At sunrise we had coffee and breakfast over the fire. I cranked up the radio, having given it a break the night before. The situation in town had gotten much worse and there were two guards that were now posted at the radio station. The station had gotten refueled and was good to go for another five days. The water treatment plant and hospital had also been refueled. Evidently the State Police had been overrun or gave up trying to block the intersection, I spoke of earlier and returned back to town. One section of town that had lost water earlier had caught fire and was "permitted" to burn down. The hunger situation was getting acute and some pets were reported as missing. There was some good news, that local cattle and milk farmers located just outside town were working with commissioners in a plan that would help alleviate that situation. Still, there was no word from Federal authorities and members of the local National Guard were working in cooperation with the commissioners, in stabilizing what they could.
There was a "sketchy" report that had been received from someone who had flown over Detroit. There appeared to be hundreds of thousands of people on the edge of the Detroit River. Most of the city and the surrounding suburbs were on fire and thousands were seen fleeing in every direction. Large crowds of people were spotted along inland lakes and rivers. Roads and ditches were littered with vehicles. Grand Rapids was also enduring similar circumstances. My wife and I just shuttered, this was the first report of this kind that we'd heard. We had noticed very few planes since the crisis.
At last the announcer said fewer and fewer reliable reports were coming in and that the Associated Press releases had ceased entirely as had all satellite broadcasting . He was cooperating with other radio stations and also amateur radio operators in trying to verify reports. He was optimistic about this new line of communication and could verify that the Detroit metro area was on fire as the smoke was visible from great distances. He assured everyone listening that the radio station was becoming a top priority of it's own. Towards that end, a very large fence was installed around station. For the most part, people in town were cooperating and there had been very few incidents of looting.
Hearing this was surreal, could this really be happening? We both believed it was happening, however we were having a difficult time accepting this. We walked on the beach looking for answers that just weren't there...
Later that afternoon back at camp, we reluctantly turned to the radio again. Events seemed like they were happening at lightening speed and we didn't want to be caught uninformed. On top of the broadcast was a story about small areas in the New England part of the country having power restored near generating plants. The news in town was getting graver. A door to door organized effort had been sent out to pick up the dead. The smell of death was just overwhelming the area. Those that had expired were being temporarily laid to rest at the bottom of a very large and deep gravel pit located on the outskirts of town. Most had expired from exposure from a weakened state from the lack of medicine, food and water. An alarming rate of suicide was also taking it's toll. Also there had been unrest at the prison, they were almost out of food, medicine and none of them were allowed to shower since the crisis, to conserve on water. Sanitation had become an issue there, as well in town. Broadcasts were now to be limited from 7:00 to 9:00 am, 12:00 to 1:00 pm and 5:00 to 7:00 in the evening. The stations generating plant needed a motor oil change and to conserve on fuel, the new hours would be when the station would air until further notice.
The next morning as soon as the announcer came on at seven, we knew something big had happened. He sounded almost frantic as he reported that the guards at the prison had been overrun around midnight last night. It wasn't soon after the siren had gone off and that shots could be heard, along with screams for help and crying. Bottlenecks in the roadway quickly grew from those trying to flee the situation, trapping traffic in the small community. Of those that did make it into town with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, said it was impossible to access the situation as it was dark. Many of the prisoners were presumed headed for town.
Already, some people in town that had heard of the news were attempting to flee. Bottles necks were beginning to form. Shots were being heard off in the distance, which up to now had been relatively quite. The radio station, now had ten heavily armed guards but we had lost our favorite announcer as he decided to take his chances and flee with his family. Some of the commissioners were also reported as fleeing.
Reports from other radio stations and "ham" operators, were also implying that conditions where they are at were eroding quickly. By now, people were giving up any hope that any governmental relief would be coming at all. The large crowds that had gathered at lakes and rivers near metropolitan areas, waiting for help were getting desperate as chaotic conditions were worsening. Groups of armed individuals were beginning to form, taking what they wanted and were growing in numbers as they went. The announcer drew a breath and wished all those other stations and "hams", that weren't reporting any longer, the best of luck.
We both thought it would be a good idea to ride our bikes close to the community, as we could monitor those that might be coming into the area from town or quite possibly the prison. In addition of carrying my sidearm, we'd pack enough supplies for two days.
As we biked our way towards the very small community, we saw very few people venturing far from their homes. Most were very frightened and would quickly run back inside after spotting us on the road. Apparently there was no organized effort here and people were on their own. The heat was still unbearable and in one place where we stopped to rest, the smell of death wafted through the air. We made a day camp just outside the community where I could watch the road from which we came from, both ways.
The community and the surrounding area was made up of possibly 800 part time "summer" residents, that would dwindle to about 200 full timers that endured the winter here. Probably 85% of the population was seniors. I settled into a spot where I could watch the only intersection. The place looked like a ghost town which was about normal anyway, none of the very few businesses were open. A couple of children appeared riding on their bikes, turned around and went back the way they came. Then a few vehicles came and went, like they were checking to see if anything was happening, it wasn't. A couple more passed through like they were going somewhere. Nobody even came down the road we had came from or ventured down it.
At five o'clock, I cranked the radio to life. The announcer came across almost as defiant. Shots and screams were being heard across town. Small groups of people had been reported on the move, some armed, others not. Many of those that had fled town were now coming back, many on foot as roadways became blocked with traffic bottlenecks and trees that had been deliberately felled across the roads. No wonder there wasn't much traffic! A lot of people in town were "holed-up" in their homes and armed guards were placed at the entry of the tent cities. It seemed that half of the town were now at these tent cities. We wondered if our family were among them. Two more areas of the town were permitted to burn down, as the Fire Department would not go out under these conditions. Prisoners from the county jail in town, were released.
We didn't bother with the seven am report and returned quickly back to our camp. As soon as we got there, I loaded the small chainsaw into the bike's basket and returned back towards the small community again. I began falling trees across the roadway where a series of curves occurred. Dropping a bunch in one area then proceeding to another out of sight from the first bunch. I had three good pile-ups when the saw ran out of gas and oil. I knew this was preventing people access to the small community and beyond, but what were they to accomplish there, anyway? I went back to camp to refuel the saw and proceeded to make another huge pile-up using all the fuel in the saw at one spot. If someone should attempt to cut through the last mess, I would be able to hear it. That would give us time to adjust to our next move, whatever that might be. No one appeared all the while I was doing this to my knowledge. It was almost five 0'clock by the time I made it back to camp.
As I cranked, the radio came to life. The announcer was somewhat upbeat, finally an armed group of men in three 4-wheeled pick-ups went to the cattle farm and brought back meat for the tent cities. Some prisoners that had gathered in the woods were taking beef from the farm but this wasn't viewed as a big problem. Many prisoners came to town simply to give up as they realized what was happening and wanted to help. These men had taken refuge in yet another area along the water front and in turn for their cooperation they would also be feed. They were also required not to be armed.
There were still armed bands of towns people and prisoners who were raising havoc with those still holding out in their homes. Shots rang out from time to time. Even though the security at the tent cities was much better, they were experiencing problems of their own, the people were armed and conflicts were starting to break out. Sanitation and privacy were becoming problems. Starvation was fast becoming a huge problem. As bad as things were in the tent cities, people were now questioning if conditions were actually better there than the hold-outs, some having to repeal repeated attacks from roving gangs.
Elsewhere, Detroit and other large cities throughout the nation lay in ruins. The great crowds seen around rivers and lakes had dispersed, leaving hundreds of thousands of the dead behind. Small bands of people were reported as scattering everywhere and the dead laid on the ground like from a huge battlefield. Reports from the outside where getting fewer and fewer...
My wife and I, cuddled at the fire. Reaffirming to each other that this nightmare was indeed happening and was real. It was almost beyond belief and our imaginations what we were hearing over the radio. We knew that life outside our little camp would never be the same. We almost felt guilty in someway or another.. Perhaps the only difference between us and them was that we were prepared to meet the challenge of this new day before it came and they weren't, as strange as that might sound.