Ever since I’ve been working for Homeland Security, I’ve felt the need to “do something” whenever “something” happens. For example, the night I met the Lifestyle Professional, I saw a woman immobile under a tree. So I called the police and fire department and had to wait for them to arrive on the scene. The girl managed to rouse herself and stand up and it appeared that she was drunk off her rocker. I bet she wasn’t pleased that I called the po-po, but hell, she shoulda been happy that someone cared. Well, this need found me in another situation this past weekend.
I arose on Saturday and checked my voice mail. Since I had a message from Vladamir from the TV Station, I contacted him and made plans to meet him for lunch. I then decided to check out this new donut shop I read about on Golden Silences blog called The Fractured Prune. To get from my Shaw neighborhood to the Dupont Circle area, I took Rhode Island Avenue, southbound. And that’s when I saw it.
Or them, rather. I saw several people looking up and walking quickly towards something in the sky. So I followed them, and saw thick clouds of block smoke billowing from the windows of the top floor of apartment building. So I hooked a u-turn at the next intersection (very illegally I might add), while calling 911. I came back around to the intersection of the apartment building, so I could get a better view.
A few minutes later, a man managed to break out one of the windows in the apartment building – with a piece of furniture or something – and began yelling, “Help, help!” So I called 911 again to let them know that there were persons trapped in the fire.
While this is going on, there’s a lot of action in the streets. No, not first responders, but regular (looking) folks, are come out of the woodwork to stand around and stare. Some even took pictures of the scene with their cell phone cameras. Not all of the people were looky-loos. Some of the persons in the street were like me, and they immediately chipped in to help. One dude directed traffic. I called my office to let them know what was going on, and gave updates til they could head out to the scene.
By this point, there are vivid orange flames pouring out of a window on the side of the building. The man trapped inside kept yelling, “Help, help”, and flailing his arms, which had bright red hands at the ends of them, but there was nothing that we could do but just watch. After a few minutes, the man seems to lie down across the windowsill, his torso hanging out of the building. Turns out, the man was doing that because he was blacking out.
After what seems like an eternity, many fire engines show up. While the firemen are rushing into the building and contain the fire, and the ladder is inching up to retrieve the man, several police cars are blocking traffic and clearing the scene. The firemen manage to get the trapped man into the cherry picker, and they get him down to paramedics. I overheard radio transmissions, and it seems that the man was badly burnt.
Strangely, I didn’t see any other persons evacuating the building.
Once the burn victim had been taken away, and the fire squelched by the firemen’s hoses, I took a few pictures with the thought of uploading them here (but I’ve got a few bugs to work out), and got into my car to avoid the spray coming from the hoses, as I just got my hair pressed the day before. After a few more minutes of gawking, I decided to go about my day.
I tried to put the disturbing images and sounds out of my mind, but for a while, I couldn’t. I kept thinking about the man and how frightened and in pain he must have been, trapped on that floor with the flames. He had so few options and stood to lose everything he had, including his life. And there wasn’t much he could have done about it, but allow the Fates to do what they must.
I still made it to the Fractured Prune and ate some breakfast, but that wasn’t such a good idea, as I became nauseous soon afterward (no I don’t blame the food). I was supposed to be running errands between breakfast and lunch with Vlad, but there was no way I was going to be able to shop for food in that condition, so I went to a quiet coffee shop and chilled til Vlad came to meet me.
I didn’t eat lunch with him, instead I watched him eat, but the conversation and company soon revived my spirits and I was able to run my necessary errands.
But I am still awed by the fact that I might have seen a man die that morning.