posted on Feb, 10 2009 @ 12:58 AM
Have you ever gotten to the point where you say “this is the hardest I have ever run in my life?” I was past that point.
I busted through the stairwell door, not sure which direction the exit was located. It only took a moment to spot the crowds of people pouring out
into the hotel lobby. I knew the exit was close. I had a feeling that this would be one of the few chances I would get to catch my breath.
One long hallway and thirteen flights of stairs earlier, I was deciding what tie to wear to the AAN Winter Conference. The American Academy of
Neurology was holding a conference here in Florida, and I was one of the experts asked to attend. I specialize in degenerative nerve diseases, and was
invited to talk about dementia.
Dementia is a group type of degenerative diseases which targets memory. Eventually it will start to damage ones language abilities as well. As it
progresses, the patients become more and more forgetful, eventually becoming completely unable to function in society. They will often lose control of
their emotions as well. Dementia is caused by the destruction of brain cells.
My expertise is what got me here, but it wouldn’t be much use getting me out. The crowd of people built up heavily in the lobby, and they were all
headed for the exits. The crowd moved slowly, like a lumbering mass. I merged and made my way to the exits best I could. I was surprised by the fact
the lobby wasn’t in complete mayhem after what had happened. My surprise was quickly swept away though, when the ground shook with a booming rumble,
and the lumbering mass turned to panic. The crowd started pushing itself through the two exit doorways, like a watermelon through a garden hose. The
slow moving crowd became like white water rapids, allowing for little movement or direction. You were swept along, hoping for the best.
I could feel people being pushed up against me from almost every direction. The sheer volume of people was amazing for a lobby this size. Just as that
thought crossed my mind, a man to the left of me tripped. In my peripherals, I could see him go down. I turned, in hopes I might be able to see the
man and do something, but the crowd just kept pushing along at a rapid pace. I saw the fear on the poor mans face as he lay on the ground, as he
disappeared into the abyss of running feet. Within seconds, he was gone, like he had disappeared into murky waters. He didn’t stand a chance, and
there was nothing I could do. I continued forward, not wanting to end up like that man.
As I got through the doorway of the exit, I could feel the temperature change. This may be Florida, but in January at night, it isn’t exactly a
sauna, though the lobby felt like it was. The debris covered the street. Pieces of flaming rock had caved in a couple car roofs. I remember thinking
to myself, “Flaming rock?” That is when I looked up and saw the blazing fire. Looked like the 15th or 16th floors of the hotel. I lucked out, but
I know many didn’t. I felt a sudden sickness to my stomach when that realization sunk in, but the panic on the street almost immediately snapped me
out of it. I had no time for that. I had to move, and fast.
I heard another rumble, and by instinct, I start to run. I built up speed relatively fast. I could hear the sounds of screams and yelling, but it all
sounded surreal and muffled. Moving quickly down the sidewalk I weaved in and out of slow moving people, either injured, or helping a friend or
relatively, maybe even a complete stranger. I didn’t know, and as far as I was concerned, it didn’t matter. The street had cars moving faster than
they should, especially with this many people around. I had a bad feeling, and knew I needed to get out of the area as fast as possible. I stop before
crossing the road, not wanting to risk being hit by somebody in a car not paying enough attention. A young man sprinted right past me, and was hit by
a pickup truck. He just lay there, motionless on the concrete, as blood started to poor out of his body. I was mortified. The thoughts that ran
through my mind came right out of my mouth.
“… My god…”
“…there is so much blood…”
I then thought to myself “…move…now…RUN!”
I didn’t know why the impulse to run was so feverish in me. It could have been the danger in the area itself, but I think it was the need to get
away from the accident that had just happened right before my eyes. I needed to remove myself from that and focus on my own safety, which was all that
I could control. The young man who had been hit, there was nothing I could do for him. Standing there was pointless. I crossed the street and
continued to run.
At this point, it was as though I was breathing in fire. I felt as though I had spent an entire eternity in a burning building. I wanted to cough, but
I couldn’t gain enough air to do so. My muscles felt as though they were filled with gasoline and somebody just took a match to them. I had to stop.
But I didn’t. I couldn’t stop, not with what was going on. I fought through the intense pain, trying to distract myself with thoughts.
“What happened back there? How did that building catch on fire? Where am I running to? What is going on?”
I quickly realized that my thoughts were just a series of rapid fire questions that I couldn’t answer. If I were to get out of this alive, I needed
answers. I didn’t know where to find there answers though. I was starting to panic. I didn’t know where to go, who to go to, or what to do. I felt
alone, I was lost, and I knew I was in danger. The situation weighed over me like a ton of concrete tied to a rope about to snap. I did know that if
panic did successfully overtake me, I would have no more hope than that poor man in the lobby, or that young kid bleeding in the street.
Now as I stand here on the sidewalk, in a foreign place, cold, and out of breath, I hear a huge explosion, and I can see a ball of fire roughly a
block away. I’m in shock. I have never been in a war; I have only seen images on television, or in a movie. This is no movie. I hear screams, and I
can see people scurrying for their lives. For the first time in my life, I don’t know what to do.
My name is Dr. Peter Dawson, and I need your help.
Its a rough draft, kind of an intro. Wanted to see what everyone thought, so I made it a short story type deal.