In my post yesterday, I briefly stated that something happened on vacation that has continued to bother me. I'll be honest, I'm a little hesitant to write about it here because I'm not very proud of how I acted - or is it reacted? But I see life as a giant classroom where there are lessons to be learned, and I would hope if something like this happened again, I would act in a different manner.
A week or so ago, I wrote about a scary night where we were woken to the sounds of alarms and a voice over a loud speaker making an evacuation announcement (read post here). There had been an electrical fire in the the kitchen directly below us and the entire hotel was evacuated. As Don and I entered the stairwell, the smell of the smoke was thick and pungent. We were on the eighth floor and followed others in descending the stairs while trying not to panic.
You could tell the smoke was getting thicker the lower we went. As we came to the fourth floor, those ahead of us stopped. People were yelling down to the ones lower than us asking why we had stopped and could we get through. The thought that crossed every one's minds was that the fire was near this stairwell and could we get through. The unsaid fear was that we would become trapped in this stairwell.
Don and I decided to try to get to another stairwell. As we stepped out and into the hallway on the fourth floor, we came upon a woman standing there with another woman in a wheel chair. The one pushing the other was very panicked. She frantically told us that she had no way of getting the other lady down because the elevators weren't working. At some point, a third lady appeared who seemed to be with them.
Don told them something to the effect that we could carry her down if we had to. But I think he was unsure of how to do that. We were still thinking we needed to find another way down. I stepped back into the stairwell to see what was happening and noticed no one there on that landing. I yelled back to Don that evidently the stairs were clear because all the people were gone.
You have to imagine what this all looked and felt like. It was surreal. We were awaken from a sound sleep so I'm sure our thought processes weren't working to full capacity. We were surrounded by an invisible, foul smelling smoke and trying not to go into full panic mode. Somehow we turned away from those three ladies and went back into the stairwell and continued our descent to the lobby.
When we got to the bottom, there was a security guard there holding the door open for us. We told him about the ladies on the fourth floor and he immediately took off to find them. So that made us feel better about the situation. But what didn't feel good is that we left them there in the first place.
It all happened so fast. In replaying it in my mind, I don't remember what the ladies were doing as we returned to the stairs. Did they feel abandoned by us? It seemed like the other lady was working at a way to get them all down - or is that just what my mind tells me so I feel better about turning my back on them? I really don't know. It's human to rationalize it all and come up with some scenario that allows me to find comfort in the decisions I made.
I'll tell you, I have a new respect for heroes. A person that can act in a way that puts someone else above themselves in the face of danger. I was put in that situation and I couldn't do it. I was so concerned with my and Don's safety, I couldn't stop to think and help out someone who obviously needed our help.
If something like this would happen again to me, I think I would try harder to help the other person. Not because I wouldn't be frightened or that I would want to be a hero, but because I wouldn't want to feel like I do now. Like a coward and a selfish one at that, or to be haunted by these words:
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Phillipians 2:3-4
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