Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Those of you who follow me on twitter @MadelineBarr would have noticed there was some excitement for me today. What happened? Allow me to start at the beginning.

I was at my day job at the university, sitting in my office at the computer, when there was a pounding on my door. As I spun my chair around I could hear the beep of a swipe card. The person at the door had access to my office and was coming in, so I didn't bother getting up. It was my coworker who wasn't smiling as she usually does.

She sounded a little out of breath, "We might be getting evacuated. Gather your things and be ready!"

We're being what? "Evacuated! What's going on?" I said.

"I don't know. I was just told to let everyone know." She looked a little worried. Of course now my brain goes into overdrive. Is this a drill? No, she looked too worried. A Fire? The alarm isn't going. A gunman? I didn't have a rationalization for that one.

"Ok, thanks." She closes my door. I stand up, get my purse out of the cabinet, grab my jacket and shutdown my computer. When I step out into the hallway I see a number of my office-mates in the hallway. "Are you guys leaving?"

"Um, ya. I'm not hanging around with that going on." That? What is 'that?' My office donesn't have windows so I realized he's seen something outside.

My adrenaline is running, hands are shaking and I can hear my heart beat in my head like it has replaced my brain. Fight or flight, my body was ready.

Then I see my supervisor. "C'mon everyone out. We're being evacuated! Start heading South to Main Street or to one of the side streets to the East."

"What's going on?" I ask as I sling on my jacket.

"I'm not sure but there are police outside with gas-masks telling us to get out. Go South or East. " She waves people to the stairs.

Gas-masks! Fantastic.

Down the stairs and out the front doors with 2 of my coworkers. We pass 3 officers with gas masks. There is a table setup outside with food from one of the university's 'Welcome Week' events. A police officer's comments are muffled as he talks through his gas-mask telling the coordinating of the event that all the food needs be thrown out. What's going on?

We head to the East to wait for further instructions. I send a couple of tweet but between walking and my hands shaking, I'm having a hard time typing on my BlackBerry. As we walk across the campus we can see all the university entrances are blocked by police cars. We see caution tape roping off parts of buildings and hear the sirens of at least two fire truck in the West. The rumours begin to fly. Nuclear leak from the reactor. Chemical spill from one of the science buildings. Clear, odorous, poisonous gas leak from a broken line. As we pass city bus stops on campus we kindly inform the waiting people no buses are coming on campus and they should walk to the next bus stop on the street. Finally, we are told it's going to be a couple of hours before we get back into our building and to go home.

It's a long walk to my car. I park in the West parking lot and I have to go around the roped off area. As I head to the car I see the police cars blocking the roads and the fire trucks at a one of the buildings. A normally busy street is naked.

Home and safe I watch the 6 o'clock news to learn it was a gas leak scare but everything was fine. A researcher was purging a tank filled nitrogen, as he should, and while doing this an alarm was sounded. The researcher, the university and police and fire services followed the correct procedures. I was please to hear that it was really nothing major and nobody was hurt. I know the ending isn't spectacular, but when the whole event is rolling out and we didn't know what's happening, it was pretty scary.

We fear the unknown.


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