Tuesday, November 27, 2007

i'm no hero

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

link of the day:


Penless Thoughts said...

I admire you for sharing this story and your honesty. Truly I don't think any of us know how we will, or would, act in a given situation. The flesh is sinful and we are told not to judge.

Lori said...

Thanks for sharing your story.

I'm sure I would've done the same thing in your shoes...I'd be panicked to get out as quick as I could.

I answered your questions on my blog so you will have to come back over.
I also posted some of our Thanksgiving funnies.

Our Family of Five said...

I agree with penless thoughts... firstly you're so brave being so honest and open about it here.... it's so true that none of us really know how we would respond in such a situation until faced with it.... and you're right...we live and we learn. God bless you!

Melissa said...

I think we would all love to say "Yes, I would be the hero...", but really, how many of us would? You are a wonderful person. And I, like penless, admire your honesty. Life is a learning process. Hugs!!!

Jamey said...

It sounds like it was extremely chaotic at the time. Thank goodness you told the security guard about those ladies! It's not our place to judge someone else on their actions. And I am a firm believer that you never TRULY know how you would react in a situation until you are in that situation yourself. I'm sure you did exactly what needed to be done at that time. Thanks for sharing your story!!

I love the new look of you blog!!

Pam said...

You did what you could do with what you had... you found help for those ladies. That is the ultimate importance.

If you had ever had experience helping to carry wheelchairs up and down stairs, you would have reacted by doing what you were familiar with and you might not be feeling guilty right now.

There is a technique for carrying wheelchairs... a moment of stress is not conducive to thinking through the steps needed - especially without any prior knowledge.

Hopefully this will be a good learning lesson for the hotel also, if elevators do not work, then placing someone in need of a wheelchair on the 4th floor is not a wise idea.

We can praise God that the fire took no lives, that lessons were learned and that future encounters may bear different decisions.

Now, you need to forgive yourself your human-ness. You really have done no wrong, just less than you would liked to have done. Don't let regrets keep you from living fully. Your honesty may be life saving to another. Thanks for sharing.

Barb said...

Your situation was understandable. The important thing is that you reflected on it and want to do differently if another occasion arises where you can be of help.

Thanks for sharing, being vulnerable and honest.

Myrna said...

I admire your honesty and the fact that you have shared this story with us. By doing so you have allowed others to consider what they might do in a similar situation. Someone else may benefit from that.

I agree with Susan--It is ertainly not my place to judge you.

My husband has used a wheelchair for a large portion of his life. I know that were I in a similar situation with him I would not want someone to put themselves in more danger. However, I would appreciate knowing that a person who saw us would send help or let someone know about the situation.

No one knows what they will do until presented with a situation. You learned from the situation--Could it be that is exactly what you were supposed to do? I suggest you praise the Lord for a learning experience and forgive yourself for your quite human reaction.

SharonB said...

Diana- I agree with what has already been said, you are brave in sharing. We would all like to think we might reaction one way or th other in a situation as this...but really none of us know.

Thanks for sharing, to me, this says a lot about you. We need women(and men) who are willing to be real, to open and honest.
Not that we would condemn but so that others can learn. Or we can encourage, support, pray etc...

Thank you my friend.

MightyMom said...

Hey Hon, a good friend said to me not too long ago when I was beating myself up about a not so shining moment that Satan loves to have us relive our guilt. Quit beating yourself up.

Elevators never work in a fire as you are NEVER supposed to use one in a fire because they become person sized kilns.

A person who requires a wheelchair needs to always request a "handicap room" which is by law always located on the first floor for this very reason.

For future (hopefully never) reference if any readers find themselves in a similar situation. Ditch the chair, only worry about saving the person. A wheelchair in a fire or other emergency situation has the same level of importance as your wedding album (ie none). It is easier for 2 people to carry a third downstairs without injury than to carry a wheelchair down a flight of stairs.

Every one of us has been given a specific set of gifts. Some can handle emergencies with a level head, others can not. And do not negate the effect of that "foul smelling smoke" which can befuddle the brain.

It all boils down to the fact that you did the best you could at the time. Ask God for forgiveness, forgive yourself, and move forward with a lesson learned.

Then come by my place and watch the baby giggle for 3 minutes and see if you can keep from smiling. :-)

Mary@notbefore7 said...

I agree with all of the thoughts above. You are so "daring" to share so honestly a situation you'd like to relive differently. Yet, in it God took care of everyone and lovingly and gently reminded you of this lesson. It is hard to know what one would do in all things, but listening to His voice in our life is a number one priority.

Ruth said...

I don't think I could say it any better than what's already been said...and I agree with them all. Bless you for sharing and being so open.