by Ben Coleman
Some of you may recognize my name from the... eclectic end of the Mercury film section. But my rent gets paid via the graveyard shift at a downtown apartment building. You'd recognize that as one half of the two buildings a local woman got stuck between this morning. I was working when that happened.
I have no idea what she was doing up there. There are maybe two or three ways she could have gotten out on that wall, but none of them are particularly accessible, and there's not really anything you can do out there other than get stuck between two buildings.
From the pictures I've seen I don't recognize her as one of the tenants, although to be fair I only see the people who hang around apartment lobbies at 3 am (there are some).
With that out of the way, let's begin at the beginning. I got a call on the office phone at 3:40 from one of the residents alerting me that someone in the courtyard was screaming for the police. That's something of a worst case scenario, phone call-wise. I am by all accounts a coward, but it is technically my job to determine if someone is getting murdered on the property, and at time of the morning you don't think all that clearly anyway. So I grabbed the office cell phone and ran over to investigate.
Thankfully, no one was getting murdered. I did however discover a small knot of tenants and the disembodied voice of one extremely unhappy woman. By the time I got there, she was completely hidden between the two walls, although from what I could tell she was hanging on to something at the top of the inner wall, maybe 15 feet from the ground.
So what did I do? Find out after the jump.
The easy part was calling 911, which I did immediately. I am pretty sure I got most of the pertinent information to the dispatcher, albeit in a rapid, tremulous falsetto. I have gotten pretty good at making emergency calls with this job.
After that was the part that sucked. You know that part in movies where someone is slipping off a thing and they're yelling at you to "do something" and "oh my god I'm slipping Jesus get a rope or do something help me help me oh God?" This was that. Except I couldn't actually see her and I couldn't get anywhere close to where I'd be helpful.
There were also a handful of residents who had been woken up by the screaming and had gathered in the courtyard. Some of them were yelling too, and two of them had gotten up on a connecting wall and were inching toward where the woman seemed to be.
This is a pretty bad situation from the perspective of someone who is nominally in charge of it. It was certainly the worst situation I've ever been in charge of (the second worst was the time I got stuck in an elevator with a woman who fell down and peed herself).
I did what I think a basically competent in charge non-rescue worker would have done. I yelled at everyone to shut up (they didn't). I yelled at the woman to hold on to whatever she was holding on to (I suspect she was already on that). I yelled at the guys on the wall to get off the wall (they didn't, but in my defense I didn't want two people getting stuck).
After that, I told everyone that firefighters were on the way, which might have been helpful. I also got some of the people standing around to go inside, which probably didn't help one way or the other, but seemed like the proactive thing to do. Underneath the courtyard, the garbage men had propped open the garage door with a garbage bin, which was probably the single most helpful thing anyone did at that point.
After that the firefighters and police and paramedics and who knows else showed up, and I got take a break from (figuratively) crapping my pants. I spent the next hour or so wandering between doors to make sure no one needed me to unlock them (they didn't), calling my manager, and writing up my report of the incident while it was still fresh in my mind.
I had a brief flurry of action when a firefighter asked me to find the owner of the car that was in the way. So if nothing else I guess I saved that guy from having his car hotwired by the fire department (I hope so, anyway).
After that they started breaking down parts of the wall with sledgehammers, and I hung around the office with the cleaning woman and talked about who we thought it might be stuck in there. We did a little amateur detective work and came up with a likely suspect, but when I went to tell one of the police officers they told me her husband was there and it wasn't the person I thought it was. Go figure.
My manager showed up around 5:40 am, which meant I was even more superfluousness than I had been. I got my hat and coat, finished my energy drink and filed my log of the night. On my way out she gave me a hug.