"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Who Lives, Who Dies

Last week, I read Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzalez, a fantastic and fascinating study of the psychological, emotional, and physiological reasons that some people survive a dire situation while others die.

He did a case study of the World Trade Center and discussed how some people had started to head down the stairs but were pushed back by 'officials' who told them there was no danger and to stay put. Those who stayed put died and those who pushed past the official lived.

Today, I was given pretty good evidence that I would be a survivor in a similar situation.

Upon discovering the electrical panel on our elevator to be engulfed in flames four witnesses reacted in four different ways:

1) decided to run to her phone across the floor to call for help;
2) decided to run for the emergency phone around the corner;
3) decided to run for the fire extinguisher;
4) decided to follow person number 2 to the red phone in order to pull the fire alarm

Person number 2 gave person number 4 heck for pulling the fire alarm since the fire was extinguished and said there was no way he was hiking down eleven flights without advice from the fire marshals. This person was also one of the 'safety' officers for the floor. He instructed people to stay put until he got word from the fire marshal.

Person number 4 ignored him and headed downstairs. By the time the call came to evacuate the tower, she was four floors above ground level while he was still on the eleventh floor... where the fire had broken out again and smoke had filled the up-until-then smoke-free staircase. There were thirteen floors above him.

I live 10 minutes from work on foot and could hear the police and fire sirens for a full forty-five minutes after I'd pulled the alarm and left the building.

I won't be surprised if work is canceled tomorrow.

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