SUNDAY OF MEMORIAL weekend was the day we’d decided on as “D” Day…Unbeknownst to us, good ‘Ole Mother Nature had her own “D” Day in mind; A FREAKING Tropical Depression (I actually don’t know WTH it was BUT I don’t think it had a name!)! Of course a little TD wasn’t going to stop us…OK, SO I was going come Hell OR High Water, Literally…It was the Bestie who wasn’t so sure. I spent Friday checking the Marianna weather report hourly. I then spent Saturday checking the weather every 10 to 15 minutes! Rain! NOT just a summer shower OR a few sprinkles off & on BUT torrential, sub tropical, ALL DAMN DAY rain! Even worse, was it wasn’t just our area it would be state wide. Our area would get the brunt between midnight & 8am but the bans of the storm would be reaching Jackson County before we did! The ONLY glimmer of hope was that the hourly weather forecast for Marianna had wild mood swings….It would be an 80% chance of strong wind & storms at 10am but 11am it would drop to 20% for a couple of hours before picking back up again! I didn’t care, I was going for it. No…Matter…What.
SUNDAY MORNING WE got up early & of course a look out the window confirmed the weather report. It was pouring! I’m stubborn, I didn’t care what was going on outside…Like I’ve said tons of times in the past & will probably repeat a billion more times, my Bestie is NOT just a trooper, she’s a freaking Saint!! I ONLY got a couple of eyerolls before we both grabbed our stuff & made our way to the car. We made one stop for much needed coffee & we were officially on the road.
MISMATCHED SOCKS & A NEED TO PEE!
TAMPA TRAFFIC IS never fun, even under the bluest of skies & the best circumstances, so I fully prepared myself for the normal annoying delay. It never happened! We drove through Tampa with little issue & by the time we were about an hour into the drive, the rain was mostly a light drizzle. We were really close to the Bestie’s house & since 50% of us had to take a bathroom break while the other 50% discovered that she had accidentally packed 2 different socks, we decided to stop. Pulling into her driveway we noticed that not only had the rain stopped but we could see an occasional break in the clouds. For the first time in days, I took a breath & felt kinda relieved. Maybe things were working out. A few minutes later we were back on the road & the remainder of the drive was pretty smooth. As the Marianna exit sign came into view, anticipation was high. We jumped off the interstate, onto the now familiar SR 276 & within minutes the school came into view. This was it…What did Dozier have in store for us today?
STANDING OUR GROUND ON THE GROUNDS…
WE HAD LITERALLY been on the North Campus property when we noticed that we were not alone. Further up the hill we could make out a man & woman standing near a brown car. They appeared to be looking at one of the buildings & they kept the car running. We pulled over in front of the dog rescue, got out & immediately locked eyes with the couple. The chess match began instantly…We stayed standing in place for several minutes, as did they, each of us not willing to concede. They finally started walking to their car & got in, driving slowly back down the hill…They would have to pass us to go anywhere else, no way around it…So, I decided to offer up a white flag, walking up the sidewalk to the door of the dog rescue. I wasn’t sure who they were OR why they were there BUT maybe if they thought we were just checking out the rescue, they’d finish whatever they were doing & leave. As I was walking back to the car, not only did I see the couple still sitting in their running car but I noticed a long, grayish stick stretched out across the sidewalk…Except it wasn’t a stick, it was a freaking snake…WTH?!?! It didn’t even move when I started walking, giving me no choice but to step over it! I did my Forrest Gump run, knees to chin, waving my hands over my head like a crazy person. The Bestie was sitting in the car & didn’t even bat an eye at my insane antics. The good news is the couple in the car finally started driving down the hill, probably thinking they were seeing an escaped mental patient doing the crazy dance! We watched them drive past us & right off the property. GOOD, we won…Well, Kind of….
PICK A DOOR VANNA!
WE DECIDED TO continue up the hill, to the hospital. We pulled the car into the grassy area, jumped out & I showed her the place in the bushes where a tree had squashed a section of fence down. Problem number 1: Florida loves its vegetation & it had not spared the North Campus of Dozier. We kept getting tangled up in vines & smacked in the face with branches…An issue I didn’t have when I was there in February. I grabbed the metal fence post & hauled myself up & onto the rotting tree trunk, slowly inching my way to the other side. You could definitely feel that all of the water saturating the trunk had weakened there were a few steps I took where pieces snapped off under my feet but I finally jumped down on the other side. The Bestie had the same issue getting across but after a couple of minutes we had both made it to the other side…And there it still stood. The hospital building. This time I had backup & would get to see all of the rooms that I had previously skipped! Jesus, I had absolutely NO idea the amount of disturbing things we were about to lay eyes on. I told the Bestie to pick a door to start with & she ended up picking the same door that I had on my last trip, the one that you step through into a long dark hallway.
THE HORRORS OF THE PAST
ONLY 4 STEPS inside & we were at the 1st door. An office, the same office that I was in before. We could hear the rain starting again & the wind picking up. Because of the bad weather, it was quite dark inside. We were armed with our flashlights & lanterns & my personal favorite, the 2 prong, metal, extendable hot dog roasting sticks that the Bestie had brought along as protection…She’s very forward thinking!
THE DOOR TO the office was in the exact position it had been in 2 months prior; Half open so that you could just make out the rusted metal desk at the back of the room & some of the debris on top but not really open enough to see the entire room, including behind the door where I knew there was a closet. One of us shined a flashlight through that crack while the other shined a flashlight inside the room, inching the door open. After what felt like an hour, we finally stepped inside & it was just as I remembered it…Dirty, Dank & still littered from top to bottom with old school paperwork. This time the Bestie opened that closet door & What sat inside didn’t just turn our stomachs but literally made my skin literally crawl…
THINGS JUST GOT REAL
STANDING OVER BY the desk, trying to pick up ANY paperwork I could get my hands on, I hear the Bestie say “Holy Shit!” Most would quickly run across the room, anticipating what they were going to see BUT I have been on the receiving end of plenty of Bestie “Holy Shits” & ALL of them didn’t end well for me (Graveyard dirt in mouth, full apparition jumping into the grave next to me…I could go on BUT you probably get my point!) So I literally tiptoed slowly to the other side of the room. What the Hell did she find?? I was muttering to myself “Please don’t be a body OR body parts OR…WTF IS THAT?? It was an old, metal exam table crammed into the closet! Jesus Christ!
I STARED IN shock at it for several minutes before taking a few steps back. As I did my foot connected with something metallic that made a clanging noise when it moved. I shined my flashlight down on the concrete floor & identified what had made the noise & just as I reached down to grab one of the rusty, spikey objects the Bestie walked over & says “That looks like a stirrup!” A stirrup, possibly for an exam table? A quick Google search confirmed it. Those hadn’t been on the floor when I was here last time, so it was safe to assume that someone had been in the building in between my last trip & now & they had definitely been doing more than just looking around.
***Side Note…I was later able to date the exam table & stirrups to between the mid 1960’s to the early 1970’s.***
WHAT ELSE WOULD WE FIND?
WANTING TO ESCAPE from room number one, we cut through the dirty little attached bathroom & entered room number two. It was just as tattered but 3 times the size of the previous. It was also a bit more bright, making it easier to see our surroundings. Another old metal desk sat on the far wall & as I moved toward it I could see some type of book sitting on top. It was a bible. It was torn in half & the pages were damp. I recalled something I’d read saying that each new student would be given a new bible the day of arrival. Deciding it could be important, I took out a zip lock bag & gently placed both halves into it. There wasn’t much more to see in this room so we moved through another door, taking us back out into the dark hallway. The rain was still coming down as we walked down the hallway & through an old rotting door, into the final room. There wasn’t much to look at inside but it was still a mess. There was an old wooden school desk & several broken doors.
THE BESTIE DECIDED that it would be a great idea to step down on one of those doors, causing both of us to jump when a loud shatter of broken glass echoed through the room. Apparently, the old door had been a pane of glass at the top & when she stepped down it was so brittle that it just broke apart.
WHEN WE FINALLY left the room, we had 2 options…Go back out the same way we came & reenter the middle area from the 2nd door outside OR go out the back area down some concrete steps to see what we could access from behind. We chose the latter option & exited the rear of the building into the rain.
I HAD NO clue what we would find from this point on as I was now also seeing things for the 1st time….BUT I can say we were in for quite an eye opening & sometimes disturbing remainder of the day.
TO BE CONTINUED….
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