The planes circled in an arc, the people standing frozen in terror, looking up.
“Ah, I don’t like the looks of this,” a Marine said, grabbing Bridget’s arm and pulling her along as he ran from the vehicle.
The sound grew deafening as the planes got closer, releasing the bombs, but not to hit the hospital; their target seemed to be the transport vehicles. Whizzing of the bombs, eardrum bursting, and then a crash so loud when it hit the tin roof. The screams of people dying in great pain, the bodies of the vehicles twisting, hot metal scorched and flying everywhere, gasoline from the tanks spreading over the surface, burning whatever it touched, including people.
Bridget and her companion reached an alleyway to the hospital as the bomb hit the transport vehicle holding her patient, but they weren’t far enough away; the Marine who helped her was incinerated right in front of her eyes. Bridget’s clothes caught fire, a chard of metal debris hitting her in the back of her leg.
Aware she couldn’t drag her leg along any further from the catastrophe, Bridget remembered a childhood lesson. If your clothes catch fire, stop, drop, and roll.
Grabbing the back of her uncooperative leg, warm, wet sinew shocked Bridget. Hitting the ground, she skinned her chin, rolling on the slate pavers, trying to extinguish her clothing. A group of men ran toward her; they could have been terrorists for all she knew. One grabbed the bottom of his shirt and pulled it over his head to throw over her, patting her to put the flames out, screaming to the others that he had a wounded woman.A wounded woman.
“I’m a nurse,” she sobbed. “I’m with the Marines.”
“We’ll help you,” the man said. “We’re also Marines.”
“My leg,” she cried, gulping. “I’m trying to apply pressure.”
“Medic,” he screamed into the air. To her, he said, “Hang in there, dear.”
Closing her eyes, Bridget felt the strength leaving her body, and she rested in his arms, her head against his massive chest, the sound of his heart pounding blocking out all other sound. Soon, other arms helped to carry her away from the scene which had grown worse; she could hear machine-gun fire over his heartbeat.Who was fighting whom?
Loading her into a van, the corpsman looked at her leg. “Fuck,” he said. “Keep pressure on this area.” He guided the Marine’s hand to her popliteal space, the area behind her knee where important blood vessels lived. “She’s going to bleed out if you don’t keep pressure on this artery.”
Bridget didn’t feel any pain yet, but she was exhausted. “Where are we going?” she murmured, feeling the van speeding around corners, up over curbs, screams of the driver, trying to get away from…what?
“To the military hospital in Kunduz,” he said. “Help is there.”
“I hope,” another said.
“Who are you?” Bridget whispered.
“Marines,” he said again. “We volunteered to evacuate the DWB hospital, but it took too long. So now, here we are.”
Bridget heard another voice, a crying voice speaking English.
“Is that the Marine I was talking to?” she asked.
“No, I don’t think she’s a Marine. Just rest now,” he said, shifting his position where he held pressure on her leg.
They’d reached the hospital in Kunduz and Bridget heard the uproar when the Marines discovered bombs had hit that hospital, too.
“Oh fuck,” someone screamed.
“The clinic is still standing,” a female voice called out.
“Just get to the clinic then, if you can,” Bridget’s companion said.
“Am I going to die?” she asked, closing her eyes again. “I’m tired.”
“Not if I can help it, you aren’t,” the Marine said. “I’m Scott.”
“Bridget,” she said, weak. He put his ear down close to her mouth.
The van came to a stop and the flurry of activity started. It wasn’t until they moved her again that her pain began. Her face and neck, the back of her head, her eye, all felt on fire; she couldn’t tell where it ended.