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A helicopter fell to earth yesterday, a straight drop from the sky, a fallen mechanical angel. We watched it crash between two houses and then I ran toward the plume of smoke out of instinct, nothing in my hand, just a response. It was nine in the morning. The quiet of our Sunday was broken by the sound of two overhead helicopters going from South to West, far and then near, away and then closer and closer. We’ve grown accustomed to more helicopters as Guatemala continues its march towards remilitarization, so we took a bite of our pancakes and thought nothing of it. I waited for the sound to fade with the distance. Instead it grew near again, until it was right over our rooftops.
When we opened the door we saw one of the helicopters pointed downwards against the blue western sky, suspended mid-air like a painting. A long breath escaped my mouth as it spun a few times and then dropped – the thread that held it to the sky having been cut suddenly, ever so delicately, by some force unseen. The fall to earth was great as a big crash of wood, adobe, tin all breaking filled the air.
“We have to help now,” I told Brad and ran quickly with a few other neighbors. On first street I turned right and saw the propeller sticking out like a chopstick from the roof. A dark cloud of smoke and dust was rose of the house; water streamed out from underneath the door. It was a matter of moments if the fuel tank from the helicopter had been damaged. We were up against time. Two of us banged on the door and nothing, we heard a scream. I told a neighbor we needed a ladder to break the door down. A white wooden ladder appeared from another neighbor’s house and all of us grabbed it and put all our force behind it. The doors splintered and opened. Other neighbors climbed the rooftop of the house next door and slowly the worker ants set out to get everyone out of the house – the dog, the family, the pilot, the survivors all injured. Brad brought me my camera and I knew what to do. I got out of the way and found a corner to tell the story from.
Time has a way of passing, one moment and then the next, a series of breaths that unwittingly lead you here. Quickly my mind, my heart rushes and fills – a balloon growing both inside and out and filling with some ungrasphable, intangible thing called living. It’s immediate, it’s primal, it’s the pure instinct and will to live at all costs and to help others do the same.
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