Time to Remember
John gave us some parameters for the exercise- a list of "triggers" that would end it ahead of schedule- things like do not say anyone has been harmed or killed, do not give a set deadline with the threat of harming or killing a hostage, don't mention or threaten fires, etc. All of these things would hasten their breaching the site and taking us down. He gave us a safe word (blueberry) to use if we they hurt us or put us in any physical discomfort. he told us they would be laying their hands on us and we would be bound, so feel free to let them know if they crossed the line.
The day of my "terror" gig, I got to the church around 7:30 a.m. We didn't have to be there for another half hour, but nerves and an obsession for not being late got me to the church way before time. Ample time to sit in my car, finish my coffee and chain smoke like a mo-fo. The day before I had started getting anxious about doing the whole thing again despite the effort I had already put into searching for a costume (no camo to be found, I bought a hunter-ish sweatshirt with leaves and trees on it at Goodwill and borrowed a green army jacket from my good friend Paul. Add a black knit stocking hat from Coach and Voila! As close to militia as I was gonna get!) and researching cartels, militia, and AQAP. (after my google searches my computer froze up, asking if I wanted to let it change my programming. Freaked out, I finally was able to turn my tablet off and re-start. Oh great, was I now going to be on some watchlist for the NSA or the CIA just because I was researching for a role?? And the fact that it froze up after the searches I am sure had nothing to do with the fact that I was then watching something that may or may not be deemed as appropriate. Right?!?!?) Anyway, I started worrying about the mental implications of such a traumatic event and the potential impact it could have on our "hostages". I pictured my character as viciously cruel and amoral, a cold-blooded killer whose only purpose that day was to blow up a church and everyone inside. Holding them at gunpoint, hiding explosive devices, etc.- all these things played on my mind and gave me pause. I am more of a musical-comedy guy!
I shouldn't have worried. Once everyone arrived at the church, the mood was very laid back and mellow. After a short debriefing by John of the planned stages of events with very little detail, we all sat in a conference room waiting for it to start. The ladies passed around pieces of the newspaper, one of them working on the crossword, and Kelly studied her lines for her latest play. I realized then that what we did inside the church was inconsequential to the exercise. Of course, there were certain things we had to enact for the SWAT team to react too, but I did not have to go full tilt psycho to achieve our goals. Yay! I really didn't have enough coffee or cigarettes beforehand to fuel that fire.
John, who would be going back and forth between the to camps, informed us that it had begun. For reasons unknown to me, Kelly and I's roles had been reversed. I would now be the one manning the phone, talking to the hostage negotiator, and Kelly would be patrolling the grounds with the hostages. Maybe he sensed my hesitancy, maybe it was because he saw in Kelly a more imposing figure with radical ideas. Maybe it was my knit hat from Coach. Who knows.
John gave me absolutely nothing to go on as far as info to feed the negotiator. He only told me that he would ask me questions about what was going on and how many hostages there were. This was my big improv moment! I tried to think of all the hostage type movies I had ever seen before and imbue my character with all of that information and malice . I pictured (for some bizarre reason) Hans Gruber from Die Hard. Not really the best choice, but I was nervous! The phone rang and John motioned for me to pick it up. The day before I had tried to work on a Spanish accent (my character IS supposed to work for the Mexican Cartel!!) but I have no idea what accent came out of my mouth. More quasi-European or slightly middle-Eastern with some French influences than Spanish, More Balki from Perfect Strangers than Antonio Banderas. I had to stifle my natural urge for proper phone etiquette by answering "Yes...." rather than, "Hello, how are you?" There had been a call earlier made by John setting up the scenario telling the sheriffs office that there was a hostage situation and there were explosives so the negotiator asked me to explain the situation. With nothing to go on but the dossiers of the hostages, I committed probably my first terrorist faux-paus. I told him everything I knew. I said Yes, we had taken over the church, we had blah blah blah hostages, their names are blah, there are two of us, we mean business, anything and everything I could divulge. Okay, so I was nervous! He asked what our demands were, and I turned to John and Kelly for input. Kelly whispered, "Tell him we want the Quaran!" I did, he asked what else I wanted, and Kelly (prompted by John) came over and grabbed the phone from me, yelling into the phone "He said too Goddamned much!" and slammed the phone down. John took Kelly into the hallway and the church ladies hovered in the coffee room that opened onto the office I was in, talking amongst themselves. I had my hand over my mouth and I confessed I wasn't sure about the whole cussing in church thing- I felt like I was going to hell. One of the ladies laughed and said she was sure she had heard worse in her life.
Okay, kid gloves officially taken off.
My next call I revealed that my father was murdered by American soldiers, my Mother was raped and killed, and my sister was...I couldn't bear to say it. John gave me a thumbs up and I hung up the phone, pleased with my backstory. My character had issues!
Kelly went on a patrol of the grounds and spied the SWAT van sitting in the parking lot, so John coached me on my next call to scream at the negotiator to "Get that fucking van out of my sight!" John looked slightly shocked and closed the office door as the only previously scheduled event at the church was ending and a ladies aerobics class was filing out the doors at that moment. Whoops! My bad.(Okay, maybe I shouldn't have screamed the F word- but hey, they said it was okay!)
My screaming evidently worked...somewhat. The Swat team moved the van to the other side of the church! Still in view, still out in the open. They were working my nerves. The next call came and I was (faux) furious!
To be continued...
End part two
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