Wednesday, September 29, 2010

WPA - Day One

Jeez, I don't know where to start.  I was just going through my pictures, trying to pare it down to just a few for posting.

The day started with a little snafu with the shuttle busses; too many people, not enough butt space on the shuttle.  The people who had cars started rounding up others who needed rides and in short order we were all delivered to GTCC (Guilford Technical Community College).  What struck me was how nice everyone was - my friend H and I didn't know the people who we rode to GTCC with, but the commonality of the WPA drew us all together.

Though there were a couple hours dedicated to registration, it took no time at all.  The volunteers from High Point Library had everything organized beautifully and it took less than five minutes to negotiate it, which gave H and I time to walk around.  When registration closed, the free-for-all began.  The sheriff's department graciously allowed its equipment and specialized units to set up and talk to us.

The Hazardous Devices team brought out the "bomb robot" that they use to remotely handle devices.  It has tracks to help it up inclines and is directed by the orange fiber-optic cable you see on the right side of the picture.

This device is commonly called a "water cannon" by the media and it is essentially the barrel of a Remington 870 shotgun that is filled with water which is forcefully propelled into the suspicious device.

The SERT (Sheriff's Emergency Response Team) team brought out the big guns - literally.  That beautiful piece of machinery in the foreground is a Barrett .50 rifle and can reach out and touch someone a long, Long, LONG way away.

H and I wandered around looking at all the displays, asking a ton of questions and listening to the questions other writers had.  I took pages and pages of notes that I'm sure I'll be able to use at some point.

After roasting ourselves on the blacktop, we headed inside to listen to Dr. Bill Lanning's lecture, "Why People Kill".  Dr. Lanning is a charming gentleman who obviously enjoys his job.  Again, I took pages and pages of notes.  I'm not sure that it's right to have so much fun and laugh so much while learning why people kill.  I followed most of his idioms, but one got me..."eat a six pack of biscuits and drink a Diet Pepsi."  What?  Bothered me for days until I asked my boss this morning.  Apparently it means to "get over yourself".  Who knew?

Following Dr. Lanning's presentation, H and I went back out to the demos and spent some time talking to a Technical Support Team member (code for Hostage Negotiator).  We were told that we needed to check out the "Magic Bus" - the Mobile Command Center - which truly is magic.  The things they can do from that bus is astounding.  My head was spinning just looking around the bus.  No way would I ever be smart enough to work even one of the components in the bus.

~~Y'all getting tired yet, 'cause we're just getting started on the afternoon festivities.  No?  Okay, we'll keep going. ~~

We opted not to do the EMS demo.  Instead we tagged along with the fire recruits and poked around the burn house.
This is the bottom floor of the maze that recruits must negotiate.  The beginning is fairly easy, it's just moving forward, but then they have to make that left-hand turn you see in the picture.  Oh, and they have to do it in full gear and in full darkness.  It's a good test for claustrophobia.

Yes, this picture is oriented correctly.  It's the second level of the maze and is much more difficult.  The recruits have to work their way back and forth between the walls and up an incline.  There are escape hatches along the maze so that if a recruit loses it, the instructor can get them out safely.  If there's a recruit who may be nervous in the pitch black, the instructors can add "play smoke" to up the ante a little bit.  A claustrophobic firefighter is a dead firefighter.

In the classroom with the handheld thermal imaging devices.

View through the imager.  I had placed my hand on the table for just a few seconds and then removed it; this is the ghost image left-over.

Not very clear, but you can see that I'd moved my hand around on the table and you can see overlapping heat signatures.  Devices like this allow firefighters to "see" through the thick smoke of a fire and search for victims more efficiently.

Done playing with the thermal imagers, we headed over to listen to Dr. Jonathan Hayes' Autopsy Seminar.  Dr. Hayes is a delightful man who takes his job very seriously.  He's Senior Medical Examiner in New York City, as well as being a well-known food critic and author.  Anyone who has read Patricia Cornwell's Scarpetta series will understand how seriously he takes his job.  He treats every body with respect and demands that everyone else does as well.  He explained the difference between a Medical Examiner system and a Coroner system.  There are a lot of differences, but the main one is that a Coroner is an elected politician who may or may not have forensic training, whereas a Medical Examiner is a highly trained medical professional who, in addition to completing medical school and residency, completes further forensic training.

The autopsy room is beautiful (if you can believe that - maybe it's just the lab geek in me).  Each table has a negative airflow frame (for lack of a better word) surrounding it that draws potential airborn pathogens down into it and away from the staff.  How cool is that?

~~Still with me?  Good, because at this point we hitched a ride back to the hotel for dinner and a brief break.~~

Back at it for the Wine and Cheese reception, where they had the Silent Auction items set up for bidding and the raffle baskets set out.  I did my part and pitched in my $5.00 worth of raffle tickets.

Jeffery Deaver was gracious enough to come and hang out with all of us.  Very classy, even if I was tongue-tied and couldn't thing of a darn thing to say.  Luckily (or not), not everyone was tongue-tied and he was often engaged in conversation with several groups of people.

Lee's presentation "A Wilted Rose: the Tina Mott Story" was almost unbelievable.  All of the twists and turns were nothing compared to the associated ghost story.  Having been raised with ghosts (go ahead, unfollow if me believing is ghosts is a deal-breaker.  I'll wait.  No?  Still here?  Okay.), I can fully believe that both Tina's house and the house across the street is haunted.  The grossest thing about the whole presentation was that Tina's "landlord" moved into her apartment and didn't bother to clean up the blood in the bathroom.  To this day, there is blood-stained grout surrounding the tub. 

And the most disturbing part of the story?  That Tina's son is being raised by her in-laws, the same ones who raised her husband, who ultimately killed her and flushed most of her down the toilet.  The poor boy's mother was viciously murdered and his father has been in prison for most of his life (but will probably be getting out soon - his sentence was only fourteen years).  While I believe absolutely that there are some people who are just plain evil, as Tina's husband was, there are also things that parents and caregivers do that enable and nurture the skills needed to murder someone, chop them into pieces, flush parts of them down the toilet, cook them up on the grill and throw the remaining pieces near a waste treatment plant.  What chance does Tina's son have when he's being raised in the same environment and being taught the same skills his father was?  What chance do the future women in his life have?

~~And, on that note, it's bedtime.  Only 11:30 pm, up and at 'em and at GTCC by 8:00 am.  See you then.~~


Rachel said...

Yowza - you girls were busy!

I grinned at your pictures - because one of the perks of the job is being around all kinds of fun equipment like that too!

Will never forget being inside a SIRT (Special Incident Response Team) tank and Mr. Daddy proudly pointing out Tred Barta's autograph on the wall. "Who is Tred Barta"??? *GASP*!

The story about the murdered woman is chilling :(

Mrs Mom said...

Now THAT is the way to start the morning. Viewing a beautiful ,50 cal over the rim of my first bucket o' joe... All you needed was a good looking hunk of muscle fondling it.... *coughcough* .. sorry..

The murder tale-- wowza... Poor kid. Talk about freaking gruesome. All kinds of evil walks this Earth with us.

Allenspark Lodge said...

Good thing I didn't want to be a firefighter - 'cause guess who's claustrophobic!

Finding Pam said...

It looks like you are having a great time. The story of Tina was horrible and I do feel sad for her son.

Keep up the good work. It is all so interesting.

Anonymous said...

Tina is/was a good friend of mine she was from Buffalo, NY, I've yet to read the book but Lee is a great guy. Also...ghosts. Yep. That is all I'm going to say about that. -Jen