It had taken hours to locate many of the bodies, and longer to extract them. The twisted ruins of the lecture hall created a situation so dangerous, that even the emergency services were hesitant to enter. The death toll currently stood at 57, with many more unaccounted for.
John Sheppard paced around the now secured perimeter within the university grounds, angry, frustration at the lack of progress evident. Jack O'Neill stood stoically under one of the large maple trees, keeping his eye on the incessantly pacing Colonel. He understood the officer's distress, his wife was still listed as one of the missing along with many of her students. He understood, heck he even sympathized with John's anguish, but there was little he could do except make sure John remained on the correct side of the perimeter and didn't go charging headline into the rescue effort, which would only make things worse for all concerned.
" I should be the one in there looking for her" John spat between clenched teeth, his hands balled into white knuckle fists and his entire body radiating emotional tension.
" You'll only get yourself hurt, and get in the way. Let them do their work" Jack replied with as much authority as he could project. His tone seemed to calm Sheppard a little, or at least keep the grumbling to a minimum. The pacing however continued, his dark caged eyes following every firefighter and rescue officer that entered what was left of the lecture hall.
The firefighter scrubbed the dirt and soot off his mask, creating a slightly clearer space that he could see though. A gesture to his CO indicated the direction he was going to search, whether it would be for survivors or bodies he wouldn't know until he found them.
He skirted the fallen girder, managing to squeeze through a small cavity between it and the floor without getting his air tanks hooked. The smashed lecture lay strewn in a small crevice, barely large enough for someone to sit up in, but still, a cavity just the same. His hope flared as his flashlight picked up something wedged against the remnants of an ornate red cedar table. Hair… dark hair with a rebellious curl that framed a bruised and battered face. He crawled closer, slipping his heavy gloves from his hand as he did so. Carefully he reached over her face, careful not to move her head but close enough to feel if she was breathing. Current thinking precluded the checking of a pulse these days, figuring that if a person was breathing, then their heart was obviously beating. Give it another 5 years and the procedure would change again, but he would deal with that when they decided to implement them.
" Chief, I got a live one, female, early 40s… search region delta 3, send in a spine board and have an EMT standing by" he called into his radio, shoving it back into his pocket before crawling to better access his victim's situation. She was pinned by the legs from what he could see, twisted metal debris covering her from the waist down. He moved what he could with his hand, careful not to disturb the stability of their little cave.
" Yo Bob, what ya got?" Came the muffled voice from behind him as another firefighter made his way forward, dragging a spine board and a securing harness with him.
" Nearly done… just give me a hand with this and I think we'll have her out" Bob replied, pointing to the one piece of metal that was pinning her legs. Together they pushed and pulled it just enough they could pull her out, careful not to jostle the neck brace they'd just applied. They maneuvered her onto the spine board and secured the harness, dragging it between them back towards the outside world.
They'd barely had enough time to rise to their feet and carry her towards the waiting EMT before a bystander surged forward, ignoring the restraint of what looked like an authority figure.
" Elizabeth!" the man shouted, and forced his way to her side, bringing the firefighters to a grinding halt.
" Look buddy… you need to step aside" Bob tried to placate the man but was met with fiery resistance.
" Look… BUDDY… that's my wife and I ain't goin anywhere" He rebuked, grasping one of the woman's hands with his own. Knowing they weren't going anywhere without him, they continued on to the waiting ambulance and relinquished their patient to the EMT.
Strong hands forced John to stand back a few steps as the EMT took stock to Elizabeth's injuries and he stole a second to glare at their owner. Jack returned the glare but refused to yield, hoping him fast until he relaxed a little.
" You the husband?" The EMT asked, hooking up an IV line and stablising what looked like a badly broken arm.
" Yes Sir I am" John replied with as much civility as he could muster.
" Jump in, we're taking her to Georgetown Hospital"
John didn't reply, instead jogging towards the passenger seat in the cab and climbing in. He didn't notice Jack on his phone asking a favour from Dr Lam as the ambulance accelerated away from the twisted ruins of the lecture hall, its precious cargo now in the hands of those who could help her.