At roughly 3:20 PM, Christmas Eve, I left my apartment at GaoAn Road to go to the post office. But, as I completed the first of seven flights of stairs to the lobby and entrance of my building, I realized that I had forgotten the envelope that I needed to mail. So I backtracked, grabbed the envelope, and began descending again, when, suddenly, just above the fourth floor (I think), I heard a tremendous crash come through the walls of the stairwell. It sounded metallic and fierce, as if scaffolding had fallen.
Seconds later I turned the corner out of the stairwell and saw this wreckage in the front doorway of my building:
By shear coincidence, I had a digital camera in my pocket (I was wearing the coat that I usually take on assignment), and I snapped this photo. The front office receptionist and I stood next to each other, and I think we pretty much figured it out simultaneously: the radio signal tower that sat atop my twenty-five story apartment building had toppled. Why, we didn’t know. But that was the radio tower, no question.
There were several electrical wires hanging loose in the area as a result of the collapse, but I shimmied down the steps and – from my perspective – it looked as if nobody had been crushed by the collapse. This was a small miracle: the space in front of my building is a favorite conversation pit for the many senior citizens who live in the area. Continue reading