The conference at the college was in full swing on Monday. Caterers were setting up all kinds of breakfast in the main hall for all the visitors. I had one presentation to do this afternoon and one tomorrow morning. The topic for this afternoon was Surveillance v/s Security and personal rights v/s public access. Tomorrow’s topic was going to be crime and violence on campus – a damn if you do, damn if you don’t. Then I was to participate in the exposition of the after-lunch surprise.
Patti and I had worked weeks putting my program together with all kinds of slides, surveillance footage and tons of other goodies along with legal opinions and comments by people far more intelligent than I. Jason and Jenny were going to be on the podium as guests to answer legal questions that came up in the Q&A sessions.
The entire Governors Criminal Task Force team was going to be guests at the luncheon. You knew the Governor and his group would never miss a free crab-cake meal and a chance to politic in an election year. Plus, Marley Kendall from the Annapolis station was going to do her after lunch segment on the conference. That was all that the governor needed to hear to agree that he was coming, was free TV time.
Kate was going to film the attack with the college’s equipment so we could use it for the break-down and discussion.
Marley was going to do interviews immediately after the attack. The main question was – what did you see? All of that was going to be used in the discussion and reconstruction for the conference, reality v/s hysteria and how much the truth is distorted in the heat of the moment.
Tomorrow, while all the guests were having an old fashioned cookout lunch at the park, my group of bandits would be putting final touches on the terrorist bus attack that was timed to happen as lunch was finished.
The bus arrived behind a wrecker just as the scrap yard had promised. The maintenance guys drove it around to the shop to set up the manikins and secure them enough to stay in place and then remove any unnecessary flammable materials for tomorrow’s demo. They were going to make sure that all the windows would go down, otherwise we would have too much of an explosion instead of a lot of fire. It would be under lock and key until Jason drove it away tomorrow.
I went to lunch with the conference group. Then I spent the next three hours on my presentation, with a complete overview of surveillance v/s security. The question and answer session was lively. Jason and Jenny spent a lot of time with what if scenarios and then more time on the ramifications of what happens if you don’t.
Dean Skaggs from Frost Borough gave a little speech on their past security problems and their new security contractor with long term contracts, fixed terms, and the newest space-age security technology they were getting. He went out of his way to throw in a plug for the rape prevention seminars.
Then he asked if anyone would like a demo for their campus to see me for a business card and information.
I could see the conflict of interest charges coming now I thought when he sat down. I just nodded and smiled.
My program on Tuesday morning was to run an hour. I was finished in 45 minutes as there were only a few questions. I hung around until 11, then did a disappearing act. The bus had been driven past the park where the luncheon was to be held and parked in the park and ride. The fire chiefs, the 911 coordinator and his people, and fire equipment personal were all in the park and ride for the final walk-through.
I went through it one more time; this time I emphasized to the drivers that three people would be lying in the field to the right of the bus. Please do not run over them, they were the gun-shot victims to be loaded in the ambulances and carried to the staging area for the reenactment.
The 911 man was carried to the luncheon. His job was to start the fire and ambulances to the scene at exactly the right time by cell call to the 911 center drill and training dispatcher. By the right time we meant the instant the fire started.
The dispatcher was to call the one engine, tanker and ambulance from the two participating companies on a closed radio frequency. All this equipment was parked 1 ½ miles away from the site on a side road. The State Police and Sherriff department was to close the road at 10 minutes to one and keep it closed until the all clear was sounded.
Jenny was the driver for the attack truck, my dad’s old beat-up loud Chevrolet hunting truck. It was a piece of junk – we should have figured a way to burn it to but he loved it. Courtney and I were in the back with Glocks loaded with blanks.
I had a paint ball gun with frozen balls to shatter the passenger side front window in the bus. I also had two two-shot flare pistols and two five gallon buckets, each containing one incendiary kit. One kit each for me and Courtney to put in place in the bus. Jenny, Courtney and I were wearing ear wicks and a mike so we could talk to each other. Courtney’s Glock was to make the noise so all attention was directed to the attack. The shattering windshield would complete the illusion. We were dressed in black clothes and ski masks.
Ching Lee and Vicky were in the rear seat of the bus and Jason was sitting in the driver’s seat wearing goggles and gloves in case of flying glass. We were all waiting on the go signal. That signal was the sign-off from Marley’s live interview with the governor. We could not interrupt his speech. Kate was to start video taping immediately.
The signal came and Jason started, Jenny followed. At the marked spot Jenny passed the bus. Courtney and I opened up. The frozen paint balls destroyed the window in an amazing display of shattering glass. Courtney rapidly emptied two clips of blanks. Jason eased the bus off the highway onto the grass in front of the set-up dinner tents. Jenny stopped 25 feet in front of the bus as instructed.
Courtney and I went out the back of the pickup. We both had pulled the large McDonalds paper bag filled with incendiary materials from the five gallon buckets.
As I hit the 10 foot mark from the bus Jason exited the loading door to make an escape. Pow, pow with the blanks and Jason made the perfect gunshot victim falling to the ground. The sound of those two shots was the key for Vicky and Ching Lee to exit the rear of the bus for their getaway. I gave them an extra few seconds to get further away from the bus then pow – pow – pow, they executed the perfect victim falling to the ground routine. Courtney said, “Mine is in place,” as she went back to the pickup. I put my bag as far in the rear walkway as I could. I switched to the flare gun and pulled the trigger twice as I executed the roll-away I had practiced. The explosion was much louder and there was more heat than in our test. Damn, they had forgotten to lower all the windows.
I jumped up and ran towards Jason, who was trying to get up as planned. I fired two more shots in his direction as he fell and I made the turn to the pickup and jumped into the back. The bus was an inferno, the roof all buckled and bowed up. Jenny lit up Dad’s old truck, burning rubber as the tires hit the blacktop.
All good plans go FUBAR at some point and this was it. The 911 guy at the lunch was getting his face time with the governor, forgetting why he was there in the first place. He at first was amazed, then startled at the explosion and then remembered what he was supposed to do. He dropped his issued phone and pulled his personal phone and dialed 911. Instead of going to the assigned special projects and training dispatcher as part of the drill it went to the full call board. He simply said, “Terrorist attack on school bus at Grips Park; this is no drill,” It was handled as such.
He was instructed to say for our demo, “This is a drill, terrorist attack on school bus Grips Park, repeat this is a drill,”
The normal procedure was post all drills five minutes before 0 hour in all three counties that were part of the mutual aid agreement. That posting went to all smart phones and the 911 terminal printers and monitors at all locations within all three counties as a flash broadcast and to notify the full call board in each county at that time. This was to reduce the number of sight-seeing public, their friends and media at the drill site. This step was delayed for some reason and did not happen until five minutes after a full three-county alarm was broadcast. The delay was later blamed on a computer problem.
The tri-county 911 calls were monitored by the media. WCCO channel 14 news chopper was over Summit Bridge covering road construction delays, WBDF 45 news chopper was over 95 covering a multi vehicle accident that had closed all lanes at the 95/495 exchange. WWCT news chopper was over the bay covering oil slicks for an environmental report. All the choppers were directed by their news rooms to the Grips Park site in less than 15 minutes air time.
The state police choppers from Salisbury, Easton Annapolis and Dover were in the air and redirected.
It would be ten minutes before the powers that be figured out what had happened and cancelled the 90 pieces of fire, rescue and ambulances that were rerouted to Grips Park from the three counties, all with very disgruntled people aboard.
Back at the scene the FUBAR continued. The governor and his protection unit had been notified what was going to happen so no one pulled out any real guns.
Marley was to stop live broadcasting at the end of the Governor’s quick speech. The station director wanted guest reactions to the speech and conference so the cameras were still rolling and turned to the bus when we started shooting. Marley’s quick thinking to inform the station that this was a drill staged for the conference saved us from being a national live news event.
The fire equipment arrived moments after we had pulled away. We had met them ½ a mile away. We continued on to the intersection where the Sherriff had closed the road. We parked Dad’s truck by a deputy’s car for safe keeping. Courtney and I placed the blank-firing Glocks and all the left-over ammo in the trunk of the sheriff’s car. The sheriff pulled up by the tent’s so we could watch the aftermath and be there for the breakout session.
The ambulance that had picked up Jason, Vicky and Ching Lee went to the intersection and came back so they could participate also.
The fuel we had used had burned off as the equipment rolled to a stop. The fire and explosion had been so hot that it had started the paint and seat upholstery burning. The two engines and tanker pumpers had almost 10 thousand gallons of water between them and 4 water cannons. All the water was pumped in and onto the bus. Everything was out cold and drenched when the trucks ran out of water.
Firemen, being who they are, decided to have a little fun of their own for effect. They took all of the burned manikins and placed them on sheets and covered them facing the tents.
The conference crowd still did not know it was a drill; they did not see the humor yet. Neither did the news choppers that were now over-head broadcasting live images of the ten sheet wrapped manikins.
I did not find out about the screw-up until the 911 director called my cell phone and said, “We have a big problem.” He then explained what happened. He was pulling into the park entrance as he was talking to me.
“When I have a FUBAR episode, I have a big one,” I thought.
Bob Jackson, Dean Nobles, and the 911 director came to the Sheriffs car for an impromptu conference on how the defuse this mess.
It was decided that the best way was to come clean and now. The Sheriff and the 911 director pulled us from the car still wearing ski masks to the microphone, where we were joined by rest of my crew.
I pulled off my mask and said into the microphone in my best squeaky Jeff Gordon Pepsi commercial voice, “Was that real enough for you or what?”
It would be another 10 minutes before the stations finally aired the message that this was a scheduled drill for the conference.
We did the breakdown of the action, the ramifications of such an event to the general community, and how to deal with a catastrophic event within the college campus setting. Kate ran the clip on a projection screen while the sheriff, the 911 director, the state police terrorism prevention officer (who had arrived in a chopper with an FBI and Homeland Security agent in tow) and I did question and answers and a thorough evaluation. From the time of the first shots to the bus being engulfed in flames was less than three minutes.
I refused to answer questions about the explosive materials I had used and what I had used to set it off other than they were easily available; no permits required. It was too much information to give out with so many warped minds out there today with the cameras and print media there.
The FBI agent and the HS officer said, “You are coming to Washington and we are going to have a discussion behind closed doors tomorrow, with or without hand cuffs; your choice.” The mike was still on. The FBI agent took possession of the tape.
By the time we had finished, the scrap company had hooked up to the bus and was getting ready to leave with it when they were stopped by the FBI and given a location near Washington to take it to with an escort. The manikins were in the dumpster, the only thing left was some glass that the college maintenance people were to clean up tomorrow and plenty of mud from 10 thousand gallons of water.
I spent another two hours talking to different college groups about the demo and general security issues. I also handed out all the JBG business cards Jenny, Jason and I had. The most frequent question asked, “It can’t really be that easy? Can it?” “Oh yes it is,” I replied more than once.
It had been a long day. The conference had one more day that was devoted strictly to student education issues and round table discussion groups. Thank God that I had no part in any of that.
My group and Patti left to go home at 5:30 – two hours late – after we had our own round table at my college office and another news conference with the local news media that were waiting when we got there.
I was surprised that I was allowed to leave after the statement by the FBI agent and not be in cuffs. Two agents had been following me all afternoon; they were even standing with the media at the last news conference.
Edit by Alfmeister