Every day about the time that most folks finish dinner and prepare to watch TV go to check for a movie or game or check their email, a hardy group of souls is waking to their alarm clock. They may be reaching for their phone to quiet a buzzer or happy song announcing that it’s time to get up, get dressed, fix coffee and have a breakfast burrito or some other late evening sustenance.

For this group of people work the night shift.

Nurses, doctors, tow truck drivers, Metro drivers, police officers, firefighters, medics and EMTs, security guards, night news reporters, technicians, utility crews and the young and old who work in donut shops, brave the punks and gunmen who might confront them on this shift as they work in a convenience store.

By nine o’clock, they are all on the move. Some have shifts that start at ten, many at eleven and most at midnight. They all work the night shift. Some love it, others hate it, all adjust to the waking in the dark, and going to bed when it’s light outside.  For most, they have no choice, a few select the night shift for a variety of reasons.

Traffic is light going to work. Many start the trek to work in the hills of the Blue Ridge, what students in the ’50s learned in school was the ‘fall line,’ at a time when learning about geography – the names of rivers, seas, mountain ranges, and such things as Piedmont and Tidewater – was significant.  Now people live in such areas as the Tidewater region and may not even know that designation.

Driving from Front Royal, Winchester, Salisbury, Harrisburg, and Hagerstown, they drive to work at jobs stocking shelves at Walmart, making sandwiches at Wawa and changing soiled bedclothes at hospitals. Doctors began to triage gunshot victims in hospitals in Baltimore, Cheverly, Norfolk, Richmond, Washington, and Wilmington.

As the night peaks in the next couple of hours after midnight, the bars let out, the drunks take to the road, many make it home okay, some do not and manage to hit trees, utility poles and careen down embankments while a few smash head-on into other vehicles.  The Grim Reaper is on the night shift too. As the EMT’s, cops and firefighters try to figure out who is still breathing, the Reaper decides who is going with him. The ghoul and the newly dead will make the first stop on the cold hard slab in the Medical Examiner’s office – of course taking a number in the queue of death.

The tow truck drivers roll up with roll-ons and stretch their cables down hillsides and crane and wrench apart metal from impacts which often roared to a stop at over one hundred miles an hour.

Firefighters roar through city streets with sirens screaming, horns blaring and people, dogs, and vehicles scurrying out of their path.  Buildings roaring with flames and billowing smoke making it impossible to see, heroes, don their masks and pull heavy hoses to attack the fire and began a search to save forlorn souls on the verge of giving up hope but holding out for salvation.  Older apartment complexes built before modern construction codes were enacted go off like tinderboxes without any sprinklers to dampen the fire and give residents a chance to flee – but the developer was able to save on the cost of construction. Donating campaign contributions to the politicians to stall or defeat new laws on enacting stricter codes was just a cost of doing business. It was worth the money. But such shenanigans aren’t on the minds of those trying to get out of their burning apartments or the heroes trying to save them.  Just another part of the night shift.

Cops speed towards a bloody scene in a home where a man has finally done it and killed his battered wife. So many times, she didn’t appear in court to pursue orders to keep him away from the family home. She had no choice – how would she make the rent payment, pay for groceries and the car payment and then there was the insurance. He said he would love her forever and never touch her again. Her family told her to leave the S.O.B but where would she go? Her paycheck from her job alone wasn’t enough to pay for her and her three children. If his boss learned that he was convicted of assault, he would lose his security clearance and then his job. So, she didn’t go to court. Now she will meet the Reaper. The cops have him down on the lawn, handcuffed and will have to hogtie him get him to keep from kicking out the side window of the patrol car. She is dead. He will get a public defender, and spend twenty years in prison, the kids will be farmed out to family or foster homes.  On his way home at the end of the shift, a citizen will buy the cop his breakfast in the diner and thank him for protecting the community. Another citizen will mutter the F word and ‘damn cops’ as he leaves to walk to his car for the drive home to sleep.

One such person who works the night shift in the nation is a police officer, Alabama Highway Patrol Sgt. Robert Burroughs, who was at his home on Sunday afternoon, March 3, 2019, when an AF 4 tornado with winds at about 174 mph ripped a swath a mile wide and twenty-four miles long in Lee County.

Mid-afternoon is prime sleeping time for those who work the night shift.

March and April are also prime time for tornados such as the EF 5 that ripped through Southern Maryland on April 28, 2002, killing six people.

Sgt. Robert Burroughs and his family lost everything and almost lost Robby in March 3, 2019 tornado in Lee County Alabama tornado.

Sgt. Burroughs was critically injured, and his wife Sandi suffered minor injuries. Alabama Law Enforcement Agency confirmed he is stationed at the Opelika Post and now is in intensive care at the East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, Alabama. His home is gone, his state patrol cruiser sits off to one side of where his home used to be, with branches strewn across it, but perhaps not totaled.

Sgt. Robert Burroughs, of Alabama Highway Patrol critically injured when tornado ripped through his home on Sunday March 3, 2019.

The family of Sgt. Burroughs has set up a GOFUNDME page to request donations to assist Sandi, and Robby Burroughs recover from their injuries and to rebuild their home. Help Sgt. Robby Burroughs recover his home and go back to work on the night shift.

Thank you for joining us tonight on the Night Shift, we’ll see you next time.

  • THE CHESAPEAKE TALES & SCALES - Short Story collection by Lenny Rudow, Beth McCoy, Capt. Larry Jarboe, John Peterson, Mel Brokenshire, Mark Robbins, Stephen Gore Uhler, Patty Muchow, Ed Laney & Ken Rossignol in Kindle, paperback and Audible

6 Replies to “NIGHT SHIFT

  1. Fascinating, Ken
    Brings back memories
    Great idea — you manage to lift up a carpet or two to reveal the dirt — most of it not pretty
    Folks take a lot for granted.
    We understand tornados — we had an F5 wipe out 45% of the tax base here in Washington, IL, nearly all residences— 11/17/2013 — came within 500 yards of one kid’s house and cut the tops of trees around another kid’s house — one of them is enough — looked like a war zone and, yes, I have seen war zones.
    This is great and fun — I do remember the Shadow.
    Have a great day, Ken

    1. Sam;
      Thanks for the view into the Washington, Illinois twister. In covering the twister in 2002 in LaPlata, I learned that there have been literally hundreds of twisters in Maryland over the decades, as we believed that we only had hurricanes visit prior to that one. Look for the next NIGHT SHIFT this evening. – Best, Ken

    1. Judy; thanks for reading and watching the video column and posting your reaction. The next one should appear tonight as the NIGHT SHIFT comes to work.

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