered over the dot and tracked his wife’s movements throughout the burning structure.
“Mrs. Markoff, can you hear me?” The reporter asked.
“Yeah, I can hear you.” Markoff heard his wife reply. “Please call me Myrah.”
“Okay Myrah, how are you holding up?”
“Good!” She answered. “I’m doing good.” Her voice sounded larger than life when echoed back in 7:1 surround sound.
“What did you think when you initially felt the blast?”
There was a pause. “Well,” She began. “I guess my first response was to look around and see if anyone needed any help.”
“Spoken like a true hero.”
Somehow it didn’t seem at all odd to Markoff that he was currently listening to both sides of a conversation that was happening downstairs in his own house. What was going on inside the lighted circuitry of the television set bore no connection to his life. It was like he was hearing about other people doing extraordinary things in another place far, far away.
“I’m definitely not a hero.” Myrah laughed. “I’m just a person who buys a lot of clothes and knows how to tie bandages.”
The image on the screen divided into two separate pictures. In one corner the reporter sat at her desk. In the other, the helicopter continued to follow the path of the tiny dot.
“Were you scared at all?” The anchorwoman asked.
“To be honest with you it happened so fast that I didn’t really have time to be scared.” Myrah answered. “One minute I was sitting there talking with a good friend of mine and the next everything around me was sort of caving inwards. I think I sort of went into life-saving mode right away.”
“You’re definitely a hero.” The woman smiled. “Please, describe the scene.”
“There were a lot of hurt people. I remember one guy that needed help pretty bad. He was missing an arm. I took care of him first.”
The reporter nodded. “Witnesses described you helping Mr. Fairchild. Unfortunately he died later from loss of blood. Does that upset you at all?”
“Well of course it upsets me.” Myrah answered sharply. “When you try to save lives you don’t want anyone to die.”
“Do you wish that you could have helped more?”
“I just thank God that I was able to be there for some people.”
There had been shouting and cursing involved in the phone conversation between Markoff and his wife as he drove out to rescue her. He had threatened her. He had pleaded with her. He tried everything just to get her to leave the building.
Eventually he told her that he would go into the mall and drag her out by her hair if he needed to. This at last seemed to get through to her. Begrudgingly, she agreed to meet him at the corner of the parking lot.
“Many people were saved by your quick thinking.” The reported smiled. “I’ve heard that several of the victims were crying out for you after you had left. You must have been very comforting for them to have around.”
“I was.” Myrah agreed. “It wasn’t my choice to leave. I knew that they’d be upset and that I had more work to do there at the mall. When you’re surrounded by bodies you hate to go not knowing that everything’s going to be alright.”
“Why did you go?”
Through the speakers which lined the room Markoff heard his wife sigh. “My husband made me.”
When he’d driven up to the curb to pick both her and Jill up his wife had looked just like she’d come out of a horror movie. Her hair was a mess and dust clung to her sweater and skirt. Blood stains were everywhere. She avoided looking at him as she climbed bitterly into his truck.
“Next time I’ll be sure to stick it out.” Myrah continued defiantly. “My mistake was in letting his concerns about my safety override the concerns that I had for those in the greatest of need. I don’t think that Florence Nightingale was ever married and I know that Mother Theresa sure as hell wasn’t. I guess I can see why now.”
The news reporter laughed. “You have the attitude of a real hero.”
“Thank you.” His wife said. “Honestly, I don’t think that I’ll let that happen again. That’s the one thing that I regret about today. There’s no doubt in my mind that the next time this happens, I’m not leaving my post until the last person is saved. I don’t care what he or anyone else in my family says. I’m not going anywhere. My job is to treat the injured and save lives. It’s what I was put on this earth to do.”
The woman nodded. “Do you think that there will ever be a next time?” She asked. “Is this a moment that you can see repeating itself in your life?”
There was a long pause on the other end of the line. “I don’t know.” Myrah answered. Markoff could hear the disappointment lining the edges of her voice.