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||August 5 2011
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What would you do if you knew you only had days to live?
September 11th 2001
An explosion of sound blasted through the building. It lurched violently to one side. Two people in the express elevator with me gripped the handrail as we continued our ascent. One was a twenty-something woman wearing tan pants, a white blouse, and an embroidered red scarf. I’d seen her many times having lunch at The Odeon on West Broadway where I worked. The other, a man, was tall and broad-shouldered. He looked about sixty, handsome, with a shock of white hair. I had never seen him before but by the looks of his tailored suit I assumed he was someone of importance.
“What the Hell was that?” the man questioned.
“I don’t know!” I replied.
“It felt like a bomb went off!” the woman stated, her voice high with fear.
A second explosion rocked the elevator followed by severe, earthquake-like shaking. The woman screamed. The elevator shuddered and jolted to a stop. A cloud of smoke engulfed us. We crouched low and braced against the floor.
“We’ve gotta get out of here!” the woman cried and coughed.
She fumbled with her purse and retrieved her cell phone. Instinct told me to act. I hopped to my feet and looked around in exasperation.
“I can’t get a signal!” the woman exclaimed. “There’s no phone signal!”
“C’mon!” I hollered to the businessman, coughed, and wedged my fingertips in the thin space between the elevator doors. “Help me open these!”
The businessman stood and grabbed at the other side. We pulled, heaved, coughed. My muscles swelled. Slowly, the doors pried apart to face a wall of sheetrock stamped with the identification: 102nd floor.
“Oh God, it’s blocked!” the young woman sobbed, and started coughing.
I looked down the shaft. Several floors below was all fire.
Panic hit. I kicked at the sheetrock; slammed the heel of my foot with all my might. Over and over. It didn’t make a dent.
“We’re never gonna bust through this!” I stated. Ideas jumped into my brain. “We’re gonna have to dig out!” I turned to the businessman. “You got anything sharp?”
“Dig out!” the young woman cried. “We can’t possibly!”
I coughed. The businessman’s eyes were huge O’s of fear.
“All I have is my car keys,” he said.
“Give them to me!”
Smoke thickened. The young woman tried to use her cell phone again. A series of coughs overtook her.
“Get some cloth!” I stated, and pulled off my white Perry Ellis button down shirt. “Spit into the fabric and then wrap it around your mouth. It’ll help you breath!”
The businessman removed his shirt. The young woman used her scarf.
Driven by panic, I gouged the keys into the sheetrock. My hands moved fast but made little progress. The businessman climbed up on the handrail and tried to push out the ceiling. He hammered with his palms. The panels were made of steel and screwed in tight.
Heat intensified. Smoke stung my eyes and scratched my throat, smothering my ability to think clearly. Sweat ran down my forehead and soaked my T-shirt. I puffed and wheezed, poking and jabbing with the keys until my arms and shoulders ached. Pieces of sheetrock chipped off. Two of the keys bent. My fingers cramped. Breathing came in lung-pinching, hot gasps. My eyes went unfocused. Faintness swept over; light headed and winded.
I thought about dropping the keys and giving up.
Suddenly, the key poked through to the other side. The hole was no larger than what a worm bores, but it was enough. Fresh air drooled in.
“I’ve done it!”
I put my lips to the hole and breathed oxygen that was free of ash and smoke, but tasted of gasoline. We took turns gulping fast breaths. Then I quickly sawed with the key and made the opening about the diameter of a quarter.
Infused with energy, the businessman and I started kicking at the hole, kicking for our lives. Chunks of sheetrock broke off. Then bigger chunks. Finally, his foot punched out a huge, chair-size opening. Drafty inrush propelled the smoke in the elevator to the ceiling.
“We’re free!” the young woman gushed, nearly overcome with emotion.
“Go clear the way ahead!” I said, to the businessman. “I’ll kick the hole big enough for me.”
He nodded, squat down, and wiggled through the space, then knocked out a thin sheet of drywall on the other side and disappeared. The young woman crawled out next. I kicked at the sheetrock until I could fit my large frame and then squeezed through both holes, emerging through the wall and into a deserted conference area. Except for the lack of activity and the strong odors of combustion and gasoline, everything appeared strangely ordinary: desks, computers, cluttered stacks of paper, a copy machine in the corner.
The young woman’s hands trembled as she attempted to dial her cell phone again.
I stepped toward the window.
Below us, flames rolled upward in massive orange turrets as thick, black smoke gushed into the sky. My eye caught a flaming object free-falling to the ground. And then another flaming object jumped from a broken window. And then another. My mind reeled with horror as I realized they were people leaping from the building.
I whipped out my cell phone and tried for a signal. Amazingly, one bar came up.
“We’ve got phones!” I announced.
By Sunday S. Smith
About the Book:
An elevator ride cut short by the crash of an airplane into one of the twin towers is the opening of this book. We follow Nathan Cruz as he tries to rescue people while trying to reach his wife who is several floors above him. He has contact with her by cell phone but the fire is keeping her where she is and a blocked stairwell is preventing him from going to her. Neil saves dozens of people and eventually is seen as a hero by everyone else but himself. He has failed.
Ten years later we find Nathan has dropped out of life and is living on a small boat in the Florida Keys, keeping himself in food with fishing and the gathering of eggs from his pet chicken. A hurricane is quickly approaching the Keys but Nathan is determined to ride out the storm, though even the most seasoned of residents are telling him to evacuate. The storm is so powerful that Nathan loses his small craft but manages to make it to shore. There he spots a lone figure, struggling against the storm. Intrigued that someone is still around, he follows the figure who, as it turns out, is Miriam Kanter, a fellow individualist who was determined not to leave. She invites him into her shelter and it is there that Nathan's life changes drastically.
Some books just stay with you. Some scenes continue to stir up emotions and ride with you like a backseat driver, popping up now and again to remind you of something or in this case remind you of a feeling. In Heir to Power (Michele Poague), it was the scene when Kinter holds one of their band as he dies; in Eragon it was the tomb transformed into crystal. But with some books, there are so many pieces that hang in there. I believe for many of us this will be one of those books.
When I started to write this review, I kept trying to figure out just how to tell you what the book was like. To me it is important that you, as my reader, don't get mislead about the nature of a book. Meanwhile, as I struggled, one book kept knocking on the door of my emotions - The Old Man and the Sea. They say there are only three basic plots - man against other men; man against nature; and man against himself. Like The Old Man and the Sea, Drop Out is about man's battle with himself, told in crisp scenes and realistic dialog that keeps the pages flowing smoothly.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone, but especially those readers who enjoy an in depth study of man's battle against his own nature. If you are looking for quick reads with huge climaxes and twists and turns, this may not be the book for you but if you are looking for something that will touch you deeply and stay with you long past the final page, this is the book.
There is some sex that is somewhat graphic (and my readers know I don't like sex for the sake of sex) but it is dearly important to the story.
By Bloody Well Write
I waited a while to think about this book and how to review it. Drop Out is very different from most stories. It moves through a lot of different situations and each one is well written to perfectly fit the part of the story being told. I have seen several derelict boats just like the one Nathan called home. In fact, I may have seen someone just like Nathan rowing to shore in his dinghy just this morning. The author makes the people and places he describes become a part of your life. Next week I may not remember the book I am reading today, but I will remember Drop Out for the rest of my life. It is just that good.
By Dana Taylor (California)
A romance that begins in the disaster of the World Trade Center? The opening of this novella is riveting and disturbing as the author takes us inside the burning, imploding buildings. His vivid portrayal of the chaos and incredulity of those moments will not soon be forgotten.Ten years later, Nathan, the protaganist, is living in as much obscurity as he can find in the Florida Keys. It takes another disaster to turn his life around. The story centers on Nathan and the two women who touch his soul. This is a short piece and can be heart-wrenching at times. Ultimately, Nathan has to choose between embracing life or continuing a living death.
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