ST. PETERSBURG - Three blood-stained zombies sat on a bench in front of the marina, heads drooping in the heat, tired after a morning of feeding on humans.
Twenty-one students from the Pinellas County Job Corps, a federally funded program that provides free education and vocational training, began their day at Albert Whitted Park Wednesday. They discussed strategies for zombie survival: running quickly, posing as a zombie, bribing zombies with gum.
The students knew they had to survive a treacherous path along Bayshore Drive toward The Pier in order to find the other humans who had the medicine that would cure the zombie disease.
The Job Corps organized the zombie event as a fun way to reinforce a day of learning about blood-borne pathogens. A few students from each of the Job Corps' trades were chosen by their classmates for the activity.
The event was part of the Job Corps' safety week, during which students learn about a range of public safety issues, including diseases, wildlife and storms. While the Department of Labor mandates Job Corps sites go through safety week, each chooses its own theme for the week.
"We figured, why not do a zombie apocalypse?" said Carol Glover, the Pinellas County Job Corps' business community liaison - and a newly trained zombie makeup artist.
While the students prepared to leave the safety of Albert Whitted Park, the zombies devised their own strategies. Some lurked behind trees and buildings, waiting for unsuspecting humans. A growling group of zombies with festering wounds gathered at Second Avenue North.
Altogether, about 50 zombies, as young as 4, took part in the exercise. Student zombies were joined by zombies from Thrill St. Pete, a group that dresses up like zombies and stages group dance performances.
Olaph Jean, 23, of Port Charlotte, walked through the chaos of humans and zombies, unnoticed, until he was spooked by a zombie behind him and started running. The zombie soon chased him down and stole the green flag that represented his life.
In the end, none of the students survived in the exercise.
"It was a brutal plague," said Craig Marks, center protection manager for the Pinellas County Job Corps.