It's funny what things stay in your memory. I can remember Adam was sitting next to me, talking about video games. Yes, video games, of all the stupid things to have been discussing that evening. The bus smelled like freshly showered hockey players, which is still not a great smell, no matter how much soap and cologne is available. It was near dusk, the sky was pink and orange - a Minnesota sunset. The general tone was one of exhaustion, and it was quiet despite the hum of the engine and the low buzz of conversation. It was cold outside, but we were warm.
However, I cannot for the life of me remember what team we had just played or if we had even won the game that day. Where were we headed back from? There are other gaps in my memory too, I don't remember the terrorists' nationalities or their voices. Just their eyes. Long, dark, angry eyes. I forget the order some things happened in, and what exactly those men wanted. Something about the government? It made sense to me then, I think.
As much as these missing pieces disturb me, I wish there were more of them, that a few more things about that endless night could be forgotten as easily. Some things stick in my mind and play over and over: that last conversation I had with Adam, the looks on my friends' faces, Julie's terrific screams, and even more haunting to my memory, Connie's complete silence when they took her. A great black emptiness where there should have been sound, a horrible passiveness where there should have been total resistance. I remember frantically thinking, "Why isn't she screaming? What's wrong?" Later, I heard somewhere that orphan babies don't cry, because they learn that it's futile. It made me think of Connie, under a man who had a gun and four friends on the bus who had guns. Connie became an orphan of the world there, on the floor at the back of the bus, when she, too, realized crying out was futile. I think it frightened those men a bit too, if that's even possible.
I remember the blood. On the walls, the floor, the seats, clothing, hair, hands, faces...a red portrait in a thousand shades, from the bright, crayon reds of the dying, the dark purples and burgundies of those already dead. I had seen a dead person only once before that December night. My grandfather, at his wake, when I was nine. He looked peaceful, like he was enjoying his rest, not at all like the dead I saw on the bus. But then, my grandfather had not died in front of me, I had not watched him get shot, and I was not covered with his blood. My grandfather had not just been talking to me about video games.
I guess coach Orien was the first to die. Yes, that's right, when they stopped the bus shortly after they boarded us, and made us all get off and get our jerseys from under the bus. Much later, in the aftermath, they helped do identify bodies. The men took pictures of us with them and gave the pictures to the bus driver. "Go tell the police," the lead man said with a strange accent, "they will know what we want." He ran off to get help. Later I found out the police had been notified less than half an hour later and that three of the five men were known terrorists. We got back on the bus, with one of their men in the driver's seat. But, they didn't let Coach Orien back on. "BANG!" They shot him in the head right then. We jumped and screamed inside the bus and stared at the body in the ditch as we drove off, even after we were too far away to see it anymore.
I'm not sure what happened next. I think we just waited. Later, they took the girls to the back of the bus. Some of us tried to stop them. Adam tried to stop them. His tombstone says, "The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away." That's true enough, I guess. Guy Germaine was shot in the stomach. It took him hours to die, softly moaning until well after midnight, many of us crouched around him trying to help, despite the fact there was nothing we could do. I remember praying "God, if die tonight, please it be quick. Please Lord, don't make me suffer...."
By that time there were police cars all around us. The blue and red patches of light danced over the dark walls of the bus. A helicopter circled overhead. "Be reasonable!" shouted one policeman into his patrol car speaker, "Your demands will take time."
"The time for being reasonable is over!" One of the terrorists shouted back. He threw, yes, threw Adam's body out the door at the cop car. It hit the hood and they swerved. We did not know then the helicopter above was from a news station, but that scene was broadcast across the nation, and right into the Banks' family living room, where his mother was fearfully awaiting news of her son. She was not the last woman to lose a son that night. The gunmen's behavior got more and more erratic as the night continued, and at two in the morning, they finally lost it. Those last minutes are a blur to me, I remember gunshots, blown tires, screeching, screaming, and lying in the snow beside Dean Portman. In all, six people died. Ted Orien, Adam Banks, Guy Germaine, Les Averman, Fulton Reed and Russ Tyler. I've never seen Russ' grave. He was buried in Los Angeles. But Ken said he went to see it once and it has a picture of a lamb on it.
I've never seen Julie's grave either. I didn't go to her funeral. Her death came much later, at her own hand. She is not listed as a victim of that night, but I know she was. They killed her as much as they killed the others. I don't really see the other survivors anymore, but we all carry the same irrational guilt. Sometimes I pass Connie in the street, and as pretty as she looks now, all I can see is the image of a girl in ripped clothes with blood in her long hair and tears in her eyes curled up in a sad little ball, rocking silently.
If it makes any sense at all, I'm always glad Casey Conway didn't lose a son that night, but I'm not always happy to be alive. I don't know, maybe I just miss hanging out with the gang, playing hockey, and talking about video games.