My friends Fred, David, Derek and I were on an Edge vacation somewhere – I don’t quite know where – and Fred had rented a convertible to drive us around town. While we were there, we heard that they were going to blow up a mall as part of shooting some movie, and we decided to show up to watch.
We pulled behind a massive structure like Phipps Plaza in Atlanta, waiting in a long narrow street cutting through the big grassy fields behind the mall. There were a few other onlookers, maybe in the hundreds, but we pulled up in our convertible just as they were about to get started, so we didn’t even get out.
Then the mall detonated. The parking structure behind it collapsed, tumbling down like the proverbial deck of cards. Giant concrete columns, easily three feet across, were tumbling over like dominoes.
Then something went wrong – one of the timed explosions was too powerful, or maybe there was a boiler overlooked in the security office underneath the parking deck. A secondary blast sent dozens of concrete columns flying, giant treetrunks sailing through the air – one of them right over us.
I looked up, frozen, as the column seemed to hang there in the air, long enough that it seemed to stretch out of our field of view to the left and right, wide enough to kill us. Then it began to shift in my vision, and I realized it was going to fall in front of us.
In that moment, I realized missing us would not be enough. I shouted, “Back up, back up, back up!” and Fred put the convertible in reverse. The column crashed to the ground in front of us and began rolling forward, bouncing – it would have rolled straight over the top of the car, flattening us. We screeched backwards, but quickly the column rumbled to a stop, and Fred stopped the car.
“Wow,” Fred said, looking back at us. The column covered the whole road in front of us. More concrete columns were scattered all over the field, but miraculously no bystanders had been killed. “Normally I’m the first one to react. Good catch Anthony!”
I was not so sure.
Thinking over it later, there was no way Fred could have responded in time from my shout to put the car in reverse and start moving; he must have already been acting when I leaned forward and yelled in his ear, and in the confusion of events interpreted things after the fact to think that he’d reacted to my warning.
But what really struck me while Fred was congratulating me was my memory of that moment where the column was hanging in the air: that moment where I knew it was going to fall and hit or nearly hit us, and I didn’t say anything because I was frozen. If we had to rely on that reaction time, we’d all be dead.
Must go faster.
Thank God, it was only a dream….