He would bring out the two clutching him first, then return to carry out their badly injured comrade alone. There was no time to waste, and each of them realized it was the only possible way; he simply could not help all three at once. However, the last women still begged not to be left behind. In the best monotone voice he could muster up, he assured the injured women he would be back for her in moments.
Over her sobbing protests, he followed through with his plan, and quickly began walking out of the building with his two charges clinging onto him. He was instantly washed into a riptide of those fleeing almost like cattle being funneled into trucks. Taking slow careful steps made his short journey feel as though it was taking forever, when it was probably only mere minutes.
After placing both women in a spot he deemed safe, he proceed to return and fulfill his promise, but was stopped by a fireman. By this times they had arrival in force to help the thousands evacuate. The fire fighter assured him that rescuers from his and many other companies were tending to the injured, and would stabilize the women by the escalators. The fireman asked that he move back to a safer area as not to impede with the first responders efforts, nor the flow of those fleeing under their own power.
The wave of uniformed police, fireman and the sea of those fleeing created a ceaseless tide. He was steadily forced far back enough to see the flames licking the top of the ominous structure. Yet, as far back as he was, he kept his eyes peeled opened for the third women to be brought out on a bright yellow stretcher. As he intently watched the front door he had already planned on riding the ambulance with her. They could exchange information and after her recovery and a hearty embrace recite the day for both sets of their children. I could only assume without even knowing her name, they were creating a lifelong bond.
There was a long uncomfortable pause in his story as he valiantly tried to suppress a gamut of emotions. And he somehow found the courage to not only complete his story, but describe the deafening sounds as the building began collapsing. It all appeared to be happen in slow motion, as one floor after another pancaked into a vertical heap of twisted steel and concrete. His quivering voice barely narrated how the dust cloud hit him as though a train was passing through a narrow tunnel; and he was precariously perched upon the edge of a short platform.
This story was unexpected, and difficult to hear. And I had assumed the worst part had passed just as his voice briefly cracked, as he recited the final part. Now he was just barely holding back an ocean of tears before stating… now he can’t forgive himself for breaking his promise.
For reason’s far beyond his control, this particular promise was in the hands of someone else. However, as we approach a season of thanks, self resolutions and wishes, along with pondering this more thoroughly. I began thinking of all the broken promises made to me. Or far worse, the ones I had intentionally made knowing all too well they could never be fulfilled.