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Lord Krishna in the 21st Century - Chapter 32
Lord Krishna In The 21st Century—Fact Or Fiction?
(Note: this is a make-believe story of what the future could be like)
Date: November 17, 2018 A.D.
Place: Vrindavana, India
Greetings from far away India. I hope you are feeling better today. I know that being 89 years old can sure slow you down. Unfortunately I’m learning this the hard way, myself. As you know, I’ll be sixty-three next April. I’m still moving around OK but not like I did when I was a teenager. Remember when we used to go skiing together when I was in high school? Seems just like yesterday. Those were the good old days; both of us sailing down those mountain slops.
I’m sorry that it’s been over a year since we last got to visit, but I’ve tried to keep you informed on all that’s happened. I just hope you got all the news clippings I’ve been sending.
I’m pretty exhausted. But now there is plenty of opportunity to rest up. I’ve got a pleasant room to stay in and everyone here is very nice. But it is on the warm side.
Since I don’t have any specific plans for the next five weeks, I have decided to catch up on my correspondence with you. As I said, I have been quite busy. So much has happened, I really haven’t had a chance to even sort out everything for myself.
As you know, we were really lucky on this one. They say if it had been a little bigger, none of us would be here. There could have been no warning. And wouldn’t you know it, it wasn’t even the government who first spotted the thing. Rather, some kind of a UFO club out in Arizona. I read that they had all pitched in and bought this big old telescope and what luck - on their first outing they spotted the damn thing. But it took them nearly a whole month to get up the nerve to mention it to anyone. They said they were not sure what it was and that they didn’t want to embarrass their club. So they ended up asking some astronomy professor in Tucson to tell them what it was. That all happened about two years ago.
I know that I have never given you the complete rundown of these events, so I’d like to fill in some of the missing parts while I have the chance. And as I said, I kind of need to look at the whole thing again, myself. A lot happened and I need to put it down in writing. So If I get too detailed, please be patient. And besides, since you had to hang up your golf clubs, I bet you can use a small "book" to read. Hopefully this will help us both pass the time away. Besides, later I can use this letter as a reference to help me gather my wits for the Krishna Disaster Relief conference I will be attending in January.
Did I tell you that the President of the United States is going to be there? He’s a mighty lucky man. He could have easily been killed. And remember, you’ll be coming, too. You should be receiving your tickets in a few days if they haven’t already arrived.
Where to start? I already mention how that UFO club first spotted the asteroid and how this stroke of luck gave us plenty of time to get ready for it. Of course, at first, nobody was even sure if it was going to hit the Earth but once they knew it was, I got a call from NVOAD letting me know.
I remember that after I hung up the phone, I was just dumbfounded. I mean, you prepare mentally for this kind of thing but you never really expect it. I recall going thru all these strange motions after I got the news - kind of like being in a twilight zone of some kind. I found myself actually doing things that I never really thought I would ever be carrying out. And to live like that for an entire year is something else.
Anyhow, Krishna Disaster Relief sure has come a long way since I wrote its first newsletter nearly twenty years ago. Looking back, now, I can hardly believe all that has happened. I may have had the initial idea - well, even this is not correct. There was another devotee who had also been thinking along these same lines - even before me. His name is Sarva-satya dasa. He and his wife, Kunti dasi, works with the Hare Krishna World newspaper.
To begin with, I can’t escape the fact that once we began to seriously develop Krishna Disaster Relief, it was then that things really started to go well. I had even neglected to mention in my book, Lord Krishna In The 21st Century, the possibility of Krishna Disaster Relief being eligible for United Way funds. It took a little doing but five years ago we got them. Along with the other funding we were receiving, we were finally able to purchase many of the things we needed. And oh yes, there was that million dollar donation from that computer billionaire in China that I told you about.
As you know, dad, one of the difficulties surrounding the asteroid was the fact that nobody knew for sure where the thing was going to strike. Some even said it was going to miss us. But further calculations suggested otherwise. I think this is where my friend, Dr. Jerome Brown, who is the chairman of NVOAD, helped the most. He let me know immediately, once he got word from his contact at NASA, that there was, in fact, going to be a collision. Plus, throughout this drama, he kept giving us the very latest data on the asteroid - when and where it was going to hit and things like that.
But you must realize, dad, they were not certain, at all, where it was going to hit. I think it took about three months of precise calculation to just figure out on what side of the Earth it was going to collide with. Once it was determined that it was going to be on our half of the globe, this is when everybody got excited. At this point in time we were looking at approximately eleven months away from impact.
But again, the exact point was hard to say. They did think, however, that a hit on North America was more likely than the asteroid hitting South America. This was even more ominous news for us. I remember reading some news reports and how it was mentioned that most likely the asteroid would hit out in the middle of the ocean. This is what the odds makers were saying. As for me, I just waited for Dr. Brown to let me know. All I knew for sure was that I had to get things ready. Our call to our Krishna Disaster Relief teams was made.
Where to start telling you about everything that then happened? One thing I do recall is that I kept on taking an inventory of everything we had. I just wanted everything to be safe and ready to use.
You saw the beautiful Krishna Disaster Relief facility in Potomac when you and Sally came out to visit. In the auditorium we had the largest Hare Krishna gatherings ever held in North America. The emotions were running high, but rather mixed, as you can imagine. You can picture how everyone reacted when Dr. Brown stood up and told us that NASA had just informed him that the asteroid was definitely going to hit somewhere in the United States. He said that the area of impact would be known in about 30 days.
Apparently the asteroid had a strange wobble to it that kept changing. Depending if the wobble was to left or to the right when it got here, would determine where it would hit. He said that right now it looked like a dead center hit on America, but with the wobble, it was a plus or minus 1000-mile guess. From that day on, all our meetings were 100 percent business.
By the way, it was so nice to meet many of the wonderful devotees that I had only known by correspondence. I really wanted them to be there with me to help organize our strategy. These were the devotees who spontaneously wrote me way back in the early part of 1990. Being with friends gave me the confidence that we could succeed.
One individual in particular, His Holiness Ganapati Swami, was very instrumental in helping us to organize the events that followed. Because I know him so well, I have always felt comfortable tossing my ideas around with him. When I first met him in 1976, he was managing a rather complex preaching program. It consisted of more than one hundred men traveling around the country in about six converted greyhound buses. This took a lot of coordination to pull off smoothly and this is where I first got to know him. His office was located in the old Manhattan temple and together, three of us were kept constantly on the move, trying to stay up with everything that was going on.
Aware of his gift for managing things, I was really happy to see that he had taken time off from his college program to come to our Potomac meeting. I just felt that if anyone could pull off the logistics that we needed to plan things out, it was going to be him. At first I wasn’t sure if he’d even agree to help, but after he and Dr. Brown had a long talk, there was no doubt about his signing on for the duration. For me, this was the best news to come out of that meeting. Now it was time to do some serious planning. Remember, we barely had five months before the asteroid was suppose to hit.
One thing that we decided early on was to pull out all the stops and give this looming disaster our best effort - taking full advantage of what we had previously accomplished. As you are well aware of, Krishna Disaster Relief had already established for itself an impressive record. Public opinion of Lord Krisha was at an all time high. Especially after we rescued that little girl and her brother only minutes before the building they we in collapsed. I’m sure you remember that—in Florida three years ago when Hurricane Ellen swept thru. Of course, we had no idea that her father was a famous congressman.
Even though we have had our successes, I cannot say that we had ever deployed our entire Krishna Disaster Relief teams, all at once. Besides, it had only been recently that Dr. Patel has indicated that his team of doctors and nurses were finally ready to deploy. But it would only be a short matter of time.
Two months before the astroid hit, we held a practice drill, setting up our field hospital on the huge lawn behind the Dallas temple. Dr. Brown even arranged for some National Guard troops to be on hand to help pitch the tents. There were also other NVOAD agencies participating. In fact, by the time our drill was ready to go, it seemed like the entire city wanted to practice with us. The police, the fire department, the Red Cross - everybody turned out.
Remember the newspaper I sent you with the big picture of us on the front page? Apparently that story was picked up by hundreds of newspapers and this same picture was printed everywhere. When I get back to Potomac, dad, I will send you a copy of the video we made of that drill. It was really something to see. Even the boy scouts got involved, pretending to be injured kids from a school bus that had been blown off the road. The Salvation Army also showed up with one of their big canteen food trucks.
We, too, had one of our new canteen trucks there. I felt a little sorry for the Salvation Army. They were most welcome, don’t misunderstand me, but when everyone saw that we were serving out hot pizza by the slice, it was quite obvious where everyone wanted to eat.
This is the same type of mobile kitchen that you and I had originally looked at back in 1999. Even though we were just window shopping at the time, it was that same San Diego company that built our other two pizza trucks. Wait to you see the video of them. You talk about beautiful. They even have the blue skylights all along the top that we liked so much.
I remember when we ordered them. We had the entire kitchens designed just to make pizza. This is a rather simple thing to make, especially with the right equipment. Hot pizza during a disaster - this is what I had envisioned all along. Hot pizza and lots of drinking water - a combination that has proved to be a home run wherever we show up. Everyone wants our pizza. No one has ever complained about a lack of meat.
With the money we got two years ago from United Way, we also bought a couple of refrigerated trucks to act as supply vehicles for our two canteens. The refrigerator units don’t need to be turned on unless we need them, so these two trucks are quite versatile. Actually, we recently bought a third truck to go along with our field hospital. I never realized that so many medical items have to be kept refrigerated. This third truck is only used in conjunction with our portable hospital because it has to be kept really clean. From the very beginning, Dr. Patel said that he would be keeping a rather large supply of blood and other supplies in it, so the truck couldn’t be used for any other purposes.
You have to see that video to fully appreciate the significance of that drill. For the first time, ever, everyone could finally see the enormous potential that we had achieved for showing the world Lord Krishna coming to the rescue.
Another thing I want to tell you about is our mobile command center. Although it is just a truck with a large cab-over camper on it, it’s packed to the hilt with the latest gear. As you may recall, I mentioned how much I wanted this and boy, did it pay off. I still don’t know how to use everything in it, but believe me, we have got a couple of young folks that do.
Jeff’s father is the vice president of NBC news and behind the scenes they had worked out a direct link between our command post and the NBC news room in New York City. Some of the technicians at NBC showed Jeff how to hook up everything - including a telescoping antenna that comes right out of the back of the camper and goes up into the air about twenty-four feet. This gives Jeff the ability to send live video up to the NBC satellite which then beams it down to New York.
Jeff’s dad even got us a camera to use. You have probably seen them. You have got to rest it on your shoulder. It’s very big. After Jeff replaced a broken switch and a few other parts, the thing worked like new.
Of course, we have a lot more equipment in our command center than just this system, but like I said, it really paid off. Jeff and his dad worked out an exclusive with NBC so that they would be the only network getting our telecast - if there was ever anything interesting to send them. Who would have imagined in a million years what we were able to show the world?
About the other things we have inside the camper - there are about ten different radios - including an ancient CB, our long range handheld radios, special cellphones, and our Homeland Security radio. We have one phone that connects us to the military and one that stays on a special FEMA frequency. Another phone is reserved for the Red Cross. Oh yes, we have two more phones, one just for us to use and another that is hooked up to a mobile computer and fax machine. We also have ham-radio phones and a complete paging system. Wherever we are, with our computers and cellphones we can communicate directly with our Krishna Disaster Relief headquarters. They can then put out press releases, etc.
Jeff and his wife were like two kids at Christmas when I gave them the keys to the truck, about three years ago. They went out and bought an extra large cab-over camper for it and had it custom made just for the purpose of providing us with this command center. It was quite a feat of engineering. They even have a small trailer that they pull behind it. This is where they keep our electrical generator and all kinds of other things.
They even have a large wall tent that they erect once they have parked and set up. This gives them a lot more room to accommodate all the activity that they generate. Right after the asteroid hit, we were the only relief agency with any significant communications equipment working. For a while there I thought the police were going to confiscate our comand post and use it themselves. People ended up giving us so much help that all Jeff had to do was operate the NBC camera.
After the disaster drill I was telling you about, Ganapati Swami began to put together a plan for us. When he got a call from Dr. Brown telling him that the impact was looking more and more like an area around St. Louis, we all decided on a course of action that, unbeknownst to us, would thrust Lord Krishna into the world’s spotlight like never before in the history of man.
Although Dr. Brown had mentioned St. Louis as the most probable place of impact, he also said that the asteroid’s wobble was still a disturbing factor and that a two to four-hundred mile correction in any direction was something that we just had to live with.
He said that in two weeks NASA would know for sure, but by then it would only be hours before impact. After this call, Krishna Disaster Relief began to take on the appearance of an elite commando force, preparing for the very worst. A kind of excitement, filled with danger, seemed to consume us all. This was going to be very risky business. We needed to position ourselves, but as another scientist said on Good Morning America, as the asteroid entered Earth’s atmosphere, the thing could severely alter its course. It could hit just about anywhere in the United States. Even with this uncertainty as a factor that we just had to deal with, we weren’t going to just sit there. A few days later Ganapati Swami began to deploy the first elements of our team.
It was at night that America’s fear was felt the most. They say that you can’t see the bullet that kills you, but in the case of this bullet from outer space, you could. If you stared at it long enough, it could easily remind you of the headlights of a huge locomotive bearing down on you. The question on everyone’s mind was obvious - "am I standing on the wrong track?"
It didn’t take me long to stop looking, though. Sure, everyone took a look at least once a night, but my stiff neck quickly said, "enough." More important was the job we had to do. Besides, time was so scarce that most of us were just too busy to stand around looking up at the sky.
And dad, we all want to thank you for arranging the use of the hanger at that Air Force base outside of Kansas City. We cannot thank you enough. Although the base had fallen victim to the rash of base closings back in the late 90s, it was the perfect place for us. That retired Air Force general you used to play golf with certainly has some pull. After Dr. Brown spoke with base security, they actually gave us a set of keys to the place.
Best of all, this really seemed the perfect spot for us to all rendezvous and wait for the inevitable to happen. So this is the plan we placed into action. We had nine days to get inside the hanger and another two days to wait. General Richmond told me that the hanger was built to withstand a nuclear bomb so what a better place to be?
Let’s see, we had 72 vehicles in our various convoys, and eventually a total of 236 men and women inside the hanger. There were also some military people and equipment inside with us.
So this is what we had to get to Missouri by the 17th of August. First, we had Dr. Patel and his hospital, loaded in a truck driving up from Dallas. There was also all of his staff. They left in a large caravan—everybody and everything leaving together with three days to get there. Dr. Patel had the refrigerator unit on his supply truck turned on and the whole thing was packed with medical supplies. I know that a lot of doors were opened for us to get everything that Dr. Patel needed but again, it helps to know people. Of course, Krishna Disaster Relief belonging to NVOAD certainly helps. This and being directly linked to FEMA and Homeland Security is about the most powerful leverage any disaster relief agency can have in an emergency. And this was certainly that.
The count that Dr. Patel gave me when I met up with him in the hanger was, besides himself, 23 doctors and 47 nurses. At the high school we managed to give him 26 devotees to provide them with any help that they needed. I thought this was a really impressive number of doctors and nurses that Dr. Patel was able to pull together for this. He said hundreds more wanted to come.
Obviously we couldn’t promise his team anything more than tents to live in, but we did promise to keep our second mobile kitchen with the hospital at all times. For all their gear, we a had another supply truck full of tents, sleeping bags, and all kinds of other things traveling with them.
About six years ago a bunch of us were brain storming about an imaginary disaster and had made up a list of items that we thought our teams would need out in the field. This is what our Krishna Disaster Relief facilitator in Dallas used to fill the supply truck with. So that was handy.
In every temple we have a number of devotees actively participating with Krishna Disaster Relief. Mostly they go to meetings with other NVOAD agencies. And they have a manual to go by, which they were able to use, as I just mentioned. Of course, in a situation as we just had with the asteroid, the entire Hare Krishna Movement was mobilized. This is how we got so many devotees to travel with Dr. Patel. So this is what we had coming up from the south.
Out of Denver we had our Krishna Search & Rescue team leave for the hanger. These are some really talented folks and they brought everything they needed. Since they had no idea what they were going to be getting into, they brought the works. They even had a team of dog handlers from Caroline Hebard’s group, volunteering to work with us. Like I said, these are some really fine people. When their convoy arrived at the hanger, they were quite a sight to behold. There were eight trucks, altogether, and two of them were pulling boats. One was even pulling a horse trailer. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that we also had two horses and four German Shepards in the hanger with us when the astroid hit. Besides this search and rescue team out of Denver, we had another 23 devotees and their vehicles from California and Arizona - all of them coming into Missouri from the west. They left together in one big convoy from Denver
With so many people to feed, we pulled our other mobile kitchen up from Florida. Luckily we had a lot of advance notice. Because we didn’t own, outright, enough supply trucks to carry all the provisions needed, we just rented four of them. One of them had a refrigeration unit on it so that we could bring along some perishables. We decided to let this group - headed up by ISKCON’s Food For Life director, His Grace Priyavrata dasa - be our main food supply. This included our two mobile kitchen, the four supply trucks, and twelve more vehicles consisting of some of the best cooks in our movement. Many of them flew into Miami and once assembled, their caravan also began its movement north, toward the base. And let’s not forget the five trailers full of drinking water that we brought. As we soon discovered, without that water we would have been really desperate.
Finally, there was our caravan out of Potomac. I had left much earlier for the hanger in St. Louis because Ganapati Swami thought that I should be there first. He wanted me to meet the Air Force security people and make sure everything was ready for our various teams to arrive. Later, when it was time for everyone from Potomac to leave, Jeff and his wife led the way. General Richmond had assured us that the hanger was going to be plenty big enough to fit everyone inside and once I saw it, any doubts I might of had melted away.
At one time the thing was able to hold two B-52s, so it was really big. As I said, this was before Clinton closed the base down in the 90s. Actually, there were four of these hangers on the base so if we needed, I was told that we could also use one of them.
By this date, we also had a lot of devotees flying into the Washington airport from all over the world. About sixty in all. For instance, Madana-mohana from Russia arrived with eighteen devotees. These are some of our toughest "troops," having braved the war in Chechnya to feed the homeless. I had special plans for them when they got to Missouri. We also had devotees from England, Mexico, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and even China and India.
As you can imagine, Ganapati Swami was really being taxed to coordinate an orderly flow onto the base, so he was staying close to Jeff and his radios. He had his own motor home.
By the way, everyone got to the base on time and later when we looked back at this part of our odyssey, we only had two small problems—flat tires. And guess who had one of them? I’ve learned over the years to always have a good spare.
Speaking about flat tires (and other mechanical problems), my old friend Pari Purna brought his van full of tools as part of the Dallas caravan. He used to fix the buses when he was part of the old Radha-Damodara bus party. With so many vehicles that might break down, I was really glad that he wanted to come along. He is also a computer whiz in his own right.
Dad, if you are amazed at the size of our Krishna Disaster Relief team, so was everyone else. Factually speaking, many more devotees wanted to come. Of course, not everyone could. But who would have ever guessed that we could have used a Krishna Disaster Relief team ten times bigger than we deployed? This is going to be one of the topics discussed when I get back to Potomac.
One thing about Jeff and Ganapati Swami is that they really got along great and between the two of them, back in Potomac, they designed the system that we used to stay in touch with everyone.
I don’t think I had told you this, but Jeff had worked in a radio command post during Desert Storm. I know his military training really helped us get organized.
The first thing they did was place everyone into squads. Just like in the army, we also had squad leaders. What we did, then, was give each squad leader a special cellphone and hand-held radio that Jeff could talk directly to from our command post. It was a ham-radio phone that was completely self-contained and independent of any telephone company. They have a good 50-mile range. We have our own generating system at the command post. This really gave us an edge.
Then - and this is the neat part - Jeff gave each squad member an old-fashion pager. These completed our Krishna Disaster Relief emergency radio system. Again, the pagers were completely independent of any telephone company. Jeff was able to generate our own signals to them. Obviously, during a disaster, electricity and phone systems are the first to go.
So, in this way, using our ham phones and pagers, not a single devotee was left out of the loop. To keep everyone informed and working as a team, from the command post, Ganapati Swami could talk to the squad leaders. We could also page all the squad members with various codes - such as 0808 which meant, "go meet with your squad leader for important information." Altogether we had nineteen squads. This was factually a rather inexpensive way to keep us all in touch. Pagers are really cheap. In fact, Jeff had some of his friends actually make them back in Potomac. Don’t ask me how, but they did it. Jeff had 300 of them packed in a box when he left Potomac. Of course, the ham radios were a lot more expensive but we only needed a couple dozen. That grant we got from The Action Foundation paid for all our radios, and then some.
One thing there wasn’t room for in the hanger were all the vehicles we brought. Besides, none of us wanted to be in a hanger with all those gas tanks if the burning - hot asteroid somehow hit our building - bomb proof or not. Nobody said that the hanger was asteroid proof.
With only two days left before impact, things were really getting intense. A last minute call from Dr. Brown confirmed that our general area was still ground zero. He also said that the asteroid had not broken up into smaller pieces and was a bit bigger than originally estimated. He gave us his blessings and told us to keep him informed as soon as possible.
Well, as we all know now, he was wrong. True, it hadn’t broken into smaller pieces—if you want to call a small skyscraper a smaller piece. Instead, it had only cracked. There was now less than 48 hours to go.
As I have mention earlier, this was the first time that Krishna Disaster Relief had ever fully deployed itself on this magnitude. I never dreamed that one day we would be looking at nearly 300 devotees—checking and double checking—waiting for the inevitable to happen. It was best to keep busy. Our different squads had already been organized and each group was busy getting to know one another.
As far as my final role, I teamed up with Madana-mohana and his men from Russia. Not knowing exactly where the asteroid was going to strike, once we did know from the satellite pictures that Jeff was monitoring, our team was going to be the first to leave the hanger. I was going to be part of our Krishna Search & Rescue team.
One thing that we didn’t have to worry about was any severe weather. A weak cold front was the only thing that we had to keep our eye on and that was still located in Colorado.
Finally my team was set to go. Two years ago I had purchased our five, 4-wheel-drive scout vehicles. We kept them parked in a special garage that we had built in Potomac and they were all in great shape. This has always been my pet project. I just felt that we should have this - the means to get into a disaster area as quickly as possible to assess the situation and direct our main forces, which would be slower getting there. Large trucks certainly can’t travel at the speeds that our scout vehicles can. Next year we have plans to buy a long range helicopter for just this purpose.
Jeff had installed radios for us and he had even put a winch on each of the Jeeps. Inside and on top of them, we had everything that we would need to sustain us for a good two weeks by ourselves, if need be. Complete with extra gas, we were ready to go.
Since our search and rescue team is so unique, we didn’t have separate squads. But we all knew who we were and worked as a team. The Denver search & rescue contingent each had their own radios, as well. We could all keep in touch. The radios worked great. Our vehicles also had global tracking systems installed so that Jeff could monitor and tell our exact whereabouts.
We went to some extra expense here but I thought it was well worth it. Our four vehicles - especially - needed to get out of the second hanger as quickly as possible and direct our relief efforts to the best possible location. Nobody knew for sure what to expect or exactly where to go, but we need to go first. Roads could be washed out or destroyed, bridges down, or fires blocking our path. This is why we had to leave first, even ahead of some of our other search and rescue vehicles. I guess you could say that we were concerned more with the searching part - looking for the best routes to take and where to direct everyone else. If our FEMA and Homeland Security communications were still working, Jeff could feed us information on the best routes to take. So he played a vital role in all of this.
After a final briefing from Ganapati Swami, each of the squad leaders spoke for a few moments. As the asteroid was breaking up in the atmosphere, the most beautiful kirtan I have ever heard was echoing throughout the huge hanger. Even the military people with us seemed spellbound at the wonderful sound we made.
When the asteroid hit, there was no mistaking it. Everyone could feel it. The ground beneath us just shook. Three times we felt it. I could see Jeff’s wife wave at me and I ran over to the command post. Madana-mohana and his men were all set to roll out.
The Air Force base is located about 75 miles from Kansas City, and more than a hundred miles from St. Louis. But I needed to see something first. The satellite imagery we were monitoring couldn’t be mistaken. The worst possible thing that could have happened was right there before our eyes. Both Chicago and St. Louis had taken direct hits. The large asteroid has split up. In fact, St. Louis seemed to have been hit twice. The asteroid had come apart in three pieces. This wasn’t good.
As you well know, dad, the American public was really at a loss as to what to do. Because of the asteroid’s peculiar wobble, NASA was never able to say for sure where it was going to strike. They wanted to, but couldn’t. They kept saying that even their best guess could only pin it down to a four-hundred mile circle. But everyone knew that America was in for it - somewhere. It’s hard to run from something like that. You could be running right into it. Besides, our government quickly put a stop to anyone who was thinking about it. In fact, for the last 24 hours there had been a curfew enacted and nobody was allowed to drive anywhere. They wanted all roads cleared for rescue efforts.
Of course, this didn’t affect us because we were now a part of the government’s relief effort. All of our nation’s top officials inside FEMA, Homeland Security, and the American Red Cross had visited our Potomac facilities. So we were well-known by everyone and more than welcome. Krishna Disaster Relief was on the green list carried by every law enforcement agency in America. As Jeff liked to say, "we were good to go."
Although we had a large group of very talented people assembled there in that hanger - from a brain surgeon to a dog trainer who could find people buried alive - we nevertheless had a specific job to do. I have always said, let us simply show everyone Lord Krishna coming to the rescue - the world’s greatest hero. In a few hours billions of people around the world were all about to meet Him. "Krishna appears as His devotee" made more sense to me than ever before.
Thankfully, the specifics of our rescue effort were not that difficult to understand. This greatly helped everyone make sense out of what appeared as a rather complex gathering of people and equipment, all in a rather odd setting.
Most importantly we wanted to get Dr. Patel’s field hospital set up along with our command post. Also, our two mobile kitchens. This alone was going to keep the bulk of our people busy. We all knew that once we were there, it was going to mean a 24-hour a-day, nonstop mission. Exactly where we were going to set up was the big question.
Oh yes, I forgot to mention that most of our teams traveled by military bus. There was no need for everyone to be taking their own vehicles. The Air Force was also providing us with a small truck fitted with a 500 gallon tank to hold gasoline.
As my team’s four Jeeps roared to life, a lot of things were going through my mind. But those concerns had to be set aside. We needed to get off the base. Everyone there gave us a hardy farewell.
All set to roll, our plan was to get to St. Louis as soon as possible. Along the way, Jeff was sending us reports of massive destruction but details were sketchy. At least the roads were clear. We even had a police escort.
Nearing St. Louis, the sky just didn’t look right. Things were beginning to smell funny, too. What we then did, was split up into three groups—two of the jeeps going south, Madana-mohana going in directly eastward, and my vehicle circling north. Little did we know the incredible events that we were about to find ourselves in.
One of the most difficult things to accept in any disaster is that you can’t save everyone. But if God is the greatest hero, the I feel that this should be our goal. Of course, this is never going to be possible. And this really isn’t even our aim. As Shrila Prabhupada always said, the purpose of human life is to develop love for God. Krishna Disaster Relief is only a means to that end. And a great one, at that. There is no doubt about it, dad. America is standing up for us now in great numbers. The entire world saw what we did. If we can just manage to stay on this path and keep the world seeing Lord Krishna coming to the rescue - I am absolutely certain that we will fulfill Prabhupada’s heart’s desire. We already are.
Another thing you can’t do, dad, is be everywhere at once. The St. Louis area is enormous. As I was wondering what our other scouts were finding, Jeff called over the radio to tell me about a large high school that we needed to get to as soon as possible. He said that he had got a call from Dr. Brown and that FEMA had received word that things there were really bad. It was located outside of St. Louis on our side of the city. FEMA wanted to know if we could check it out.
We decided to let two of our scout vehicles continue with their reconnaissance while my vehicle was to join up with Madana-mohana and his jeep to look for the school. We were only about an hour ahead of our main relief team, but if need be, they would stop briefly for our directions.
What can I say, dad? This wasn’t war, but you know about mass destruction. Eventually I saw parts of the city where everything had been wiped out. There were a lot of fires and our visibility was getting really bad.
Jeff called again and said that our vehicle’s global-tracking unit was telling him that the school was about two miles up ahead. He said that we should be crossing a river right before we got to the school. He also gave us the latest weather update that he had just received from Denver. The cold front would be blowing in that afternoon, but it wasn’t supposed to be a strong storm. Good, maybe it will clear the air.
As we proceeded slowly, I could feel that we were on the edge of something really terrible. Looking back now, I can understand why. When the asteroid entered the Earth’s atmosphere, it broke up into three large pieces. One piece slammed into Chicago, another hit downtown St. Louis. The third punched a hole into the Earth about two miles from the school we were looking for. This high school was between us and the actual point of impact. The closer we got to it the more I could tell that something horrific had happened here. Several times we had to stop because of fallen trees over the road. We used chain saws and our winches to remove the debris so that we could proceed. Behind us and closing fast, the main body of our Krishna Disaster Relief response team needed to know where to go.
The radio in our jeep came alive again and this time it was Ganapati Swami. He said that despite the massive amount of destruction that our other two scout vehicles were reporting back to him, the emphasis he was getting from FEMA was on the high school. Word was that more than half the town had taken shelter in it. He told the other two scouts to concentrate their efforts with us. They would be able to meet us at the school in about forty minutes.
When our two jeeps finally reached where the school was suppose to be, visibility was really bad. Just a lot of smoke and dirt in the air. The twelve of us put on the face masks that we had packed away in Potomac. Thank God for thinking ahead.
Although our global tracking system said we were at the school, exactly where we were at didn’t look like any school that I had seen before. As it turned out, this was because it was nearly buried. But we could see hundreds of parked cars and buses off to our left. Of course. This school would naturally be where all the town’s people would take shelter.
When the asteroid hit, huge amounts of dirt became instantly displaced. Beyond the rim of the crater, what had happened next resembled a large wave out in the middle of the ocean. But instead of water, this wave consisted of massive amounts of dirt and trees and everything else imaginable that was caught up in its wake. Of course it didn’t go on forever. Fortunately, after covering most of the high school it stopped. On our side of the school things were somewhat more recognizable—but destruction was really all around us. But just up ahead and beyond, it looked like total devastation.
We radioed back to the command post, which was proceeding about thirty miles to the west of us. Jeff confirmed our position. I gave him a quick briefing of what we were looking at. Then Ganapati Swami came on and asked us to take a quick look around. They would be monitoring our progress on our ham radios.
With our marching orders given us, the doors of our jeeps flew opened and I motioned for everyone to listen for a few moments. Then I thought I could hear something. It was very quite. Yes, we all heard it.
Honestly, dad, I don’t think it took us long to fully grasp the gravity of the situation inside that high school. I don’t want to get too graphic here but as we spread out toward the sounds, we could sense the panic inside. That was enough for me and a SOS was punched into our phone - which meant: "Bring everybody here just as quickly as you can." With that code, Krishna Disaster Relief was about to deploy its first, full-blown rescue effort, ever.
Several of the Russian devotees had remained by the school to see if they could find a way in while the rest of us quickly did a fast survey of the layout outside. We needed to stake out where to put up the hospital. This was the worst part. When you get to this point, nothing seems to happen fast enough. Especially when you have people desperately in need of help. When we got near the school, the muffled cries inside were overwhelming. But unless we got our site selected and the hospital set up as quickly as possible, nobody was going to get any help.
Suddenly a briskness in the air could be felt and the wind began to pick up. Just in the nick of time.
Right behind our other two jeeps, our search and rescue teams from Denver were the next to arrive. We quickly got them positioned and in no time flat they had unloaded their gear and were off. Then our hospital arrived. Dr. Patel said that the police had already set up roadblocks.
With Dr. Patel and Ganapati Swami giving out instructions, everyone pitched in to set it up. The military troops that had come with us from the base also helped out. We managed to get it set-up on some grass, about a hundred yards from the school. Other sites were better but we didn’t want to set up too far away. A lot of people were going to need to be carried there on stretchers.
All at once, a lot of activity was taking place. Tents were going up, people were yelling, generators were being turned on, some of the injured were already arriving, and various vehicles were being positioned.
In the past we had practiced setting up. As far as things on our end, everything was completed in record time. Arranged in a circle, first we had Dr. Patel’s field hospital. On each side of it, other tents were erected. These were for his staff of doctors and nurses. Again, to the right and left, to complete the semicircle, we stationed our two kitchens. Behind them we parked our supply trucks. Next to each kitchen we had put up other tents where rescue workers could sit for a spell. I had seen this same kind of set up years ago during a fire in Denver. After hours of fighting the fires, the Salvation Army had provided a large tent where the fire fighters could sit down for a half an hour and drink coffee, talk with their fellow fire fighters, and just unwind.
Bringing our circle together, everyone in our team had their personal tents pitched. This was a big circle and in the center we parked Jeff’s command post with its satellite mast and other antennas pointing into the sky. Next to Jeff, Ganapati Swami had his small motor home parked.
As you can imagine, dad, the next twenty-four hours were the most hectic. Our search and rescue team was doing everything possible to pull everyone out of the school. Large parts of it were destroyed. Those people who were not hurt too bad were taken by ambulance to a hospital. But many others were being treated on the scene by Dr. Patel’s staff of doctors and nurses. He was also treating other victims that the police were bringing to us from other locations. Again, thinking ahead, Jeff and his team had marked off a helicopter pad. For what seemed like days on end there was nothing but a constant stream of ambulances and helicopters coming and going. Anything we needed, we got.
But the one helicopter that no one had expected was suddenly on its way. After it was all over, I bet the President wishes he had stayed back in Washington.
Again, it was Dr. Brown who told us to get ready. Of course, by now, the entire world was glued to their television sets, watching NBC’s live news coverage of the events that were unfolding at the high school. Other news groups also had their reporters out covering the damage left by the asteroid, but nothing compared to our pictures. Jeff’s wife was able to send live coverage up to the satellite within a half an hour after first arriving. Our live coverage of the asteroid’s damage was at least two hours ahead of anyone else. In fact, all the other news networks were playing our news footage. The drama, they later said, was the most intense ever witness on TV. Dad, this whole thing was turning out to be far greater than any of us could have imagined in our wildest dreams.
This is why the President of the United States was now about to land his helicopter at the high school. Personally, his arrival, I thought, should have been postponed for a few days. Things were really unstable all around us. After the dam broke, we were even rescuing people by boat. Now this. And poor Jeff - it seemed like our command post was getting a call every minute. Plus, we had the Red Cross using our phones. I know that he never thought he’d be actually speaking to a Marine pilot inside of a helicopter with the President of the United States on board, but he did.
Actually, there were two helicopters in his entourage that needed to land. After the President and his group toured our field hospital, they visited our command center and spoke briefly with myself and Ganapati Swami, thanking us for our tremendous service. The President asked us to visit him at the White House after all of this was over. He seemed sincere in his offer and NBC carried all of this live - even the earthquake that sent the president back into our hospital - but this time as a patient.
Dr. Brown had once mentioned to me the possibility of this happening. The Earth had really taken a strong jolt. Besides the possibility of an earthquake, some people were saying that the Earth’s axis might shift. If that had happened, I wouldn’t be here in India writing you this letter.
And as far as President Howard, the earthquake couldn’t have come at a worse moment. He wanted to go over by the school. This is when all hell broke loose. All of us nearly got it. Compared to him, I was lucky. I just broke two fingers. But his leg was really bad. Dad, it was pandemonium. There were at least fifteen people hurt. To this day, the director of FEMA is still in the hospital. Even Ganapati Swami had to have his head stitched up.
As you know, the President ended up staying in our hospital overnight and now, in just a few weeks, he is going to give Krishna Disaster Relief a special award when he visits Potomac. He told me that he would also like to address the country and give a short talk on the importance of volunteers during disasters. So this ought to be very interesting. I had always thought that the auditorium we built could have been bigger.
Remember to bring your coat because its going to be cold when you get off the plane. It will be great seeing you and Sally again. After I read this over, I will probably have a few more things to add. For instance, I never got to tell you what happened to my friend from Russia, Madana-mohana. But this is all for now. Hare Krishna. With Love, Ronnie
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