The Mayans were right; Friday December 21st 2012 was the day our lives changed. I had been down in Beaufort, South Carolina, doing my annual recurrent training for the aircraft I flew and was driving home that afternoon. It was a 5-hour trip to my house in the northern suburbs of Atlanta, but as it turned out, I would not make it home that evening.
As we now know the planned satellite launch by North Korea was in fact a preemptive strike on the US. A moderate yield nuclear device was detonated high in the atmosphere over the mid-Atlantic states generating an Electromagnetic Pulse which destroyed most non-hardened microelectronics East of the Mississippi. I saw the flash to my right through the trees flanking US 278, and my car died.
I cannot recall my exact emotions, but I am confident I knew exactly what it was and I had a pretty good notion of the immediate consequences, though the long term ramifications were not entirely clear to me at the time. I sat in the car for a while before I began to plan. My objective was to get home to my family, almost 300 miles away. I had no way to contact them but I was confident they would be able to survive the coming crisis without me; there was plenty of food and water in the house, my wife was a capable woman and the children, pre-teens all, were mature and sensible. But it would take me at least 2 weeks to walk home and a lot could happen in 2 weeks.
When the engine died I had managed to coast the car off to the side of the road. I could see about a quarter of a mile in each direction and there were no other cars within sight. In a way I was glad of the immediate solitude as I really did not want to hear other travellers' thoughts and feelings and then hysterics as the situation slowly dawned on them. I just wanted to get a head-start on moving. My first priority was to assess my location and immediate needs. Then, from the items I was carrying in the car, I could decide what to keep and what to discard.
For most of my adult life I had taken to carrying an emergency cold weather kit in my car; mostly warm clothes, a flashlight and some basic survival gear. My wife had often made fun of it, but I persisted; even if she would not countenance such a thing in her car.
"We live in the South," she would say, "what do you need it for?"
Actually, I had determined it was equally useful to carry the emergency kit all year round and I supplemented it with appropriate gear as the seasons changed. Be prepared is not just a cute phrase; it is a state of mind.
Clearly, the contents of the emergency kit would form the basis of my traveling gear, and I had my work rucksack; a small blue and black backpack with a fraying shoulder strap, but eminently serviceable if not overloaded. the one thing I really wished I had was a firearm; I had a knife in the emergency kit, bu the guns were all at home. Because I'd driven down to recurrent training directly from work, I had needed to comply with the company policy prohibiting weapons being carried onto company property even those secured in personal vehicles. The risk of losing one's job outweighed the safety issue, or so I had thought. I had considered secreting the shotgun under the rear seat and risking it for the day I drove to Beaufort, but decided against it; I was beginning to regret that decision.