"Do you have a cell phone?" I ask Jackie. She looks like she had been crying also.
"I do but it has no reception."
"I don't care. Can I use it?"
I take the device and turn it over in my hands. I look at Dave. He has a grim look on his face. I could tell he was calculating the time he had left until the fire would burst through that door.
"Dave?" It looks like I had just woken him from a deep sleep. I shake the phone, gesturing for him to use it.
"And who would I call John?" he says suddenly firing up. "I have no family. My exes don't want anything to do with me and my children hate me from the lies their mothers told them. I have nobody John. No one would care if I die."
I was stunned. "Dave, you're like a father to me. I would care." I don't know what else to say. After a heavy silence, or rather a background assessment of the incoming fire, I dial my home number on the cell phone.
It rings twice before it goes to voicemail. I am thankful nobody picked up. I smile as I hear the recording we recorded as a family; my wife and I talking with our daughter screaming in the back and at the end my son yelling BEEEP! really loud. It takes all my bravery to swallow the tears and keep my voice from shaking.
"Hi honey. It's John. I'm sure you heard what happened. I'm stuck on the 80th floor with Dave and Jackie. I want you to know I'm okay and that I'm happy. I love you. I want you to know that. Even when I'm gone. I love you with all my heart. Tell the kids that I love them too. I'll love you all forever and always. And I'll always be there, even if you don't realize it. I will always be in your hearts. Remember to pray every night even if no one is watching because He always is. And sweetie, I love you till death do us part but please, take Dustin to the barber; I want him looking nice for his classmates. I love you all. Goodbye."
My voice was shaking by the end so bad I doubt that they understood me. I hung up and burst into tears. The fire had now licked through to the other side of the door. Dave broke a window to let the smoke out. We were now trapped. Our options were to run through the fire and hope to hit the emergency stairs, wait for the building to give way, or jump. I was lost in the sea of concerns building in my mind.
The idea of burning to death was not an option for me. I ruled that one out pretty quickly. I stood up, hysterical as my adrenalin rushed. The building would give way any minute and I didn't want to be surprised when it finally did. The idea of falling from the 80th floor in the midst of an explosion wasn't at all too comforting. I could still possibly live if I fell with the building but the chances were very slim, especially with all that debris that is above my head. I turned to the window.
It was the only option for me. I turn around as I realize Dave has come up from behind and put his hand on my shoulder. I could tell he didn't like my decision, but knew there was no help trying to change my mind.
"Goodbye," he said in a hoarse whisper. We could barely breathe the smoke was so bad. I could hardly make out his silhouette against the thick, black smoke.
"I'll see you in Heaven." I couldn't guarantee that we would, but it was a nice thing to think of. And with that we embraced. It ended in a hacking fit by him.
I turned once again to the busted window. My eyes were watering from the amount of impure air in the room and from the thought of my family without me.
I scrape the excess glass away with my jacket sleeve and step onto the windowsill. A sense of nausea consumes me. I come to my senses it quickly.
I look around and all I see is smoke, fire, and embers. The whole world was made of it. I didn't want my children to grow up in this world. It was horrible. Just a few minutes ago, I was crying uncontrollably. Now, I stand in a windowsill, thinking about everything. With every thought, my feet inch closer to the edge. I wonder what it would be like to die. I wonder if it would be peaceful, or would it be painful?
With arms spread wide, I fall. I always wanted to go skydiving. I wonder if this is what it feels like. I think of my beautiful wife as I fall. I hope she understands how much I love her. I hope our children know how much I love them.
Mainly, I think of Jesus Christ. How could He? He came to save us, His Father will protect us! How could they let this happen? For the thousands of people who would be slaughtered today and the many more this morning- why? Why God!? I stop myself. This isn't the way to be thinking. I should be thankful. Glad, I had lived this long. Does He know how much I love him? I find myself praying as the ground gets closer. I thank Him for giving me my 38 years of life. I thank Him for giving me a beautiful house and family to grow up in. I thank Him for blessing me with my gorgeous wife, and honoring us with two, beautiful children. I thank Him for the house and money I had to offer my family. And then of course, I pray that my family will be happy and healthy in the days to come. That they will be thankful for the time they had with me, and not be mad that it happened to end now. The city streets were nearing my body. I had a sudden rush of panic, wondering how much pain I will endure. And then my life flashed before my eyes.
I am then riding my bike as my dad let go of me; being yelled at for wrestling too hard with my baby brother; getting a detention for putting gum in Patty's hair; making the football team; getting my diploma from my high school football coach; failing to get the spot in college; coming home to mama's pie at Christmas; meeting my wife for the first time in the hallway of the dorm room; that hot summer night by the lake when I told her I loved her; proposing to her by that same lake; watching her walk down the aisle in her flowing white dress; the birth of our son and her smiling from ear to ear; watching Dustin walk for the first time; us fighting over what to name our baby girl; the birth of our daughter; Katie's first birthday party; and finally ending with this morning's breakfast. Through out all of this, a light increases behind the flashbacks. It starts mellow and calm but soon intensifies beyond comprehension, capturing me and hiding nothing.
It all happened in a matter of a fraction of a second. But, I guess that's the beauty of life. A lifetime may seem like forever to you but if you were to take a look at the big picture, we are all just a fraction of a second in this big old universe.
And with that, the ground finally meets me. I felt nothing. Instead, the blinding light fills me from the inside out, taking me to the fields of heaven to meet my creator.