Time to Remember
It was a quiet January morning when we took the Messiah Lutheran Church in Panama City. There was nothing special about it at all except for the fact that it was a good day to die. My comrade at my side was a vision in tight fitting black sweater and leggings, her faded red hair blowing in the wind, and a tan assault rifle hanging from her shoulder. She looked to me for guidance, and I nodded towards the side door of the church. It was time. Time to show America that even in an out of the way church on the gulf coast of Florida, no one is safe.
This is how it could have happened had we not been actors in a training scenario for the local Panama City Sheriff's Department., SWAT team, and bomb squad. I really had no idea what I was getting into when I got the text from a friend whose husband was in charge of the operation. Basically, she asked if I was interested in a non-paying gig with good exposure playing a terrorist for a training situation. Also, it will most likely be reported on the news. Being an agreeable attention whore willing to do anything for the experience/exposure and desperate for an "acting challenge" (Oh God ,that sounds pretentious and invariably sad) , without a second thought I said "Sure!" She attempted to lure me with the promise of being "manhandled " by a group of big muscly guys but she needn't have. She had me at TV exposure.
I have to admit I put very little thought into what this situation would entail- until the meeting two days prior to the event all I knew was that it would be an all day affair, and that they most likely cuff me a little. Oh, and my friend Kelly would be my co-terrorist. Kelly and I had done a couple plays at the Martin Theatre , so at least I would know someone there. We met at the Messiah Lutheran Church where we found out our "hostages" would be the Pastor and the ladies of the church staff. We also met the Ed, who was coordinating the scenario, and Brent and John who would be leading us step by step through the takeover.
John immediately started by calling us by our first names, telling us that he knew everything about us! He passed out copies of our "dossiers" which had our pictures, stats, and priors. Mine read: Stephen Coulibay, Caucasian, 72 inches, 202 LBS (oh so kind) NKMP, US Citizen. Member of the "Alvares" Cartel based out of Juarez Mexico, known to work as key Liaison between the cartel and AQAP (Yemen). A US citizen who rarely visits the USA due to (3) outstanding Felony warrants for his arrest. Outstanding Warrant Details 1) Three counts of lewd acts on a 14 year old girl 2)Two deadly counts of assault with a deadly weapon 3) Four counts of murder/weapons charges Mexico. Currently on US/Interpol Terrorist watch list.
He then proceeded to tell us that , though unloaded and unarmed, we would indeed be using real weapons and explosives.
Ok, shit just got real.
I looked at the lovely, peaceful, smiling faces of my hostages-to-be and I suddenly felt very uncomfortable with what I was going to be doing. One of the ladies (who looked to be in her 60's) seemed uneasy at the mention of real guns . These women were someone's mother, someone's grandmother, And then there was the amiable and friendly Pastor, asking if guns would be pointed at them. I started having second thoughts about doing this.
Kelly on the other hand was already figuring out her strategy , figuring out where she could "hide " the hostages (she had a working knowledge of the church having been a member of the congregation) , pummeling John with questions about what her costume should be,and thinking out her motivations. Luckily John told us that she would be the ring leader. Her character was more a disgruntled university student involved with anti-American propaganda groups with no real warrants.
John asked me if I had any camo to wear and I had to stifle a laugh as I told him, "No. Sorry. No camo." He suggested dungarees and told me to think "militia." Okay, I see what I am going to have to Google later.
When we left the meeting, we learned very little of what exactly was going to happen (Kelly and I did receive a loose schedule/breakdown of the day, but during the actual event, there were too many variables to pinpoint.) John and Brent were very good at putting us at ease and assuring that it would be a fun experience, and I actually started to look forward to the adventure at hand.
End Part One
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