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Plummet

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The morning.

Betty Lou Oliver did not wake up that day expecting to plummet 75 stories down the world’s tallest building.

It was foggy outside, on the morning of July 28th, 1945. There was barely any visibility.

A B-25 Bomber became lost in the New York mist and crashed into the side of the Empire State Building, killing all three crew and eleven others in the building.

Betty was in her elevator cart when the impact happened. She was twenty, and this is what she did everyday. She was an elevator attendant who worked on the 80th floor of the Empire State. 

When the plane crashed, it smashed into the lift shaft, cutting the cable that held Betty’s cart. 

She began plummeting towards the ground.

esb

Free falling.

You know that feeling you get when you’re drifting to sleep but then suddenly you experience a free fall sensation and jolt upright in a panicked state?

That twitch is known as a Hypnic Jerk. Scientists still don’t have a solid reason for why it takes place, but one theory is that the brain confuses falling asleep with actual falling, so it signals to our arms and legs to move to an upright position, resulting in the jerking action.

Sharp objects.

In the tent, I didn’t dare fall asleep. But my eyelids fell heavy and I began to drift off, terrified.

Moments later, with all the suddenness in the world, a Hypnic Jerk forcibly awoke me, shocking me back to life.

I was wearing socks because stuffed inside one of them was razor sharp tent peg. Under the pillow, lay a fishing knife. On the floor, a canister of mace. Two sharp objects, and some pepper flavoured deodorant that “might work in theory.” Both within easy reach should a bear decide to come knocking.

Then a thick mind-cloud of inevitable sleep encroached, and I waited, half-expecting to be mauled to death. Because tiredness leads to irrationality.

Vague Direction 15

Betty vs ground.

“There was no time to think,” Betty said, “no time to even pray. I made myself as small as possible in a corner of the car, helpless, waiting for the shock at the bottom – and death.”

She didn’t die.

A thousand feet of elevator cable, which had moments ago been cut by the crash, fell to the bottom of the lift shaft, creating a spring coil effect. That, combined with the air pressure between the falling elevator car and the ground, was enough to bring Betty’s car to a smooth stop. Just don’t mention the broken back, broken leg, cut eye, bad burns, and terrible concussion.

She lived.

The fear might be worse than the reality.

betty[Image courtesy: 1) Wikimedia & 3) NYDailyNews]



Vague Direction: A 12,000 mile bicycle ride, and the meaning of life.
Available now: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com



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