My students are learning that at the beginning of the Middle Ages, China was very violent. Kings fought with neighboring kings, and farm owners fought with their neighbors as well–not a friendly time. Simulations are encouraged in education since acting as the historical characters we study is far more memorable than just reading about them in books.
In conjunction with that philosophy, I tell my students that the rows in my classroom will represent farms. If students (the Chinese peasants) leave notes on my desk challenging other rows, the attack commences as follows. The attacking “farm owner” and the defending “farm owner” will each roll a die; the higher roll wins. I tell the losing row that they must quickly vacate their “farms”. The enemy farm owner will have sent peasants with torches. Their “farms” are on fire, their huts have been burned, and they must flee (move for the duration of the next activity).
While conducting the activity this morning, several incidents came to mind in which my family actually had to flee out of fear for their lives, or so they thought.
The first incident occurred when I was a young teen living with my single mother and younger brother. On Saturday mornings, we slept in. We are night people, so we tend to stay up late on the weekends and wake late the next morning.
Deep in this slumber, I was awakened by a phone call I had trouble understanding. A neighbor was on the phone. Apartment dwellers could just knock if they chose, at least we were friendly enough with our neighbors that they could where we lived. However, our neighbor was calling from a location outside the apartment building. It was cold, it was early, and cell phones had not been invented yet, so someone had gone to trouble to call us.
What had been unintelligible in my sleepy state became all too clear. Apparently, our apartment building was on fire, and everyone in the building had evacuated but us. As they quickly fled, our neighbors tried to knock, but apparently we were in too deep a sleep to hear them.
I threw on my bathrobe and woke my mother and brother. “Come on, let’s go, our apartment building is on fire,” I insisted. However, no one was following me. My mother had taken out large suitcases, had proceeded to remove our paintings from the walls, and was trying to pack them. No clothes, no money, no food, just paintings were being put into our suitcases. My ten-year-old brother was helping her remove heavily-framed paintings from the wall. Neither of them was evacuating. I urged my mother to leave, but she insisted she wouldn’t leave without her paintings.
I didn’t know what to do. I was too young to die! Rumor had it that being burned alive in a fire is not pleasant. I had a choice: stay with my mom and brother or evacuate all by myself. I chose the former, and here I am to tell about it. By the time my mother had all the paintings packed in suitcases, the fire department had extinguished the flames, and the residents were starting to return to our building.
When I was an adult and had teenage children of my own, my husband and I took two of our daughters on a cruise. While in port, we left them sleeping in the room. Often, when the cruise ship is stationary, the crew has drills as it did this day. The alarms started sounding. Unlike her sound-asleep mother was at the age of thirteen, Hayley was awakened by the alarms. She woke her younger sister Rachel, and proclaimed that the ship was sinking. Instead of grabbing her life jacket and vacating the room, Hayley, like my mother years before, refused to leave. Hayley insisted she couldn’t evacuate without mascara. Rachel, not wanting to leave her sister, watched as Hayley applied the makeup. After the coats of mascara were applied, the girls finally realized it was just a drill; the ship was stationary and not going down.
That brings us to my title, 2 Wrong Ways to Evacuate. Readers, when believing they had to flee, my mother tried to take her paintings, and Hayley tried to apply mascara. What is the right way to evacuate? What would you take with you? What would be the first item you would grab? I look forward to your views.