The big Sikorsky emerges out of the setting sun with a roar. Every head outside the hospital swivels to follow its gravity-defying progress as it circles above the helipad. Paradoxically, the sound of the twin turboprop engines increases as it slowly approaches the ground and the single waiting ambulance.
The ‘bird’ touches its wheels lightly to the ground, then ponderously settles onto its shock absorbing landing gear. Gravity gradually takes over from aerodynamic lift, tethering it once again to the earth. The whine of the twin jet engines diminishes, but the rotors never stop turning.
After 30 seconds which seems like an eternity, the door opens and the flight crew jogs to the waiting ambulance, using a peculiar hunched gait. This is a big helicopter, and it’s not necessary to duck under the rotors. Human instinct, however, will not allow the head any closer to those lethally spinning blades than absolutely necessary.
The crew disappears into the back of the ambulance, and the scene becomes a still life in motion. The ambulance with its blinking red lights and the helicopter with its wildly spinning rotors sit frozen alone on the tarmac, with not a soul in sight.
Inside the ambulance is a parent’s worst nightmare. He needs angels; the best we have to offer is a helicopter.
Shortly the ‘bird’ will reverse the drama of its arrival. The paramedics will retreat to the safety of their ambulance as the flight crew locks their own doors. The turboprops will increase their ferocity from whine to roar, and the parking lot will be swept clean of any remaining sand, leaves, and debris. This time there will be no dramatic circling; as soon as the wheels are clear of the treetops, the pilot will tilt the nose and begin a full-throttle run across the setting sun, directly for Big City Trauma Center. Hopefully the angels can keep up.
Somewhere tonight, a parent’s worst fear will come true. Johnny won’t come home for dinner. His parents will call his cell phone but not get any answer. They will wait a while and probably gently curse him for being so irresponsible. Then the doubt will begin. A phone call to his best friend, to Grandma, to the school. No answers. The doubt will slowly turn to fear. Eventually there will be a 911 call to report him missing, followed by a police officer and perhaps a priest arriving on someone’s front doorstep. Hopefully it will not be too late.
I resolve to hug my wife and daughter when I get home in the morning.