Organized chaos ensued at Everton Academy moments following Harrison’s announcement.
Unintelligible shouting filled the air of the classrooms, hallways, and other specialized rooms. Students and faculty frantically attempted to contact loved ones, and others glued their eyes to the real-time TV footage of lower Manhattan and the Hudson River.
Matt, meanwhile, continued speaking with Mary on his ultraphone as a forlorn Jesse and Sarah stood next to him, comforting each other.
A hysterical Mary fidgeted with her frizzed hair as she attempted to collect her thoughts and catch her breath. “How do we know they aren’t dead?!” she shrieked.
Matt took multiple deep breaths to avoid overreacting, then sharply looked his sister in her glazed eyes. “Okay,” he replied as calmly as he could, “meet us back at 3003. Maybe if we get away from campus, we’ll have better reception.”
Mary noticed a distraught Sarah, nestling her head on Jesse’s chest. “Sarah, did you reach your parents?!” she asked.
“I’m not getting service,” Sarah quivered. “I think my mom is home but my dad… who knows?!”
“Okay, hold on, I will be there shortly,” Mary replied.
Meanwhile, shrieks and unfettered cries rang out as the first footage of the TSUNAMIBOMB detonation displayed on NOR.
As the bomb detonated in the Hudson River in the general vicinity of One World Trade Center, a shockwave reverberated at light speed, capsizing small boats. Then, a mushroom cloud of water as high as one-hundred feet shot skyward, submerging larger vessels and catapulting them toward dry land at fantastic speeds.
Footage cut to a scene along the West Side Highway. A cruise ship was toppled over the road and crashed into a glass-enclosed building. Crushed vehicles laid beneath the rubble, shattered glass scattered on the roads, and panicked people were running aimlessly. Innocent victims were trapped under random debris.
In Room 3003, some vomited at the sight of the wreckage. Meanwhile, a hush befell the remaining occupants as a speechless Georgina Jackson forlornly clasped her hands over her mouth.
Moments later, a sweaty and pale Mary emerged into 3003 from a frenzy of students and faculty frantically making their way towards the exits.
“I still have service,” she labored as she approached Matt, “but still no answer from mom or dad.”
“Let’s move,” Jesse insisted while holding on to Sarah. “We’ll walk home if necessary.”
“Hovercabs are out of the question too,” Matt stated, “interlink access is down.”
“We will exit the way we came in,” Jesse declared. “God forbid media types ambush me to ask my opinion of this thing!”
Minutes later, Sarah and the Maiths emerged back on Skull Drive under a fitting graying sky, then began a light jog downhill.
Sarah and Mary frantically continued to contact their parents, but to no avail. When they reached the intersection, they stopped and took a glance down Montgomery Drive toward the Hudson River, approximately fifty feet below. Toward their horizon line, Sarah and the Maiths noticed a light deluge of flood water creeping through the streets but mostly settling to a halt at the curbs. Pedestrians feverishly evaded the floodwaters, and faint panicked screams were heard.
Finally, Matt broke the trance when he noticed that interlink service was available on his ultraphone. “I will try calling mom again!” he shouted. “Mary, try dad!”
“I’ll pull up walking directions back to the house,” Jesse said.
Meanwhile, Sarah lagged behind the Maiths. Jesse turned around to notice his girlfriend weeping as she studied the pixilated image before him. His heart throbbed, thinking the worst. He approached Sarah, expecting a revelation of grim and heartbreaking news about her parents. Instead, however, she was staring at photos and video of the destruction in lower Manhattan and New Jersey, then produced video footage of where the Statue of Liberty once stood.
The profound image of the upper half of the copper statue detached from its base and the torch, crown, face, and entire Lady Liberty caricature from feet upward toppled backward onto the concrete walkways of Liberty Island and a portion of New York Harbor was too much for Sarah to bear. When Jesse saw the images, and noticed the scroll at the bottom of NOR’s live feed reading THOUSANDS PRESUMED INJURED IN NEW YORK, he fell to his knees. His heart and mind felt crushed, and his brain felt eradicated or rational or irrational thought.
“Was Sarah Boynton right?” Sarah quivered to Jesse.
“She may have been,” Jesse spluttered.
“All ego-driven municipalities will eventually face resistance from outside forces, good or evil, and its followers will face the ultimate test of goodwill, strength, and resolve. Those were her words in her first manifesto.”
“It… makes sense now… holy God…”
Sarah crestfallenly collapsed into Jesse’s arms again, releasing an unfiltered deluge of tears from her eyes. Jesse gritted his teeth and squeezed her tight, reassuring her everything will be fine. Mary and Matt then frenetically signaled Jesse and Sarah to hurry along.
“Come on, Sarah,” Jesse whispered in a muffled plea, “we need to move. You need to keep trying your parents. Please.”
“I’m scared, Jesse,” Sarah shuddered.
“I know,” Jesse replied. “Me too.”
Sarah then peeled her face away from Jesse’s tear-saturated shoulder, and she aggressively puckered her lips against Jesse’s fire-red left cheek. After a five-second canoodle, Sarah again pressed her head against Jesse’s shoulder and thanked him.
Then Jesse, without hesitation or thought, whispered words that flowed naturally out of his mouth.
“I love you,” he whispered.
“What?” Sarah whispered.
Jesse did not construe Sarah’s apparent ignorance of his barely audible words as offensive. Instead, he produced a confident, assuring smile as he looked into Sarah’s eyes.
“Let’s just start walking,” he softly replied.