Those of you who have been paying attention to the news are probably sick of hearing about this by now, but I'm blogging about it.
This afternoon (or early evening -- it was after 5:30, as I was well aware I was already staying late) a steam pipe exploded on 41st and Lexington Ave. in Manhattan. That is 4 blocks away from my office. I'm not ashamed to admit that I was absolutely terrified.
I was standing in Alvina's cube when we hear this rumble, like thunder. Only it kept going, lasting far longer than thunder should last. Then the lights started to flicker. I think it wasn't until after the lights started flickering that we noticed the rumble was still going. My overactive imagination had me already panicking a bit. I kept envisioning an airplane flying right toward our windows. I was getting jumpy and my heart was racing. Then the fire alarms sounded and the fire warden came on the loudspeaker. I don't even think I heard what he was saying, I was so busy flipping. I grabbed my bag, threw a book (Stray by Rachel Vincent -- represented by the fabulous Miriam Kriss), my MP3 player and my cell phone into it, and hightailed it to the fire stairs. I was soon joined by most of the people who were still in the office.
The fire warden had said something about a fire on the third floor but we didn't want to wait for instructions because one of our editorial director's is about 8 months pregnant. We were NOT waiting. We started filing down and other floors were doing the same, so we kept heading down. Around the 5th floor, it started feeling hotter. I got freaked and my fellow ed. asst. Lauren had to grab my arm to calm me. She could tell by my face that I was flipping out. I hadn't reached verbal flip-out level yet but I was close. And I was getting frustrated. People were slowing down and just standing in the stairwell. All I could think was that there was a fire on the third floor and that something was going to explode and we had just herded ourselves down to be right near it. I envisioned walls collapsing, I envisioned planes hitting the building and hoping it wouldn't hurt if I was decapitated by debris. My mind screamed, "MOVE PEOPLE!"
Finally we get to the third floor and people are filing off from there as well. We can clearly see there is no fire, so I calm a bit (but not much). We finally make it into the lobby and out of the building and all I can see is smoke rising from beyond Grand Central Station. I looked at Andrea, our editorial director, and said "I'm heading north." She nodded and a bunch of us, including all three editorial directors, our publisher and a few assistants, started walking north on Park Avenue. I was terrified. I kept looking back, looking up, picturing horrific things. I called my mother to see if she had heard anything on the news, but when I finally got through the damn phone traffic, she hadn't heard a thing. Buildings for blocks and blocks were evacuating, people were standing on the streets looking terrified and confused, concerned but curious. Car services had their windows open and their radios turned up as loud as possible so people on the street could hear news. I called my roommate who works at the NY Post in Midtown West and she hadn't heard anything about it. She was shocked when I told her places were evacuating.
Luckily one of our ed. directors is engaged to a firefighter and by the time we had reached the low 50's, we knew it was a steam pipe/transformer explosion. However, a lot of us were still pretty rattled and there was still a lot of confusion. I ended up walking to my friend/coworker, Carolyn's apartment and watching the news for a while. I spoke with numerous family members and friends who might watch the news and freak out, and when we had all heard the same steam pipe story over and over, I started to calm down. Carolyn was kind enough to pump me full of caffeinated soda as we watched TV for updates and flipped through her PostSecret book.
Finally I calmed down enough and had updated enough of my out-of-city loved ones that I started thinking about the coworkers that didn't walk our way when we exited the building. I called Connie (Alvina's assistant and my buddy) and a bunch of our group had migrated to her apt. in Chelsea. I called my boss, who had left shortly before all of this occurred, to make sure she was ok and hadn't been near Grand Central when all of this happened. She texted later to let me know she was ok. At around 8:00, I grabbed my bag and headed to the Q101 to take the bus back to Queens. Thank god someone showed me how to use the bus recently, because I had no desire to go into underground tunnels when an underground pipe had just exploded, spewing hot steam and possibly asbestos. A few of my new bus friends and I had a good vent session as we waited for the bus driver to take a much-needed break (it took him 1 hour to do one round of stops -- he said he can usually do three rounds in that time -- I'm not sure if I believe that but that's what he said). Once I got off in Astoria, I gave a long, loving glance to the oh-so-familiar-and-safe Rite-Aid on the corner and trooped back to my apartment.
If you want to read a news article about the whole thing, go here. Thanks to KTBuffy for the link.
Looking back on this whole thing, I was absolutely terrified. My mind was going to places it never wanted to go, I feared for my life, and I feared for the lives of my coworkers and bosses who looked just as terrified as I did. My heart goes out to those people who were injured or killed, and to their families, but I am so glad this wasn't an attack. I love New York City and I love my job, but I don't know what I would've done if this had been something worse. And that thought alone is enough to send shivers down my spine.
A truly trying day to endure after two days in bed, sick. I'd be happy with never having to go through something like that ever again! For now, I'm off to bed, to console myself with my book and another glass of my roommate's sugar-free fruit punch that I need to replace (it's so good AND SUGAR-FREE, I can't stop drinking it -- I need to order a case off the internet or something). And to leave things on a positive note, since I'd rather not wake up with a cruddy attitude (especially if I have to deal with the train situation tomorrow), I found a new blog to read. Mycrazyroommate.com -- it is HYSTERICAL! Go read it ASAP!!