My answer to Has your intuition ever saved your life?
Answer by Samuel Cooper:
In short, yes, more times than once, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. I honestly feel like my intuition is the only reason that I’n alive today, and it’s a belief that is still being reinforced by my present circumstances, which include never using my mirrors to merge and other silky things of that nature as well as more than my fair share of close calls and narrow misses.
I’ll just give you what has to be, by all accounts THE one, the one without which none would have been possible and none can compare to either. probably the most glaring example of this happening to me, which is undoubtedly the time a detached garage fell on me and I ended up without a scratch on me, got my 15 minutes of fame too, made the Chicago Tribune and the Governor of Iowa personally called me, which I missed, naturally, only to have his staffer have absolutely no idea who the hell I was when I called back to say thanks for the concern and/or sentiment, but I was just fine.
We’ve just had our full month of training which is supposed to prepare us to take on numerous and varied projects with our teams for the next 9 months or so at this point. It’s November, all the teams are getting ready to take off for their first Spike (project). As part of the program requirements, which included 1700 hours of community service, which is typically met through the course of your teams projects and then some by all of your projects, we needed to do an additional 80 hours minimum of independent service, meaning it couldn’t be with our project sponsor, which is basically who your team gets whored out to for cheap labor and other menial duties. If you wanted to ramp it up a notch and be an over-achiever, the presidential service award was just 20 additional hours on top of the 80, and you had to personally have set up at least one of the opportunities as opposed to piggy-backing off other people the whole time.
The weekend prior, I had knocked out at least 6 hours cleaning up some flood damaged church that served as a community center in Cedar Rapids Iowa. The sponsor for that project mentioned having an additional 8 hour job lined up for the next weekend. I said to myself, Sammy-boy, what this right here strikes me as, is a perfect opportunity to take care of some hours, as well as that requirement, so I jumped on it, and signed a bunch of poor unsuspecting saps (as in another AmeriCorps team) up to help me out on it as well, since my team was feeling rather cat like and preferred the idea of lounging in their PJ’s back on campus.
We get there, and the sponsor goes over the game plan for taking down the detached garage. Mind you none of us have any real construction or demolition experience, or common sense for that matter, but more on that later. The plan was as such, we go inside, knock panelling out, then come outside, and knock out every other support beam, got it, roger that, check….seems sound enough, seems like legit work, like things will be easy peezy, time to get busy.
This should even prove to serve as a pretty sweet hangover cure, since I, and everyone else I brought along with me, had gone out the night before, along with everyone else on campus seeing as how it would be the last weekend everyone was together for a while before going off on their team’s projects.
We were making really good time, a little too good. I can remember thinking to myself at one point, “8 hours? There’s no way this project is going to take 8 hours, it seems like we’re almost done and I don’t think its even been a full hour yet”. By this point it was just me and my boy Del still doing demo work inside. Everyone else had shifted more to cleaning up the wreckage we left for them, and there was a lot of it, let me tell ya;
(I later learned this was in large part because they had an uneasy feeling about the general safety of what we were doing (that might have been a good thing to have learned about at the time, but hindsights 20/20).
There we were just me and Delmar, demo tools in hand, getting out some latent aggression, the girls are busy squirreling away the rubble left by our exhibition of sheer destructive capability, the project sponsor is busy doing something off to the side in between the house proper, and the garage we were working on, though I was too occupied to really see or care what. That’s when we heard it.
The oh shit moment.
The structure spoke to us with a loud, audible groan which said to us, “get the fuck out” in no uncertain terms. It’s amazing how much can be communicated between two individuals with nothing more than a look, which is all it took for us to make sure we heard what we thought we had heard, acknowledge the fucked nature of the situation we now found ourselves in, and that the other one at least knew about it and wouldn’t be caught totally unawares. All of which transpired in no more than a moment, and even that was pushing it.
Del was closer to the garage door/entrance which I saw him dive out of a near miss inches away from having lower half be crushed as the structure came down right behind him, I rested assured in the fact that at least he made it out of it, now to focus on myself. I turned to the side I was closest too, but it wasn’t going to work, it was no good, we had been sloppy in our demo work and I’d have had to contort too much in an effort to dodge sporadic pieces of paneling or nails which barred making a clean exit, all while the structure is actively coming right at me.
Now what? I bank right, seeing as I was facing the back end of the structure, and now I’m heading toward the side adjacent to the house itself, building is right behind me, and I mean right behind me, shit’s falling everywhere, I’m actively searching for the best place to make my exit, there is none, I’m out of time I realized as I subconsciously got as small as possible following the negative space provided by the peak of the roof, or the steeple, and actively kissed my ass goodbye. As I’m doing what I can to keep it moving, to stay alive, my hard hat falls off, and all I can remember thinking to myself is “it would”, and “well that’s unfortunate timing, I guess this is it, this is how I go out, death by garage”, as I got as small as humanly possible, said a quick one to sweet baby jesus and kissed my ass goodbye, and then a loud crash, and after that nothing… darkness….and then a ringing in my ears, and then, I heard it, more groaning, only this time, it was human.
But where was it coming from, and who was it, is everyone alright, did anyone get hurt or die? These are the questions racing through my head as I shimmy towards the direction it sounds like it’s coming from. Whoever or whatever it was they sure didn’t sound like they were in too good of shape. Thats when I found the source of the moaning. The site sponsor had been pinned between the detached garage and the house proper and the detached garage had fallen on his lower half pinning him in place with his leg bent at a weird angle and bent behind him and he kept groaning and talking about how tired he was, and I was like oh shit I’ve seen this in the movies this aint lookin good.
Great I can remember thinking to myself, my first project that I go and set up and the sponsor gets killed….that would be my luck. Then it dawned on me, Holy shit, I’m alive as I blinked repeatedly and gave myself the once over assessing myself for damage and looking at my hands as if they were something from another world almost.
Then I made my way over to the sponsor to see what kind of help I could be to his current situation, and grew frustrated when I knew the answer to that question was ‘not much’. Thats when I heard someone yell Sam is that you are you alright, which I replied to in the affirmative with a characteristic “well who else would it be?”(thankfully the experience didn’t dull my wit any), which was met with sighs and sobs of relief because up until the moment I yelled out, they had thought I was dead having just watched the structure, which just moment ago had been standing upright, practically disappear swallowing me whole along with it.
Now that they knew I was alive, there was the whole getting me out from under it, which I wasn’t all that concerned with because more importantly, there was still the whole thing about getting the project sponsor unpinned from what was left of the structure.
I tried to somehow shift the weight of the structure inn order to allow him to unpin himself and all I can remember hearing is him talking about how tired he was, and Jules on of the other people on the project with me that day trying to keep him conscious and alert asking him questions about his family and his children until help arrived, something I’ll never forget for the rest of my life.
By this point I could hear that neighbors had started coming out, someone had alerted the fire department and the authorities and they were on their way. The neighbors and the rest of my group attempted to do a team lift, but it was no use. The waterlogged and weather rotted wood from the structure was way too much for them to even budge.
Once the fire department got there it took them a bit to assess the situation, and they tried several things first but eventually resorted to using some form of pump to lift the structure up enough to be able to pull him out. To do this they wanted to cut me out first despite my pleas for them to just take care of him first, citing something or another about it being a safety hazard for me to still be in there while they were doing what they had to do, so they sawzalled me out the back side.
He was in rough shape overall, with a fractured rib, lacerated spleen, punctured lung and that’s just the internal stuff. His body was beat to shit all around, and I didn’t have a scratch on me, despite my hard hat having abandoned me.