Some things in this life I’ll never forget. One is the panic I felt while running through the laundry room towards the garage as The Wife screamed for help.
Another is hearing metal groaning as overhead door rollers were being twisted off their tracks, wood splintering, and a 200-pound garage door crashing down.
Flinging open the house door, I leapt out into the garage and immediately stopped. During my twenty-seven years with the fire department, I’d seen my share of carnage, but never something like this in my own home.
The huge door was dangling precariously by only two rollers. The once sturdy metal tracks were now bent beyond repair. And the door, rollers, and tracks all threatened to let loose at any moment and land on top of the two cars parked just inches below.
Then I realized something else, something that stopped me as if I had just ran into a brick wall … The Wife was nowhere in sight!
Fear started to wrap its cold grasp around my body as I sucked air into my lungs. My heart pounded as if it was going to explode. All my medical and emergency training had prepared me well for any disaster, so I went right to work — only my legs didn’t obey my brain’s commands. It was as if my feet were glued to the concrete.
Frozen where I stood, something happened that had never happened on any emergency scene I’d been on before — I panicked.
They say history repeats itself. For that moment, for me, it did. Our garage faded away as another slowly came into view. It was a garage from a long, long time ago on an old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo where a person lay trapped — injured under a massive door. That person trapped and injured was me.
Our beach vacation, the first in a year, had started even before sunrise. Overnight, our parents had stuffed everything into our avocado green station wagon with the faux wood panels – except us kids. After Dad carried each of us down the steps and out into the garage, he gently placed us on the mattress laid out in the back of the car.
Both he and Mom had gone back inside for a bag of snacks, drinks, and a quick check to make sure all doors were locked and lights off. And that’s when it happened.
Out from under the covers, in the back of our station wagon, a green cloud of toxic gas floated up instantly replacing all the breathable air. The gas was compliments of Twin Brother Mark who was lying, and now giggling, right next to me.
Choking, with eyes burning, crawling over everyone, I fumbled to open the door before finally stumbling out into the dark garage and into fresh air.
Within seconds three emotions filled me. First, relief: I was now able to breathe fresh air. Second, anger: What Mark had done was inexcusable and so was his endless laughing still coming from inside the car. And third, fear. Fear as to what monster was making such a loud groaning, snapping, and cracking noise overhead — a noise that now filled the darkened garage.
My fear was suddenly replaced by pain and screaming. After the heavy monster from above knocked me to the concrete floor, it stomped on and broke my left arm before pinning me under its weight.
Mark’s laughter in the car was now replaced with his screams, and the screams of my brothers and The Sister. They thought a giant monster was now devouring me. So did I.
Dad and Mom ran into the garage and quickly got the door off of me. After a trip to the hospital, we continued our beach vacation. But I will never forget the feeling of being pinned under the weight of that massive garage door. Something I feared The Wife was now experiencing … or about to.
Our overhead door shifted, and the creaking sound pulled me back into the present, somehow freeing me from my frozen state. Suddenly the metal track groaned again as one of the last remaining rollers popped off! With the door now hanging precariously by only one roller, I ran over doing a quick survey of the impending disaster. Hoping for the best, but fearing the worst, my voiced quivered as I called out, “Honey, are you okay?”
“I’m okay.” For a moment I thought the faint answer had come directly from Heaven, but then I realized it had come from outside the garage.
Just like back on Flamingo, The Wife and I were going on a quick vacation. Unbeknownst to me, she had already taken a small suitcase out, raised the hatch to put it in the back of the car, and then went to check on the mail.
After lugging the larger suitcase up from the basement, I paused in the laundry room, opened the door, reached out, pushed the remote button, and then walked into the kitchen. The door came down and, after getting stuck on the raised hatch, twisted off its tracks.
As the overhead door ground to a halt, The Wife came around the corner and screamed for help. Unlike what happened to me back on Flamingo, she was never in any danger.
The two lessons I learned from this story? First: Despite all the screaming and dreading the worst when things come crashing down in your life, take a step back and pause. Often things aren’t as bad as they first seem.
Second: When the hatchback to the car is raised, don’t open the garage door.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]