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Diaspora

First time
California fires and smoking habits

Written by AF
Photographed by Kambiz Kashani
October 28, 2003
The Iranian

Saturday night I came home from a night of drinking and mind altering from a gathering of so-called "pimps and ho's." Got home around 3 am. As I walked to the balcony to open the second pack of the night's cigarrettes I noticed the red sky and the heavy air to breathe. I soon found out that there was a fire raging in San Diego. Went to bed at 6 am.

At noon, I found it very hard to breath, more difficult than the usual flame that chocks and tickles my throat after a night of heavy smoking. I got up and went outside. Ashes were raining down from the dark purple colored sky >>> Photos

Quickly I turned the TV on. It looked lile half of San Diego was on fire.

The fire was quickly moving towards our place. In a matter of hours it had crossed the freeway and entered residential areas. Houses were burning. It reminded me of Iran. In the midst of these emotions my pager went off. The hospital was in a crises. Although it had shut down in the morning, I was now needed to transport the critical patients to a San Diego based ship.

I washed my face, put my flight suit on and went downstaires to the parking lot. My car had a thick layer of black and white ashes, although it was parked in the covered garage. I drove to work. Most freeways were closed. I tuned to NPR channel to get an update.

The only freeway heading towards the hospital was now closed. A single engine aircraft had no vision and mistakenly landed on the freeway instead of the nearby airport. It too was now on fire.

I found a road off the freeway. It was empty. As I drove way beyond the speed limit I looked at the sky. I had driven into the first scene in Terminator, and something was ringing in my ear, "it's the end of the world as we know it..."

I got to work. The unit was chaotic. You could see the smoke much better from the hospital. Some nurses were making frequent stops to the roof top for a better view.

I was assigned a patient to evacuate if the evacuation was approved (we were on stand by). While in the process, he bled in his head (he was AML patient with bone marrow relapse). I still can't figure out why he bled, but he did. I went back and gave the mom the bad news. He was taken off life support and soon died.

Now that I had no patient to transport I drove home. On my way back I lit a cigarrette. I was very careful not to throw the cigarrette out of the car after I was done it. So last night was the first time I used the ash tray in my car.

Author

AF is a doctor who works in a hospital in San Diego, California.

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