In retrospect... Your call cannot be completed...

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March 25th 2013
Published: March 25th 2013
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Letter No. 2: Your call cannot be completed . . . because the telephone building burned down

By David J. Jenkins, USU class of '98

December 8, 2004 � Hello everyone. Greetings from Baghdad . . .

I emerged from "the house" early one morning, about 0400. I was going to the phone center to make a call, and as I exited the building, I looked up to see a huge plume of white smoke rising into the air, into a cloudless blue sky, with the full moon behind it, giving this rising mass an iridescent glow.

I continued on across the complex and as I rounded 1st Cavs building, I could see the yellow and white lights bouncing off the buildings like a pinball machine. I contined on and rounded the last building to see the fire truck next to the phone center. The emergency lights were spinning, spinning, spinning. White, yellow, white, yellow, white. . . .

As I approached what used to be the phone center, I could see the charcoal remains of the building, the flames still jumping around off the corners of the building -- licking the night air, reaching for the palm trees adjacent to the fallen structure.

I stood there with other onlookers. It is surprising how many people are awake in a military community at 0400. We watched as the Iraqi Fire Department ran around trying to extinguish the blaze. It reminded me of my youth and attending the circus. The clown fire engine enters center ring. Fourteen clowns emerge from a postage stamp-size fire engine, running around, bumping into one another.

This Iraqi clown, I mean, fireman, grabbed the hose, ran up and began spraying water into the inferno.

This lasted all of about three seconds . . . then . . . nothing. Someone forgot to fill the main resevoir of the fire truck with water.

The firefighters dragged the hose back to the truck (all the while, the flames are bouncing around, taunting them). The driver started the big monstrosity, slllllooooowwwwlllllyyyyyy backed it up, turned it around and vanished between the buildings. In the meantime, two Iraqi gentleman were continuing their own efforts, running up with buckets, pouring the water on the charcoal (it was too hot to get close enough to actually douse the flames). A few minutes later, the truck returned and the clowns started the show all over again; everything but the bucket filled with confetti.

The fire eventually burned itself out, and we are now without a phone center. However, with how the Iraqis work, there will be a replacement, I am certain, within a few weeks.

Best wishes and God Bless,

Cpl. David J. Jenkins
Oregon Army National Guard, 2-162 Infantry


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