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John Hancock Center on Fire – Fire with Talk – Chapter 1

November 21, 2015
John Hancock on Fire

I was sitting in the office and heard a kind of high pitch screech, kind of high pitch yelp. It happened only twice that I heard. I got up to leave the computer for a moment and glanced out the glass office wall. Everyone was still in their seats listening to what’s her name deliver the workshop 411 all the while I’m guessin’ those passing by were callin’ the 911. The building was on fire.

Everything looked normal to me. Returning to my desk I cracked my fingers real good as I often do. It just feels good and regardless of what grandmother used to say, “My knuckles aren’t big.” “Well they will be. You just wait,” so she would say.

The article was almost finished. In fact, “Yes, there it’s done.” Sometimes I talk to myself a little when I work. Saying the words, taking them off the page.

“The building’s on fire man. What are you still doing here?”

I didn’t say that. That was Lawrence. The John Hancock Center was on fire.

“Oh, really?” I say rather nonchalantly and then after about seven seconds start to think, “terrorists.” I guess this is happening. Get your iPad, grab your bag and what else do I need? “Get your coat dude and let’s go.” I grab my coat and make my way to the hallway where I see two others and security waiting calmly. I gathered from the fact that JHC security was sticking around (in addition to our taking the elevator down) that either the building was not under attack or this was a really stupid evacuation procedure. Yet, I’m not an architect; I wanted to be once upon a time. I teach acting and singing at this place called Chicago Performing Arts, otherwise known as IPAA.

Lawrence started the company on the 13th floor of the John Hancock Center, one of the two main places for which I work. My opinion of him has changed greatly over the years. I was walking out with a curious quartet. Lawrence, Andrea and … I totally forgot her name. We get downstairs. Lawrence fills me in a bit. “Fire started on the 54th floor. That’s a residential floor,” he shares.

“Oh, o.k. So, more than likely it was a kitchen fire or someone fell asleep with a lit cigarette in their mouth or something random.”

I turn and look. The fire crew are there with building security. Some lady is resting on a bench wearing an oxygen mask. Finally, here it comes, the stretcher. That’s never a good sign.

FullSizeRender (1)Shortly thereafter they roll a man out wearing another oxygen mask. At least that means he’s breathing. Guess he lives here. Wonder how much it costs to live here? I couldn’t live here right now. Lawrence does. He lives on the 91st floor. Hard to live here when I work here … and at the little robot store.

Then of course, I have side gigs. Every actor has to have side gigs so they can convince themselves they are too busy to go on auditions. You know, too busy making money instead of acting for free. I’m thinking about being bitter even though I was just in a burning building about five hours ago.

After being made to leave the lobby we all took shelter from the snow at a nearby building where Lawrence has a corporate apartment unit or something. We walked in and there was this big refreshment table with warm cider and a spread of goodies. Immediately, I poured myself a glass and sat down to call my father as I had already phoned mom. He didn’t even know I worked in the building.

I go back to get more cider. “We’re not supposed to have that,” Ally says. “You’ve already poured it. It’s fine.” Everyone loves Ally.

The last parent (it was actually a big brother) arrives to pick up the final student. I initiated taking a group photo or two, some selfies are taken and we all depart. Erika asks if she can walk out with me. She smokes; I decide to not and we walk to the train together all the while talking about how crazy the whole day turned out to be, checking out articles on ABC and NBC all showing flames bursting from the side of the building. “I saw that when we were inside the building. I was like, gone. Why would you stay in a building like that?”

“I had no idea.” Thus begins the fire with talk.

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