I made my way up the stairs. Two young men with rifles, wearing FSLN insignia, hurried in my direction. I pointed to my press pass and made sure that the Canadian flag sewn to my backpack remained in open view, but they completely ignored me.
Being neither a journalist nor a Canadian, I was happy about that. I had false papers and identification, but it would take little research to discover that I held American citizenship and had studied business, not journalism. I made my way to the roof to take pictures of the Guardia leaving or being killed, whichever happened. Those pictures might be worth a hefty sum in the days ahead.
"Here in Managua, it's already begun to get uncomfortably hot," I continued. "From beyond the airport, I can hear gunshots being exchanged between the Guardia and the rebels as high noon draws close. That's when the Guatemalans will start airlifting the Guardia. Barriers between the airstrip and the rebel positions around the airport keep the enemies apart–for now. The FSLN hasn't officially arrived in Managua: so far, their supporters are respecting the 'Free Zone' designated by the Red Cross. I can't see where the gunfire is originating yet, but the Guardia on the airstrip is in serious trouble if the airlift doesn't start soon. They must feel abandoned. They have been defeated by the Sandinista Coalition and betrayed by Somoza, who fled days ago."
I stopped in front of a wide brown sign, with 'ROOF' hand-painted on it in both English and Spanish. Behind me in the corridor, which led to the observation platform, another sign read 'Offices of Nica Airlines - Employees Only.' I peaked in and looked around. I saw that it had been ransacked, and heard a moan. In the middle of the floor lay a short, stout man in a pool of blood. He was partly obstructed from my view by a desk and a large open safe, but I went in and crouched beside him. "Can you hear me?" I whispered, staring at the blood on his clothes.
"I've been shot," he moaned with a whimper of pain, but managed with difficulty to lift his balding head to look at me. His English was without a trace of an accent. His body had blood coming from his legs, arms, and chest. I could see that he was possibly dying, and I was terrified by the sight of it.
"I'll get help," I promised.
"You're American," the man gasped. "Don't go. Sandinistas did this, after they robbed me. If you go to them, they'll come back and finish me."
I felt adrenaline rush through my body. Could it be true?
I bent toward the man's ears and lowered my voice. "The building is in rebel hands. I'll get a cart or something. I can't possibly carry you all the way out of here myself."
I hurried out and made my way down the hall. I remember being struck by my own mortality, and I thought fearfully of leaving him to die. "Reconsider what you're doing," I whispered to myself.
Indeed, I even stopped for a second. I had already heard whispers that the rebels had begun to arrest many of the old supporters of Somoza. "Perhaps this guy you are trying to help is one of them," I said to myself. I scratched my head. "Let the Sandinistas look after it," I urged my cowardly self. "It's really not your problem."
I began to walk again, dragging my feet, and soon I saw several small airport carts. I took one of these and returned to where I had seen the wounded man, cursing myself. Inside the room, I stepped over to him and again crouched. "What's your name?"
Although the man's eyes were closed, and he appeared to be listless, with a gasp he whispered, "Alfonso Memorio."
"Are there any blankets or towels in the office?"
He indicated a cabinet to his left with a weak gesture. I rose and soon found clean grey wool blankets. I placed a small filing box into the cart to level it out to its sides, and then placed one of the blankets over it. I put my arm under him and felt the wet blood. A shiver went through me. With difficulty, I raised him to the cart. He groaned in pain. I threw the other blankets over him and pushed him down the hall to the stairwell. His clothes were covered in blood, as now were mine. "There's no ramp," I whispered. "Hold on."