This past Saturday I volunteered for Urban Shield, a city-wide training exercise in Boston that helps first responders prepare for emergencies, terrorist attacks, and the like. You may recall that I got shot up by a couple of SWAT teams last year, so I was eager to lend my torso to the city again for however they wished to use it.
This year, they wanted to blow me up.
A note on sensitivity: There are some graphic images below, and while they are all fake and makeup-y, don’t look if that sort of thing grosses you out. Also, I am very aware that the Boston marathon bombings were only a year ago, and that some of this may seem a bit too soon, especially since it’s a bombing simulation with lots of lower extremity wounds. Ergo, it might not be best to read on if you are still too sensitive to that (especially fellow Boston peeps), and/or if you do not appreciate my comedic tone (because that is just how I do). I get it; it still freaks me out too. However, the point of this entire exercise is to get better at dealing with these sorts of atrocious things – and part of the reason last year’s attack was handled so well was because Boston has done this training. I think it is a necessary thing, so I like to talk it up.
Okay, so if you’re still here and you agree not to hate me…let’s do this.
We showed up bright and early at the fancy new MBTA Emergency Training Center, which is an old subway tunnel repurposed for training exercises.
Looks shipshape to me.
It was a bit like a movie set – there were subway cars and platforms set up just like the real ones, tons of cameras everywhere, a loudspeaker that pumped in the sound of people screaming (which is just as terrifying as it sounds) and even a smoke machine.
First stop: the makeup room. Special effect makeup artists who specialize in military training were there to moulage us up (moulage = the art of applying mock injuries for the purpose of training, thanks Wikipedia), and boy, was it gory.
Officially on my birthday wish list.
Now, we’d been told to wear clothing that we were okay with getting dirty and/or torn, but I figured that just meant typical paint clothes–a few splatters here, a little hole or two. All that changed when I sat down in the makeup chair and the artist brandished a gigantic pair of scissors at me. Goodbye, jeans.
She then applied a prosthetic wound to my thigh with what I’m guessing was weapons-grade glue, because it’s been two days and I still can’t get the reside off. Yes, that thing sticking out in the middle is a bone. Yes, it was super gross and I was thrilled.
After that came paint.
And a TON of blood.
I was then informed that my character–Patient #13–also had an abdominal wound. I liked to think of this as unrelated to the bombing, like maybe someone just came up to me in the midst of all the chaos and stabbed me for the fun of it.
I was also supposed to be confused, which just so happens to be a mental state that I excel at:
Probably because that unidentified jerk stabbed me.
At last, it was time for the exercise. Because my injuries were fairly severe, I was to lie down on the subway platform and moan and scream for help and paw at the bomb squad as they searched for the remaining bomb and bomber–who was played by a delightfully jolly man named Bill. I certainly never would have suspected him.
Look at that smile!
So I moaned and screamed and pawed, and when the EMT finally got to me, out came the gigantic scissors again, and there went the rest of my t-shirt.
And the day swiftly transformed into some sort of sick, twisted peep show.
“Behold: my torso.”
We repeated the exercise twice more–and also went to a restaurant for lunch, much to the dismay and horror of the children and parents celebrating a First Communion there. (Sorry kids! Enjoy your nightmares!) Each time we reran the simulation, the makeup artists added more blood to our wounds, so by the time the day was over I was more red gunk than person.
But as always, I was happy to help. The men and women on the police force, bomb squads, and emergency services were so friendly and grateful to us for volunteering our time, to which I say: it’s the least we can do in return for their service. Also, I will take any chance I can get to do things like this: