This evening, it wasn’t a nightmare. It was real.
We heard the alarms go off just outside our apartment door: a loud siren and a woman’s voice speaking instructions in Chinese. We looked into the hallway, but we did not see anyone moving about. Maybe it’s just a drill, we thought. But then, how would we know since we can’t understand anything being said?
“What do we do?” I shouted to Charles.
“Get Emi in the bag,” he replied.
I pulled down the pet carrier from the shelf and scooped up Emi, guiding her into the bag. Then I ran to the bedroom, pulled off my socks, and slipped on some sandals. Neither Charles nor I thought about the fact that it might be cold outside. I mean, we live on a tropical island, right? But a windy 58 degrees feels cold when you’re in sandals, light yoga pants, and a t-shirt. I would find that out in a few minutes.
The siren continued, and the recorded female voice was joined by a male voice that sounded like a live person. We headed toward our door, and as a last thought, I grabbed my computer from the couch. I figured it had just about everything important on it, and it was light and easy to carry. So I had Charles, Emi, and the computer. I had made my choices.
We flew toward the stairs, but still no one was in the hallway. When we got down to the 10th floor, we heard others coming out behind us. I turned around and asked a young girl behind me, “Is this real?” She said (I think), “This is not practice.” Okay, then let’s get moving, I thought.
We scurried down step after step. At the second floor we saw smoke. At the first floor, the smoke was thicker, and there was an orange hue around the corner. We braced ourselves for fire, but as we turned the corner, we saw nothing but smoke and orange-yellow lights. Outside the front of the building, we could see a crowd of people, and we quickly joined them.
The rest of the story is thankfully somewhat anticlimactic. With racing hearts, we watched the fire department arrive and storm the parking garage (see the video below). The firefighters did not seem to be too worried nor moving very quickly, so that helped us to calm down some too. Charles took pictures and video, and I stood there and prayed aloud that God would protect all the people and (less importantly) our possessions. The mass of people looked worried but relatively calm. I’m guessing they had some information that we didn’t because we couldn’t understand the Chinese being spoken.
After a while, Emi started to get antsy in her bag because of all the people around, so we took a walk around the block. Charles and I were freezing by this point. We called my sisters to let them know about the excitement (Charles had thought to bring his phone, though I had left mine behind). By the time we got back to the apartment, the firefighters were letting people back in the building. We climbed the stairs from the first floor to the eleventh since the elevators were not operating properly yet, and we slipped into our home and away from the smell of smoke.
It was quite an exciting and nerve-racking evening. I feel like I’ve faced one of my biggest fears, though I’m not sure what I would do if I had actually seen fire in the building. I’m thankful to God that this was not a more dangerous situation. I’m also thankful that I had Charles with me to help me make decisions and to hold my hand when I was scared.
I wonder what dreams I’ll be having tonight…hopefully NOT about fire in my home.