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Today I’m visiting my brother in his office on the 42nd floor of a skyscraper in downtown Pittsburgh. He has some stuff to read for work and I have some code to write. We saw a couple of helicopters hovering over the Strip District, so I went to a bunch of local news stations to see what was going on. It’s Saturday so there isn’t really anyone else around to ask about it.
The local news is pretty miserable at giving up-to-date info, so they didn’t even have anything about the fire that traffic was being diverted around on McKnight Road last night at about 1:30am. My guess on that is that it was a natural gas fire. On my way to the city today, there were still fire-crews and policemen all over the block.
Since I have little confidence in the timeliness of the local old-fashioned media outlets (they try… but they’re years behind), I had several sites open. The closest thing I could find was that a man was shot to death last night after firing at policemen in the Strip District.
My brother had stepped out for a second when I suddenly heard and felt a deep rumbling. It reminded me of explosions. The first natural response is denial “hmm, I wonder what completely normal event that could be… a dump truck, construction in this building, fireworks for some celebration?”. After a few seconds denial was shot… something was up. I went to the window to see if I could find any visual explanation because the rumbling was still going on and was very loud.
I couldn’t see any dust clouds, fireworks, crashes or anything else that would explain what was going on. It was somewhere in the range of 5 to 10 seconds total and I could definitely feel that the building was shaking. Right after it stopped, my brother came back into the room and said “did you feel that?”.
Thinking back to 9/11 and basically any other your-skyscraper-is-pwned event, the secret of survival is NOT to be standing on the 42nd floor wondering what is going on. You GTFO and figure it out later.
So we just bolted to the stairs and started heading down. At about floor 38 it sunk in that this was going to take awhile. After quite some time of running for our lives down the stairs and out the building (that’s a lot of stairs) we got outside and realized that the building looked fine, there was no panic in the streets and the security staff seemed not to have noticed anything.
Shweet, everyone gets to live.
My brother said there was construction on the floor below him, so maybe something really weird was happening there. It still didn’t totally make sense though. We approached a security guard and had a somewhat amusing conversation:
“Hi, um, did you feel the building shake a couple of minutes ago?”
(pause) “… do you know what it was?”
“That was the implosion.”
(pause) “… what implosion?”
“The old St. Francis Hospital they’re getting rid of for the new [Penguins] stadium.”
Thanks for the forewarning, local news websites! :-P
We realized ahead of time that it was probably no big problem, but the evidence we had pointed to street-level being a much better location than a skyscraper while we figured out what happened. I’m glad that we made the choice to bolt so quickly instead of thinking about whether or not we’d be embarrassed by running for no reason. If only one out of every 1,000 times I’m in a situation that abnormal there is actually a catastrophe, I’d be more than happy to sacrifice the 5 to 10 minutes getting to a safe place each time before figuring out what happened.
That’ll get your blood flowing!
UPDATES: Two quick observations…
1: out the window, way out to the right (between two other buildings) is the wreckage of the implosion. If I’d looked that direction well enough I might have been able to see the cloud. That would have been sweet (and saved me a workout).
2: Geek-reference: We’re on floor 42… Hitchhikers Guide… “Don’t Panic”. LOL. I should have brought a towel.