I was out at Portland International Raceway
this morning, in the rain, talking to Darryl Madden, a FEMA public-affairs official. Behind us, a few hundred yards away and completely off-limits to anyone not involved in TOPOFF 4, the enormous counterterrorism exercise
going on in Portland this week, were several fire trucks, ambulances, and emergency responders, moving fairly slowly and looking wet.
Madden, who it appears from a quick Google search has spent a lot of time answering tough questions for FEMA down in New Orleans, seems to be in charge of coordinating all the media opportunities for TOPOFF 4. He had just finished a brief press conference giving a rundown of the morning's action at PIR, and I had missed the beginning of this press conference after taking a wrong turn off Columbia Boulevard.
I had approached him a little bit timidly, because in the press conferences he's been very no-nonsense, but it turns out he's an amazingly nice guy. He informed me that the people in uniform and haz-mat suits behind us were responding to the "dirty bomb
" we've been waiting for, which finally went off at 9:06 this morning, about 90 minutes earlier
. He then pulled out his cell phone and showed me a video of this bomb going off (which I'm sure will be all over the news today). On his phone, I watched a pretty small explosion
, which, since none of the responders were on the scene yet and the whole scene had already been meticulously planned out, must have been staged specifically for TV cameras.
But anyway. Here are the basics. There was an explosion. Emergency responders, who were stationed an appropriate distance away, barreled onto the scene
and set to work taking care of victims (actually just actors who assumed their places on the ground a few minutes after the explosion) who had been hit when the MAX train (actually a bus with the letters MAX scrawled on its back) going across the Steel Bridge (actually just a giant field miles away from downtown), exploded.
Here's some video I took of the scene to try and give some sense of what was going on out there. Keep in mind, this is 90 minutes after the supposed bomb went off, changing the lives of everyone—
both in Portland and across the country—forever
As you can see, the excitement and tension was overwhelming at PIR this morning. You could feel it from across the raceway.
From there, everyone headed up to OHSU, where they had taken some of the victims of the bombing to a decontamination tent, and where we got to hear doctors and TOPOFF officials talk about how valuable
this exercise is for them.
Here's one more clip, of a radiation "victim" being urgently cared for:
I'm not sure what happened from there, because the lens of the camera got too foggy
. But when he came out the other end of the tent, he did have a shirt and pants on.
This afternoon: Mayor Potter and Gov. Kulongoski
(or maybe two guys with "MAYOR" and "GOVERNOR" scrawled on their backs) speak!