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Around 6:00 that evening we're getting hungry. Sylvester offers us some cans of stuff, but we've seen he doesn't have much---probably eating out most of the time. We go outside and eat some of our food in the truck. I notice the 9mm still in my pocket. I worked the slide a couple a times to make sure it at least fed, then reloaded the clip and told Debbie to keep it in her purse. She'd only shot a pistol twice in her life. It was a last ditch gun. She said she didn't want the thing, but knew she was glad to have the extra protection.

Around dark we finally get through to someone back home so they know we're alive. The kids ask us if we're going to die here. We lie and tell them we're perfectly safe here. Nobody can reach the police. Sylvester lets us hunker down here until this mess blows over. Most of the news programs finally get in touch with reality. We now see pictures of looting, fighting and burning buildings. The mayor and some of the other politicians are now begging the rioters to stop instead of sticking up for them. Everyone knew the police had orders not to shoot looters. We think the President will have to step in to stop it. We finally all get to sleep sometime that night, but nobody can get any real sleep. The old window unit keeps us cool enough and makes some noise to cover the commotion in the city.

The next day, the news gets worse and worse. There were gun battles with looters, whole apartments and hotels being raided, with some set on fire. People were jumping to their deaths. It looked like 9-11. Traffic was stopped on I-20 and 85 from wrecks. Hoods shot the poor souls stopped in traffic. Helicopter footage showed shot out windows on cars and some dead bodies sprawled out on the road. They cut the power that afternoon. The house soon becomes unbearably hot. This is slow death.

I get Sylvester to help me with the map to escape. We are on Echo Street, almost in the middle of the main riot area. From what we could figure out from the news, before it went dead, was the rioting was between Interstate 85 and 285. To the east was downtown with major problems. In the southwest corner, they had formed a police line around most of the city and state government buildings. Guess the politicians say C.Y.O.A. first. Sylvester said that to get there, you'd have to go through some of the worst neighborhoods in the country. No thanks. We already came through the south and west, and that was a no-go. We though it best to get out going north.

Now how were we gettin' out? The truck still ran, but it was a bullet magnet. The big hunting stickers on the raised truck said, "******* on board, just shoot me." We'd sneak out on foot after dark. We'd be sitting ducks walking along the roads. There were no rivers or parks nearby. Looking at the map I saw railway tracks that led north a couple of steets over. Sylvester said the nice part of town began where the tracks led to the northeast. Debbie and me figured we could all leave at midnight with fewer bad guys awake, and make it out in an hour or two. So we started to make our "get home bags."

We needed to travel light, but needed enough to last a few days in case we got trapped. I was in Boy Scouts for a year or two and tried to remember the dozens of things you need on a hike. Water was the big thing in the hot South. We only had three bottles left, so we scrounged up all the empties and filled them with tap water. That gave us about four apiece. There were only a few melted candy bars and a bag of chips left. Sylvester's supply of food wasn't much better, so we didn't ask of any of his. Looking through the truck we found duck tape, a flashlight and an old first aid kit that didn't look too healthy. We each took a change of clothes and stuffed it all in two small duffle bags the kids had. All the bathroom stuff and extra clothes we put into two double garbage bags. We could dump them if we needed to.

Everyone had decent walking shoes 'cept Missy. She always wore those rubber flip-flops. They were good for the mall, but not for this. Luckily, Sylvester had a pair of his wife's old "athletic" shoes, the ones with Velcro straps. A bit big, but with some extra socks, got 'em to fit. Missy protested and said she wouldn't be caught dead in them. I told her, "We'll all be dead if you don't wear 'em."

Sylvester had an old 12 gauge single barrel shotgun he kept watch with. I thought about trading the gangsta 9mm for it. A shotgun would kill better up close, and if people saw us carry it, they might back off more. Debbie said the thing would be heavy, only shoot one at a time and people might shoot at us 'cause we'd look more dangerous. So we kept the 9mm.

As if we needed any more excuses to leave, an abandoned apartment across the street was set on fire just before dark. Sylvester was plenty scared now. He talked to himself going from window to window. I asked if he wanted to bug out with us, but he just said, "Naw, naw, this old place is all I have, and they ain't burnin' it down." Least he has a better chance than those poor fools back at the gas station. We felt like we was in Hell, with fires burning around the city and gunshots now gettin' nearer. We said a quick prayer begging for deliverance and mercy, then left around 11:00 that evening.

Our escape went pretty good at first. No one did much talking, we all knew to stay quiet. We only saw one group of people cross oer the main road a few blocks north. The noise from the sirens and helicopters was always there, so I guess nobody heard us. After passin' by some junk car places we made it to the tracks. Course no trains were gonna come through here. We stayed on the west side near the fence. The (electric) lights that were on were miles away. Fires could be seen above the tracks. A few of the tall buildings were glowing like burnt sticks of firewood downtown. The thick air smelled like burned leaves and tires, but the smoke helped hide us. We heard people nearby a campfire, so we moved to the other side of the tracks and slipped on past.

Around 3:00 in the morning we came into a better looking area. At least it was better before the looters got to it. A big Ikea building was gutted, along with several nice homes. A bit further on we made out a Target. We left the tracks to check it out. Matt was hungry. The parking lot was littered with clothes and broken boxes. The doors were open, but it was dark inside. When we saw bloody drag trails going out the door we for sure didn't go in. There were some fancy apartments and buildings across the street so we went slowly over to them. I thought the police must be near. Things were startin' to clear up in the morning light. None of the places here were torched, but some had busted windows. I remember us coming to an open area, maybe a park. There was a big smokestack sticking out of the ground. A big arch was down to the right, kinda like the one in Paris. I told Debbie, " I think we're finally back to civilzation." I was wrong.

As the sun started going up, people could see each other better and gunshots started up from the south where downtown was. We heard some folks return fire from the apartments to our right. Someone would pop up in the window, fire a few shots, and then hide. We ran to some trees in the small park and tried to find some cover. We saw a gang of six or seven guys with guns and bats making their way up the street from the burning area downtown. We could hear bullets pinging off the building near us. We had our guns out and ready. The kids were too afraid to say anything. This ain't good.

Thank God they didn't see us layin' flat in the trees. They fired wildly here and there as they went past across the street to our left. One smashed a glass door with a bat; another with spray paint did his artwork along the way. Now what? We were talking in low voices seeing what to do next, when all these booms and bangs went off behind us. Wasn't long after that the gang is running fast the other way, maybe a man or two short. Then we heard engines and tracks coming closer. Next thing we know, five soldiers are around us. "Dorp your weapons and don't move." We do what they say.

"I'm sergeant So and So from Bravo-something-something mechanized infantry," the Army guy tells us. The other soldiers pay us no attention and move to the edge of the park. The sergeant is yelling at his guys and other people on his radio while tellling us stay still and calm. We have a good view of what's happening. A couple of hundred yards down the street south and to the left, bad guys are shooting at us from the second floor of a nice apartment. Big mistake. The soldiers in front shoot back. My ears are ringing and I ry to cover them so I don't go deaf. The sergeant screams and curses into his radio headset. Not long after that this little tank with a long, skinny gun pulls up near us, then "Bam--bam--bam," like that it shoots at the apartment. The front of the place explodes out. The soldiers let out a war whoop.

As the dust clears, I see a barricade of concrete highway dividers lined across the steet next to the blasted apartment, blocking the way downtown. A black and green flag is taped in front of it. I see the rest of the gang and more of their friends goin' over it and hauling *** away to downtown. I'm amazed to see one rioter still shooting madly behind the barricade. I feel something big getting close, then see one of those Aberum's tanks move to the intersection in front of us. There was a skull and crossbones with "Verminators" painted on the side. You got that right. The dude behind the barricade us still firing away. Is he blind or crazy? I'm almost lifted off the ground as the tank sends off a round. A huge flash, then a second later, an incredible explosion. The dude and the dividers by him are vaporized. The way is clear, so the soldiers move out.

We didn't stick around to watch the rest of the riot. The sergeant was a good 'ole boy from Fort Knox. He told us to hide our guns, cause he was supposed to take them. Then he pointed us the way out. We made our way back north to I-85. We had come to the front lines of the riot. Dead bodies were lined up next to buildings, some covered, some not. Flies were swarming, and it stunk. I guess we saw about 20 bodies. Trash, burned-up and shot-up cars were all over the roads. We walked another mile north along he interstate, which was a mess. As traffic crawled along , we hitched a ride and got way out of town in the back of a pickup. Debbie's brother finally picked us up and brought us the rest of the way home.

So that's about it. Stupid mistakes got us into that mess, but some thinking and dumb luck got us out. You guys know the trouble is going to come over the hills to us one day. But me and my house are ready. We were survivors back then, and now we're what they call survivalists.
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