Prompt: Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). by Ali Edwards.
The air is stuffy and quiet. All I can hear is the muffled voices of the people in front and behind me and the thump, thump of our feet on concrete. I am focusing on pacing myself as we brace for the marathon of 99 flights of stairs in front of us.
The worst storm in 10 years has just rolled through Chicago’s Downtown complete with gusting winds, lightning and torrential rains. We were on the 103rd floor for the show. The elevators are stopped for safety reasons. The building must be evacuated.
I am feeling pretty good after 15 flights. We’re going down after all. Hope rises as we hear a rumor from the front of the line that the elevators are running again. We step into the cool of the building and wait. No elevator. Back to the stairs. Attitudes are still positive.
20 more flights. My legs are starting to burn and I realize we have a 10-block walk ahead of us to the hotel. No chance of getting a cab now with entire buildings emptying out all over downtown. The stairwell is hot.
We’re directed to the elevators again. Hundreds of people wait. Still nothing. Back to the stairs. I am tired.
Someone ahead of us wonders if this is what it was like on 9/11, evacuating the World Trade Center. No, I think. I find myself a little angry that someone could even compare that to this. I know it wasn’t meant to be insulting. Surely it wasn’t. But, I feel the panic rise a little as I consider that. Could this building have sustained serious damage? The thought hadn’t occured to me until right then. Adrenaline surges and I fight tears. Scared overcomes tired.
We stumble across a building maintenance worker. He insists that he can get us onto an elevator and escorts us through a deliciously plush and air-conditioned law office to a bank of elevators. I feel a little hope that the last 50 flights can be travelled in an elevator and not by foot.
The elevator doors open and we ride to the 2nd level with an employee of the law office. She is amazed as we relay our ordeal. She reports being terrified during the storm. She has worked there for 5 years and seen nothing like what we experienced.
We finally reach street level and find the building surrounded by emergency vehicles and policemen directing traffic away from the building.
Relief. Exhaustion. The smell of the city after a rain.
Clarity. This was a once in a lifetime thing. A story worth telling. We laugh nervously together and agree that this was one experience that we would not have wanted to share with our kids.
We start the long walk home.