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Search and Rescue: The Life and Love that is Looking for You is an invitation to look for what has been lost in our lives and more importantly, to actually be the.
Table of contents
- 'We're looking for people who can commit a significant amount of their time'
- Life on a Search & Rescue Team: Lessons & Stories from Dan Human
- Urban Search & Rescue Dogs Risk Lives to Save Lives
- Calling Off The Search: The Emotional Toll Of Search And Rescue : NPR
I crawled behind a rock to get out of the wind, got a map check and retreated below treeline where I made an unplanned bivy. I hobbled out the next morning to the trailhead. How did you get involved in SAR and work your way up to your current position? I was approached by one of the team founders who happened to be one of my customers at the outdoor retailer for which I worked. While talking about gear, he said they were starting a SAR team and asked if I would be interested.
Soon there were about a dozen folks that were very experienced in the outdoors and wanted to give back something to the community. I wrote our early GPS protocols and helped our members that had only used a map and compass for navigation. After having a few searches under my belt and a couple of years experience, I went through the Crew Boss course. This certification enabled me to lead crews on various missions and meet some great folks from other teams too. At first, I was just teaching a seminar or help setting up clues for a training mission. Then a few of us started talking about how we could make our exercises more productive and valuable.
Before I knew it, I was head of the training committee. Last year, our team and many others had been called out to a search for a 70 year old man that had gone missing while taking his morning walk. The massive search brought out hundreds of trained volunteers, K9 teams, law enforcement and even air support; however, after several days there was no trace.
Soon those days turned into a week and we were honestly thinking the worst.
'We're looking for people who can commit a significant amount of their time'
I was out on the seventh day when we saw vultures circling. We shot an azimuth to begin investigating when we heard the radio call that the subject was alive. After a week out with no gear the man was conscious, talking and a bit hungry. We could barely believe what we heard and asked for confirmation before heading back to incident command. Though the man was injured, he did recover and reinforced a lesson for all of us. It is missions like this that reinforce the mantra to never give up and encourage us to throw on our packs and head off in the night after a total stranger.
What are some mistakes that new SAR recruits make? When our team started, all of us were carrying large thirty to forty pound packs that were teeming with every piece of gear you could need. I see that no one is frantic. No one is pulling a medical kit out. Our kid must be dead. I get to him and place my hands on his body. He is stiff and frozen. His base-layer shirt and soft shell jacket are unzipped.
Life on a Search & Rescue Team: Lessons & Stories from Dan Human
There is blood on his thigh, though no obvious deformity or injury. I see no grossly apparent signs of blunt trauma. Some distance away, there is climbing gear strewn at the bottom of the route. One of the other teams had continued searching and found it. It looks like he walked some distance away from the debris field. Maria, a newly minted ER doctor, digs a little bit of the snow out of his mouth. Not much, just a little. It is an image that will stick with me.
Some of the team members have never seen a dead body before. The body must be packaged for extrication. He will be covered with a protective plastic tarp and placed into a litter. The litter is like a backboard with small walls and rails. It proves difficult to package him. He is frozen and did not have the foresight to die in a position conducive to packaging. But, I make it work. I know the sound. I know the dark, backroom scene, huddled in a private anguish that comes after the authorities deliver the news. It comes from the gut.
I lost a parent, but they have lost a child. I package him as gently as I can. We will get him back to his family. The importance of our task is visceral. I cannot fathom what mourning without the body is. This family will not have to try. T he radio crackles again. The sheriff is thinking that we should package the body, anchor it someplace safe, and mark the location on GPS. This would allow us to keep searching for the other two.
The freezing fog has turned to heavy snow. It was early afternoon, a time in the Pacific Northwest when the sun begins to set, and we are worn. This is a dilemma. The weather forecast calls for continued lousy conditions for the rest of today and the next few days. Extrication is a lengthy process. Under the best conditions, in more easily accessed terrain, extrication by foot takes half a day. Do we begin the extrication of the body and leave our other two kids to try to survive another night? Do we try to place our first kid somewhere we can find him later and keep searching?
Even anchored in a corner somewhere, location marked on GPS, any manner of event could prevent us from retrieving him. Avalanches could change the landscape of the entire field. There is the risk of continued snowfall and burial. An anchor could fail, leaving the body free to slip into one of the crevasses below. The thought of having to tell the family that we found the body, but left him on the mountain, is crushing. But then what would we tell the families of the other two kids if we left the mountain without knowing whether they were alive or dead?
The medical team, my other team, has setup nearby, in an area safe from crevasses or avalanches. There is a tent to escape the wind and warm drinks are being brewed. The medical team is solely concerned with the living. In the absence of proof of life of the other two, the medical team bears watch over the rescuers. The tent is for the rescuers.
The warm drinks are for us. Periodically, people have to take a breather, to warm up and mentally recharge. As one of the new guys, I still feel like I have to prove myself. I stay in the crevasse field and suffer. I have no input to offer. Just feet to carry me to wherever I can be useful. My heart sinks into my stomach. There is no good decision to be reached. I look at my teammates and can tell many are feeling the same. We re-cross the crevassed glacier, this time with a sled with a body in it. Once at the eastern end of the glacier, we raise the whole package up and over the ridge, which is accomplished with ropes, pulleys and brute force.
Eventually, we reach the waiting Sno-Cat.
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The packaged body lies between two rows of bench seats. The seats are full of rescuers. The layers of ice that had been our constant companions begin to melt. Some people are looking through the camera we found among the scattered belongings. Perhaps a clue will be found to lead us to the other two kids. Perhaps there will be some indication as to what went wrong. We reach the familiar transition point at the base of the glacier. We get out of the Sno-Cat and unload the package. A short distance below, snow meets parking lot. There is to be a debrief. We are reminded of the resources available to us, should we need them, if anyone is experiencing grief or stress from recovering a body.
The body is brought inside the lodge. I can hear the family. By the end of the debrief, the family of our first kid should be well on their way to the city with the deceased. The family of our first kid is staying on the mountain to support the families of our other two kids. Their boy is dead. Yet, they remain with the other two families, while the body of their boy travels back to the city. I return to my warm apartment. The two kids are still up on the mountain.
No searchers will be deployed tomorrow on account of the horrendous conditions. But they are up there, somewhere. I have little faith that this is going to be a rescue. I feel utterly helpless, sitting in my kitchen, in a worn-out old chair, head back, staring at the ceiling. The debt I set out to pay remains.
I am unable to provide the service that was done for my family. Logically, I understand it is out of my hands. The dangers and risks are real. This is a rational decision. In my gut, though, I have failed. This was my task. Bring the bodies home. Yet they remain on the mountain. There is only failure now. Over the next few days conditions continue to deteriorate and eventually I have to go back to work.
Finally, the search gets called off completely. There is a great deal of discussion and speculation as to what happened. We humans are far more complex than the news headlines and clickbait would have you believe. Let the Narratively newsletter be your guide. I've always had trouble reading social cues, but in the strip club, where rules and roles are crystal clear, I finally learned to connect. I walked past the stage and sat down at the bar, the neon lights illuminating my pink teddy, shadowed eyes, and crimson lips.
I ordered my first drink of the night and took inventory of the club. There were a few listless customers scattered around, hunching over bar stools, and a dancer circling the pole. I waved over a colleague, a transplant from Manchester with hair extensions that kissed her velvet garter belt.
We grumbled about how slow business was until I spotted a paunchy man at the bar. He was short, with a tuft of gray hair and a slight smile that crinkled his eyes. He was also more animated than the others. I started off light, asking about his day and his job. His smile widened across his face as my eyes met his. I silently counted to 10 and reminded myself to look away for a second — best not to terrify him. I switched my gaze to the top of his nose to put a boundary between us. It was time to either close the sale or walk away. After two years in the industry, I knew which customers were worth investing in — not this guy.
So, I led him into the corner, which opened up to the club like the bow of a ship, public and safe, for one quick dance. I processed events after the fact with tenuous evaluation, like peeling off layers of old wallpaper. At the time, it was not something I had words to explain, so I turned the blame on myself.
Urban Search & Rescue Dogs Risk Lives to Save Lives
Whenever I struggled to understand if someone was angry or bored, I went home and berated myself for being lazy, ditzy, and dumb as I obsessively evaluated the night. I just needed to try harder to be more present, I told myself. One time, I went to a dinner party my sister hosted. A few of her colleagues and friends sat around her table while we snacked on hummus and bread, and someone asked about my recent trip to Europe. I rambled incessantly, illustrating the nightclubs, the hostels I stayed in, even how I bled through my powder-blue dress because I forgot to change my tampon.
I can see their faces now, wide-eyed and uncomfortable, but at the time they coalesced into one indistinguishable figure, Dave Matthews playing in the background taking precedent. So, I meticulously designed a persona who nodded at the right time, rehearsed lines, smiled when appropriate, monitored personal space, spoke quietly. Before going out, I crafted notecards, scribbling how long to talk about acceptable topics and which to stay clear of altogether, like my period, in small talk.
The persona was a mask that helped me appear to interact in the moment, but in reality I crept by, three paces behind everyone else. I had just celebrated my 24th birthday in Australia when I started dancing. I settled temporarily in a bustling beach town at the edge of Melbourne and needed money to pay off my student debt.
I considered a bar job, but decided to try stripping simply because it meant fewer hours. When I walked into a club to ask for a job, to my surprise, I realized it was just a bar with the usual roles reversed: I was intrigued, but confused — how did they convince customers to spend money off-stage? The manager looked at my petite frame and nervous smile, pointed her manicured hand to the dressing room and listed the rules: You get one free drink. No drugs on the floor.
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Hundreds of customers came and went during the hour shift, sitting on plush couches and crowding around the bar. All but one dismissed me. I sat at the bar to observe, sipping my free champagne. One dancer particularly stood out with her naturally frizzy curls and tattered black bra. From the bar, I saw her sitting alone on one of the upholstered couches that lined the back of the club.
I took a deep breath and approached her, brushing aside the fringe curtain separating the lap dance room from the bar. It was getting late, two hours before closing, and I was exhausted and frustrated. I thought about packing up and never coming back, but I needed this to work out. She turned around and outlined her lips with a beige pencil in the smudged mirror, advising in her Bulgarian accent: Make them pay big bucks if they want to dump their shit on you. You sound like a child.
Her words wounded me, but I was impressed. She saw right through my mask. I learned to showcase different parts of my persona based on the customer. Performing felt strangely comfortable, even though the job was foreign and challenging. That conversation lasted minutes, but the advice made for a successful career.
And when I was unsure, I had her original rules to catch me. Are they asking for my real name? Are they relaying problems in their life without buying a dance first? On the floor of the club, I spent hours practicing each weekend, and for the first time in my life, I learned how to cut through layers of language in real time, just like Claire, until it became effortless. E ventually I moved back home to New York and started stripping full time.
Most people I met outside of work told me I was a great listener, unaware of how much time I spent in my room practicing the correct reactions. Nearly two years after I started dancing, my friend Sarah invited me to her birthday party. My least favorite social situation: True, I was better at picking up more obvious cues like eagerness and anger, but group settings were strenuous — too many subtleties to keep track of.
I packed up my lace teddy and Red Bull into a discreet bag and headed over to the restaurant before work. The hour and a half crawled by. There were six of us around a small table. I prayed no one would ask me personal questions. His words mixed in with the background conversation and it sounded like another language. I broke out in sweat. A second later the words clicked. I smiled and looked at his nose instead of his eyes while chewing over my words and length of speech, trying to offer the version of my trip they wanted to hear. Sarah got up to go to the bathroom.
I quickly walked over to her and asked: She looked confused as I hurried out the door. I let out a sigh of relief as the taxi plowed across the Williamsburg Bridge. I walked under the familiar lights to the dressing room. I squirted a dollop of foundation on my hand and painted the dark circles under my eyes. For a brief second, I wondered, Is something wrong? But then I swallowed those thoughts and walked onto the floor to escape from myself. I sat down at the bar and ordered a Hennessy on the rocks. The birthday was successfully buried, and I was buzzing from the bliss of escape.
I spotted a man at the bar — alone, tall, bald with a kind smile and a glass of whiskey in his hand. I ran through the formula and we connected right away. I suggested the private room and he agreed. The private rooms were where I connected with customers, sometimes in a way that was more intimate than my relationships outside the club. There I massaged their shoulders, let them touch me, expressed vulnerability. I bantered for hours — something I was never able to do before.
Calling Off The Search: The Emotional Toll Of Search And Rescue : NPR
With fewer stimuli around, it was easier to focus and converse back and forth in a way that felt less strenuous than at the restaurant hours before. My weirdness was worth their paycheck. After two hours, I excused myself for a moment to go to a bathroom where I got a message from Sarah: Below the message was a picture of the dinner crew, laughing with their arms wrapped around each other.
I felt such a pang of loneliness and regret that I broke down in the doorless toilet stall, my eyeliner smearing like watercolor on canvas. Why am I only alive at work? Why can I give so much of myself to my customers and so little to my friends? Work was a temporary balm, but the interactions there were fleeting, not enough to sustain my longing for people. The force of my rotting loneliness hit like a tidal wave as the reality of how much I struggled to navigate social settings outside settled in.
I allowed myself just one sob before I fixed my face and performed for the last half hour. Desperate for answers, I started scrolling through an online forum for women with ADHD, wondering if I might have an attention disorder, looking for an explanation. I started asking for advice, addressing some of my other issues first like getting lost in obsessive thought. Central to autism is a difficulty experiencing life in real time. But in the private rooms at the club, there were no outside stimuli. The rules were clear, the distractions minimal, so I could focus and interact. Women in the ADHD forum invited me to the group for autistic women and there I saw myself a hundred times over.
Scrolling through were women like me: I gradually pulled the blame away from myself and labeled the things about me that were naturally different, not defective. I took a deep breath and resisted pretending to listen and asked: I forgave myself when I slipped outside of social norms and said something weird. People would love me or not — frankly I was okay with the risk.
A few months later, I stood outside the club with a cigarette in my hand, looking over the busy highway at the deserted factories. She knew I was a stripper but had never been to the club. From the outside, it looked grim: But it was home to me. I kept the window open as the club disappeared, letting the cold air whip my face, feeling a mixture of relief and excitement. Forums for autistic women advised pulling off masks that many develop to pass as non-autistic.
The effects of camouflaging are toxic, they warned. But I still had so much to learn. There was vast, dormant space to grow into beyond my work persona. The twinkling lights opened the doors to Manhattan, my body still moving from the music of the club. The possibilities of the night unrolled in front of me and I intended to savor them. My analyst and I grew more intimately connected each week of treatment My entire body feels tense, not ideal for the setting. I try to relax, but the plush leather couch crumples under me when I shift, making the movements extraordinary. Of course it has. On the surface, when the patient has been highly selective of the discussion topics, therapy always resembles a friendly get-together.
I so supremely wanted this not to come up. She quickly and convincingly pointed out that I work rather hard and am, ultimately, paying my bills on time, that I have friends, an appreciation for arts and culture, and so on. Then Lori heightened the discussion a bit. I was too insecure and too single to handle such a compliment from a beautiful woman. I shrugged my shoulders, only half looking up. I laughed a little, uncomfortably. She gently explained she could tell the day I walked into her office for the first time, after I flashed a bright smile and casually asked where she was from.
Lori snorts, rolls her eyes. I smile, shake my head and look around the room, denying acceptance of my own ridiculous reality. I look again at her stark blue eyes, prevalent under dark brown bangs, the rest of her hair reaching the top of her chest, which is hugged nicely by a fitted white tee under an open button-down.
Do you bend me over and take me from behind? I take a second to let the red flow out of my face, and ponder what she said. So I go home, incredibly turned on and completely unashamed. In treatment I came to realize that all people have contradictions to their personalities. In my case, my extreme sensitivity can make me feel fabulous about the aspects of myself that I somehow know are good my artistic tastes and cause deep hatred of those traits I happen to loathe the thirty pounds I could stand to lose.
My next session with Lori is productive. One constant is that I put crudely high expectations on others, mirroring those thrown upon me as a kid. Then, a week later, Lori mentions it, and I become tense again. There were two ways to find out:. Here we go again. Lori, ever intently, peers into my eyes, wrinkles her mouth and slightly shakes her head. The most useful clues are often foot tracks left in dirt or snow.
Finally, they will share that information—including a photo—with searchers via group text message. Each scenario gets its own search plan and team of volunteers. Search areas are broken into segments related to the terrain: Helicopters are more effective on cloudy days than on sunny days, Anderson says, because shadows can obscure targets on the ground. As the search progresses, new volunteers replace tired ones and plans are updated. The resources allotted to a search often increase as the mission goes on. And, depending on resources and weather, the second 24 hours you may have 30 to searchers.