The situation looked hopeless until a young firefighter came to the rescue.
It was the last thing on Jack’s mind as he rode the elevator to the 32nd floor of the building he worked in. He was late. The snow was piling up and traffic had been a bitch. He almost called in but he was dedicated.
Over the past three years he had yet to miss a day. He wasn’t about to let a little snow spoil his perfect record.
Just as he stepped out of the elevator, the fire alarm began to sound. He continued to his office where his coworkers were on the phone with security in the lobby. They were trying to find out what the situation was. Nobody wanted to trek down 32 flights of stairs only to find out it was a false alarm.
The word from the lobby wasn’t good. There was a fire on the east side of the 12th floor. They were advised to take the west side stairs and start making their way down to the ground. The fire department was on the way.
The woman on the phone hung up. “Shit, it’s for real. It’s on the 12th floor.”
Several people in the office instantly panicked. They didn’t waste a second as they sprinted for the stairs. Two opted to head for the roof fearing smoke might prevent them from getting to the lobby. They figured if it was bad enough a helicopter would pick them up and take them to safety.
Two had parachutes stored in their lockers and were willing to wait it out. If worse came to worse they would break out a window and jump.
Six overweight and unhealthy people decided to take their chances with the elevator. Jack advised them against it. “The shaft could act like a chimney and fill with smoke. Or worse, it could stop between floors and you’d be stuck.”
One changed his mind. The other five didn’t listen to the logic. The elevator was the fastest way down. They figured if they made it past the 12th floor they were home free. They were willing to take the chance. They piled in and hit the lobby button. Just as the elevator doors began to close a woman standing close to the front rethought her decision and stepped out. That left four to take their chances.
The elevator hit the 22nd floor before the first hints of smoke were detected. By the time they reached the seventeenth floor the air was becoming unbreathable. Two of the four wanted out. The doors opened on the sixteenth floor and they got out gasping for air. The other two were so overweight and knew they would never be able to do the stairs. The open doors cleared the smoke from the elevator and they decided to take their chances. The doors closed and they headed down once again. The elevator suddenly stopped between the thirteenth and fourteenth floor. They were stuck in a smoke filled box. Their gamble didn’t pay off. The box became their coffin and they were eventually added to the statistics.
Back on the 32nd floor Jack and two women headed for the stairs. The echoing sound of many clamoring feet could be heard through the stairwell door. They opened it and peeked in. Others from the upper floors were already heading down. There was no smoke so they got in line with the others. The plan was for the three of them to stay together but after two floors one of the women bolted ahead. “You guys are too slow. I’m not waiting.” She disappeared leaving Jack and an older woman named Alice in her dust.
Jack and Alice continued on. It was getting crowded and their decent was slowing down. The lights went out at the 20th floor. Emergency lights came on but they were very dim. Cell phone lights took up the slack. Smoke was beginning to fill the stairwell. They made it to the 15th floor before the smoke was becoming unbearable. With each step down it was getting harder to breath. Several people were beginning to panic. By the time they hit the landing on the 14th floor their lungs were burning. Things weren’t looking good.
“If we can make it to the eleventh floor things might get a little better,” remarked Alice.
“I’m not so sure we can make it that far. This smoke is getting too thick,” replied Jack.
They had come to a stop. Some were beginning to turn back. Others left the stairwell. Alice wanted to continue. “Let’s go one more floor and see how it is.”
They had just started to move again when people from the front of the line began to call for everyone to turn around. As they began to head back up the stairs the door on the thirteenth floor flew open. It was a firefighter.
“Follow me. I have an alternative route.”
The firefighter held the door as they all hurried out of the stairwell. The air was a little clearer and the firefighter allowed them to catch their breath.
“Good thing I came along when I did. You wouldn’t have made it in either direction.”
“Well then you saved us,” remarked Alice. “Thank you.”
“No thanks necessary, ma’am. It’s my job,” he replied with a smile.
“You’re young,” remarked Jack. Have you been with the department long?”
“Two years,” he replied. “Let’s go. We need to hurry.”
The firefighter led them down the hall to a stairwell with breathable air. “This way’s clear. It will get you to the ground floor.” He held the door as everyone went through. Jack was the last one. As he passed the firefighter he stopped and asked. “What’s your name?”
“Frankie, Frankie Masters,” he replied. “Now go.”
Jack headed into the stairwell. The rest of the way down was easy. He and the others made it out of the building safely.
Two weeks later Jack decided to personally thank Frankie Masters for his part in getting him and the others out of the building. He headed down to the fire station and met with the captain.
“My name is Jack. I was one of the people in the Carter building fire two weeks ago. I wanted to thank the person who got us out of the building. If it wasn’t for him we wouldn’t have made it.”
“No problem,” replied the captain. “What’s his name?”
The captain’s expression turned serious as he looked Jack in the eye. “Is this a joke?” He asked.
“No,” replied Jack. “Why would you think that?”
The captain got up from his desk. “Follow me.”
The two went out into the hallway. The captain pointed to a picture on the wall. “Is this your man?” He asked.
Jack recognized the man. “Yes, That’s him. Is there a problem?”
The captain continued. “The pictures on this wall represent the men from this station who died in the line of duty. Frank Masters is one of those men. He died two years ago.”
© Copyright 2022 by Scott A. Gese All Rights Reserved.
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