You know as well as I do that the world as it is requires hard, sometimes terrible choices. I don't have to give you examples. You understand. Survival is the bedrock element upon which everything we do is based. Without that as our driving force, we would make mistakes too large to live through. Pretty much every other thing going on in New Haven at the moment--the expansion, the Exiles, food struggles, and even the new plague--is out of my thoughts. Instead I'm focused on a tragic situation that nearly took my breath away when I learned of it.
And I am not alone in this. Most of the citizens here are heartbroken at the moment. Not just because of the bad news at the root of our sadness, but at the necessary decision that came as a consequence of it.
About an hour before dawn, a messenger arrived from Louisville. I've been negligent in mentioning the Louisville crew for a while now. They've been trying to grow much as we have, taking in people from the outside and working to build a serious central location for everyone to live in. Somewhere they can farm and defend, somewhere rock solid and safe.
It was going well enough until the new plague hit them. The Louisville group suffered some harsh losses, but managed to keep attracting newcomers. After all, the plague was everywhere. No harm in bringing people in when everyone is already getting sick.
After Kincaid's idea to burn the illness away with saunas spread, our friends in Louisville began to improve, then prosper. They treated their ill and moved into their new home, a location I still plan to keep secret. The messenger this morning brought dire news, a quick and mournful shift in their fortune.
Much as we've seen here on a very small scale, the people in Louisville have come through the new plague more prone to catching an illness. Someone must have carried a nasty bug in with them, because in a matter of days more than three quarters of their population have developed serious symptoms. Maybe not so bad in a world with hospitals, abundant doctors, and facilities to produce medicine...but in the world that is, bad enough to cause a lot of worry. Vomiting and diarrhea, sharp fevers and profuse sweating, weakness and a few others. Very, very easy to spread, and with all the hallmarks of an outbreak of a nasty flu.
Their community has gone from growing to a grinding halt in half a week. Without the kind of infrastructure we've built here and with so many people sick, life in Louisville has become nearly impossible. The sick people rely on those still well to make them food, keep them hydrated. Water there is easy to get from the river, but needs to be filtered and purified to drink. That takes time and energy, and when three of four people are on their backs, the rest become overwhelmed quickly.
Naturally the messenger asked for our help. We had to turn him away. While we have extra people here, probably enough to see them through this crisis, we simply can't risk it. Sure, putting off our expansion plans to give some help wouldn't be the end of the world (again) but our immune systems are likely just as compromised as theirs are. Anyone we might send to Louisville would probably end up sick, and would bring that home to us.
I was with Will when he gave the messenger the council's decision. No one from New Haven would be sent to help. Any citizen could choose to go of their own free will, of course, but they would not be allowed back through our gates for at least sixty days. A long time to make sure that any sickness wouldn't be carried back here, but again a needed precaution. So far, no one has volunteered to go.
I don't like it. No one likes it. I know that we might be consigning good men and women, people who have fought by our side, to a slow and painful death. Tears keep trying to form in my eyes as I write this, because I know that many of them probably hate us for this. I would hate us, too, even knowing how hard this decision is.
I'm reminded of a very early lesson back in college. My primary teacher in my Fire/Rescue classes told us that the first duty of a firefighter is to survive. The job, he said, was to save lives if possible but also to manage risk. Danger is an acceptable part of the situation, but there are degrees. You might go into a burning building to try to rescue a person, but when the floor ahead of you falls away, it's time to back out and cut your losses. Your life isn't less important than those of the people you're trying to help.
Risk is fine. Every day we live is filled with it. But something like this, something so potentially deadly to so many of our people, isn't acceptable. I write that with a heavy heart and more sadness than I can express in words, but also with resolve. I hope the Louisville folks pull through, and if we can think of ways to help that don't expose us to the disease rampaging through their ranks then I'll be the first to volunteer to go.
Until and unless that happens, I'll keep them in my thoughts. Because for now, that's about all I can do.