Ilene Goldsmith thought she had everything she needed when she arrived on the Mall at 10 a.m. to await the Beach Boys concert: loose clothing, a hat, soft drinks.
But after three hours in the sun and 80-degree heat, she felt faint.
For Goldsmith, 22, of Potomac, and hundreds of others on the Mall yesterday, relief was under two yellow-and-white striped tents.
There Red Cross volunteers stood ready to minister to all the casualties of the celebration: heat exhaustion, cut feet from stepping on glass, injuries from altercations, and side effects of alcohol and drugs.
The first victim showed up at 9:30 a.m., 1 1/2 hours before opening time. "Cut finger, as a matter of fact," said Maynard Rathbone (Pete) Cooper, one of 35 volunteers staffing the Red Cross station behind the stage. "Right to the bone." The injured man, he said, "doesn't know exactly how it happened."
By midafternoon, 183 persons had been seen at the two first aid stations near the Washington Monument; 30 of them were taken to area hospitals. Last year, more than 1,000 were treated.
"I'm surprised there aren't more people here," Goldsmith said, tugging at her "Yuppie" T-shirt as she looked around the first aid area. "There are a lot of drunk people out there."
With hours to go before the scheduled 8:30 p.m. appearance of the Beach Boys, Goldsmith had been warned to stay clear of caffeine-laden sodas and now was recovered enough to rejoin the crowds.
"There are a lot of bodies being abused out there," said Cooper. Still, he said, "It looks better than last year to me."
By 2 p.m., the first aid station was packed with people. For those suffering heat problems -- most of those who went to the tents -- volunteers checked vital signs, supplied ice packs and spritzed water from a spray bottle. In one five-minute period, a teen-age girl toppled over in a faint and had to be carried to the tent, another was driven in on a U.S. Park Police cart and three more in bathing suits wobbled over, two saying they felt sick.
"I'm glad there's something around here like this," said Jennifer Niccolls, 16, of Leesburg, as she waited for her friend, Denise Ambers, 16, to recover from heat exhaustion. "It was scary," Ambers said after resting on a cot for an hour. "I thought I was going to faint."
As she waited, a bare-chested youth appeared at the tent with a badly cut lip. A thick bandage was applied. "Looks like he was standing up when he should have shut up," commented Red Cross volunteer William G. Walsh, a Navy industrial specialist.
A few minutes later, a young man walked up to Park Police Sgt. Joseph D. Maimone, who was coordinating activities of the Red Cross, police and fire rescue units, and waved a blood-soaked bandaged hand at him. Maimone looked at it and pulled out the "splint," an illegal four-inch pocket knife. The young man protested, and Maimone promised he would be supplied with a regulation splint.
The most serious cases were sent to hospitals by ambulance. Of those remaining, the worst went into the air-conditioned trailer, the next worst to cots under the tent, and the better off to the grass under a nearby tree.
At 3 p.m., the Red Cross brought in 15 more cots to handle the patient load, and the fire department supplied a hose to wet down heat victims.
Most patients appeared to be in their teens and twenties, but there were a few exceptions: Floyd Little, 79, of Cheverly, for example. Little brought his 14-year-old granddaughter, Paulette Davidson, to see the concert, and went to the first aid tent because his bald head began to show a sunburn. "It hurts like hell," he said. "I'm going to get me a hat."