Last month, my office building held a mandatory fire-drill. When the insistent alarm began its ringing, it took some of us by surprise, and people had to be reminded that this was a mandatory drill. Everyone located the stairwell exit, and my floor began to descend down the stairs.
I work on the fourteenth floor, with only four more floors to the top. The stairwell was filled with office workers making the usual jokes and remarks. I was no exception. I quipped that the exit stairwell should have murals to break the monotony. The buzz of people talking seemed louder in the enclosed space. In a few minutes, the slow-though-steady walk took me down a few flights.
I think it was around the tenth or ninth floors that I had a flash recognition: this is what it was like in the towers, in the World Trade Center, on 9/11. Once that thought entered my mind, my imagination filled in the rest: How silent the stairwell would be. How quickly we'd be walking. Maybe we'd hear the building beginning to groan under the strain from the crash.
At this point, I couldn't get out of the stairwell fast enough. All of a sudden, I felt slightly claustrophobic. What floor was I on? These floors need some labels! The narrow stairway opened up to a slightly larger hallway. More floors. Then the first floor. Then outside.
I stepped away a few steps, then looked up. Of course the building was still there, intact. I was reminded of that terrible day, which has its sixth anniversary tomorrow.