A Taste of Fear

In order to tell this story, I have to admit something to you. Constantly in the back of my mind, I have this fear that can almost be better described as a haunting knowledge, almost as if it’s not so much a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ a terrible thing will happen. Now don’t laugh, because I can’t help those instinctive fears, and it’s certainly not like I can do anything about it, so I just laugh at the possibility, but somewhere in the back of my mind is always this idea that Washington is only one terrorist away from a nuclear attack. Now I’m not betting on this happening any time soon, but at the same time you can never completely disregard the possibility either, given the state of the world today. Background information to help you experience my night as much as is possible.

So rewind to about 10:30 tonight, when six of us went out to the Silver Diner to eat after work tonight. We were sitting alone down at the end of the diner, with one half of us in booth seats along one wall, and one half in regular chairs across the table. JayJay and Kevin were sitting about 5 feet from the corner and the other wall, and I was on the other end probably 9 or 10 feet away. We were sitting with our drinks, waiting to order our food just chatting about whatever, when suddenly the windows at the end of the wall explode and we’re rocked with an unbelievably loud noise coupled with a shower of glass shards flying at us. In the shock of the moment, we all react as best we could. I sat for a split second before realizing everyone next to me was trying to get away, so I stood up and started to run away to make room for the others. As I stand up I start to look back, but I hear Dave, my boss, yelling “Go, go, go.” Immediately I look over to my right and see Steph, our Associate Producer, crawling across the floor trying to get away, and I see one or two others on the floor behind her. Then I turn my focus back to where I’m going, and I start shoving tables out of the way, trying to clear out and get as far away as possible. By this point, I’m starting to feel this force pushing me away from the windows. It wasn’t enough to knock me over, just enough to push me, and I remember thinking to myself, “so this is what the shockwave of an explosion feels like.” In those exact words.

Now, let me rewind a little to about 5:00 tonight, while we were setting up the Auditorium for weekend rehearsal. Suddenly, and for no apparent reason I got this premonition that something really, really terrible was going to happen. I’m not talking like someone’s dog dying or anything like that, I mean really terrible. Referencing the first paragraph, you can safely assume that deep down inside I’m thinking bomb. From time to time, I will admit that I do have these slight ‘premonitions’ which are never typically serious and are usually very fleeting. But for some reason I couldn’t shake this one tonight, and it probably consumed a solid hour of my time, of which I spent a lot of praying for protection while I was busy setting up. I will say this feeling was so genuine I actually considered stopping and asking for prayer with the entire setup crew.

Fast forward back to the exploding glass and the chaos that followed, and now you have a picture of exactly what I’m thinking at this moment. The wall to our right is exploding with an enormous bang. I’m feeling what my instincts deem to be the shockwave of a bomb. Everything within me is telling me to get away. And a few hours earlier, I had a terrible feeling that something really bad was going to happen. So now I’m running away from an exploding wall, towards a sea of diners, many of whom had stood up and were looking our way. My boss is yelling at us to run, and with every reason to believe him, I’m running away, thinking this is the moment I’ve always conceived in the back of my mind. Of course several of the waiters were also in the area, but not close enough to actually be part of the chaos, and after examining the situation objectively, began to yell at us, “Stop, stop, it’s okay.”

My guess is that this whole experience happened in no more than ten seconds, and probably more like 5 or 6. But that’s honestly exactly how I remember the whole event happening. So finally we’ve been stopped, and we began to collect ourselves and try to figure out exactly what happened. JayJay and Kevin, both sitting closest to the windows, were covered in glass, and several of us were bleeding from little nicks and cuts. We looked back, and the entire end of the restaurant looked like a bar fight. Tables were all strewn about, glass was everywhere, all of our drinks were scattered across the floor (except for mine, which I managed to keep in my hand through the entire ordeal, although I spilled the majority of it on myself in the process of running away), and we were left standing in the middle of the diner, trying to calm ourselves. JayJay immediately went to the restroom and began cleaning glass from himself and taking care of a few cuts on his hands. Kevin did the same, and the rest of us tried to figure out (pardon my language, but this is exactly what we’re all thinking) what the hell had just happened.
The diner staff did a really great job of checking on us and making sure we were okay, and we tried to piece together exactly what made the windows explode on us. Interestingly enough, all of us felt that force pushing on us, and the wind had been gusting up over 40mph tonight, and the best thing we could figure is that somehow the diner had depressurized and that caused the windows to literally implode on us. It made sense, as a higher pressure outside would account for the force pushing on us, and for the window to spew glass all over us. So we as a group more or less accepted that as the explanation, and began to move to the other side of the restaurant so we could accomplish our goal, which was to get something to eat. (!! Sidenote: I just now at this very moment pulled a shard of glass out of my ear. It literally was everywhere.)

A few minutes pass, filled mostly with us trying to collectively clean the glass off our clothing, stabilize the shaking hands and legs, and come back down from the adrenaline rush, when Joey, another coworker, strolls in from outside. We begin to tell him how he missed this whole ordeal, only to find out he was sitting outside in his car, talking on the phone, and witnessed the whole thing from the outside. Turns out, the high winds had knocked down the diner’s storage shed earlier in the evening, and while we were sitting inside, the wind picked up a “big u-shaped piece of metal, probably 10 feet by 10 feet, and slammed it into the windows.” It nixed our explanation of the building depressurizing, but made a lot more sense to us on the flipside of the whole experience. Not to mention a 40 mph wind gust explained the force pushing on us.
After the fact, I think we all enjoyed hearing exactly what was going through our minds as the glass beside us inexplicably imploded. Kevin immediately thought gunshots. I thought at first and at last some sort of explosion, with the middle being filled by the possible car coming through the wall. My boss thought someone has thrown a bomb or some type of explosive device through the window, which explained why he was yelling for everyone to leave. The common thread we all pinpointed was some sort of violent act.

Later on, JayJay mentioned how for many people living in the Middle East, that experience was something they live in constant, real fear of, except their fear is justifiably about bombs, gunshots, and explosions. I honestly cannot imagine what’s it’s like to live in the Gaza strip, or Baghdad or the Al Anbar province, where that is a reality of life. You can’t help but be thankful that we live in such a secure place, where the threat may be real but the acts seldom are. I have a whole list of things to be thankful for.

One of the things I’m very thankful for is amazingly cool and calm instincts. Now, I’m not saying that I’m always cool under pressure. There have been several instances, say when all my intelligent lighting turns off in the middle of a concert, where I can run around and get hyped up a lot and probably take longer to figure things out than I should. But in the few instances where my life has truly been in danger, or at least I thought it was, I have steely nerves and amazing instinctive reactions. The time I was sixteen and spun my (mom’s) car out going 70 mph down a slick road is one of those times. My youth pastor later said he looked in his rearview mirror and saw my car up on two wheels sliding sideways down the road. In that moment, perhaps the one where I’ve been in more peril than any other time in my life, I firmly regained control of the car, managed to stop it, keep it on the road, and then safely move it out of the way of oncoming traffic. A similar thing a few years ago when a gust of wind blew my truck sideways on the interstate going over an icy bridge. Traveling at a similar speed, I stayed calm and did the right things to correct out of the spin. Tonight, my life was not realistically in danger, but for those six or seven seconds I thought it was, I felt instincts just take over and do what I deemed necessary and took appropriate action. Most people, especially myself, do better in sports when we’re just instinctively reacting and not thinking about what we’re doing. That’s why it’s so imperative to learn fundamentals when we’re young, so that we grow up reacting the proper way to a ground ball or a hard backhand shot. I’m very thankful that I know I can rely on my instincts in the heat of the moment when things are really on the line.

So that’s my story from tonight. Completely 100% true. I even have a pic on my cellphone of the broken window (they cleaned up the mess before we thought to take pictures). Very enlightening for me to get the first six seconds of how I would react should the real thing ever happen. And a really, really great story to tell for a long time to come.

Oh, and a free dinner.