The powerful roar of the crowd was so intense, no one heard the explosion. All eyes were on the ball flying over the center field wall. A rookie short stop clinched the World Series for a team that started the season in last place.
As celebrations broke out on and off the field and fireworks filled the sky, a rapidly spreading catastrophe escalated behind-the-scenes.
It didn’t take long for an army of state and local police, sheriff’s departments, firefighters, military personnel, FBI officers, EMTs, ambulances and emergency vehicles to surround the ballpark and patrol the stadium that contained over 40,000 seats. Every available K-9, accompanied by their handler, searched for explosives as well as victims. All doors, openings and hallways were sealed off, to include both dugouts leading to the team locker rooms.
The players were the first to realize something was wrong when they weren’t allowed to leave the field. Reporters were denied access to interviews and the considerable number of security personnel surrounding the grounds suggested a dangerous situation was taking place.
Ear-piercing squeals coming from the PA system made everyone look toward the press box. Then, a deep voice bellowed:
“ATTENTION!! ATTENTION PLEASE!! It’s critical that everyone listen to what I have to say!”
With the exception of a few random shrieks, the massive stadium was amazingly quiet.
“I’m Special Agent Baldwin of the FBI. It’s imperative that you remain calm and seated. What we know so far, is that a bomb was detonated at the front of the stadium causing considerable damage and injuries.”
As fear spread and isolated outbursts occurred Agent Baldwin tapped on the microphone. The loud noise that followed helped re-focus the crowd on his message.
“We need each one of you to maintain self-control! You must heed all directions and warnings from authorities. There are law enforcement officials wearing neon arm bands on every level and section of the stadium. When your area is deemed safe to exit, an officer will escort you from the building. Until then, you will receive updates as they become available. Again, for the safety of every person in this ballpark, please help one another to use restraint and stay vigilant.”
Agent Baldwin stepped away from the microphone, obtained relevant briefings from other agents and was advised to proceed to ground zero.
Standing next to Baldwin was his partner of six weeks, Special Agent Justice. If he had his say, Baldwin would never have chosen a female co-worker. Not because he was sexist, but over the span of his 18-year career, he’d only been assigned to work with males.
“Let’s go!” ordered Baldwin, with Justice falling in line beside him. Getting to the front of the stadium wasn’t easy, as detours prevented them from taking the most direct route. Just before passing a police dog and his handler searching for explosives, Justice pulled ahead of Baldwin, grabbed the dog by his lead and forced him and his handler to retreat. Within seconds a bomb went off causing notable damage to the ceiling and walls.
“Oh my God Justice! You saved their lives! How did you know there were explosives there? That dog hadn’t even detected anything yet,” remarked Baldwin.
Justice wasn’t one to say much, but appreciated being recognized for her exceptional abilities.
Maybe there was something special about having a female partner after all, Baldwin thought.
“We can’t thank you enough Justice! Let’s go Gunner, we have a lot of work to do,” said Officer Lewis.
After finally reaching the front of the stadium, Baldwin and Justice stared at the devastation, noticing numerous dead bodies and others being carried away on stretchers. A steady stream of ambulances came and went, transporting the injured or providing medical treatment on site. K-9 teams continued searching for survivors as well as the dead, while others were assigned to hunt for the presence of explosives.
Justice looked directly at Baldwin as a large, unconscious man on a gurney was about to cross their path. Within seconds Baldwin got a feeling he had to intervene before the man was taken to the hospital.
“Hey! Stop right there!” Baldwin hollered, holding up his badge. “I’m with the FBI.”
The two men, doing their best to move a heavy patient, seemed more than willing to take a break.
“Back away from the gurney,” ordered Baldwin, as he dialed a number on his phone.
Within moments, the bomb squad arrived. They took control of the area and implemented procedures to determine whether or not the man was wearing a suicide belt. Baldwin’s hunch was correct.
After the explosives were diffused, the suspect was taken for medical care under police escort and Baldwin and Justice walked away in silence. Stopping in mid stride, Baldwin turned to Justice and said, “You knew that man was wearing an IED and telepathically sent me a signal so I could do something about it. If not for you, … I don’t even want to think about what would have happened. We’re a great team, and I couldn’t be prouder to be your partner.”
Before Justice had a chance to respond, what appeared to be an orchestrated set of explosions echoed from inside the stadium. Emergency personnel streamed in as desperate fans did whatever they could to fight their way out.
Baldwin began to bolt toward the chaos, but a tug to his left arm made him stop and turn around. Justice was no longer beside him, but running as fast as she could in another direction. Baldwin knew Justice was on to something, so he sprinted after her.
Gasping for breath, Baldwin stopped in the middle of the stadium’s enormous parking lot. Without exaggeration, he estimated there were hundreds of law enforcement personnel working as quickly as they could to inspect thousands of vehicles. All he was looking for was Justice, and she was nowhere to be found.
After walking through row upon row of cars, Baldwin leaned against a grey, windowless panel van while trying to figure out why Justice would have run off without him. The answer came quickly, when something pawed at his ankle.
Baldwin pulled out his service pistol and inched his way to the back of the van. One of the double doors was ajar and he heard occasional rustling sounds. After briefly locking eyes, Baldwin yanked the door open and Justice leapt in. She had the person inside on his back in seconds. Baldwin handcuffed him before calling for back-up.
A few days later, Agents Baldwin and Justice stood before Supervisory Special Agent Phillips in a conference room filled with representatives from the FBI and other agencies involved in the recent attack.
Special Agent Phillips declared, “Thanks to the both of you, thousands of lives were saved as a result of your extraordinary actions. The leader of a home-grown terrorist organization was captured as was the man remotely detonating bombs planted throughout the ballpark.”
Following enthusiastic applause and cheers, Special Agent Phillips continued, “Therefore, I’m honored to present you with the FBI Medal for Meritorious Achievement.”
With the entire audience on their feet, Baldwin accepted his award with a smile and a handshake. Justice remained still when the award was placed around her neck, then looked at Baldwin to receive a well-deserved scratch behind the ears.