Luckily, I kept a flashlight on the bed along with my glasses so I was able to carefully maneuver around my apartment with the messy piles of stuff all over the floor that had fallen from shelves: books, records, pictures, stereo equipment, my TV and other things as well as broken glass from the windows and sliding glass door. When I got to the front door I pulled the handle but the door wouldn’t open. I pulled again and it still didn’t open. After about 5 more tries each time pulling with all my strength I finally was able to get the door open. ( I found out later about 20 people from my apartment building were not able to get their doors open and had to be rescued).
When I got to the hallway I saw that the fire doors were shut. Within a few seconds I heard a woman’s voice knocking on one of them from the other side and yelling out “Can anybody hear me? We’ve been ordered to evacuate immediately by the building manager. This door is jammed so you’ll have to get out through another door.”
I panicked briefly, wondering if the other door was also jammed, meaning we’d be trapped. Luckily, it wasn’t and I was able to get outside.
For the next 2 hours - until the sun came up - it was surreal. Hundreds of people were wandering on the street with flashlights not knowing what to do. i could see a large fire about a mile down the road toward the west, which I later found out was a gas line break. There were also fires to the north and to the east. I remember wondering if the fire department would be able to get to those fires before they grew out of control. San Francisco 1906 popped into my mind.
But, a part of me knew I couldn’t allow my fear to take over. I needed to be in control in order to deal with whatever i needed to deal with. So I pushed back the fear and kept wandering.
(Check back here tomorrow for Part 3)