Monday, January 24, 2011

Story-A-Day #72: At Fault


It was a beautiful winter morning, cool and crisp. The sun had just crept up over the horizon, bathing the early morning sky in a swirling tempest of pinks, peaches and magentas. It was just cold enough that the air was filled with frost adding an ethereal shine to the air.

I actually whistled as I made my way to work, even though the simple act of puckering my winter-dry lips threatened to crack them into a million pieces. I don’t know if it was something in the air, or whether I had slept better than usual the night before, but I was in a pretty good mood. There was an extra little spring to my step and it felt nice. It can become pretty easy to get sucked down into the doldrums when the winter blues set in – not enough vitamin D, hibernation tendencies, aching joints; all good reason to hide away for six months of the year.

I was just making my way across the parking lot when I felt the first low grumble. It felt like a big truck passing by, which was entirely likely and no reason to really register it. When the second rumble hit a few seconds later, it was definitely not a truck. The ground shook beneath me with such force that I almost lost my footing.

Just outside the entrance to the building I could see a couple women smoking, Sandra from Shipping and Receiving and another woman I didn’t recognize. They lurched sideways and a large fireball shot into the sky next to them. Sandra tumbled sideways, landing awkwardly in front of the door.

It took me a moment to regain my composure, then I ran towards the door. Smoke billowed up from a gaping hole next to them and the air was cacophonous with the honking of car horns; security systems gone wild.

Something was wrong, very wrong. I helped Sandra to her feet and guided the two women away from the door and out into the parking lot. Sandra was limping; streams of tears running down her face.

Another rumbled sounded and the windows at the east end of the building blew outwards into the parking lot. It didn’t take long before all hell broke loose. The doors burst open and a flow of screaming people flooded into the parking lot.

There were two more aftershocks before Emergency Services. By the time they did arrive, the parking lot was packed with shivering employees and ample conjecture as to what had happened. It was a terrorist attack (not likely due to the inconsequential nature of our business). It was an earthquake (possible, but again not likely due the localization at our building). There had been an infrastructure failure in the gas tanks or furnace in the basement (Possible, although no one would no until the crews could get in and do an assessment).

It was clear that the answers would present themselves in time. For now though, my only priority was to make sure that everyone was okay, and that those without coats were able to keep warm.

I didn’t do this so that people would get hurt.

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